Curly hair maintenance might feel like an art form. Even Marilisa Sears, a celebrity hairstylist and the artistic director of Marc Anthony, believes that getting defined curls is a game of trial and error where everything has to line up properly.
“The first rule of curl club is that the rules are always changing,” she explains. “What works today may or may not work tomorrow, or ever.” Because curly hair is multifaceted, it necessitates a unique type of care.
Curly hair is divided into four numerical groups (types 1 through 4) as well as three subcategories (A to C). Pin-straight hair is type 1A, while the tightest curl is type 4C. It’s also common to have a mix of curl patterns at the same time, such as loose waves, ringlets, or zig-zag curls.
We compiled a list of ideas on how to care for curly hair because it demands specific attention. Keep reading for expert guidance on how to obtain gorgeous, defined, and healthy curls, including techniques for every curl pattern and specialised styling recommendations for your hair type.
1. At Least Once a Week, Wash Curly Hair
“To maintain a healthy scalp and hair, naturally textured hair should be cleansed at least once weekly,” says Dre Demry-Sanders, a professional hairstylist and self-proclaimed texture enthusiast. “The washing procedure is the most crucial aspect of any hair care routine since it gives the best and most effective supply of moisture to the hair and creates a blank slate for a styling product to perform most efficiently.”
“When washing, make sure your hair is totally wet before applying some of the shampoos to your palms and lathering it up,” Sears advises. “Shake the dirt out with your fingertips, and if there isn’t much product build-up, gently massage the shampoo into the rest of the hair before washing to give the hair a gentle cleansing.”
Curly hair is prone to dryness, therefore once a week is usually a decent compromise for retaining the hair’s natural oils without generating any other issues. You may be able to get away with washing less or more regularly depending on your scalp type (i.e., dry or oily). To avoid product build-up or excessive oil production, a reasonable rule of thumb is to wash once a week.
Sanders adds, “Sebum is a naturally occurring oil secreted from the scalp to provide moisture and function as a protective mechanism.” “These oils are released along the hair strand, but they can get caught at the root due to the particular patterns of naturally textured hair.” She notes that the scalp microbiome also contains yeast, which feeds off trapped sebum and can cause dandruff or dermatitis if the scalp is overly oily. “It’s critical to reset the scalp on a regular basis to avoid scalp issues,” she says.
2. Before washing curly hair, detangle it.
Detangling the hair is necessary before cleaning it. “When you apply water to matted hair, it locks up,” Sanders adds. You can untangle your hair with simply water, but a detangling spray will provide more glide and make the job smoother.
Marc Anthony Strictly Curls Curl Envy Leave-in Conditioner ($10, cvs.com) is recommended by Sears for preventing breaking and frizz.
If you have fine hair with a loose curl pattern, gently brushing your fingers through the hair will untangle it without breaking it. Sanders suggests using a detangling brush or a wide tooth comb for rougher hair textures and tighter curl patterns.
3. Select the Correct Shampoo for Your Hair Issues
Curly hair necessitates the use of styling products. Many styling products, according to Sanders, are heavy and not water-soluble, which can lead to product build-up. “For people who use styling products regularly, I recommend using a clarifying shampoo,” she advises. For curly hair textures, the Pattern Beauty Clarifying Shampoo ($20, sephora.com) is a terrific budget option. “If your hair does not sud up after the initial cleanse, you have product build-up and more cleaning is required,” she explains.
Choosing a moisturising shampoo, like the Pattern Beauty Hydration Shampoo ($20, sephora.com), for days when you don’t need a deep clean is always a good choice for all curly hair types because it’s prone to dryness.
4. Use a hair steamer
Moisture is crucial for the most defined and healthy-looking curls. Sanders recommends conditioning your hair while heating it. “The heat changes the physical state of the hair,” Sanders explains. The steam opens up the hair cuticle, allowing more access to the deeper layers of the hair strand and assisting in the delivery of the conditioner’s hydrating components inside the hair cuticle.
5. Use Conditioner Correctly
In the hopes of achieving softer, smoother hair, we all use conditioner and leave it in our hair for longer than recommended. However, this may be more harmful than beneficial. “Keep in mind that a conditioner can complete the majority of its work in just 15 minutes,” Sanders explains. “Nothing else happens after that except plugged cuticles.”
Not completely rinsing out your conditioner might also make style more difficult. “I know we enjoy the smooth sensation conditioner gives our hair, but if it’s not thoroughly washed out, it creates a barrier, making it difficult to absorb any styling products that come next,” Sanders adds.
Basically, apply your conditioning products to damp hair throughout the mid-lengths and ends of your hair as indicated on the label. “If the hair feels slimy with the conditioner in it, you know the conditioner is uniformly coated with the proper amount of water and absorbed into the hair cuticle,” Sanders adds.
6. Select the Correct Hair Styling Product for Your Hair Type and Texture
“Knowing your curl type can help you figure out what kind of style product is ideal for your particular curl pattern,” Sanders adds. Curl type refers to the shape and tightness of your curls, which can range from zig-zag curls to kinky curls to s-shaped loose waves.
To assist prevent shrinkage and volume, tighter curl patterns necessitate heavy hair products like creams or gels. Consider the Mielle Organics Pomegranate & Honey Twisting Soufflé ($13, target.com), which both forms and conditions the curls.
Foams and mousses, such as the Ouai Air Dry Foam ($28, sephora.com), are better for loose curl types to avoid weighing down the hair.
You must also consider hair texture in addition to curl type. The circumference of a single hair strand is referred to as hair texture. Sanders states, “There are three varieties of hair textures: fine, medium, and coarse or thick.” “Identifying hair texture is critical for determining what type, how much, and the best application method.” To avoid greasy hair, fine-to-medium hair textures demand lightweight solutions with less product. “Heavier and bigger amounts of product may be required for coarse and thick textures,” Sanders notes.
7. Find out how porous your hair is.
“When picking a product, it’s critical to determine your hair’s porosity to guarantee the product can be appropriately absorbed,” Sanders adds. Hair porosity refers to the ability of hair to absorb water. Porosity is divided into three categories: low, medium, and high. “Because the flaps of the hair cuticle rest flat to the hair strand, lower porosities struggle with absorption.” To assist the cuticle absorb the treatment, use light products like foams and mousses.
“Higher porosities struggle to retain moisture because the hair cuticle flaps stay open,” Sanders explains. Water can therefore be absorbed but not retained. Because high porosity hair absorbs moisture quickly, stronger treatments like creams and gels are needed to seal it in.
8. Always use styling products on wet, soaking hair.
It’s recommended to apply a styling product to textured hair while it’s still damp to help define the curls and decrease frizz, which is another typical curly hair problem.
Scrunch or utilise the finger curl method to enhance the look of your curls by working the product in evenly throughout the hair with your fingers or a detangling brush. “Remember that scrunching activates and intensifies curls, whereas finger coiling elongates them,” Sanders advises.
“Twisting them after brushing them out can create a nice finish for tighter hair structure,” Sears adds. Continue to add water in parts if your hair becomes dry during the procedure.
9. Overnight Curl Protection
Protecting your curls while you sleep will ensure that all of your hard work caring for and styling your hair does not go to waste in one day. “For styles that require volume maintenance, tie the hair up at night,” Sanders advises. You can use a hair buff ($10, amazon.com) or the pineapple approach, which Sears claims is the most popular way among her clients.
“Flip your hair over and loosely wrap it up high on the head with a scrunchie (like the top of a pineapple),” she suggests. “It’s not about a hard hold; instead, you want it to be lightly held before tying a silk wrap over the hair. This will keep the curls in place while preventing the roots from moving around too much.”
Also, for added protection, replace your pillowcase with a satin or silk pillowcase. Sears explains, “We adore silk pillowcases and bonnets because the hair glides, generating less friction and frizz.” For looser curls, she recommends a silk pillowcase, and for firmer curls, a silk bonnet.
10. Do not mess with your hair
To maintain your hair frizz-free and smooth, keep your hands out of it. “Our fingers absorb moisture and product from our hair, causing frizz,” Sanders explains. Wait till your hair is completely dry before touching it.