Curly girls know that a good curly hair day is harder than it looks. Curls can be unpredictable, unruly, and difficult to control. They require more hydration, less washing, and lots more patience compared to straight hair. Having the right hair care routine, styling products, and tips can mean the difference between fighting with your curls and loving them. We’re breaking down everything you need to know about caring for your curls, including how to treat breakage, dry curly hair and other amazing curly hair hacks. Read ahead for all the curly deets!
All hair, whether curly or straight, has two major components: the shaft (cuticle) and the follicle. The shafts are the visible strands that you see on your head, also known as the hair cuticle. The follicle is the part of the hair that resides inside the skin on your scalp. Each of these structures play a role in determining the shape of your hair. The shape of your follicles is a major determinant of your hair type. The follicles of straight hair are perfectly round, where the follicles of curly hair adopt an oval shape. The flatter the oval is, the curlier the hair will be. Another contributing factor to a hair’s curl is the way the follicle tunnels into the scalp. Follicles of straight hair tunnel vertically down from the skin’s surface into the skin. If the follicle angles into the skin then the hair will curve as it grows causing it to curl. This essentially determines the curl pattern. But, this curving of the follicle can also cause one major drawback that all curly-haired girls can attest to, dryness.
Within your scalp, special glands line the hair follicle to secrete natural oils to lubricate the hair. Unfortunately, when follicles curve, this oil isn’t able to travel the length of the hair which leads to dryness. Why does this matter? Without proper moisture, you lose shine and definition. And you’ll start to notice major split ends. Dryness can even cause damage, which creates more dryness, which causes even more damage until you’re stuck in a never-ending loop of dry, damaged curls.
Photo by @nicolebradleyy
It's a common belief in the curly hair community that co-washing—or washing with conditioner only—is the way to go. But the key to healthy hair is a healthy scalp, so shampooing is necessary. When the scalp hasn't been cleaned, a lot of build up sticks to the roots, which can affect the health of your hair. How often you shampoo depends on your hair type. Curly girls with thinner hair may want to wash more often, because the hair can get greasy and weighed down quickly, while those with thicker hair can probably last a few more days. But every curly haired girl should use a curl shampoo at least once a week, followed by a curl conditioner and a blast of cold water. This helps prevent frizz by closing the hair’s cuticles.
Curly hair is the most fragile hair type. Using a wide-tooth comb is the gentlest way to detangle curly hair without disrupting the natural curl pattern. Detangle from the bottom first, then the middle, then the top. By starting at the ends, with a stop in the middle, by the time you get to the top of the hair, everything else is detangled. This makes it much easier for your comb to glide through your strands. We wrote more about detangling curls in our previous post How to Detangle Your Hair with Ease.
Applying a hydrating hair mask after every couple washes can revitalize your curls and keep them bouncy and shiny until your next wash. After conditioning, squeeze the excess water from your hair with a microfiber towel or old tee shirt. Apply your moisturizing hair mask to damp curls and let it sit for a few minutes to a half an hour, before rinsing it out. Or if your curls need it, deep condition with an overnight mask or leave-in conditioner.
Less is definitely not more when it comes to styling curly hair and the hair products you choose. Use about two quarter's worth of a styling product for each of the four sections of your head. Use your fingers and comb the product through each section. Using your fingers helps to separate and form ringlets through your hair, while liberally covering your strands to help you get bouncier curls.
Air drying your curls versus blowing them out is the best method to maximize your styling products. But if you absolutely must blow dry, use a diffuser on your wet hair. A diffuser is a blow dryer attachment that softens the release of air while drying to prevent frizz. Using a diffuser can define your curl pattern and boost the volume of heavy curls, giving more bounce to your hair.
Pineappling is a technique in which your curls are gathered loosely at the highest point of the head. This protects the curl pattern while helping your hair maintain natural volume. Just take your pineapple down and give your curls a shake when you're ready to wear your hair down. Use a scrunchie rather than an elastic for this technique to prevent breakage and creasing.
To keep your curls as healthy as possible and to avoid split ends (which lead to frizz) you need to trim your hair. Even if you’re growing it out. “Ideally, you should trim your hair four times a year, says Candice Cooper, owner and stylist of Davines concept salon Elm Hair Studio, in Tempe, AZ. “ So try to trim it at the start of each new season.”
Photo by @nicolebradleyy
This will work with any hair accessory you have. Go through your curls with a curling iron to redefine random curls before haphazardly tying them into a bun. If you’re using a scarf or ribbon to accessorize, find where the middle is, place that on the front of your head and bring both sides around to the back of your head. Tie the ends together in a bow under your bun and let the ends hang loose. If you’re accenting with a clip, try putting one at either side of your part at the front or even two on the same side. Voila, you’re instantly ready for anything.
The sky-high ponytail works better on day one or two of unwashed hair. Use a curl cream to slick your strands from roots to end. Gather all your hair at the back and tie it into a sky-high ponytail using a secure elastic band. Try to align it with your cheekbones diagonally. Then fluff your tail with a comb at the base for added volume.
Because two buns are more fun than one! This curly girl hairstyle is a little bit more playful, but it’s functional because it’s really secure. Split your hair into two sections, and pull each into a high pigtail. Lightly tease each pigtail and then wrap into a bun and secure with bobby pins. To make each bun a little wider, pull sections out slightly that seem like they might be pulled tightly in the bun and secure with hair pins to keep them in place.
Flip your hair forward and brush thoroughly (keep your brush handy and continue to brush small sections as you go). Take a small section at the nape of your neck and begin your braid. Add small pieces of hair to each section as you braid. You can stop adding hair to your braid when you reach your ears. Gather all of your hair and twist into a simple top knot; secure it with an elastic and a few bobby pins.
Curly hair can be a blessing and curse. But with the right tips, styling products and hairstyles, you’ll feel blessed with your curls more often than not. And for more curly girl styling ideas check out our previous post Flattering Hairstyles for Frizzy Hair.
by Jaclyn LaBadia, featured contributor
cover photo by Cassell Ferrere