Thank you to Kelly @2bornot2bwaves for this helpful blog post about stringy clumps and what to do about them! Remember that everyone's curls are different, and while can always make some changes to your routine, your curls are yours and may be prone to smaller curl clumps than someone else's curls.
Why Do My Curls Look Stringy?
One of the hardest things to overcome with curly hair is how stringy your clumps can be (especially when you’re first beginning to take care of your curly hair). The good news is that there are multiple ways to overcome this hurdle! Let’s take a look at why your clumps go stringy in the first place and how to properly clump your curls and waves.
First things first, why do you have stringy clumps? Short answer: damage. When your hair is damaged from bleach or colour, chemical treatments, sun, wind, breakage, etc, it has a tough time retaining the proper amount of moisture. And when you don’t use the correct products to help your hair hold onto the moisture, it can become limp and brittle. Hair that is properly hydrated, properly moisturized, and is full of products with ingredients that it loves will easily clump together.
Repairing Damage and Priming Your Hair to Encourage Curl Clumps
So let’s start with repairing your hair!
Assess what kind of treatments your hair needs to thrive. Bond builders, protein treatments, or deep conditioners are great options to repair the damage your hair has acquired. Remember that not all treatments are the same, so check your ingredients to be sure you are using the correct products for your hair type. There are lots of products now that will encompass several of these treatments in one application. Product suggestions: Inahsi Naturals Rescue & Repair Bond Strengthening Hair Masque, Curl Junkie Repair Me Reconstructive Hair Treatment, Curl Keeper Rapid Hair Repair
Cleanse and condition appropriately. Remove buildup on a regular basis by clarifying, alternating with a low-poo or cowash on washes when you aren’t clarifying. Fully rinse all cleansing and conditioning products from your hair before styling.
Now let’s prep. Coat wet hair with a silky smooth leave-in conditioner or curl cream. You likely don’t need both, unless your hair is extremely dry. Product suggestions: AG Hair Re:Coil, Bounce Curl Clump and Define Cream, TreLuxe Soothe & Restore Aloe Vera Curl Primer, LUS Brands All-in-One Stylers
If you are styling for great definition, you can add a lightweight styler at this point. Select a product with lots of slip, so that you can easily create clumps. Product suggestions: TreLuxe ReFlex Curl Styling Serum, Curl Keeper Original
How to Create Curl Clumps When Styling
The key to great clumps is water. Now that you have applied your base products, you need to make sure your hair is wet before styling. Not just wet...dripping wet. Your hair will clump easiest when it is wet. You can add water through a continuous spray mister, or a quick drizzle rinse before you exit your shower.
Clumping can be done through a variety of tools, like brushes, combs, or your fingers. Whatever your preferred method of clumping, make sure that your hair is fully detangled before you begin. When selecting your tools, choose one that creates a clump of the size you would like to see. A boar-bristled brush helps clumps fuse together. A wide toothed comb can separate clumps into smaller chunks. Fingers tend to create larger, but possibly unsustainable, clumps. Product suggestion: Curl Keeper Styling Brush, Cantu Sturdy Wash Day Wide Tooth Comb (CW says: There's also the new Bounce Curl Define Styling Brush - back in stock this fall! You can sign up for a restock notification on the product page.)
Separate your hair into sections, and brush/comb/rake through. Pay attention to the curl families that are formed at the roots. If you create a clump that is too large, it is going to break apart once it is dry. The secret to creating a larger clump is actually creating smaller wet clumps. Once you have created a (smooth, detangled) clump, hold it near the roots and shake, to encourage the natural pattern to form.
You can choose to scrunch or plop at this point to remove water, or you can add your hold product. A watery product, like a foam, will add more moisture before you begin drying, and encourage clumps to stay together. Product suggestions: Flora & Curl Sweet Hibiscus Volumizing Foam, AG Hair Foam Weightless Volumizer, TreLuxe Soothe & Restore Curl Defining Mousse
If you crave that extra hold, select a styler that creates a cast, and smooth or scrunch it over your hair. This will lock everything in place, and set your washday up for longevity. Bonus points for curl-enhancing products! Product suggestions: TreLuxe Hi! Definition Curl Enhancer Styling Gel, AG Hair Liquid Effects, Curlsmith Curl Defining Styling Soufflé, LUS Brands Irish Sea Moss Gel
Lastly, how you dry your hair may affect your clumps. You don’t want to do all that work, and have it fall apart now, right? While diffusing is faster and gives more volume, it can seriously disrupt your clumps. Air drying may be a better option to keep clumps intact. You could also adopt a hybrid method of drying, where you alternate diffusing and air drying, to find the best balance for the results you want. SOTC (scrunch out the crunch/cast) only when your hair is 100% dry.
Remember, water is the glue that holds your clumps together. If you style on damp hair, your clumps may break apart before they are even dry. More than that, if you are using products or techniques that aren’t right for your hair, your clumps will not form properly.