top of page

The Mullet Report: Lessons From Embracing My Natural Wavy Hair

A wavy shag mullet on type 2b naturally gray wavy hair

We're just coming up on two years ago that I wrote about embarking on the rather unexpected journey of uncovering my true natural hair texture. I call it an "unexpected" journey because despite having been told by every hairdresser I've ever known some permutation of "your hair has a lot of body", I had actually never really had a single hairdresser use the words "curly", "wavy" or even "textured" when referring to my hair. Even the ones that knew my family and knew that my father had a head full of very curly salt and pepper ringlets - not a one of them ever suggested to me that my hair might be wavy and that there might be a specific way for me to care for it.


Consequently, as implausible as it may seem, I somehow managed to spend 50 years on this planet without really knowing that all that pouffiness and frizz that seemed to constantly manifest atop my head was not actually retribution from The Universe for having opinions or using the wrong shampoo any other kind of made-up transgression, but rather just a wavy curl pattern crying out for the right kind of care. Sure, I had my suspicions that my hair wasn't stick straight, but as a relatively low-maintenance hair gal I really did not understand just how much of a difference taking proper care of my waves really makes in how it behaves.


For many, if not most of you, this post will likely fall into the "oddly specific" category, and a lot of it may not apply to your specific hair type. However, I'm giving you this detailed account of how I arrived at finding my natural hair texture because as a wavy haired person, I have one of the hardest hair types to manage - doubly so when you throw the silver hair into the mix. If all of my "time in the saddle" experimenting with techniques and products will help another wavy-headed sister on her way to finding the resources necessary to make peace with her natural texture, that's good enough for me.


Styling My Wavy Hair in the Before Times


I think its important to take a minute to address how I always wore my hair before fully understanding my natural texture. There are a lot of you out there with similar hidden loose curl and wave patterns and it is very likely that you may have had, or are currently having a similar experience to mine.


Wavy hair that has been straightened

The photo on the left is what I always looked like when I came out of the salon. I had taken to wearing my hair in really long, heavy, barely-layered style for no other reason than the weight of it would give me a fighting chance at getting it the littlest bit smooth. If I got a professional salon trim the salon would add a generous helping of some sort of leave-in conditioner or heat protectant, blow dry my hair on high heat with a big round brush, flatten it with a straightening iron, then add some type of serum or oil on top to seal it and give it sheen. Maybe they would even add some finishing spray on top of that if it was a rainy day (in Scotland, it's always a rainy day).


I just figured that this kind of routine was my lot in life if I wanted to look put-together. My hair always looked and felt nice in the hours immediately after I left a salon (at least, on a dry day), but the amount of work, time and products involved in reproducing this result meant I was never willing (or even able) to reproduce it in real life.


The above photo on the right is what I would look like on a good day, when left to my own devices. Generally I would wash it, let it partially air dry, then tie my hair up most of the time. When I wanted to ride horses or motorbikes, I braided it in two tight braids at the back of my head so my helmets would fit. No matter what kind of iron-clad hair tie I tried, the weight of the ponytail would shake loose during a high impact workout. It was heavy and dense and I was aware that I was constantly pulling and damaging it just to get by, but I knew of no other way to make it work. No matter how moisturizing the shampoo or how much leave-in or serum I used, my hair still would often feel brittle and would go all pouffy. Products that promised softness and smoothness, if they worked at all, would wear off the moment I waked into an environment with some humidity and wind. So I'd add more product. More frizz. Living between the UK and Florida, I was in a perpetual disaster loop of pouffiness and frizz.


The moment that led me to my decision to try and better manage my hair was that most motivating of all human factors - public humiliation. I was working on a short film project in which hair had been neatly (professionally) slicked-back into a bun. We stepped outside to film the scene, and within seconds of being outside in the damp, windy weather, my neatly coiffed hair turned into a flyaway frizz bomb that would not be denied its close-up. They literally had to stop filming the scene to sort out my hair. Mortifying.



Growing weary of my follicular musings? Skip ahead here:




 

What is The Curly Girl Method & Why Does it Work?


The Curly Girl Method (CGM) is based on the Curly Girl book by celebrated stylist Lorraine Massey (and Michelle Bender in the more recent edition).

Curly Girl Handbook for naturally curly and wavy hair

While this brief article does not do justice to the immense amount of information in this book, the backbone of the method is comprised of a set of "rules" that if followed, will result in more moisture being directed into the hair shaft, which in turn will result in healthier, softer, more frizz-free hair with an enhanced natural curl pattern.


Historically I'm not a fan of things that require the adherence to a lot of (or any) rules, and with hindsight that is probably the reason it took me the better part of 50 years to figure out that my hair was actually pretty darn wavy. But my own resistance notwithstanding, after literally halting an entire film crew with my frizz, I enthusiastically dove in to CGM, and in pretty short order realized that I had been caring for my hair all wrong for the past half century. Again, there's a lot of info in the Curly Girl book, but below are some of the rules of the road:


Use a sulfate free shampoo or a co-wash. Sulfates are what make a shampoo lather-up nicely, but they effectively strip the hair of both dirt and oil. In fact, they strip the dirt and oil a little too well, and don't leave enough moisture on textured hair (which is inherently drier than straight hair). This results in dryness, frizz, and the loss of curl pattern.


A co-wash is a sulfate-free conditioning cleanser (oftentimes just a straight-up conditioner is used, replacing a two-step shampoo and conditioner wash.


Do not use silicone-containing products. Silicones build-up over time, weigh the hair down, and prevent moisture from entering the hair. Ultimately, the very thing that you are using to give your hair a sleeker, moisturized appearance will end up being the very thing that is drying it out.


Give up heat styling. Air dry your hair or use a diffuser on the very lowest/no heat setting. No curling irons, no flat irons.


No alcohol-containing products. Alcohol is drying, and CGM is all about trying to get more moisture into the hair.


No terry cloth towels. Apparently traditional towelling roughs up the hair's cuticle, creating excess frizz. Instead, use a microfiber towel or an old cotton t shirt.


Do a reset cleanse before you start, and clarify regularly. CGM recommends doing one "final wash" with a clarifying, sulfate-containing shampoo to remove buildup before embarking on your Curly Girl journey, then using a sulfate-free clarifying shampoo every so often to remove buildup.


Condition like there's no tomorrow. Use a silicone-free conditioner, running it thoroughly through your hair as you shower. "Squish to condish" by sqishing the conditioner into your lengths and ends with plenty of water, and take your time to really get the moisture into the hair shaft. When you've rinsed the hair should feel like wet seaweed.


Only brush or comb your hair when in the shower conditioning, never dry brush. CGM urges you to not dry brush your hair, saving that step for detangling in the shower with conditioner and a wide tooth comb or Tangle Teaser to prevent breakage.


Don't use too much product. CGM is all about getting the moisture you need by not over-stripping the hair or over-moisturizing it. Adding tons of product in an attempt to add more moisture, definition or hold adds weight and flattens the curl pattern. This is an elusive and highly-individualized balance that everyone needs to figure out for themselves.


Protect your hair while you sleep. To reduce friction (and therefore frizz) while you sleep, CGM recommends the use of a silk or satin bonnet, a scarf, and/or a silk or satin pillow case.


Learn your curl type, hair density and porosity. It all can seem pretty overwhelming (and many of us may have more than one texture type on our heads), but knowing whether your hair is coarse or fine, low or high porosity, and the type of curl pattern you have will help guide your product selection.


Get a good curly cut. Cutting some strategic layers and taking out the weight can make all the difference in how your hair behaves.


My Takeaways for Fine, Dense Type 2 Wavy Hair


In case the above header isn't enough of a hint, yes...I have fine, dense type 2 wavy hair that is a combination of 2b and 2c waves. This means I have a ton of very small, fine little hairs on my head (although some of the silver ones are by nature more coarse). My hair is low porosity, so it takes a long time to get wet and to dry (especially with product in it). My waves start forming s-shapes at the crown (curly bangs!). The most notable characteristic of wavy type 2-3 hair is that it frizzes easily as the hair cuticle opens and closes like a revolving door when the hair is under or over moisturized. As it turns out, type 2 to 3 waves are in fact the frizziest wave/curl types on the spectrum. Of course they are. *sighs wistfully


Granted, this knowledge was not my jumping off point, but rather the culmination of a lot of what I have learned over the last two years of experimenting with CGM. As everything you read and hear on the curly internet will attest, this is a process, and you will go through a transition period while you are learning what works and what doesn't. Even after many years when you are more attuned to what your hair actually needs, you will still be learning and tweaking and trying new things.


So where am I now, two years later? Do I still follow all the "rules" of CGM?


✓ Use sulfate-free shampoo & co-wash. Yes. I absolutely use both of these things. Sulfate-free shampoo doesn't lather-up the way you may be accustomed to in a shampoo, but it's a worthwhile sacrifice. Co-washes are a bit trickier, and for my fine type 2 hair most of them are too rich and weigh my hair down. That said, there are a few on the market that break the mould and that I use religiously and are my go - to hair washes. I'll link them in the next section.


✓ ❌ Give up silicone containing products. Yes. And also no. I absolutely have stopped using any non water-soluble silicones (like the ever-popular dimethocone) in any products, shampoos and conditioners. This has made a pretty big difference in my ability to get moisture into my hair on the daily and has definitely enhanced my natural wave pattern. I do however have one product (thus far) that contains a water-soluble silicone. These silicones generally start with PEG- followed by a number. While the PEG silicones are not the only water soluble silicones on the market, they are certainly some of the most widely-used. They have differing degrees of water-solubility (which corresponds to the number), but in general I will entertain these products if weather conditions are soggy and dire. Remember, I live between Florida and Scotland. It's always wet and soggy everywhere I go.


Water-solubility notwithstanding, it's important to note that even water-soluble silicones can build-up, and they do end up relaxing my wave patern a bit (I don't mind that), but in extreme heat and humidity, these products can really help if I need to go somewhere and look somewhat professional. When I do use these products, I always clarify my hair on the next wash day.


❌ Give up heat styling. I never really adopted this, because I found it massively inconvenient when you're in a crunch. However, I will say that normally I rarely use a heat on my hair, so it wasn't a big change for me. I do however still continue my practice of occasionally taking a curling iron to any errant waves that may have dried a bit wonky just to finish them off if I need to go out and look presentable. When I do blow dry, I always use a diffuser, and if I do up the heat (because come on - otherwise it takes forever), I try to dry in small bursts of heat followed by a cool blast.


❌ No alcohol-containing products. Not all alcohols are created equal, and without going into the chemistry of long chain and short chain alcohols (zzzz), I do still tend to avoid alcohols like Isopropol or Ethyl. Click here for a good quickie rundown of the "good" and "bad" alcohols you often find in products.


✓ No terry cloth towels. This one was easy enough to adopt so I did. I use one of those microfiber hair turbans most of the time, or in a pinch, sometimes just an old t shirt. I use a technique called "plopping" after putting my product in my hair, and leave my hair in my microfiber plop while I do my face. Click here to learn more about plopping.


✓ Do a reset cleanse and clarify regularly. Yep. Clarifying is really important when you're wavy. After my initial sulfate cleanse at the beginning of my CGM journey, I switched to a sulfate-free clarifying shampoo (I'll link it below). I find that the more experience I get with CGM, the less product I need to use, and the less frequently I need to clarify.


❌ Condition like crazy. While I do have a few deep conditioners that I use on rotation (mostly on days I clarify), I find that the better condition my hair is in, the less I need to go crazy with the conditioner. As a fine-haired person (yes, even one with a lot of grey hair on her head), anything that potentially might weigh my hair down I treat with caution. I prefer to get my moisture from using the right cleanser that doesn't strip my hair. I go by feel, and if my hair feels soft and moisturized when I'm rinsing, I stop there. If I've been out in the sun or in the pool, I might reach for a more moisturizing conditioner. This practice is going to be pretty specific to your hair type. If you have coarse, coily hair, my way will probably not work for you. But if you have type 2 fine hair, I strongly suggest it.


❌ Never dry brush your hair. I still dry brush my hair, but only really before I shower. I went an entire year only using a wet brush in the shower while conditioning, and man did I miss brushing my hair. Unless I've been on my scooter with my loose hair hanging out the bottom of my helmet, my hair doesn't really tangle all that easily, and I am able to just brush it out without incident. When I brush, I use a gentle boar bristle brush, turn my head upside down, and give it a good once-over before I wash my hair. Brushing feels so good, stimulates the scalp, and disperses the natural oils from the scalp. So yeah, I ignore this "rule" entirely.


✓✓ Don't use too much product. This is the one aspect of CGM that I have come to feel really strongly about, and it really makes a difference to type 2 wavy hair. Most internet curly influencers that you see on YouTube or Instagram use an absolutely obscene amount of product. We're talking four or five products all layered on top of one another. Unless you have very coarse, type 4 hair, this is simply too much product for most people, doubly true if you have fine hair! If you are just starting your journey, you may think you're getting decent results because you're using so many products, and perhaps at first, you are. But all that's really happening here is you're giving your hair adequate moisture for maybe the first time, and the hair responds well to being coated in ultra-moisturizing products. At first. But if you keep up this routine, very soon the buildup will happen, and when it does, you're back into the land of limp, scraggly locks and frizz.


Go on any of the many online wavy hair forums and read the comments; there are always people outlining their routines, frustrated that they are not getting good results. Inevitably these folk are almost always using far too much product. You can often even see it with influencers. Sure, they sometimes get good definition in their waves, but to me the hair often looks flat and borderline greasy - like it's not gonna last more than a day. I can get at least three days out of my fine wavy hair after a good wash day, even with workouts.


The importance of being judicious with product cannot be overstated for those of us with wavy hair. I know of an entire product line (which I will not name) that advertises their heavy, multi-step product "system" with a spokesperson with very obviously fine type 2a waves, and the limp, flattened result drives me nuts. Personally, I don't mind losing a bit of definition if it means a natural, volume-infused result. Everyone is different, but I like a bit of an undone (read: feral) look, and realistically, if you have type 2 wavy hair (or any textured hair), a bit of frizz (a bit) is going to be par for the course. Embrace it...just don't let it halt a film production mid shoot.


✓ Protect your hair while you sleep. Yep. Granted, I am not a person who can wear something on her head while she sleeps. Bonnets drive me nuts, and I wake up with them floating around loose in the bed. I settled on a few inexpensive satin pillowcases to add to my rotation, and left it at that. That seems to work for me. I wake up, refresh my waves by spritzing with water to reactivate the product in my hair, and that's it.


✓ Learn your curl type, density and porosity. Check. Type 2B-C waves, high density, low porosity. My hair type enjoys a bit of protein in products and absolutely melts-down if I use too much of anything.


✓ Get a good curly cut.  Definitely. This is vital. I had gotten a curly cut early on in my journey, then got busy and was travelling when it was time for a trim so I went to a walk-in place two times (on two separate occasions), and got two subsequent terrible cuts. Completely my fault, but man...what a difference.


Definitely entertain the idea of more layers than you may have been wearing before, depending on your hair type. Go to a stylist who undertands textured hair - shrinkage is real! I've since found a stylist that I absolutely love in my hometown in Wisconsin, so for the first time in ages I'm getting regular salon cuts again. It was this stylist who at my request, cut my current shag mullet. I wanted something a bit more rock and roll that would grow out nicely, and this is the easiest haircut I've had in decades. Because the cut isn't always in my face, I'm wearing my hair down more than I ever have.


Show Me The Wavy Hair Products Already!


The search for the perfect product is an ongoing and lifelong quest, and one that really never ends. I'm a sucker for anything that promises the holy trifecta of moisture, definition and volume. Below, I've linked some of the products in my routine that have worked for me thus far, and are (mostly) affordable and easy to get. Remember, what works for my type 2b-2c hair will not necessarily work for your unique hair type, but I've written a few lines about each product, so you can decide for yourself.


My normal routine - I wash with a conditioning cleanser, run some gel through it while soaking wet, scrunch to encourage wave clumps, then put my hair in my microfiber "plop" turban for about 15 minutes. If I want a bit more hold I will scrunch in some mousse after I've taken off my microfiber towel. Most days, that's it. That's the routine. Below is some of my current lineup.


Current Wavy Hair Product Lineup


Shampoo and conditioner for wavy hair

Umberto Giannini Curl Jelly

Shampoo & Conditioner

UK | USA


This is a really lovely formulation that leaves my hair soft and bouncy, needing minimal product afterwards. Their Curl Jelly styling gel is also a very popular product, although I have yet to try it. The only thing I don't care for is the smell, which while not unpleasant, skews a bit perfumey for my liking. This set is a good all-rounder that would likely work for everyone




shampoo for wavy hair

Hairstory New Wash

Conditioning Cleanser

UK | USA


This is hands-down my favorite cleanser, and one of the few co-washes that actually works for me when I use it every day. My hairdresser introduced me to this, and initially I was skeptical, but this one-step co-wash is all I need. It leaves my hair soft but doesn't weigh it down. Some people report a transition period when switching to this product, I did not find that to be true for me personally. The downside? DEAR GOD this stuff is expensive. It's worth trying if you can afford it; this product is absolutely my first choice of hair cleanser. This is all I would use if I were made of money. It comes in three formulations - deep, original, and rich. Learn more about how this product works here.



shampoo for wavy hair

Thank goodness for Revolution Beauty, the UK-based company that makes dupes of all of the fancy-pants products that we can ill afford in this economy. This is their version of the previously mentioned product, and it's good. You don't have the different moisture options like with the Hairstory, but it's a heck of a bargain, so I'm not complaining.






clarifying shampoo for curly and wavy hair

Giovanni 50:50 Balancing-Clarifying Shampoo

UK | USA


I happened upon a giant bottle of this at TJ Maxx about a year ago, and it's been my go-to clarifying shampoo ever since. The bottle states it's gentle enough to use every day, and although it is indeed a gentle clarifying formula, I wouldn't recommend everyday use. It's also CGM-friendly, and a great precursor to your deep conditioner.




deep conditioner for curly and wavy hair

Garnier Ultimate Blends Hair Food

Deep Conditioner • Aloe Vera

UK | USA


This is a great all-around moisture treatment that will likely work on most hair types. They make several different "flavors" of this product, each with a slightly different scent and key ingredient, but the main formulation is basically the same. I often use this after clarifying to give me a moisture boost. I didn't realize until writing this piece, but this is getting harder to find in the USA. It is still widely available in the UK as a good inexpensive option for deep (or even regular) conditioning.



styling gel for wavy hair

Treluxe Hi Definition Styling Gel

UK | USA


I need very little of this gel for it to be effective. It is a custard-like conditioning gel with soft, non-crunch hold. It's easy to go overboard with this gel, but if I get it right my hair is well defined with very little frizz and smells glorious. Start small and build-up to find the right amount of product for your hair. This product has a bit of protein in it, which my hair loves.



gel for curly and wavy hair

Ouidad Climate Control

Heat & Humidity Gel

UK | USA


This gel is another favorite. It has a soft but effective hold, a thinner formulation (like a serum) that spreads easily and makes it easy to get a light application, and it really works to combat the frizz and floof in high humidity conditions. I always have a bottle of this on hand in Florida. Be careful if you are doing CGM and want to try the rest of the Climate Control product line - not all of them are CGM friendly (although this one is!)




protein treatment for curly and wavy hair

Curlsmith Bond Curl Rehab Salve

Protein Treatment

UK | USA


This Bond Curl Rehab Salve is not a conditioner, or even a deep conditioner. It's a protein treatment meant to repair bonds in the hair. You use it on damp hair before you wash it, and I find that it gives my hair a nice boost if I've been swimming in the sea or out in the elements and have a bit of damage to contend with. I tend to alternate this with a deep conditioner every month or so, depending on what I need.



microfiber towel for curly and wavy hair

Microfiber Hair Turban

UK | USA


These microfiber turban towels are easy to use, easy to wash, and allow you to plop your hair hands-free while you do something else. I also use mine to scrunch excess product out of my hair.











A Word About Mousse


In attempting to add my favorite current mousses to this list, I realized pretty quickly that most of them were either being discontinued, have had recent formula changes, or are always sold out. While I finish having my discontinued product panic attack, I am listing my current rotation below (old formulas), with an added caution that these products will be hard to find, and if you do find them they will likely be stupidly overpriced. I will follow-up at a later date with a fresh batch of mousse recommendations once I deplete my current supply and find a few new favorites.



grey hair transition from straightened to wavy curly hair





Comments


bottom of page