Nothing says healthy, beautiful hair like a head of shiny, bouncy curls. While curls and waves are often envy-inducing, out of all the hair types those with naturally-curly hair know their strands require a little extra effort when it comes to styling.
Whether you have loose waves or tight coiled ringlets, there are some common reasons why curly hair requires special care to look its best:
So now that you know why curly hair requires a unique list of care requirements, how do you get started helping your curls look their best? You just need to focus on using the right moisturizing products, making small adjustments to your hair care routine, and practicing smart aftercare. Let’s get started.
HAIR CARE TIPS
A recent trend in curly hair care has been a pre-shampoo treatment, or “pre-poo” as it’s commonly known. This abbreviation refers to a protective treatment that you apply to your hair as the first step of your shower routine, usually with hair oil, nourishing hair butter or even household recipes that use coconut or avocado oil. This provides a nourishing, protective layer for your hair, to stop your shampoo from stripping too much essential moisture (and further drying out already dry curls). Be sure to check out our blog post “What is Pre-Poo and Why You Should Use It” for an in-depth look at this nourishing hair care step.
Since curly hair is more prone to knots and tangles, consider sectioning your hair in the shower: this will help ensure that all of the moisturizing products properly saturate your hair, without worrying about getting your curls into a tangled bunch.
While hot water can promote frizziness and out-of-control locks, cool water helps the cuticle of the hair lie flat, which boosts shine and seals off that protective layer. Finish off your shower with a cool water rinse to ensure a shinier head of hair.
Another trick curly guys and girls must know is plopping your hair: it’s basically exactly what it sounds like. Once you’ve washed and conditioned your hair, simply plop your hair down onto a microfiber towel (or old t-shirt), wrap your hair up and let it dry. You’re essentially letting the microfiber towel do the styling work, absorbing excess water without roughly drying your hair, which can lead to frizziness and a broken curl pattern. Check out our blog post “How to Plop Hair” for a simple step-by-step routine.
As someone with wavy hair, I can confidently say that my Brooklinen silk pillowcases were one of my favorite purchases of the past year. Traditional cotton pillowcases can leave you with frizzy, roughed-up hair in the morning: all of your tossing and turning on the pillow can lead to friction, which usually means damaged hair strands. Satin and silk pillowcases let your hair glide smoothly across the surface, reducing friction and potential damage and frizz. While those with wavy or curly hair should definitely consider silk and satin pillowcases to keep their hair in-tact and frizz-free, they can be beneficial to every hair type.
The delicate care required to maintain curly hair is especially important when you’re brushing it. Techniques can vary depending on the thickness of your hair or tightness of your curls, but try to follow these general steps for combing curly hair correctly:
When it comes to proper curl care, you need to focus on getting enough moisture and hydration into your strands. For beautifully defined curls, wash your hair with a curl shampoo with a moisturizing formula that gently cleanses (making it soft and enhancing the volume) without compromising its natural texture. Make sure you’re also shampooing with a product that is free of sulfates, which can over-strip your hair to the point of extra dryness and damage.
Once your hair has been gently cleansed, follow up with a curl conditioner. You’ll want to look for a product that gives your curls and waves the moisture they’re craving, without being so heavy that it weighs them down and sacrifices volume. But since your daily conditioner might not be enough moisture for curly strands, it’s important to also mix in a deeply nourishing hair mask for curly hair at least once a week.
Since build-up on your hair and scalp can mean a mess of issues (like blocked follicles, dry strands and limp-looking hair) even those with curly hair can benefit from the occasional exfoliating scalp scrub. A few times a month, use a sea salt scrub cleanser to help refresh and exfoliate your scalp — this also has the added benefit of a texturizing effect on the hair, which can help your curls and waves look more defined.
After washing and towel-drying your hair, a leave-in hair milk spray is another smart way to ensure your curls are properly moisturized and cared for. Look for a multi-functional spray that will soften, control frizz and protect your hair from any potential heat damage — after spritzing the hair milk onto towel-dried hair, you can continue to style as usual.
There are also a variety of other leave-ins and curling creams that can protect, control and define your curls across every step of the hairstyling process. If you’re going to heat style your hair, use a curly hair primer beforehand: this will not only help to detangle and define your locks, but like the hair milk it will also help to fight frizz and protect from heat damage. A curl creamwill also help to lightly enhance the look and shape of your curls without weighing hair down. But if your hair is prone to being really frizzy, or you live in a more humid environment, try a curl controller: it will define the structure of the curl, making it look healthy and elastic even in cases of high humidity. Be sure to check out our blog post “How to Fix Frizzy Hair” for additional tips on taming out-of-control locks.
THINGS TO AVOID IF YOU HAVE CURLY HAIR
Wondering how often you should wash your hair? Overwashing your hair can take you down some undesirable paths: stripping your scalp of too many essential natural oils can either cause oil production to go into overdrive, or leave you with lifeless and dry hair. Since curly hair is already at risk of dryness, you want to make sure you’re not washing your hair too frequently. People with curly or textured hair can usually get away with washing their hair only once a week — use this as a start and keep an eye on how your hair responds, adjusting as needed.
We’ll keep saying it: the key to beautiful and healthy curls is proper moisture! Make sure you’re not skipping conditioner after you wash your hair, and swapping in extra-nourishing hair masks as needed.
It’s a general rule of thumb that the curlier your hair, the more you should try to avoid using heat, which can strip away too much essential moisture and leave you with dry locks and a broken curl pattern. But if you must heat style, start by letting your locks air dry for a bit: starting to heat style super wet hair makes it more likely that you will damage it, as you’re exposing it to heat for longer. Make sure you’re using a heat protectant product and giving your curls enough moisture before and after. When you do have to blow dry, use a diffuser attachment on your blow dryer that can distribute air more evenly throughout your curls, minimizing frizz, breakage and heat damage.
For those who are lucky enough to be gifted naturally curly hair, these enviable locks usually come with a requirement: taking the time to learn how to properly care for them. But this doesn’t mean big changes for your routine or wallet! Just be sure to stock up on the right curly hair products (giving your hair the adequate moisture and styling products it needs), try to avoid heat when possible, and invest in proper products like wide-tooth combs and silk or satin pillowcases. And styling tricks like plopping or a good air dry can be a lifesaver when it comes to finding easy solutions to make your curls and waves look their best.
And another key part of maintaining healthy hair is regular salon visits — even if you’re trying to grow your curls out, getting regular trims will stop split ends from working their way up your hair and damaging already delicate curls. If possible, try to find a salon that either specializes in curly hair, or an individual stylist who’s comfortable helping you reach your curl goals. And if you have any additional tips and tricks for maintaining healthy and beautiful curls, let us know in the comments below!
by Lauren Hannel, staff contributor
Photos by @goldandglowco