Curly Hair 101

Curly hair is absolutely beautiful but tends to intimidate a lot of people. All the texture and volume looks great, but where does one even begin to start taking care of it? For many curly girls thinking of ditching their relaxers for a while, it can seem impossible and overwhelming to maintain healthy curls. Personally, it definitely took me a long time (read: 18 years) to even begin to love and properly take care of my hair. As a resident natural curly girl here at HCYU, let me share with you some of the curly hair tips and tricks I’ve learned over the years to aid your curly hair journey.

  1. 1. Know Your Curl Type

    The first thing that anybody should know is that there are different types of curly hair. People can have curls ranging from wavy (characterized as 2A) to coily (characterized as 4C), largely depending on race and genetics. Additionally, it is possible for a person to have a mix of two or more curl patterns in their hair. Being able to determine your curly hair pattern will help a lot in figuring out which products and methods are best to use for your specific hair. If you’re of unsure which curl type you have, here’s a handy Texture Quiz by Naturally Curly to get to know your hair better.  

  2. 2. Avoid Chemical Ingredients and Heat

    Now that you know your curl type, it’ll be much easier to figure out the right products to use for your hair. A common misconception is that products for straight hair can be used on curly hair. Personally, I strongly advise anyone with curly hair to AVOID products for straight hair when possible. These products tend to have harsh chemical ingredients such as sulfates, parabens, harsh alcohols and non-water soluble silicones which can make your curly hair extremely dry, frizzy and brittle. Avoiding these ingredients will keep your hair looking great and healthy. Additionally, heat styling can damage your curls and should be avoided when possible, especially if you’re transitioning from relaxers to having natural hair. If heat styling can’t be avoided, apply heat protectant products before styling.

  3. 3. Use The Right Products

    Products especially formulated with curly hair in mind will give you the best results. However, there are dozens of products out there and you might not be sure which ones to get. It’s always best to start of with the basics: shampoo, conditioner and leave-in conditioner. DevaCurl makes some of the best curly hair products with separate product lines for wavy, curly and super curly hair. I also love Mixed Chicks, Toronto-based indie brand Love Ur Curls, and the affordable brand, Shea Moisture. When using any new product, be mindful of how your hair reacts to it and see which one works best for your hair and routine.

  4. 4. When To Wash Your Hair

    While there isn’t a definitive schedule to washing your hair, it is recommended that you avoid washing it every day so that it doesn’t dry out. Invest a handy dollar or two and buy a spray bottle to lightly spritz your hair with water and a little bit of product in between washes. Feel free to wash your hair when you feel like the curls have gotten limp or there’s product buildup. To get rid of product buildup, use a clarifying shampoo such as the DevaCurl Buildup Buster or a homemade ACV rinse to damp hair before shampoo every few weeks. Doing a deep conditioning treatment once a week is also great to give moisture to your curls. Watch ManesbyMell as she demonstrates her wash day routine:

  5. 5. Detangle Your Hair

    It’s a common myth that curly hair doesn’t need to be brushed or combed. This is absolutely false and will only lead to extremely knotted and matted hair (and trust me, you don’t want that pain). Detangling your hair in the shower while it’s wet minimizes breakage. Apply your conditioner, deep conditioner or detangler and work through any knots in your hair using your fingers or a wide-toothed comb. Work in sections and work your way from the bottom of each section until you reach the top, tangle free. Patience and gentleness is crucial in this step.

  6. 6. Master Your Wash-n-Go

    A Wash-n-Go is the most basic styling method any curly girl should know. This is when you wear your hair in its natural curly form, without the use of heat, styling tools, braids, or stretching. Simply put, wash your hair thoroughly with shampoo then conditioner. As an essential curly hair tip: put in your styling products, such as your leave-in conditioner, while your hair is still dripping wet for best results. Additionally, you can put a lightweight gel, such as Aveda Confixor or DevaCurl Arc Angel Gel after your leave-in conditioner for extra hold on your curls. Soak up any excess water using a microfiber towel or an old cotton shirt to speed up drying time. To minimize frizz, avoid touching your hair until it’s completely dry either by blowdrying it with a diffuser or letting it air dry. Here’s a video of Youtuber MahoganyCurls demonstrating her Wash-n-Go routine:

  7. 7. Tuck Your Curls In Bed

    If you wanna preserve all that hard work put into making sure your curls look great and healthy, don’t skip this step before going to sleep. Put your hair in a ‘pineapple style’ ponytail by gathering all of it at the top of your head. This ensures that its out of your way when sleeping and minimizes knotting at the ends. You can also wrap your hair in a silk or satin bonnet as you sleep. Personally, sleeping on a silk or satin pillowcase has been a game changer. Sleeping on cotton pillowcases produces friction when you move your head as you sleep, leading to hair that’s frizzy and prone to breakage. Silk or satin pillowcases reduce this friction, and are great for both your hair and skin.

  8. 8. Find A Curly Stylist

    As a kid, I always avoided and feared going for a haircut because most hair stylists didn’t know what to do with my hair. Fortunately in the past few years I’ve found some amazing curly hair stylists local to me who have cut, dyed, and basically brought my hair back to life. Cutting, coloring and styling curly hair is so different from straight hair, so find a hairstylist that has been trained and who specializes in curly hair. There are also salons that cater specifically to curly hair. Their online reviews and Instagram portfolios will serve you well so that you can see previous work they’ve done.

These tips may sound like a lot but I assure you that once you get into the habit of it, your curls are going to thank you. It can be a long learning process but the end result is fantastic. These steps ensure healthy, happy, and great looking hair. All that’s left for you to do is to rock it!