I believe it is best to start slow. Start with either cheap products or samples until you get a sense of what your hair likes and does not like. This will save you money, because not everything is going to work. Check the travel sizes in stores for CG products. The Curl Talk member KathyMac sells samples of some of the online brands that cater to curly and wavy hair (Spiral Solutions, Curl Junkie, Donna Marie, etc.). Click on the Fotki in her signature to see her list of products. The only way I know of to order from her is to be a member of Curl Talk. Send KathyMac a private message. Tell her what you want to order and your zip code and she'll tell you what your order will cost. Her shipping is reasonable. I was very pleased with her service and I've never read anything but glowing reviews.
If you end up with big bottles of products that don't work for you, you can sell or swap them on the Curl Talk swap boards. Some women's shelters will take used hair products. You can shave your legs with conditioner. I remember one member who used conditioner in place of fabric softener. You can use your shampoo as a body wash.
I'm going to mention some products. Always double check the ingredients list in case the formulas have changed. These are just some of the options available. This post has links to lists of CG products. Some people start with the Deva line, because is makes things easy. When people finally settle on products, very few are still using the Deva line. The L'Oreal EverSleek line is CG. The other L'Oreal Ever-Whatever lines are a mixed bag of CG and not CG.
To start, you will need:
1. Something to dry your hair with- You do not want to use terrycloth because terry cloth is damaging to hair. Choose one of the following. I prefer microfiber, because it gets my hair dryer then the other options.
Microfiber towels-You can use microfiber towels from the automotive section or you might
find microfiber towels marketed for cleaning. You can also get
microfiber towels made for hair. The brand name of mine is Aquis.
Turbie Twist makes a microfiber version of their hair turban.
Flour Sack Towels- found in the kitchen towel section of stores.
100% Cotton t-shirts- It is a good use for your old 100% cotton shirts. Some people find long sleeve t-shirts work best for plopping.
2. If you are wavy, you should have a non sulfate shampoo on hand. Most wavies find they need an occasional non sulfate shampoo. Shea Moisture Retention Shampoo (Target, CVS, Sally's,Walgreens), Deva Care Low Poo (Salons, Ulta), and Jessicurl Gentle Lather Shampoo (Online) were voted best by the Wavy Hair Community. Other ground options are most of the Organix shampoos (their conditioners are not CG) and Burt's Bees Super Shiny Grapefruit and Sugar Beet.
3. You should get a cowash conditioner. Can you cowash with your rinse out conditioner? Yes, but I wouldn't recommend it for most people. Almost everyone will want something more moisturizing and relatively thicker for a rinse out conditioner. For a cowash condtioner, you will want something that cleans well and is thin enough to spread easily. Vo5, Suave Naturals, or Tresemme Naturals Volumizing are good cowash options.
4. Your need a rinse out conditioner. This conditioner will be thicker and more moisturizing then your cowash (unless you need very little moisture for your hair). There are many rinse out options. You can use either a bit of your rinse out conditioner or your cowash conditioner as a leave in conditioner. You do not need to buy a separate leave in conditioner to start out. You may or may not choose to buy a separate leave in later. For a moisturizing rinse out option, I personally like Renpure Organics (red bottle, hard to find on the ground now, but Amazon has it). GVP Conditioning Balm (Sally Beauty, generic Biolage) and DevaCare One Condition are loved by the Wavy Hair Community. Tresemme Naturals Nourishing Moisturizing is a great medium moisture conditioner.
5. A product for hold. Most people choose to use gel. When your hair is 100% dry, you can scrunch out the crunch of gel. Some gel options are LA Looks Sports or Curls gel, Garnier Pure Clean , Ecostyler (ethnic section of Sally Beauty or CVS), Herbal Essence Totally Twisted, Spiral Solutions Firm Hold Gel (contains aloe, online), Aussie Instant Freeze (drugstores), Biosilk Rock Hard Gelle (very hard hold) .
6. A go to updo. Something you can do fast. While you are experimenting with new products and new styling methods, you will have failures. It is inevitable. On those days you will want a way to quickly put your hair up. Check my updo page (tabs at the top of the page).
7. A wide tooth comb. You can just use your fingers to comb your hair, but you will probably want a comb.
Things you don't absolutely need, but will probably want:
8. A diffuser. Water can make your hair heavy and pull out your waves downward as they dry. Diffusing can help remove some of the water weight. Without the water weight to pull hair down, your hair will have more curl.
9. A curl enhancer. Most people find they need more then one product to get the waves they want. It is common for people to use a gel for hold and a curl cream or jelly product for curl enhancement. Homemade Flax Seed Gel is a good place to start. It is very cheap to make and has a high success rate. This is a good one to try if you have fine hair. Flax Seed Gel does not weigh down most fine hair. If you would prefer not to make your own, you can buy it at Botticelli Botanicals (this shop may be closed) or Sweet Curls Elixirs on ETSY (online). Other great options are a curl enhancers with aloe as a ingredient. Aloe works great for curly and wavy hair. Some options are Spiral Solutions Curl Enhancing Jelly (online), Aubrey Organics Mandarin Magic (mostly online), Kinky Curly Curling Custard (Target, whole foods, online). For a curl cream- Shea Moisture Curl Enhancing Smoothie (Target, Walgreens), Curl Junkie Coffee-Coco Curl Cream-Lite (online), Shea Moisture Curl & Style Conditioning Milk (Target, Walgreens).
10. Treatments. You may want to get a deep treatment or a protein treatment, depending on your hair's condition and properties. I suggest you test treatments, especially protein treatments, on a small section/curl of hair before trying it on your whole head. It might save from a whole head of awful.
For a Deep Treatment you need something that is more moisturizing then your regular conditioner. A rinse out conditioner for me may be a deep treatment for you. For example, some wavies use GVP Conditioning Balm (sally's) for a deep treatment, but I would use it as a rinse out conditioner. For a deep treatment, you can simply soup up you regular conditioner by adding oils, honey, etc. It is good if your deep treatment has things that can penetrate the hair's cortex, such as olive oil, avocado oil, and coconut oil. DT options include: Curl Junkie Repair Me (online), Spiral Solutions Deeply Decadent Moisture (online).
Protein Treatments (if your hair needs protein): I'd suggest the gelatin protein treatment on the recipe page of Science-y Hair blog. It is very cheap to make and very popular. It is a very strong PT, so keep that in mind. Because it is so strong, you may want to start with one of the other options first. (my post on the gelatin PT) Other options are Spiral Solutions Repairing Protein Treatment (online), Joiko K-pac (salons) and it's Sally Beauty knock off (both contain mineral oil, which is hard to remove for some hair and easy for others), Nexxus Emergencee (Walmart, CVS), Curl Junkie Repair Me (online), Ion Effective Care (Sally's, they sell cheap sample packs, milder PT).
11. A Hair Analysis. A hair analysis can take a lot of the guesswork out of picking products for your hair and save you money in the long run. I personally recommend GoosefootPrints on Etsy. You can see my sample GoosefootPrint analysis here. Another option is the analysis at Live Curly Live Free.
This post on The Wavy Tales was written to help new wavies. It is similar to my post, but from another point of view. Double check the ingredients on the product mentioned. The post is a few years old, and some formulas may have changed.
Thank you to all the members of the Wavy Hair Community who helped with product suggestions.