Unlike straight hair, curly hair tends to lack moisture and dry out easily, making it more difficult to care for.
The amount of curl in your hair is influenced by your hair follicles. People with curly hair tend to have more oval or asymmetrical follicles. This, of course, is determined by your genetics.
If you’re looking to add more bounce and shine to your natural curls, we break down the tips and tricks you need for keeping your hair healthy.
With curly hair, you’ll always want to focus on products that help add moisture to the hair and avoid any hair product that’s going to dry out or weigh hair down.
Choose the right shampoo and conditioner
Look for a shampoo and conditioner specifically designed for curly hair.
In general, look for products that include:
- natural or essential oils like coconut oil, jojoba oil, sunflower oil, and avocado oil
- aloe vera
- shea butter
- hydrolyzed silk and animal proteins
- panthenol and provitamins
- plant extracts
While you may not want to wash your hair every day, when you do, use a mild shampoo which contains gentler cleansing agents as well as added conditioning agents.
If your hair is oily or dirty, you should still use a stronger clarifying shampoo once every 1 or 2 weeks. Always follow shampooing with a conditioner to help lock in moisture.
If you have very coarse or curly hair, you may want to try using a pre-shampoo treatment.
Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to condition only after cleansing. You can use a conditioner both before and after you shampoo.
Coarse, curly hair tends to lose moisture very quickly. Using a conditioner before shampooing in theory helps to protect the hair strand so that the shampoo won’t strip the hair of its natural oils.
Hot or cold water?
Hot water tends to strip moisture from hair and leave it dry. Washing hair with cold water and avoiding hot water will help you retain moisture and strength.
Shampooing every day isn’t a good idea for people with curly hair. Shampooing can strip the hair of its much-needed natural oils.
You may need to experiment with a cleansing schedule to see what works best for you. In general, try shampooing every other day or every 3 days.
Choose the right brush or comb
Curly hair is often dry and brittle and can break easily when combed or brushed. Try brushing or combing curly hair in the shower to avoid breakage.
Start with a wide-tooth comb to break up any knots. You can also comb while the conditioner is still in your hair to make it easier and to ensure the conditioner coats all your strands.
When choosing a hairbrush, invest in a high quality brush with natural bristles instead of plastic. A boar bristle brush can help spread natural oils from the scalp through the ends of the hair.
Another option is to not use a brush or comb at all. If you have particularly springy curls, try applying a leave-in conditioner and then raking through wet hair with your fingertips.
Heat styling curly hair
Most stylists will recommend that you let curly hair air dry because using a blow-dryer can make it frizzy and damage it.
If you want to use a blow-dryer or straighten it every once in a while with a straightening iron, it’s important to use some sort of heat protecting spray or treatment before you do so. Look for a spray containing silicone or keratin to seal the cuticle and make it more resistant to heat damage.
When blow-drying, researchers suggest that you keep your hair dryer
You can add a diffuser attachment onto your blow-dryer to help limit how much direct heat hits your hair.
Avoid split ends
Split ends are hard to avoid completely. Also, there’s really no way to repair them except cutting them off.
The best way to avoid split ends is to be very gentle with your curly locks.
To prevent split ends:
- Use a detangler when brushing to avoid pulling and yanking.
- Try not to tie your hair back into tight ponytails or buns.
- Make sure to use a wide-tooth comb.
- Stay away from heat tools.
- Get a trim from a professional stylist roughly every 2 to 3 months.
If you want to jump in the shower and wet your locks every day, you probably shouldn’t use a cleansing shampoo each time.
On some days, you can even just rinse with water and then apply a conditioner. On other days, use a mild shampoo to avoid stripping the hair of its natural oils.
Every 1 to 2 weeks, use a regular clarifying shampoo to help remove any buildup of styling products.
Sleeping on your back can put too much weight on your hair follicles and leave your curls looking messy, frizzy, and knotty.
If you have curly hair, sleeping on your side or on your stomach is likely going to be best for maintaining curl health. Wrapping your head in a bonnet or headscarf can also help protect your curls as you sleep.
Consider using a hair mask, essential oil, or leave-in conditioner before bed to help tame your curls and add moisture as you sleep.
Hair masks for curly hair
You can create a DIY hair mask from common household ingredients. These masks are meant to be put on the hair overnight and then washed out in the morning.
Masks containing ingredients like honey, coconut oil, banana, and avocado add moisture to your hair and work well when used overnight.
If your curls are very dry, consider using a hair mask once or twice a week.
Oils for curly hair
Keeping curls hydrated can be difficult because natural oils don’t travel down the hair shaft easily. Adding some natural oils before bed can help with this.
Any of the following oils may do the trick:
- coconut oil
- olive oil
- avocado oil
- jojoba oil
- argan oil
- castor oil
- grapeseed oil
Leave-in conditioners for curly hair
Try spritzing in a bit of leave-in conditioner containing keratin before bed. This may help strengthen damaged hair strands and make your hair easier to style in the morning.
Curly hair is delicate, so avoid the following:
- products containing sulfates, alcohol, harsh chemicals, and fragrances
- using clarifying shampoo more than once a week
- sleeping on your back
- using heat styling tools more than once or twice a month
- rinsing with hot water in the shower
- pulling your hair into a tight ponytail or bun all the time
- fine-toothed combs
- trying to detangle dry hair
You may want to avoid pulling your hair back into a tight ponytail or bun. This causes the curls to lose their formation. On top of that, a tight hair tie could easily cause breakage.
Try these hairstyles for curly hair:
- loose ponytail or bun
- loose braids
- half up/half down
- wear it down, letting your curls air dry naturally with the help of an overnight hair mask or leave-in conditioner
You can also ask your stylist to cut in some long layers to help remove some of the bulk and add shape. Long layers will ensure your curls are still weighed down a bit, but will keep them tame.
The biggest thing to understand about curly hair is that it tends to dry out easily and craves moisture.
You’ll need to avoid washing out its natural oils, and most likely will need to invest in hair products that add moisture to the hair in the form of oils, butters, proteins, and natural plant extracts.
If treated properly, curly hair can look healthy, shiny, and defined.