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A Beginner’s Guide to Caring for Curly Hair

Different types of hair require different approaches to hair care. Even among similar textures, there’s a lot of variety. Every head of curly hair is different, and each person has a unique curl type and pattern. 

Curly hair is also more susceptible to damage. It’s easily dried out, and can appear frizzy, brittle, and weak. If you have curly hair, you’re probably all too familiar with the struggle of maintaining nice curls throughout the day. 

But those dark times are over. With the proper TLC, your curls can look bouncy, defined, and sleek all day long. Put down your straightener and take a look at our curly hair care guide to keep your locks healthy and happy.

August 22, 2022
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Afro young woman with stylish curly hair
Table of Contents

Day-to-day care

You don’t have to make a trip to the salon to get great hair. Regular, targeted daily hair care can help your hair look its best, even when you’re between stylists.

The dream team: shampoo and conditioner

The key to your best curls is consistent hair care with the right curly hair products. Start with the basics: the right shampoo and conditioner. Washing your hair with a gentle cleansing shampoo is the first step to caring for your curls, and a well-formulated conditioner can help hydrate your hair to banish frizz.

We recommend the Olaplex Daily Cleanse and Condition Duo to cleanse and define your curls. If you have damaged hair (maybe from years of straightening or coloring), Olaplex can help repair your hair’s bonds — which means you can say goodbye to split ends. 

Olaplex is sulfate-free and safe for color-treated hair, leaving your curls smooth, soft, and healthy whether you’re showing off your natural color or trying something new. If you have hair damage, whether from heat styling, chemical treatments, or dye, Olaplex is ideal for intense repair and strong, smooth curls.

Ultimately, any nourishing or hydrating shampoo will help keep your scalp healthy and let your curls thrive. 

You should also avoid washing your hair too often to avoid drying it out, so wait as long as possible between washes.

Dry your hair with care

Drying your curls the proper way can reduce frizz and enhance your natural curl pattern. 

Avoid rubbing your hair dry with a towel — this causes frizz and even breakage on delicate strands. Instead, squeeze your curls with a soft towel, like a microfiber towel or a cotton t-shirt. It’s important to be gentle on your curls, especially if you’ve just washed and conditioned them. 

To style, you can let your curls air-dry or use a blow dryer on a low heat setting. But remember, heat damage is your curls’ worst enemy. If you use a hair dryer frequently, opt for cool air and a diffuser to give you maximum control.

After washing your hair, use a serum or leave-in treatment to reduce flyaways and define your curls. For frizzy, curly hair, we recommend the Olaplex Bond Smoother for silky results. To detangle damaged hair, use the Fekkai Prime Mist to repair hair bonds and have your comb running through those locks in no time.

Styling curly hair

Styling your curls doesn’t have to be a nightmare — all your hair needs are the right products and routine to thrive. When styling your hair, try to limit your use of heat styling tools. These can damage your hair and lead to frizz, dryness, and breakage. 

Find the right ingredients

Check the labels of your products for hydrating and nourishing ingredients, such as coconut oil and avocado oil. The Olaplex Iconic Styling Duo is a powerhouse pair in hair care for curls — many “curly girls” swear by it. For the best results, seek out styling products formulated specifically for curly hair.

Brush when wet

You probably know that running a brush through curly hair can mean an arm workout, along with some major frizz and breakage

To avoid a sore shoulder, try using a wide-tooth comb and only brush your hair when wet. You also want to be gentle and avoid pulling on your strands too harshly. We love the Kitsch and Conair styling combs for ridding curly hair of its tangles. Wet brushes are hairbrushes with extra flexible bristles to avoid breaking wet hair, and they’re your next best bet.

If a wide tooth comb or wet brush aren’t working for you, you can always use your fingers with some leave-in conditioner. Gently distribute the product evenly through your hair, let it sit, and detangle with your hands.

Scrunch away

If you spend time on TikTok or Instagram, you might have heard about “scrunching” your curls to style them. This technique is super effective while being gentle on your hair.

To use the technique, simply hang your wet hair downwards and squeeze your strands while scrunching towards your scalp. Scrunching helps your curls dry defined in their natural curl pattern while avoiding heat styling and irritating towels. For the best results, use a leave-in conditioner while you scrunch, and do it every now and then while your hair is drying.

Night-time routine

curly haired woman holding hair product in her hand

Styling curly hair takes time. After a long day, you want to preserve and protect your curls while you sleep so you can stretch your beautiful hair for a few days. 

You can wear a bonnet, hair wrap, or large scrunchie to avoid creating frizz and disrupting your curl pattern overnight. For the longest-lasting curls, combine your wrap with a satin or silk pillowcase. Like a towel, rough pillowcases cause breakage and frizz. A smooth surface like silk is perfect for keeping your ringlets silky and defined. 

People also ask

How do I take care of my curls every day?

How to deal with curly hair depends on your curl type and how you like to style your hair. Everyone’s hair is different, so while we can recommend some of the best hair tips and products, you’ll have to experiment a bit to find what works best for you. 

If you’re not sure how to identify your specific hair type, a hairstylist can give you personalized advice. Otherwise, we recommend gentle and nourishing products, low heat, and infrequent drying and brushing.

How to shower with curly hair properly?

Heat can damage hair, so a warm or cool shower might be better for your hair strands. If you’re a fiend for a scalding shower, end your rinse with cool water to seal hair follicles and protect your strands from brittleness. It’ll help keep your hair strong.

After you shower, dry your hair gently to avoid frizz and breakage. How often you wash your hair depends on your hair type, but over-washing curly hair can strip your hair of its natural oils and dry it out. Curly hair requires a gentle approach — too much hot water or cleansing could mean more dryness and frizz.

What products should I choose for curly hair?

Taking care of your curly hair starts with using the right products. Here are a few of our favorite hair care products for your curls.

Shampoos

The Superzero shampoo bar for Dry, Damaged, and Curly Hair is a multitasking shampoo that gently cleanses while locking in moisture. You want sulfate-free shampoos to avoid stripping your hair of its protective barrier, and this bar isn’t just free of harsh ingredients — it's also packed with hydrating, lightweight oils. The Living proof Curl Shampoo is another great option to cleanse your curls and remove product buildup.

Conditioners

A deep condition is essential to lock in moisture and detangle your curls for effortless, natural hair. 

Not Your Mother’s Curl Talk 3 in 1 Conditioner is super hydrating, and you can use it both as a traditional conditioner or a as leave-in treatment if your hair needs the extra boost. You could also try the Nature Lab Texture Curl Conditioner, which moisturizes and detangles your curls while smoothing to prevent frizz. This conditioner is great for naturally textured hair because it strengthens strands for healthy curls that hold their shape.

Hair treatments for curly hair

A hair mask is the perfect treatment to show your curls some love and give them an added boost of nourishment. We recommend the Olaplex No. 3 Hair Perfector to restore split ends and soften your hair. The Luseta Keratin Smooth Hair Mask is another strong choice if you want to target brittle strands and flyaways. 

Styling products

Hair oil adds instant moisture and shine to a head of curly hair. Living Proof’s Curl Moisturizing Oil can be applied to wet or dry hair, making it perfect for wash days and the days in between. If you’re on day three hair and want some hydration, all you need to do is smooth in this oil for instant shine.

If you need some extra hold, Not Your Mother’s Curl Talk Refreshing Curl Foam makes styling easy. This foam firms your curls’ shape while being lightweight enough to allow natural bounce and control frizz.

If you want to use heat on your hair, a heat protectant like the Foxybae Hair Heat Protectant Spray is essential to protect your curls while you style.

Start your curly girl journey

If you’ve always relied on your hair straightener to tame your hair, we understand. But it’s time to embrace your natural hair texture and set your curls free. If you aren’t sure where to start, watch customer reviews on Flip. You can find creators with similar hair to yours for honest reviews and recommendations — and get those products delivered right to your door.

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