08/27/2012 12:37 pm ET Updated Oct 26, 2012

Curly Hair Woes: How Going To A Specialized Hairdresser Changed My Life

My curly hair is finally manageable. Apparently, left to my own devices, everything I have been doing was all wrong, and the result was a dry, frizzy, shapeless mess. I even tried all sorts of products and nothing seemed to make any difference.

I had heard about hairstylists that specialized in curly hair, but never went to one thinking that hair was hair, and that those specialized salons were just overpriced marketing ploys. But one day a colleague showed up at work with beautiful wavy hair. She and I had spent the whole summer commiserating about our thick curls which were even more unmanageable in hot and humid weather, and here she was with soft, frizz-free curls.

I had been going to the same salon for 10 years and needed a change, so I made an appointment with the curly hair expert she went to, Mark Kuzma at Laboratory Hair Studio in Morristown, NJ. He cut my hair while it was dry and gave me a crash course in taming my curls. Here are the five things I learned:

1) Cutting my hair while it was dry allowed him to see what my curls looked like, so he was able to shape it better. Usually my hair looks great when the stylist styles it at the salon, but days later I would have "triangle" hair -- sticking out on the sides and flat on the top. Not super attractive.

2) My hair was dry, dry, dry and needed to be treated gently. Mark recommended sulfate-free shampoos, conditioners and crèmes. I have tried DevaCurl, which has been working well. I have also used Ouidad products designed for curly hair and I like them, too.

3) Like most people, I would wash my hair and wrap it in a towel. Apparently that is too rough and made my curls frizzier. At the salon, they used a microfiber towel and said an old T-shirt would work as well, but I have been letting it air-dry. I just wring it out once and leave a bit of conditioner in it. I always thought my hair had to be squeaky clean, and would rinse out every trace of product, but leaving a bit on my hair softens it. Who knew?

4) I was overusing products. Now I apply a little foam mousse, then flip my hair over and scrunch it through while it is still wet.

5) I don't touch my hair at all while it is air drying. This is the hardest part. I was used to curling ringlets with my finger while it dried, which is super fun, but I would end up with a few curls amidst a nest of frizz. Now I leave it completely alone. If I am feeling really inspired, clipping it at the roots keep the top from flattening out. When it is dry, I take the clips out and run my fingers through. And voila, I have soft and bouncy curls.

I went to a party last weekend and got a lot of complements from old friends who kept asking what I had done differently, so apparently people noticed the lack of frizz. And my husband, who sweetly has always told me he prefers me in straight hair, has changed his tune and now loves my curls. I do, too.

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