Monday, December 16, 2013

Caring for Curls: A Beginner's Guide

Caring for super curly hair can be intimidating. When I decided to grow out my hair a few years ago, I didn't have a clue about how to care for it. And honestly, I'm still learning. My hair is thick and tightly curled. if you know anything about hair typing, I'd say its 4c hair. The biggest issues I face with my hair are keeping it hydrated, detangled, and relatively frizz free. Over the years it has become easier and easier for me to work with. Here are a few of the things I've learned. Are you interested in reading about my hair journey?


Moisture retention is king!! In case you haven't noticed, curly hair doesn't get oily. Unless, of course, you put too much product in your hair. It's harder for the natural oils on your scalp to travel down and moisturize your curls, so the biggest challenge when dealing with a head of curls is keeping them soft, shiny, and moisturized. So how can I maintain moisture?

Co-wash your hair. Co-washing means that you wash your hair with conditioner instead of shampoo. Shampoo can be very moisture stripping--especially for curls. I co-wash once a week. I make sure to apply conditioner to my scalp and massage it in with the pads of my fingers to remove any dirt and product build up.

Rinse your hair with cool water. It doesn't have to be ice cold, but cool water closes the hair cuticle  allowing your the hair to lie flatter and increase shine.

Use Sulfate-Free Products. Sulfates are the ingredients in your hair products and dish detergents that produce big sudsy bubbles. These suds strip the moisture right out of your hair. This is great if you have oily hair but damaging if you happen to possess a curly top.

Be careful with that towel. I made this mistake for a long time. Right after I stepped out of the shower, I would towel dry my hair before I put in any leave-in conditioner. This was a big mistake! I was stripping away all of the moisture before I had a chance to add the conditioner to help lock it in.

If you want your hair-do to last longer than a day, consider night time care. I usually only wash my hair once a week. So in order to preserve my curls, I usually just pile my hair on top of my head and secure it with a hair tie. This way it is less likely to get frizzy. Sometimes I'll sleep on a satin pillow case which is much less moisture absorbent than cotton. There are people who use satin scarves to wrap their hair up at bedtime which is fine, but I like to look halfway attractive (even in my sleep).

Get into the habit of deep conditioning. About once a month in the summer, and twice a month in the winter, I deep condition my hair. It's way less complicated than it sounds. I saturate my hair with a good deep conditioner and either sit under my hair steamer for 20 minutes, or just pop a clear plastic cap on my head for 30 minutes. After my time is up I rinse my hair with cool water and style as usual.



Tackle tangles while your hair is still wet. Kiss the days of running a brush through your dry hair goodbye. Dry brushing kills curl definition and leaves you with a big frizzy mess. I do all of my detangling and styling while my hair is still wet.  Get in the shower, apply conditioner, and wet your hair.  Make sure your hair is very wet and don't be afraid to use a sizeable amount of conditioner. I try to avoid applying conditioner to my scalp (no one wants product build-up). Since my hair is so thickly curled, using my fingers alone to detangle doesn't cut it. I break out my wide tooth comb or my Tangle Teezer.

Detangle section by section: from the end to the root. I just want to emphasize this point. If you try to detangle tightly curled hair from the root you run the risk of creating more tangles than you already have.  Start at the end of the hair and slowly work your way back up to the scalp.

My Current routine

  1. Since my hair is long, I part my hair into 4 or 6 equal sections
  2. I co-wash section by section and detangle
  3. I apply leave-in conditioner section by section and continue to detangle
  4. I apply hair gel and style
Hair Resources
Need more help? Check out my favorite hair book.


Did I forget anything? Do you have any tips or tricks for all of us curly haired folks? Don't be afraid to comment.