10 Tips for Taking Care of All Curl Types

Celebrity hairstylists weigh in on everything from overnight hacks to how to style your hair.

Model with dark curly hair blowing in face
Photo: Paul Westlake

Like all things in beauty, there's no one-size-fits-all formula or routine that works for everyone. This is especially true when taking care of different hair types. For instance, curly hair on its own is an umbrella term that encompasses nine different curl types, ranging from loose waves to afro-textured curls.

"Identifying your curl type could feel like cracking a sci-fi case, but luckily there's a curl classification system that was created by Andre Walker to help you identify your curls," explains Irinel de León, a celebrity hairstylist and Ouidad ambassador. "To put it simply, type one is straight hair, type two is wavy, type three is curly, and type four is coily. Within those types, there are sub-classifications such as A, B, or C, which are based on the diameter of your wave or curl." A is the widest curl pattern, and C is tighter coils.

Once you learn your curl type, it's easier to uncover the best way to care for your hair. We know it may seem a bit tricky, but that's why we spoke with celebrity hairstylists that are curl experts to learn their best tips and tricks for taking care of all types of curls. Ahead, keep for their best advice.

The tighter the curls, the more conditioner you need.

All curly hair tends to be notoriously dry and prone to frizz. However, the type of conditioner you use will depend on your curl type. "Type 4 hair is prone to breakage and struggles to absorb moisture, so handling with care and the proper products is super important," says Léon. Deep conditioners and leave-in treatments, like Shea Moisture Strengthen and Restore Treatment Masque ($9, target.com), are necessary when caring for this hair type.

Type 3 curls need similar attention. "It has a coiling shape from the roots to the very ends (think, ringlets) and is prone to dehydration, so extra care and hydration are necessary for this curl type," says Léon. A leave-in like Ouidad Get Hydrated Ultra-Moisturizing Splash Mask ($32, ouidad.com) is perfect for this hair type. "This super-concentrated splash mask delivers a quick surge of moisture to dry curls without the time required for a deep-conditioning treatment," says Léon.

Finally, type 2 curls, typically wavy and looser than other curl types, require very light hydration as anything too heavy will weigh it down. We're fans of Briogeo Farewell Frizz Rosarco Milk Leave-In Conditioning Spray ($24, dermstore.com) for wavy hair.

Apply product when hair is sopping wet.

"It is important to work with hair when it is at its most wet state," says Michael Dueñas, celebrity hairstylist and consulting creative director. That means everything from detangling, conditioning, and styling should happen when the hair is soaked. This technique helps reduce frizz once the hair is dry. "Start with your favorite shampoo and conditioner in the shower while washing your hair," says Dueñas. "Rake your fingers through your hair until you have no more tangles, and then rinse the hair."

Once out of the shower and ready to style the hair, rake your products throughout the hair while it is very wet and scrunch to define the curls. "Your hair should feel slippery and soft like seaweed," says Dueñas.

Plop your hair.

After styling your hair, you can either diffuse the hair or let it air dry. If you choose to dry the hair without heat, Léon recommends doing the plopping technique, which only requires a T-shirt or microfiber towel. "Lay a T-shirt or a microfiber towel on the edge of the bed or a chair with the sleeves of the T-shirt at the edge of the bed and closest to your body," she explains. "Gently flip your head forward, bend at the waist, and lower your hair towards the center of the T-shirt or towel. Continue to bend until the top of your head is resting on a bed or chair. Next, grab the fabric left behind your head and flip it up over your neck. Then, tie the sleeves of the T-shirt or towel over the fabric laying on your neck into a knot."

If using a long-sleeved shirt, she recommends tucking the remaining sleeves in the front of your head. The benefits of plopping include an easier way to dry the hair, defined curls without the heat, and less frizz.

It's OK to brush curly hair.

Yes, brushing your curls while your hair is dry can lead to mayhem, but brushing your hair while it's wet can actually define the look of your curls. A comb or a paddle brush is best for all curl types. Léon recommends brushing the hair in two-inch sections and scrunch while styling your hair. "This method helps clump curls together for more definition," she says.

Wash once a week.

Because curly hair tends to be dry, Dueñas says you should wash curly hair once to twice a week at most. Of course, if you're more active, you can get away with more times. However, you want to be careful of stripping the hair of its natural moisture since curly hair is already dry.

Sleep in the right overnight hairstyle.

To protect type three and four curls overnight, Léon recommends sleeping with your curls in a pineapple hairstyle. "This consists of creating a loose, high ponytail on top of your head using a soft scrunchie or soft hair tie," she says. "This style arranges the hair to sit on top of the head so it can mitigate frizz, flattened curls, and also protects against any knots while you sleep."

For type two hair types, she says the Medusa-clipping technique helps preserve the look of waves. "Using small claw clips, take sections of the hair and clip it to the crown of the head, semi-loosely, so it doesn't disrupt you when you sleep," she advises. "This technique will sometimes work better than putting the hair up into a high ponytail because this process is a lot more gentle on the hair and won't disrupt the wave pattern."

Use a silk pillowcase.

After your curls are in their protective overnight style, Dueñas recommends sleeping on a satin or silk pillowcase. "This will protect the inner curls from getting frizzy and also prevent fabrics from drawing moisture out of your hair," he says. The Slip Silk Pillowcase ($90, nordstrom.com) is a great option.

Don't touch your hair.

No matter your curl type, if you want your hair to look defined, you must resist touching it once it's dry and styled. "The no-touching hair rule is important because any contact with curly hair, whether it's your fingers or hairbrush, can not only cause curls to uncoil but also increase frizz," says Léon.

Keep the hair detangler spray in the fridge.

"​​A good tip is to keep your detangling spray in the refrigerator," says Léon. "This will help seal the hair cuticle and lock in the moisture helping to keep frizz, dryness, and environmental aggressors at bay." She also says it's a great way to freshen your hair and scalp during the summer months.

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