The Ultimate Guide to Caring for Curly Hair

Different folks need different strokes: A customized guide for women with curly hair. 

model-dark-curly-hair
Photo by Paul Westlake

Wash

"Shampooing can make curls look frizzier, so try to do it no more than twice a week," says Timothy Brad Wandrey, the director of education for Cutler/Redken Salons. "The natural oils produced on your scalp, combined with the right product, make curls look better with time." (The downside: If too much time passes between shampoos, your hair can look flat.) When you do wash, make sure you do it right. "Due to twists along the hair shafts, curly hair is prone to tangling," says Anabel Kingsley, a trichologist at the Philip Kingsley Trichological Clinic. To avoid this, gently massage a hydrating cleanser, like L'Oréal Paris EverCurl Hydracharge Cleansing Conditioner, into your scalp, running your fingers through to your midlengths. Then, as you condition, work a wide-tooth comb through, starting at the ends and slowly inching your way up the hair shafts with every pass. "Never start detangling from the top, as this can result in breakage," she says.

Cut

There's no set timeline for a cut. It mostly depends on the hair's shape, says Wandrey. As soon as your hair starts to flatten at the crown, make an appointment. "Come in with unstyled hair to make sure the cut enhances your natural curl pattern for when you style it at home," says Wandrey. If you plan on wearing your hair curly all of the time, find a stylist who specializes in dry-cutting curly hair. If you think you're going to straighten it at least once a week, then it can be cut wet or dry, depending on what your stylist thinks is best for your spiral.

Color

"Curly hair can be very dry and porous, so it can grab too much color and look darker on the ends," says Justin Anderson, a colorist at the Chris McMillan Salon, in Beverly Hills. Says Ian Michael Black, the global artistic director for hair color for Aveda, "Curly hair is great at camouflaging gray roots because it's not uniform in texture, and that tends to make the roots less visible." Let that work in your favor. You can go 6 to 10 weeks between root touch-ups and 10 to 14 weeks between highlights.

Style

"Curly hair responds well to creams and gels," says Wandrey. Creams such as SheaMoisture Coconut & Hibiscus Curl Enhancing Smoothie add moisture and encourage the curls, while a gel defines them. You can create a custom cocktail of a few different styling products to get these effects, or look for a single product (better!) that does everything, like Wandrey's favorite: Redken Curvaceous Full Swirl Cream-Serum. Work through damp curls in dime-size increments, rubbing it between your hands, then gently twisting it into coils all over your head.

Hair Hack

Ditch the towel. After washing, gently wring out the excess water, then wrap hair up in an old cotton T-shirt. The soft fabric won't rough up the cuticles, which can cause frizz or, worse, breakage.