Everyone who has curly hair knows that beginning to understand and love your curls is a journey in itself. As someone who is lucky enough to write about curly hair for some time now, I’ve learned so much about how much it can be a part of our individual identity in the curly hair community.
I’ve written in the past about my journey to embracing my curls, and in an effort to pay it forward, I hope to help some other confused curly-haired person figure out how their curls make them special. Though I’m constantly growing and finding new ways to take care of my hair, I feel like I have a solid routine in place that gives me the confidence to step out with my natural locks. Here are the 7 pieces of curly hair advice that changed my life, and allowed me to find how to care for them.
Find What Your Curls Need
For too long, I treated my hair as though it was straight. The result - damaged, sad, depleted curls that were just dying to jump out and be free. Then, I started using heavy curl care products that weighed down my curls and made my hair look greasy and clumpy. When I finally was able to figure out what my specific curls and hair needed (beyond just “looks great after a shower but weird after a good night’s sleep”), I was able to research the kind of products and styling methods that would make having curls feel seamless.
Curls come in all kinds of shapes and sizes, and knowing how to treat them as such is crucial to getting to know how they operate. One person’s post-beach waves is another’s morning frizz. Though it can be tempting to run a brush through, and slick your hair up into a bun (again), knowing your curl type can help you find the wash and styling system that will work for you.
You can seek out what your curls need by identifying their specific type (or pattern) and/or what they're craving. Though you can get to the nitty gritty by finding your exact curl type (for example, I’m a 3A), just knowing generally where your curls fall into the general categories can help you find what works for you. From there, finding a curl enhancing system that works for you is so much easier.
Curl types can be broken down into four main categories: wavy, loose curls, tight curls and coily. If you need a little help figuring out where you land, try taking a curl type quiz.
When it comes to getting the right curly hair advice, figuring out what your hair needs can make all the difference. Fighting frizz? Time to add a healthy dose of moisture. Your curls feel heavy? Try using more lightweight products. Your hair is damaged from years of heat styling? Time to add products with healthy proteins. There truly is a solution for every kind of curl and wave.
Less Is More When It Comes To Products
Remember those weighed down curls I was talking about earlier? Yeah, that was the result of copious amounts of styling cream and gel. Once I discovered that beneath years of heat styling tools and drugstore shampoo there was a head of curly hair, I went hardcore in trying to revive them.
The best styling products don’t need to be slathered in excess. In fact, if you’re using a product that has the right formula, less is more. These days, I use a small amount of leave-in conditioner, followed by a dime-size amount of Royal Locks Pro Curl Cream Gel out of the shower. Then, I plop my hair, and trust that my curls know what they're doing. After my curls dry, I give them a cute little shake, and sometimes I’ll add a little extra product to my fingertips to deal with any rebellious tresses (attention snobs).
Finding the right balance of products for your curls really goes back to finding your curl type, and what they need to look their best, which we’ve perfectly already covered. I do love a good callback.
Make Your Wash Day Count
I used to wash my hair every single day, thoroughly, and then wonder why I had split ends and damage. You see, my curls aren’t meant to be stripped of their natural oils that often. Here’s why (incoming *science*). The shape of our waves and curls makes it more difficult for the natural oils from our scalp to travel down the hair shaft. Constantly washing textured hair can strip those natural oils, and make it harder to maintain hair health.
Some people with thin waves may still find that they need to wash their hair everyday to prevent it from getting greasy, but the important thing is to replenish your hair with moisture from natural botanicals like argan oil. By using styling products that moisturize while they add definition, you can continuously protect and nurture your precious locks.
In order to get the most from your wash day, find a routine that will allow your curls to live beyond the first day. Start with a curl-friendly cleanser (look for sulfate-free) and hydrating conditioner, and then use products that won’t cause build up or weigh your curls down over time. With the right bedtime routine (we’ll cover that in a minute), your curls can stay thriving beyond just the first day. Finding a simple way to refresh your curls in between can help your wash day count. Some people even find that they love their day two hair even more than day one!
Use Curl-Friendly Products
Unfortunately, unless you were lucky enough to grow up in a household where curls were the norm, many people don’t realize that products that work on straight hair can be damaging to curls. My mom had dreadlocks growing up (a whole other ballgame), and so I didn’t think to ask about what would work for me.
One of the all-time best pieces of curly hair advice I ever received was from a hairdresser with a giant head of bright red tight curls. As she disapprovingly picked at my limp curls, she asked me to go through my entire curl care routine. Sheepishly, I responded “well I use (insert generic shampoo and conditioner here) and then I use a little bit of the same conditioner to keep my curls in place.” She sighed and looked me dead in the eyes and said “you have to use products designed for your hair, my dear.”
Curl-friendly products are designed to maintain your curl’s hair health, while giving them the definition that you love. Though lots of lather in the shower may make your hair feel squeaky - and I do mean *squeaky* - clean, it’s actually stripping your curls from important natural oils that give them the boost they need. In addition, styling products that aren’t made for your waves and curls can cause build up, and dehydrate your hair even more. All of that while not even taming your frizz.
Your Curls Need As Much Love As You Do
This may seem like it goes without saying, but your curls need love. The same way that you find ways to add self-care into your routine, giving your waves or curls a little boost can help them thrive on a day to day basis. By adding products that are designed to hydrate and moisturize your curls, you can help them maintain their health from the inside out.
Though some people opt for adding serums and oils into their routine, you also have the option to look for products that include ingredients that are designed to moisturize and hydrate as you style. Look for products with argan oil, macadamia oil, panthenol and other nourishing ingredients.
Other ways you can give your hair some care? A nice hair mask, reducing heat styling tools from your routine, and giving it a thorough wash day it will never forget.
How You Sleep Can Protect Your Curls
After getting close to mastering my curl care routine, I was disappointed to wake up after a day of bouncy curls to what can only be compared to a Tasmanian devil living on my head. For many people with curly and wavy hair, sleeping can cause a hindrance to their defined and luscious locks.
It was only after a sister of mine recommended a sleeping bonnet that I was able to find a way to protect my curls overnight. That combined with a silk or satin pillowcase gave my curls the chance to stay intact while I dreamed about eating an infinite tub of ice cream. By taking the time to pineapple your hair, use a protective hairstyle, or use a bonnet to keep them in place during the night, you can maintain your hair’s shape while you rest.
You Don't Need Straight Hair To Be Beautiful, Professional Or Anything Else
Curly hair is beautiful. Curly hair is professional. Curly hair is a part of you, and it can be whatever you want it to be. Playing into societal pressures to feel like you have to modify your natural hair can be tempting, but allowing your curls to thrive can be an amazing experience. I know for myself, embracing my curls gave me more confidence, and the ability to spend less time worrying about how I was presenting myself to the world. Just being me is enough.
Learning that my curls were a part of me, and my identity, was probably the most beautiful gift I could give myself. All I can hope is that wherever you are on your curl journey, these tips can help you give yourself the same gift. All of this curly hair advice is adaptable to your needs, and what you find works for you.