The Basics of Curly Hair Care

Curly hair is something to be celebrated. If that’s what your mama gave you, give her a big kiss the next time you see her. Curly hair, when properly cared for, is one of the most often envied hair types and for good reason–curly girls get to have it both ways. Worn naturally, curly hair gives off a laid back, artistic vibe. It screams confidence and embracing a personal and unique style. With a little styling manipulation, curls can look glamorous, luxurious and any other words that you can think of to describe opulence, from the hair perspective (using a thesaurus is cheating).

If your curls are saying a lot of things, but none of them are even remotely akin to “glamorous,” then the chances are your care routine could stand some adjusting.

While there are many different types and textures of curly hair, one thing is for certain: curly hair is thirsty hair. No matter what your curl pattern or density level is, curly hair does not hold or even receive water the same way that straight hair does. Due to the bends and twists in the hair strand, moisture has a more difficult time reaching the ends of curly hair. This is why you may notice a lot of split ends on your curls. Additionally, you can’t take a brush to curly hair as often as you can to straight, (unless you are REALLY into the frizzy look). Brushing is another way that we distribute natural oils throughout the hair, so off that bat, this is going to directly affect how much moisture the hair is getting and how often. Here are a few ways you can make sure that you are retaining as much moisture as possible:

In The Shower

Hair reacts to water the same way that skin does, which means warm water will open the cuticle, making it much more susceptible to cleansers–which can be incredibly drying. Making sure that you condition during each shower is the easiest way to prevent some of those effects. Don’t be afraid to skip the shampoo every other day (or more often, depending on how dry your hair is) as well. If your scalp is a little on the oily side, a quick spritz of dry shampoo at the roots should nix any excess while keeping your strands safe from over-drying.

When you do shampoo (and condition, always condition), work your way from the bottom up. This may seem counter-intuitive since most people believe that shampoo “sops up” the oils on the scalp, but your scalp should be the last place that you wash, and the last place that you rinse your conditioner.

Those with baby fine curls could try this little tip: shower with a hairnet on. The hair net will allow you to effectively cleanse the hair while protecting it from too much manipulation, which causes damage.

In addition to using conditioner every time you shower, try adding a deep conditioning treatment or masque once or twice a month. These treatments come typically as either a cream or an oil, but both formats use the steam and heat from your shower to get moisture deep into the cuticle. Usually, it is recommended that you allow these treatments to sit on the hair for 5-10 minutes for optimal penetration.curly hair quotesAfter You Shower

Do not be tempted to rub that towel through your head the same way that you dry your dog after a bath. Curly hair is more fragile than straight hair, because of its twisty construction and is, therefore, more prone to breakage. Gently blot your hair with a nice soft, fluffy towel, trying not to pull or twist the hair too much.

If you have a serious frizz problem, we swear by the paper towel trick. It’s exactly what it sounds like. While you are free to use that lovely fluffy bath towel for your body, when it comes to your locks, trade it in for a paper towel. The high absorbency of the paper towel will help wick moisture away without too much manipulation. Plus, depending on the brand of paper towel you are using, you may not be able to twist or tug on it too much without it breaking, forcing you to treat your locks with a little more love.

Opt for a leave-in product. This could be a leave-in conditioner, an “x amount of benefits” product, or even a hair oil (depending on how oily your hair is naturally). While your hair is wet and warm, it will be more prone to sucking these products into the shaft, and as it dries, the benefits will be “locked in.”

Use a wide tooth comb to distribute the product of your choice through your hair. Knowing that your curly strands are delicate, keep the detangling gentle to prevent additional breakage.


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Styling

Blow-drying: You likely know this by now, but a nozzled dryer will cause frizz. Opt for air drying whenever possible as it causes no additional damage, but if you have to use a blow dryer, be sure to add a diffuser attachment. Lay your hair gently over the diffuser and slowly move the dryer up and down, while on a low heat setting. If you have the time to opt for a lower air flow as well, it will be worth the time investment. Blowing your hair harder is one of the little things that contributes to frizz.

Hot tools: One of the main curly commandments to keep in mind is that heat causes damage. That being said, be sure to use a thermal protectant before you define with a curling wand or go for a different look all together with a flat iron.

Products: There are so many hair products available that it can be difficult to know where to begin. Here is a little “texture cheat sheet” with recommendations for must have products depending on your curl type:

Loose waves/curls: If you prepped with our texture and type guide, this would fall into the “S” category, more than likely with a “silky” classification. This pattern tends to fall a little on the flatter side. You would do best to stick with volumizing products like a mousse or foam for style prep and a volumizing spray to finish. If you tend to use a curl-enhancing product, opt for a spray or foam rather than a cream, which will be more likely to weigh hair down.
*Loose waves/curls tip: When drying, use your diffuser to lift the hair at the root, all the way around your head. You don’t need to dry your hair completely, but that little blast of air at the root will go a long way to keeping your hair bouncy.

Classic curls: This would be an “O” pattern, with either a silky, cottony or thread classification. Contrary to their loose wave cousins, classic curls (like Shirley Temple-style ringlets) do not fare so well with using foams and mousses. This is where the dreaded “crunchy curl” can come into play. Instead, opt for a moisturizing, curl-enhancing cream as this style of curl tends to be a bit on the thirsty side.
*Classic curl tip:  If your curls aren’t baby-fine, consider finishing with a light hair oil on the ends. It will add shine, definition, and a little extra moisture.

Tight Curls: Can be an “L” or a very tightly coiled “O” shape. Typically with a wiry or spongy texture. This curl type is the thirstiest of them all. The tightly coiled shape of the hair doesn’t make for a great moisture delivery system, and as we stated in our types and textures article, you should never take a brush to dry, curly hair, which cuts down on the amount of natural oils that can be distributed from the scalp, throughout the hair. With that being said, this curl type should embrace the creams, oils, and leave-in conditioners all day long. You can skip the shampoo for as long as you feel comfortable with, but keep that in mind while you are layering on the product.
*Tight curls tip: If you have an oily scalp, apply product from ends to mid-lengths (work backwards). This will help concentrate the most amount of product at the driest part of the hair, and minimize the chances of increasing scalp oily-ness.

Once you take the time to assess your texture and learn its unique best care tactics, it will be easier to resist the urge to blow it out or flat iron it, or simply pull it back all of the time. Make peace with your texture. Embrace it, love it, rock it.