The basics of how to take care of curly hair include feeding it with moisture-boosting ingredients, preventing breakage, and utilizing
protective styling as a way to give hair a break and allow it to grow. While these methods depend greatly on your specific curl pattern, styling habits, and the natural hair care products that you use, generally, there’s a foundation for achieving curly hair that’s frizz-free and hydrated and that looks as healthy as it feels. Keep reading to find out all you need to know about natural curly hair care.
How to Care for Curly Hair
As we mentioned, curly hair care isn’t the same for everyone—it varies based on your curl pattern. If you’ve never done so, it’s important to identify what your curl type is. This will help you better understand how to treat and care for your curls. In reality, most people with curly hair will tell you that they have a few different curl types on their head, and it’s probably true. On the straight to curly scale, textured hair generally falls within the 3 and 4 range, with the threes being more wavy and fours taking a really tight coil form. For help determining your curl type, check out our Curl Hub.
Once you know your type—or types—let’s break down how to look after hair, starting with the tightest (4C) and working down the line to more wavy strands (3A). In general, the tighter the curl, the more prone it is to dryness, breakage, and frizz. So, increasing how hair retains moisture is most important.
Caring for 4A to 4C Hair
Like we said, this curl pattern is usually the driest. The natural oils that are produced from the scalp with the intention of moisturizing the entire hair shaft have a hard time traveling down each tightly wound coil. Some people with this pattern might find that they have oily roots but dry strands. The solution isn’t to remove the oil at the scalp all together with harsh shampoos—doing so may further dry hair out and cause scalp issues like itchy and flaking. Instead, when washing curly hair, use a moisturizing curly hair shampoo like the Coco Crème Sulfate Free Shampoo, that will balance out the scalp oils while giving the actual strands the hydration they’re missing.
This curl pattern can also benefit from regular deep conditioning treatments. The key here is to focus your care efforts on moisture replenishment. Avoid any shampoos that are going to further strip hair of oils and instead look for moisturizers that will both penetrate the hair and help seal in the hydrating ingredients you’re pouring into it.
Caring for 3A to 3C Hair
Strands in this curl bracket tend to be looser and more wavy. Moisture retention here greatly depends on hair porosity and not so much the structure of each curl. These curls can lean either on the dry side if hair is more porous or can easily get weighed down by moisturizers, stylers, and conditioners that are too heavy if hair has low porosity. It’s all about finding a balance.
In general, this curl pattern will benefit most from a lighter weight product lineup like the non-stripping Cactus Rose Water Sulfate Free Shampoo, a lightweight conditioner like Sacred Tiare Restoring Fortifying Conditioner, the Sacred Tiare Leave-in Conditioner to smooth and fortify brittle hair, and medium to lightweight styling products like the Pracaxi Nectar Style & Hold Foam.
Curls in the 3s tier may get frizzier faster than other patterns, and because the curls land somewhere between a wave and a tight spiral, you may find that your curls lose shape faster and more frequently. Focus your efforts on moisture, of course, but also on creating definition and hold with the help of a light hair gel.
How to Build Curly Hair Routines
Curly hair routines really only vary slightly between curl types. The biggest difference in your natural curly hair care regimen will be with the types of curly hair products you use, just as we shared above. Below, we’ve boiled down the basics of how to take care of curly hair into five steps anyone with curls should follow.
1. Cleansing. No matter what your pattern, start your curly hair routine with a good wash to help get rid of any dirt, grime, and excess oil. Focus your attention on your roots, where the buildup tends to settle and gently massage your cleanser from the roots to the ends of your hair. The tapered tip on the Wash Day Delight Sulfate Free Shampoo was designed for this specific purpose.
2. Conditioning. Follow it up with a curly hair conditioner. For hair in the threes try Sacred Tiare Fortifying Conditioner. 4A to 4C hair can use a more moisture-rich option like the oil-infused Goddess Strength Fortifying Conditioner with Castor Oil. You can even alternate your shampoos with a co-wash. This will help keep moisture levels balanced. Use your conditioner to also gently detangle before moving on to styling.
3. Deep conditioning. Bi-monthly or at least once a month, treat your hair to a pampering hair mask. A session with the Coco Creme Curl Quenching Deep Moisture Mask will help restore what your regular conditioner might not be able to. For an even more hydrating fix, use a hair steamer to help open up the cuticle and allow the mask ingredients to penetrate within the hair shaft.
4. Proper drying. Dry your curls carefully. With any texture, wet hair is super fragile. It’s important to dry curly hair with a fabric that won’t cause too much friction. Not only does friction make curls look frizzy because it’s lifting the cuticle, but the rubbing can also cause breakage. Instead of a traditional towel, which can be rough on hair, use a soft cotton T-shirt to dry curls.
5. Protecting. A big part of curl care is how you protect hair while you sleep. Putting it in a protective style and ensuring that your hair doesn’t rub against rough fabrics is important. Sleeping with a bonnet or satin pillowcase is pretty much a requirement in any curly hair care routine, whether you’re working with short or long curly hair.
3 Curly Hair Tips and Tricks
While there are no magic curly hair tips and tricks that remove take all of the effort out of caring for curly hair, there are certain tips that can make quite the difference in how your spirals look and feel. Keep these three in mind.
1. Moisturize frequently. Aside from what happens in your shower, you can use lightweight oils or the Monoi Hair Serum, Hair Milk Refresher Spray, and a leave-in conditioner to rehydrate hair in between washes.
2. Prevent split ends. Curls that are smooth, defined, and healthy require regular trims. When you have split ends, it not only makes your curls look unhealthy, but it’s actually a prerequisite for more damage down the line. Prevent breakage by getting your ends clipped every six to eight weeks.
3. Choose good ingredients. What you put in and on your hair is just as important as how you handle it. Curls can be fragile, especially when already dried out, so look for products with ingredients that won’t further strip it of natural oils, like sulfates and alcohols, and avoid ones that block moisture absorption.
How to Care for Color-Treated Curly Hair
Adding color to curly hair adds another layer of vulnerability that makes it susceptible to dryness and breakage—especially if hair was bleached or lightened first. Even if you have wavy hair in the 3A to 3C range, color can be compromising. Use the most moisturizing products available like the Monoi Intense Repair Conditioner.
Color-treated curls can also benefit from more frequent deep conditioning treatments and in-between moisture boosters and will need to be protected from sun damage. Besides fading your color, the sun can also further dry out strands. Slather on the Monoi Repairing Hair Mask if you know that you’ll be outside for a while.
What Are the Best Curly Hair Products?
The best curly hair products will be ones laced with penetrating moisturizer like coconut, avocado, and olive oils. Look for humectants like glycerin and hyaluronic acid that will attract moisture to strands, and then keep it all in with rich sealants like shea butter and castor oil.
Curly Hair Home Remedies
There are a few more nuanced concerns that come with caring for curly hair. If you’re dealing with more than just basic dryness and a desire for shine, you may need to look for curly hair home remedies that cater to your hair’s needs.
If you have knotty, matted hair…carefully detangle. Knot and tangles are one of the more nuanced hair care concerns that is common for curly hair. To address them, handle curls gently as you wash, be careful when brushing curly hair, and detangle thoroughly. Most stylists will advise making sure that hair is well coated with a moisturizing conditioner, using a wide-tooth comb, and working from the ends up to the roots. Properly detangling with each wash will help keep curls smooth and defined and breakage at bay.
If you have dandruff…take care of your scalp. Dandruff and a dry scalp can interfere with how well your curls thrive, not to mention, it’s not very comfortable if your scalp itches and flakes. Since curls are already drier than other textures, you don’t want your scalp to be dry, too. Apply a scalp oil regularly to help alleviate any itching and exfoliate to reduce flaking.
If you have an oily scalp…use clarifying shampoo. Despite curls usually being dry, you may find your scalp gets oily. If you have curly hair and an oily scalp, a non-stripping clarifying shampoo will help emulsify excess oil without completely ridding the scalp of the natural moisturizers that your strands need. Balancing out the oils that build up on the scalp will keep curly hair from looking greasy and weighed down.
3 Quick Curly Hairstyles
Hair care and styling are so closely related, they can be hard to separate—especially when it comes to curly hair. Picking the right quick curly hairstyles can help you care for your hair and contribute to it looking its very best. Need recommendations? Here are three classics.
1. Pineapple. Gather your curls at the crown of your head and secure with a plastic and metal-free hair tie or scrunchie. This style will keep curls from tangling while you sleep and shower. It also helps add some volume once you take it down.
2. Wash ‘n Go. With the right products for your texture and curl pattern, this curly hairstyle requires the least work. Once hair has been thoroughly cleansed, conditioned, and detangled, apply a leave-in conditioner to moisturize, followed by a hair cream to seal the cuticle and further define your curls.
3. Twist Out. When you don’t want to wear a wash and go, this protective style helps add definition, and your twisted strands will stay safe from breakage. Bonus: This style can also work as a short curly hairstyle!
Think braids are more your style? Here are 25 Stunning Braided Hairstyles for Natural Hair.