11 Hair Care Tips for Natural Curly Hair

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Curly hair is unique. It bends and curves and coils. Because of all the twists and turns, natural curls can be fragile and delicate. And because of its curvy nature, the natural oils produced by the scalp to soften and protect strands have a harder time traveling from top to bottom. As a result, curly girls often experience low levels of moisture. In essence, curly hair is thirsty hair.

Because of all of the above, lather-rinse-repeat is for the rest of them. For girls with naturally curly hair, the hair care regimen is completely different. Wondering how do I get my natural curls to stay? Here are smart hair care tips from the pros at Matrix, for caring for all kinds of natural curls.

1. Embrace the Pre-Shampoo Treatment for Natural Curly Hair

Many curly girls with delicate locks swear by their pre-shampoo routine. Pre-shampooing is exactly what it says — a step performed before shampooing. Pre-shampooing softens, conditions and detangles the hair prior to shampooing. It prevents unnecessary roughness and damage during the shampooing process, especially if hair is extremely tangled or snarled. Use a conditioner or conditioning oil to pre-shampoo, and apply it to dry hair. Divide your hair into sections and work the conditioner into your hair thoroughly, using your fingers to separate your curls and work the product in. Leave it on for at least 20 minutes and if your hair is super snarled, pop on a plastic cap or towel to help heat up your hair. This will open up the cuticle of your hair and let the conditioner penetrate more deeply.

You may think you don’t have time to add another step to your hair care regimen. But this step may actually save you time in the long run, because your hair will be much easier to detangle post-shampoo.

2. Skip Daily Shampoos

Curly hair doesn’t need to be shampooed as frequently as straight hair. Frequent shampooing can stretch and stress out fragile strands, and dry out thirsty curls. Conditioner is your friend! Welcome it regularly in your routine, applying conditioner even if you don’t shampoo your hair.

We recommend: A Curl Can Dream Hair Care

3. Choose Your Shampoo for Curly Hair Wisely

Think of your curly hair as fine cashmere. You wouldn’t wash your cashmere sweater with a harsh detergent, and you shouldn’t cleanse your curls with a harsh shampoo. Use a mild shampoo or a low-lather cleansing conditioner that will refresh your hair and scalp without stripping away too much of its natural moisture and oils. Many curly girls even go a step further and dilute their shampoos or cleansing conditioners with distilled water.

4. Section Your Hair For Tangle-Free Washing

Rubbing, scrubbing, swirling or piling your hair on top of your head while shampooing can be disastrous for curls. This type of manipulation leads to the type of tangles you don’t even want to think about. Instead, break it down. Divide your hair into four sections — more if it’s super thick. Twist or clip away all but the first section. Apply a small amount of shampoo or cleansing conditioner to your scalp and work it in thoroughly. Then gently squeeze it down along the lengths. Repeat on each of the sections. Then rinse in the same sequence — section by section, starting at the scalp and squeezing the suds out of the lengths from top to bottom.

5. Turn Down the Hot Water

Yes, a cold water shampoo and/or rinse doesn’t make for the most luxurious hair washing experience. But cold water will snap those cuticles shut, which in turn will lock in moisture, make your hair shinier and reduce frizz.

6. Use Deep Conditioner. A Lot.

After shampooing, apply a deep conditioner or a mask. Choose a formula that answers the needs of your hair. Is it dry? Pick a moisturizing formula that contains humectants like glycol, glycerin or good quality oils. Is it weak? You’ll need a protein reconstructor with silk amino acids or keratin to restore strength.

As with your shampoo and pre-shampoo formulas, work this formula into your hair in sections to be sure it’s applied thoroughly. Avoid the scalp — that’s not where you typically need moisture. Use a wide-tooth comb to distribute the conditioner evenly. Then let the conditioner go to work. Place your hair under a plastic cap or hood dryer for 10 minutes, or cover it with a towel for 20 minutes and let your body heat do the work.

If you’re using a moisturizing conditioner, and your hair has absorbed most of it, you may not want or need to rinse. But if you’re using a protein conditioner, rinsing is essential. These formulas could cause your hair to become brittle and lead to breakage if left in the hair. In these cases, if you feel you need more moisture, apply a leave-in conditioner after rinsing out the protein conditioner and before styling your hair.

7. Be a Hair Conditioner Junkie

With curly hair, it’s always a delicate balance between moisture and protein. Too much of the first and your hair could become limp and mushy. Too much of the latter, and it may become too stiff and brittle. Always monitor the condition of your hair and adjust your conditioner as needed. Factors like the time of year (humidity in the summer versus dry winter air), or your body’s own cycles can change up your moisture/protein balance and require a switch in the shower. That’s how to take care of curly hair.

8. Plop Your Hair For Frizz-Free Locks

Leave scratchy towels for drying the dishes. Most regular towels will rough up the cuticle, which leads to frizz and general curl catastrophe. To keep curls intact and avoid frizz, opt for micro-fiber towels or a soft cotton t-shirt to blot excess moisture. Then plop! Lay the t-shirt or microfiber towel flat. Flip your head over and gently place your curls in the shirt or towel. Grab the ends of the towel and start twisting, creating towel twists on each side. When your curls are secure, pull the twists back and tie them or clip them together. Wait at least 30 minutes (or just go to bed) before removing the shirt or towel. Excess moisture will be absorbed and your curls will remain defined and frizz-free.

9. Be a Satin Doll

Speaking of bed, that’s another spot that can make or break your curls. Rough cotton pillowcases can cause your coils to tangle and frizz. Outfit your bed (or at least your pillows) with smooth satin pillowcases. Or wrap your hair in a satin scarf or bonnet to keep your curls sleek and intact.

10. Comb Correctly

When it comes to how to keep hair curly naturally, comb with care and use seamless, snag-free combs. Invest in the best possible quality comb. Don’t pull or rake. When detangling your hair after shampooing, use a very wide-tooth comb and detangle gently, section by section. Always detangle your hair when it’s wet, preferably when it’s protected with a coat of conditioner. As far as brushing goes? Just don’t. It will wreak havoc on your curl pattern by breaking up the hair strands and creating a frothy, frizzy mess. You also risk yanking the hair out at the root or breaking it midshaft or creating split ends with a brush.

11. Lay Off the Heat

Blow dryers, flat irons, curling irons — all of these thermal tools lead to breakage. If you’re a hot-tool addict, try to wean yourself off of the heat. Opt for air drying on the weekends or at night. Set your hair in twists or on foam rollers and let it dry naturally.

When you do use tools, invest in the highest quality you can afford. Look for tools containing ionic properties, made with tourmaline or ceramic. Always apply a heat protection product prior to styling.

If you must style with heat, consider switching to a diffuser. It minimizes frizz by evenly distributing heat, and it’s much gentler than direct heat from a blow dryer. To diffuse, start at the roots using circular motions, moving in the same direction. Continue drying, keeping the dryer at a 90-degree angle to your scalp. Finally diffuse the ends. Finally, when your hair is just about dry, hit the cool button on your dryer to lock in shine.