If you’re trying to figure out how to care for your curly hair, or you just want more soft, dimensional curls, you’ve come to the right place! I have naturally curly hair and I get asked with some regularity what products I use and what I do to it. Over the years, this has resulted in me having an email I send to people who ask. I’m always updating and editing the email before I send, and I finally realized putting it here was better. Caring for curly hair is an ongoing process and I’ll update here as I discover new products or change things up.
This is me and my hair:
My hair always had a wave to it, but it didn’t get curly until I was about 14. Thanks, hormones! I’ve tried everything along the way, and here’s what I currently use and do for my hair. Curls are diverse and this may or may not work for you. My curls are type 2c/3A. You can find your curl type here. Whatever your curls and texture, caring for them is a learning process.
A note: curls need love, care, and patience. If you’ve been wearing your hair straight and are just starting to figure out how best to care for it curly, be patient! It takes time. With a little love and a lot of moisture, your natural curls are going to look awesome. They’re waiting for you!
A Good Cut
First and foremost, good hair starts with a good cut. Find a curly specialist near you, or search Google and Yelp for stylists that have good reviews from people with curly hair. Or try the Deva Curl Stylist Finder. I highly recommend a dry cut. Your stylist can see the curl pattern clearly and cut it based on that. Doing a hair cut for straight hair when wet is just a different ball game than cutting to a curl pattern. For instance, I have one lock of hair in the back that is always straight (WHY). If I get a wet cut, it looks like a rattail dangling out from under my curls.
Put Down That Brush
Do not brush your hair! Stop it. Put down that brush right now. Let the curls settle and their natural pattern emerge. I never brush my hair. I use a wide tooth comb in the shower when my conditioner is in and that is IT. Put down the brush. Get this set, hang the one with the hook in your shower and stash the other in your travel bag. Never buy another brush again.
Moisturize, Moisturize, Moisturize
Moisturize! No, more than that. A little more. No really, more. I thought I was moisturizing enough, but when I started using Kinky Curly Knot Today Leave-in Conditioner, it was a game changer. In fact I think that’s when people started asking me more regularly about what I do to my hair. Curly hair is fragile. It needs moisture even when it doesn’t feel dry or brittle. More on this leave-in conditioner in a minute.
Take a Break From Shampoo
Part of keeping it moisturized means I don’t wash my hair every day. I try to only wash it 2-3 times a week. Some curly people don’t wash at all, but so far that hasn’t worked for me. Shampoo can be drying as it strips away your hair’s natural oils, and if I wash more often my hair gets flat and weird. I do like a good scrub though. I love SheaMoisture products.
Some of my favorites:
One of my very favorites.
Cantu shampoo. Great, gentle, cleansing. Works for all types.
Once or twice a month I like to do a deep scrub using Lush Big Shampoo. Leaves me feeling like a clean slate.
Put On Your Mask
Once a week I do a deep condition. I have just started experimenting with this. I try to do it on a Sunday and then use a leave-in conditioner and not use any heat or styling products that day. I leave the treatment on while I take a long hot shower, but some suggest you keep it on under a shower cap for 30 minutes, or even sit under a hair dryer with it in.
I like this Moroccan Gold Argan Oil Mask, but I wish I didn’t because it’s pricey. (I got it in a FabFitFun Box, which I recommend as a great way to get stuff you will use and stuff that’s fun to try.)
I haven’t tried this yet, but I will. I like Cantu products a lot and this deep treatment masque is well reviewed.
Similarly, I love SheaMoisture (as you may be realizing) and this Hydrate and Repair Protein Power Treatment has great reviews. I’ll try it at some point too.
Love Your Curls Conditionally
Back to conditioner. If I take a shower and “do” my hair full on, I always condition even when I don’t shampoo. Get your wide tooth comb and get in the shower with some good conditioner. Leave it on a few minutes and gently comb it through. You don’t have to fully rinse out—it’s okay if it feels a little slick at the end to keep that moisture locked in. Don’t be afraid to experiment to see what works for you!
Some of my favorites:
Raw Shea Butter Restorative Conditioner. It’s thick and lush smells great.
Coconut and Hibiscus Curl and Shine. A good mid-weight conditioner. Smells good. Honestly, they all do.
This one is new to me and I really like it. You’re going to need to like the smell of roses. I don’t usually, but I do in this case!
Cantu conditioner. They just make great products and are very affordable.
It’s About The Process
I try to keep my hair sopping wet getting out of the shower. DO NOT TOWEL DRY IT. Do not comb it or brush it! When you get out of the shower, flip your hair upside down and gently scrunch in a handful of the Kinky Curly Not Today Leave-In Conditioner. Give that a minute to settle while you put in contacts, put on deodorant, etc. You’re going to add in a few products now and you want to give them each a couple minutes to soak in and settle between applications.
After that settles, spray all over—first with your head upside down and then right-side up—with Marc Anthony Strictly Curls Curl Booster. This helps keep the frizz away.
Take The Edge Off
Once you’ve gotten all your product in, you want to dry it with a diffuser, just not all the way. I use this hair dryer with diffuser (on medium heat, full blast) with my head upside down for 10-15 minutes, until it’s about 60% dry. There’s a point where if you dry it too much it just gets frizzy. I also wear ear plugs when blow drying because no one needs a loud machine next to their ears regularly.
After that, I clip up a section in the front to add volume while it dries. I’ve tried all the clips, this is my favorite. I finish getting ready, give it one last blast with the hair dryer with high heat, and scrunch out the stiffness, put the clip back in and leave the house. When I get to work or wherever I’m going, I take the clip out, scrunch the crunch out one last time, and it finishes dry on its own. It usually requires another fluff a few hours later.
That’s it! This might sound like a lot but I’ve been doing this for years and it’s second nature to me. It doesn’t take very long—about 20 minutes including blow drying. In another post I’ll discuss second-day hair, which is a whole other can of worms. In the meantime, remember: don’t brush it, give it time and moisture, and be patient. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised!
Let me know in the comments if you have questions. I’m happy to answer.