After shifting through the hundreds of emails I received over the President’s Day holiday, I realized that there was a common theme — product confusion (what ingredients are good vs. bad for curly hair). I also discovered that many people were committing several ‘curly girl cardinal sins.’ I’d like to share a few key lessons that I passed on via email, in hopes they may help a few of you.

When in search of the right products ALWAYS read the product ingredients. You never know what you are putting into your angel’s hair otherwise. If you aren’t sure what an ingredient is, do a web search. Remember, the ingredients are listed in order of volume.

If your angel needs a little oil for her dry tresses, always go for natural oils (e.g. almond, avocado, coconut, jojoba, olive, etc.) as these oils are natural moisturizers and will actually condition the hair. Avoid products that contain mineral and/or petroleum oil. Both of these synthetic oils coat and suffocate the hair shaft blocking moisture out. Further, they clog pores in your scalp and can retard hair growth.

I have noticed that there is a common misconception among most people that all alcohols are bad for curly hair. The truth is there are drying alcohols (e.g. SD alcohol) and there are fatty, emollient alcohols like cetyl and stearyl alcohol that actually condition the hair and help hair and skin maintain moisture. Look out for the good and avoid the bad. (Read more about alcohols here.)

Q: My daughter’s hair is very thick and dry. She uses Joico and that seems to be working. But it’s so expensive. Can you tell me another moisturizing shampoo that’s a little less pricey. She wants a product that will give her the wet loose curl affect instead of a ‘poofy thing,’ as she calls it.

Mahisha: First question. Are you shampooing without conditioning it? If so, stop now and add a conditioner to her shampooing regime ASAP. Remember, you don’t want to dry her hair out, so avoid overdoing it. Shampoo and condition only one time a week.

Each step of a curly girl’s regime serves a different purpose – shampoo cleanses the hair, conditioner moisturizes and conditions, etc. If she is looking for a wet loose curl effect, her shampoo is not the product to do that. Her styling products and conditioners become even more important.

I am not sure how pricey Joico is, however, our Truly Hydrated Shampoo is reasonably priced and is great for curly girls. It’s a moisturizing shampoo that detangles while cleansing and doesn’t strip the hair of essential nutrients. It is a gentle shampoo with ingredients found in baby shampoo. I recommend the Coconut Dream conditioner for her hair. It is guaranteed to soften, moisturize, detangle, and condition the kinkiest curl. It’s a must keep! Our Moist Curls Moisturizer is a great option. It softens the hair, eases comb ability, moisturizes and conditions, preps it for the next step, and leaves a little goodness behind. Our Curly Q Styling Lotion enhances curl formation, combats frizz and leaves a soft and natural curl hold without a greasy, sticky, or hard feeling. It also replenishes the hair. It contains a new, patent-pending ingredient — a derivative of the primary lipid found at the hair surface. This important ingredient restores the integrity of your hair, protects the hair from environmental stress, and replenishes the protective layer bound to the hair cuticle. It is a great substitute for gel, mousse, hairspray, and greasy oil lotions.

Q: I’m so happy to have found you and My 12-month-old daughter has a head of ringlets to die for. People stop us on the street to compliment little ‘Shirley Temple.’ However, caring for her hair is a bit of a task. Every morning she wakes with knots in her hair. Attempting to separate the knots proves difficult with a toddler. I do use a no-tangle spray when she gets out of the shower. But every morning we are in the same place again. I am afraid to use adult-strength products on her hair since she’s moving all around and I wouldn’t want to get it in her eyes.

Mahisha: Are you shampooing her hair every morning or just using a detangler after she gets out? Shampooing daily is overkill and extremely drying to curly hair. Shampooing more than one time a week is not recommended. If you find that you need to rinse away dirt or residue from the playground, you can do a conditioning rinse — rinse hair to remove styling products (this is where using the right products that are water soluble come in), apply an ample amount of our Coconut Dream conditioner comb through, rinse and proceed with styling. Also, continue to use a baby (tearless) shampoo on her hair.

If matting is a problem don’t let her go to bed with her hair down. I would recommend that you moisturize her hair before she goes to bed…and braid it (in 2 or 4 braids) to prevent matting. Our Moist Curls moisturizer is a great, and is one of the most popular out of all of our products. It is perfect for this purpose.

You might also want to invest in a silk or satin pillowcase since cotton can rob the hair of its natural moisture.

Q: My 11-year-old daughter is 3/4 black and 1/4 white with hair to her waist. It is thick, unruly, frizzy and out of control. Can you recommend a salon here in the Los Angeles area? I was wondering about perms or the Japanese Straightening system? Do you have any advice?

Mahisha: I would recommend that you visit Naimie’s in Value Village, CA. (12640 Riverside Drive (818) 655-9933). They have a professional salon full of stylists and also carry our products. I would also take a look at’s list of salons. It is always a good idea to visit a few salons to get a few different opinions before doing a chemical process.

Regarding a chemical process recommendation, I don’t make recommendations on this subject. I prefer to find natural ways to care for curls, and I cannot back the safety or performance of other products.

I do hope you find what you are looking for! Remember, get a second and third opinion if needed. Chemical processes are long term and irreversible.

Q: Mahisha, I love your column and feel like it was written totally for me. I have a 3-year-old daughter with beautiful curls. She is very willful and doesn’t want her bangs cut. But her hair is always in her face and she isn’t very good about keeping barrettes or ponytails in her hair. Do I force her to cut her hair? Are there alternatives to bangs?

Mahisha: Remember, you are the mother and it is up to you to do what is best for her. At the age of three, she shouldn’t be calling the shots. The way I see it, you can either cut her bangs anyway, slick the bangs back into two ponytails, or wait for them to grow out long enough to comb behind her ears.

Q: Is it bad to use adult products on children’s hair? What are the benefits of ‘kids’ products over adult products? I was always under the impression that it was the shampoo that really irritated their eyes, but can adult conditioners and styling aids hurt the hair of toddlers and children?

Mahisha: It all depends on what products you are talking about. Generally speaking, children’s products are more gentle than adult products. I would recommend that you continue to use children’s products until your angel is at least 10 years old. Using adult products for a toddler is completely out of the question, in my mind. Stick with the formulations made for their sensitive scalps.