HERE'S HOW TO TAKE CARE OF YOUR NATURALLY CURLY HAIR
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If you couldn't tell from my Instagram, I've got ridiculously curly hair.
I grew up in the generation where the Brazilian blowout and stick straight hair was huge. I was so embarrassed to have a giant puff ball on top on my head.
In fact, one of my high school year book pictures' background is green, but you wouldn't know that. Why? The entire background is covered by my giant triangle hair.
That said, I also didn't know what to do with my hair. My school years were filled with hopeful trips to hairstylist who would claim to be able to work with my natural curls, but I'd usually leave disappointed, or wouldn't know how to create the style again when I got home.
It wasn't until I met Diane of Diane for Curls in 2017 that everything changed.
I learned that I didn't have to hate my hair. The key to loving my curls was knowing how to take care of them and keep them happy.
Now I've got twenty major tips on taking care of your natural curls. Most tips could even be applied to straight hair as well.
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Let's get to it.
taking care of your curls
Each curly girls' hair is different. It's important to know how to take care of your specific hair. The following are tips that should be applicable to all curls, but I always, always, always suggest doing additional research and experimentation to find you curls' specific recipe.
1. know your curl type
The best thing you can do for your hair today is learn what kind of curls you have. This will inform you on how much and what type of product your hair needs to be healthy.
Curl types come in the following categories:
Type 2: Wavy
Hair has an S shape and lays close to the head. Can be fine or coarse hair.
Type 3: Curly
Has definite loops, which can be loose and bouncy or tight with spirals. Very prone to frizz.
Type 4: Coily
Tends to be very dry and spongy, usually in very small, tight curls or a zig-zag pattern.
Still unsure? Here's an article from Allure with more detail on curl types.
2. Steady, consistent haircuts equal less split ends
I think this one is pretty well known, but just a few weeks ago another curly girl asked how I managed my hair. She complained of dealing with her hair's unruliness. When I told her I get regular trims, she said, "I've never cut my hair."
Nothing wrong with that, especially if you're growing your hair out until the end of time. Split ends, however, especially for curly hair, can eventually cause hair breakage and frizz. Regular trims help manage split ends and improve your hair's health.
For a lot of curlies, you can actually go around three months between trims, if you get the right haircut.
Which brings me to:
3. find a stylist who knows how to Dry Cut
Dry cut, dry cut, dry cut. No matter what your curl type, curly hair tends to mat and hang down and loose when soaking wet. Most hair stylists will shampoo hair before and cut wet. Some will even straighten your hair before cutting. This is terrible for curly hair.
Curly hair is not uniform. There tends to be different textures or patterns in different sections of hair. For me, my hair is coarser and more curly in the back than it is in the front.
If a stylist were to cut my hair wet, they would have to cut it uniform across my ends. The problem with this is that the different textures and patterns of my hair will not dry in a straight line. In fact, because curly hair tends to expand, a straight cut across the ends can result in triangle hair (You don't want triangle hair. Trust me.).
The mark of a great curly hair stylist is the ability to dry cut. Ask for it. This means you will come to your appointment with your hair free of product, dry, and naturally curly. Your stylist will cut it just like that, taking into consideration all the different layers and tendencies of your natural hair.
This is curl-by-curl cutting, and it is the best thing ever. Only after they've dry-cut your hair will they wash it.
4. layers are a good thing
I've heard many a hairstylist growing up tell me that layers will make my hair too big and unmanageable. Actually, layers help curly hair fall in a more flattering shape around the face and give curly hair gorgeous, but not monstrous, volume.
Don't be afraid of layers. A good stylist will be able to cut with minimal layers if you don't want too much volume.
A pre-poo involves applying a treatment to your hair before shampooing. Since curly hair is more fragile and dry, a pre-poo treatment prevents shampoo from fully stripping the hair follicle.
A great pre-poo can be simple: apply a few tablespoons of warm oil from the roots to the ends of the hair and leave on for fifteen to twenty minutes.
This will moisturize and protect the hair when you finally wash it.
Important: if you have color-treated hair, warm oil is not your friend. Oil actually helps to lift color and cause cause your recent treatment session to fade much faster than you'd like.
I stopped pre-pooing for this reason. Instead I rely on a gentle, sulfate-free shampoo that doesn't strip my hair when washing.
6. know your hair ingredients
The products you put in your hair are extremely important. Many hair brands claim to be formulated specifically for curly hair, yet they contain ingredients that work against your natural curls.
Being careful about the ingredients in your shampoo, conditioner, and styling products can make a big impact on the health of your hair.
These ingredients include sulfates, silicones, drying alcohols, and some proteins.
Sulfates are a kind of detergent: they break down dirt and grease to cleanse the hair. They are too harsh for curly hair, and can actually strip the natural oils and barriers of your hair. In the long term, this can cause damage to your hair's internal structure.
Controlled Chaos goes more in depth on sulfates here.
Not all silicones are bad, but most are not water-soluble, meaning they weigh down curls and can cause them to lose their definition. According to Naturally Curly, good, water soluble silicones include Stearoxy Dimethicone and Behenoxy Dimethicone. These should be okay for your hair, but you should always experiment and see for yourself how an ingredient works.
According to Essence, some alcohols, such as isopropyl alcohol and alcohol denat., are too harsh and drying for curly hair. Fatty, good alcohols include cetearyl alcohol and cetyl alcohol.
Proteins are a hit or miss. For fine hair, which naturally lacks volume and strength, protein treatments are great at introducing stronger, healthier hair. Protein, however, becomes less necessary the thicker your hair is. For medium-fine hair, protein should be used in moderation. For coarse hair, which is already strong, protein treatments do more harm and than good.
7. take time for a hot oil treatment each week
A good hot oil treatment moisturizes hair, promotes circulation in the scalp, helps tame frizz and adds shine. It's even great for promoting hair growth.
Curly hair is especially prone to frizziness an dryness, and hot oil treatments can combat these issues.
My favorite recipe for a hot oil treatment mixes a blend of heavy moisturizing oils with deep conditioner. Apply and leave on for 30 minutes with a warm towel wrapped around your hair. The more consistent you are, the better the results.
As mentioned above, hot oil treatments are not good for color-treated hair. I stopped using these once I started getting my hair highlighted. I still use a hair mask that has nourishing oils, but I use it in the shower for only around five minutes, and with lukewarm water.
8. avoid too much hair coloring
Coloring curly hair on a frequent basis can cause substantial damage. Anytime you color hair, whether it's curly or straight, the chemicals within hair dye cause slight damage to the structure of your hair. Since curly hair is naturally weaker, color may actually cause a bit more damage than it would to straight hair.
Try to keep color appointments few and far between. Ask your curly hair stylist what frequency they would recommend to keep your hair beautiful and healthy.
For example, I get my hair highlighted every three months and take very good care of it in-between appointments to reduce my hair's damage.
9. Consider co-washing
Co-washing involves cleansing your hair with a sulfate-free conditioner instead of a shampoo. This helps ensure that your curls stay nourished and hydrated.
A word of caution for co-washing: you can overdo it. If your hair feels mushy or spongy, you may have over-conditioned it.
Co-washing is also not for everyone. I tend to use multiple styling products in my hair, so I do get a little bit of buildup sometimes. I find co-washing isn't strong enough to fully cleanse my hair.
If co-washing isn't for you, stick with a gentle, sulfate-free shampoo.
10. Clarify once a month
If you are co-washing, or if you use use multiple styling products and tend to "set" your hair into a style, clarifying once a month can guarantee you get rid of all the product you might not get out while co-washing or using a regular sulfate-free shampoo.
Clarifying will leave your hair dry, but that's the point. Consider a pre-poo ahead of time and apply a thick hot-oil mask or in-shower hydrating mask afterwards to introduce nourishment and moisture back into your hair.
11. stop washing your hair every day
Save your hair wash for once or twice a week. Over-washing your hair helps to strip curls of natural oils and can leave it dry and brittle.
If your scalp gets very dirty or you workout a lot, consider using a dry shampoo in between washes or a natural deodorizing spray such as distilled water and a few drops of lavender essential oil (my favorite recipe).
12. Put away the hairbrush and comb
Finger-combing is best. Because of our bendy and coily hair structure, brushes and combs can snag and even break off hair, which contributes to fly-aways, split-ends and frizz.
Opt instead for finger-combing, and use a slip agent such as a detangler (you can easily make your own by mixing a few drops of a leave-in conditioning spray with distilled water).
13. Use a microfiber towel (or no towel at all)
Regular terry towels cause too much friction against curly hair, which causes all the frizziness. Microfiber towels minimize this friction and significantly decrease the amount of frizz left after curly hair dries.
Don't rub a microfiber towel all over your head. Lightly scrunch the ends and middle of your hair and leave your scalp untouched.
I don't use a towel. I leave my hair soaking wet from the shower to my diffuser. It leaves my hair nearly free of all frizz, and I find my hair retains moisture and maintains a style much longer.
14. use a diffuser and cold heat
Diffusers are curls' best friends. A diffuser limits the frizz that occurs when curly hair is dried. My favorite is the Babyliss Pro Porcelain Ceramic Hair Dryer. I attach the DryBar The Bouncer diffuser and go to town.
Another important tip: make sure to get a hair dryer with a cold shot setting. Cold air is much better for the health of curly hair and for eliminating frizz.
15. limit heat styling tools
Just like the cold-shot setting mentioned above, it's a good idea to limit the use of heat styling tools. Too much heat over a consistent period of time may cause irreparable damage to your curls as the internal structure of your hair begins to chemically change.
I knew a girl who had beautiful curly hair that she hated. She would straighten it with too much heat and without the right protection. Now her hair is flat. Years later she wanted to get back in touch with her natural hair, but her curls are gone.
If you're going to use heat, make sure you take proper precautions by applying a UV heat protectant beforehand, and make sure your hair is 100% dry before applying any heat.
16. Get rid of elastic bands
Plastic, tight elastic bands can weaken your hair and cause breakage. Using them to create tight hairstyles can also pull at the roots of your hair and yank your hair right out of your follicle. Opt instead for a soft fabric hair tie, which is gentle on the hair and large enough to leave curly hair loose when pulled back.
These type of hairbands can be easily found at Target.
17. Sleep on a satin pillowcase
Fabrics such as cotton and linen are rough against your hair, which can cause breakage and frizz (I think these are the two most used words in this post). These materials also tend to soak up product from your skin and hair, meaning the natural oils or products you use to moisturize your hair and face are going straight into your pillow.
A satin pillowcase is soft and gentle, and helps protect hair styles overnight. Silk is another material that also works well, but the price point is much higher. You can find satin pillowcases at Bed Bath and Beyond.
18. Sleep with your hair up
Sleeping with your hair up protects both your hair and your face. The natural oils from your hair could make its way onto your face while you sleep, which can cause breakouts.
Sleeping with your hair out also exposes it to potential damage as you toss and turn at night. Even if you sleep on a satin pillowcase, most of us still move during sleep, which can cause your hair to snag and break.
My favorite way to sleep with my curls is in a pineapple: draw your hair through a loose hair tie once on the top of your head (yes, you will feel slightly ridiculous, but you're beautiful no matter what!).
You can also wrap your hair in a satin wrap or sleep with your curls in a satin bonnet.
19. make sure your vitamin levels are sufficient
All the hair product in the world can't combat a bad diet and malnourishment. Make sure your diet includes hair loving essentials such as good fats, omega 3's, and protein.
Another vitamin that's essential for your hair? Vitamin D. Make sure to get out in the sun for at least fifteen minutes everyday, or take a daily vitamin D supplement.
I was once vitamin D deficient. It caused my hair to fall out. You can read about that here.
20. supplement with biotin
This isn't absolutely necessary, but I've had great results with biotin when my hair had started falling out. While biotin deficiencies are rare, a biotin supplement can help defend against brittle nails and hair.
A recommended daily value is around 2,500 mcg. My go-to is HUM's Hair Sweet Hair.
FURTHER READING: 3 THINGS I DID TO STOP MY HAIR FROM FALLING OUT.
What do you do to take care of your natural curls? Let me know in the comments below.