I'm not saying my hair is the best thing in the world, but 1) it's pretty good, and 2) it took a long time (regrettably, long past my awkward adolescence) and a lot of money and wasted products to figure out how to make it do what it does. So I'm writing this as a service for any wayward ethnic girl who might Google "manage Jewish hair" or "products for Jewish hair" or "tame nasty frizz," and for Capella, who asked. Look, I'm not a genius, but I know something about this.
Re: products. You need exactly two products, and one of them must be mousse (I use John Frieda Frizz-Ease, which recently changed its packaging. It's hardly more than $4 at Target). You should use two open hands full for long hair, and you should not be daunted by how big of a pile this seems to be (and is).
N.B.: Don't be daunted when the guy doing your balyage* at Bumble & Bumble in the Meatpacking District says to you, "Mousse? Ew, I thought they stopped making that in the 80's." Also do not be daunted the first time your boyfriend sees you do the mousse thing and says, "Wow. That's enough mousse for...a moose."
Travelers further note that the no-liquids-over-three-ounces-on-planes rule is kind of like racial profiling against Jewish women too, because it is very hard to find mousse in travel sizes, and it cannot be transplanted to a smaller container because it is generally aerosol. If you find travel size mousse at any time, buy lots of them and store them for your exclusive use on planes so you're not forced to check luggage on a short trip. Oh, and regarding aerosol mousse: much better than nonaeorosol.
The second product you will need to use in conjunction is something very tacky; I use KMS Paste (about $20 for five ounces; the cheapest place to get it is on BeautyDeals.net, and I try to buy five at a time--about a year's supply--to keep the price including shipping really low). You want to use about four to five pumps of Paste, or about four fingers full if you are scooping from a squat jar of some kind.
Now. To VERY WET hair, apply the mousse first. Then emulsify the the tacky Paste-like product by rubbing it through your palms together (like in prayer position). Comb both through together.
Then, you want to curl each section of your hair around your finger for a ringlety look. I know this sounds like a lot of effort, but once you get used to it, it's really very quick. I do my entire head of hair in five minutes, or 10 if I'm really going somewhere special. Another great thing about this method is that it keeps the top curls the same approximate shape and quality as the ones on the bottom (anyone reading this far knows what I mean).
As for blow drying, I try to avoid it altogether. I let my hair air dry all the time, unless it's the dead of winter (although I live in California now, and it was 90+ today in L.A., so that hardly matters), or unless I must go somewhere quickly and I don't have the time to let it dry naturally (which, since all that product slows drying time, might be close to three hours or more to be bone dry). Then, you must only use a diffuser, and afterward, you should apply some sleekening-type serum (I like Joico or Ecru), which is far better than the sprays they make that allege the same result.
Don'ts: Do not ever brush or comb your hair when it's dry, for god's sake. Do not let the person at the salon tell you she knows what you need for your hair, beyond what you have read in this post--no matter how fancy or compelling the salon or the salon girl. She does not, and it will only cost you money and storage space. Don't think you can sleep on your curls, and have them be OK tomorrow. (I'm sorry.) Some people say the built-up grease is a useful anti-frizz tool, but the pillow just flattens everything out irreparably, in my experience. And, to directly respond to Capella: Don't try to fight your curly hair. If you straighten it, you will just look like a curly-haired Jewish girl trying to straighten her hair. Maybe do it for the occasional, er, occasion, but then only do it professionally at a place that knows about hair like yours. I'm serious about this--you are not fooling anyone when you straighten your hair. And curly hair is not juvenile and cutesy! It can really be quite sophisticated.
If this post brings relief to even one ethnic curly-haired girl out there, I will feel rewarded. (I've figured out I wasn't destined to cure cancer, but I've at least got to do some good.)
Oh, and if anyone has any fun styling tips for post-drying, post-finger-twirled curly hair--anything that's not my tired-ass low-side-bun-with-tendrilly-bits--I would be grateful for your input.
Good luck, and godspeed.
*If you are a curly-haired girl still getting foil highlights, you must stop at once and do balyage (hand-painted highlights) instead. It doesn't give you that regimented, striped, I-live-in-the-valley-in-1994 look, and it looks very natural and sun-kissed indeed. I haven't done it for five months, and there are no roots, just a natural I-haven't-been-in-the-sun-because-it-was-winter look. Perfect for curly hair.