Ten years ago I put down my hair straightener for the very last time. Only, I didn’t realize it would be the last time. But after years of battling my naturally very curly hair and trying to force it to be something it’s not, I finally had enough. My hair wasn’t growing, straightening it took hours and hours (terrific arm workout, though), and I was simply over it. So I finally took the plunge and delved into the world of curly hair care tips only to swiftly realize that embracing my natural hair wasn’t going to be as simple as I thought it would be.
The amount of curly hair advice out here on Beyonce’s internet is, quite frankly, overwhelming. When you add in the fact that no two curls are created the same (even if they’re on the same head), it’s easy to feel like giving up on your curly hair journey before it even begins. If you’ve watched countless TikTok tutorials trying to find one featuring a person with hair just like yours to no avail, I know exactly where you should start. Ten years into my curly hair journey I can confidently call myself an expert. I’ve been through the highs and lows of bringing back my curl pattern, getting bad haircuts, finally finding a stylist I trust, and then reaping the benefits of the long, healthy curls I’ve lusted after my entire life. Below are my six golden rules for curly hair care that everyone should follow, no matter your curl type.
1. Style your hair when it’s soaking wet
If you feel like you’re using the right products and have nailed a technique, but are still struggling with frizzy, undefined curls that don’t last, it’s time to reexamine your styling process. I assume it looks something like this: you shower, towel off, scrunch some water out of your hair, do your skincare, get dressed, and then start in on your hair. Here’s where you’re making a mistake: you need to be styling your hair either while you’re still in the shower or right after you get out.
Curly hair needs moisture, and if your hair isn’t literally soaking wet when you’re styling it, you’ll always experience some amount of frizz. Your styling products help lock in moisture, define your curls, and hold everything in place. If you apply said products on hair that has already started to frizz and dry up after your shower, that’s exactly what you’ll be locking in.
If you find your hair starting to dry while you’re styling it, use a misting spray bottle to rewet your curls. This will give you the best chance at creating beautiful, defined, waves or ringlets.
This is the spray bottle I use. The continuous mister fully saturates my hair when I need to add moisture during the styling process. I also use it on non-wash days to refresh individual curls or help start the slicking back process on updo days.
2. Protect your hair when you sleep
When I first started wearing my hair curly, I changed nothing about my sleep habits and always woke up with my hair a frizzy, tangly mess. I then felt like I had to rewash my hair every single day to get it to look right. The key to curls that last? Protecting them at night. As soon as I introduced a silk pillowcase and bonnet to the equation my curls started lasting upwards of three, four, or even five days.
I’ve found the most success putting my hair up in a loose ponytail at the very top of my head with a satin scrunchy, covering it with a bonnet, and sleeping on a silk pillowcase. If that seems like a lot, start by switching to a silk pillowcase and building from there. This one change will make a huge difference, as your usual cotton pillowcase creates friction that messes up your hair at night.
This is the silk pillowcase I use. It’s the most affordable 100% mulberry silk option I’ve ever found, and I would repurchase it again and again.
I’m not saying you should throw out all of your non-satin hair ties, but it’s a good idea to use satin scrunchies whenever possible as they help protect your hair from breakage. At the very least, make sure you’re using them to hold up your hair (loosely!) at night.
Sleeping with a satin bonnet will definitely take some getting used to, but once you get over the initial change, you’ll barely even notice it. There are tons of varieties on the market, and it may take some time to find one that fits comfortable on your head and covers your curls, but this option from Black-owned business Glow by Daye is a great place to start.
10+ colors available
3. Use hair products with hold
Fellow millennials, I’m looking at you for this one. We grew up thinking that gel equaled crunchy, ramen noodle-like curls. The truth is, we just weren’t using the products right. Your styling products need to have hold (whether it’s light or extra-strong will depend on your curl type) in order to define your curls and lock in your style for days and days. Whether you choose a mousse, gel, or cream product is up to you. The key to soft, well-defined curls comes after you let your product of choice dry. After styling, diffuse or air dry your hair until you achieve that crunchy cast gel and other products with hold are known for. Then, put a little bit of your favorite hair oil on your palms and scrunch your curls. This will break up that cast (goodbye ramen noodles!) and leave you with a perfect hair day.
And one more thing while we’re on the subject of styling products: You do not need to spend money on expensive, salon-quality hair products to style your curls. I’ve used all of the high-end brands and a fair share of drugstore options as well, and this drugstore variety from As I Am is the gel that works best for my hair. That said, every curl is going to react differently to different products, so try everything you can get your hands on until you find the products that work best for you.
4. Never detangle your hair when it’s dry
Anyone else remember sitting in front of the mirror holding back tears while their mom forced a brush through their hair? Trying to detangle curls when they are dry is a recipe for disaster. If you haven’t gotten the point by now, the key to pretty much everything with curly hair is moisture. Trying to detangle your hair while it’s dry will only result in frustration and breakage. Instead, after putting conditioner in your hair in the shower use a wide-toothed comb to gently detangle your curls. If you’ve got a particularly stubborn knot, work a little bit more conditioner and water into the strands and take your time combing through it. I promise this is a 100% better experience than the aforementioned combination of brush and barely-concealed tears.
5. Never dry your hair with a towel
Friction is a curly girl’s biggest enemy. Similar to sleeping with satin or silk products, you want to be extremely gentle with your hair while drying it. Rather than rub and scrunch your curls with a regular towel, use a microfiber cloth or cotton t-shirt to gently scrunch excess product out of your hair when you’re done styling. Then go in with your diffuser or leave your hair to air dry depending on your preference.
Remember, you should be styling your hair when it’s soaking wet, so don’t break out this microfiber towel until after you’re done styling. Once all your products are in, flip your head over and gently scrunch out the excess product and water to aid in the drying process.
I’ll recommend a drugstore or affordable option at pretty much any opportunity, but the Dyson hair dryer really is That Girl. I’ve used tons of different diffusers in the past and none of them compare to my Dyson. I have a lot of hair that takes a very long time to dry, and the Dyson has me done in about 30 minutes without the excessive heat damage other dryers on the market cause.
6. Only get your hair cut by a curl specialist
When I was about six years old, my mom took me to a hair stylist and asked for help controlling my curls. That person literally shaved the bottom layer of my hair so that there was less hair overall to manage. That was the first of many traumatic haircut experiences I’ve had throughout my life. Getting your hair cut by a curly hair specialist is pretty much the best thing you can do for your hair. Curly haircuts are pricier than the ones our straight-haired friends get, but we also get to go a lot less frequently.
Curly hair cannot be cut the same way as straight hair, and specialists work with your curls in a way that will help bring back your curl pattern and make sure your curls are shaped and laying nicely. In addition to that, they’ll walk you through exactly what you need to do to care for your specific curls in a way that scrolling through endless TikTok videos simply can’t.