Caring for and styling curly hair can be a trying challenge, especially when it’s prone to wilting or frizzing with the slightest temperature change. But it doesn’t have to be that way. With a little love and care, you can have a great set of twirls that lasts for days. Follow these ten rules for gorgeous curls, coils and spirals.
1. Thou shall honor thy curl type and texture. Curls come in many variations. “With different curl textures come different challenges. Fine curls need hold and volume, while coarse curls need frizz protection. It’s rare to find a one-stop solution for every curl pattern because they are so unique and require a personalized prescription to enhance and allow them to look their best,” says Melanie Fahey, assistant vice president of creative & education at Ouidad. In other words, what works for one curly gal might not work for another. So experiment with different cocktails and brands until you find the right combo that works for your specific hair type. If your curls are wavy, try Hair Rules Wavy Mousse. If they’re thick and coarse, try .
2. Thou shall get regular trims.
Healthy hair is key for gorgeous curls. Hair looks its best when it has a great shape with no split ends. Thus, for curls that really bounce it’s necessary to get regular trims and maintain the shape of your cut. To get the most out of your hair’s natural curl pattern without hours of styling time in the summer hairstylist Diane C. Bailey suggests getting a professional cut by a stylist who’s a textured-hair expert. “The stylist can take into account your face shape, curl pattern, hair condition, porosity and the way you like to style your hair to give you the ideal cut. This will help you rock your textured hair in its natural state all summer long.”
3. Thou shall not overcleanse. Sulfate shampoos strip your hair of its natural oils, leading to dry, brittle strands. Anthony Dickey, hairstylist and owner of Hair Rules Salon in New York City, suggests washing your hair with a non-sudsing, sulfate-free creamy cleanser once or twice a week to help maintain the moisture balance of your hair. (Try , or if you prefer to co-wash, try SheaMoisture Superfruit Multi-Vitamin Conditioning Wash.) Between shampoos, revitalize curls with spritzes of your favorite leave-in conditioner mixed with water in a spray bottle, says hairstylist Larry Sims. If you’re lazy like us, try Garnier Fructis Style Curl Renew Reactivating Milk Spray.
4. Thou shall prime thy tresses when sopping wet.
The secret to keeping your curls springy and bouncy for days has to do with what you do with your hair while it’s still wet. Curls are very delicate and get dehydrated easily, causing them not to keep their shape. Adding hydration to your hair gives it an internal weight that defines the curl pattern and won’t cause it to frizz. After cleansing, fully saturate your strands with conditioner. “It helps weigh down the hair and properly define the curl pattern,” says Dickey. While your hair is loaded with conditioner, detangle your hair using your fingers or a wide-tooth comb instead of a brush to prevent breakage and preserve the shape of your curls. (Don’t comb your hair once the conditioner has been rinsed off; otherwise, your curls will separate and frizz.) For an added boost to your hair’s internal structure, Ouidad, hairstylist and founder of Ouidad salon in New York City, suggests augmenting your regular regimen with a deep-conditioning treatment or penetrating mask (like the Ouidad Curl Immersion Triple Treat Deep Conditioner) every ten days.
After conditioning, rinse your hair and prime wet curls with leave-in conditioner followed by your favorite styling products. “You need a leave-in that will give your curls the extra moisture and hydration balance they require but without feeling heavy or with residue,” says Fahey. For fine to medium textures, consider Ouidad Moisture Lock Leave-in Conditioner. If your hair is very coarse and coiled, lightly coat sections in a downward motion from roots to ends with an extra conditioning treatment, like Mizani True Textures Curl Enhancing Lotion or Cantu Smoothing Leave-In Conditioning Lotion, to control unruly strands.
5. Thou shall not use a terrycloth towel.
“Always blot dry curls lightly after washing to preserve as much moisture in the curl as possible,” says Fahey. Use a T-shirt or a microfiber towel, like the DevaTowel, to help smooth your curls and prevent them from getting matted. Never use terrycloth as it absorbs too much water and zaps excess moisture out of the hair, “causing tangles and frizz,” adds Philesha Alise Burris, a hairstylist at Devachan Salon in Los Angeles.
6. Thou shall air-dry thy mane.
Air-drying your tresses is the best method of maintaining the moisture in the hair so your style will last longer. Blow-dryers dehydrate your hair and may cause damage in the long run. “If you’re in a hurry and need to dry your hair quickly, diffuse your hair on low heat and use a heat-protectant spray,” says Ouidad. The diffuser will dry your hair without disturbing your curl pattern and add volume. Scrunch curls periodically for added definition and shape.
7. Thou shall keep thy hands off thy curls.
A common mistake many women make is touching their hair after it has dried. This bad habit will disturb your natural curls. The less you touch your hair, the less frizzy it will be.
8. Thou shall layer thy styling products.
Hair that lacks moisture due to the weather, chemical processing, or damage from heat-styling tools will appear frizzy. Moisturize your hair to give it luster, body, and bounce, then lock in the moisture to prevent humidity-triggered frizz. “Many curly girls reach for silicones and heavy oils that suppress and weigh down the curl structure. It’s important when using products to layer them vs. cocktailing them. By layering the product, the curls formed will be light, bouncy and individualized,” says Fahey. If you’re a curly girl who struggles to maintain supple tresses, be sure to seal hair with the oil-based styling product on top, ensuring that as much moisture as possible remains on the hair shaft. Also, avoid products with alcohol—they tend to dry out hair. Depending on your curl type, “look for light, nourishing ingredients like shea butter, coconut oil, jojoba seed oil, borage seed oil, wheat germ oil, vitamin B5, rosemary extract, acai fruit oil or Brazil nut oil,” says hairstylist Kim Kimble. Try Kimble Beauty Bounce Back Curl Liquid Curl Enhancer if you want curls that are healthy, bouncy and touchable.
9. Thou shall keep sweat away from thy tresses.
Don’t be afraid of dry shampoo. Workouts can leave your hair limp and flat or a big, frizzy mess. Before exercising, “spray dry shampoo on your roots. This way the powder is able to soak up any sweat beforehand,” advises Mizani global artistic director César Ramirez. Then secure your hair in a loose topknot and use a bandana or cloth around the hairline to absorb the sweat. “Make sure to have a finishing spray post-workout to keep your curls strong through the day,” adds Ouidad. We suggest Cantu Coconut Oil Shine & Hold Mist or Macadamia Professional Curl Enhancing Spray.
10. Thou shall protect thy mane at night.
Cotton will suck the moisture out of your hair, leaving it dry and knotted. “Sleep on a satin or silk pillowcase, like this one from Slip, instead since the smooth material doesn’t disturb the natural flow of the curl,” says Burris. When sleeping on your curls, try the “pineappling” method (piling your hair into a loose bun or ponytail on top of your head with a silky scrunchy.) “This will prevent gravity from pulling your curls out and causing frizz,” making hair easier to style in the morning, adds Fahey. “Also another great nighttime option is to clip your curls,” says Ramirez. Simply remove in the morning, shake your head, and you’re good to go.