The options seem endless. Do you shampoo or use a sulfate-free cleanser? Should your curls be cut wet or dry? Should you forego the flat iron forever? Confused yet?

There are several philosophies to consider when caring for your curls.

Rest easy -- we cut through the clutter and gathered the top experts in the curly world for their bottom-line stance on cutting, cleansing and styling.

These curl experts have invested decades studying and styling curly hair. Their life’s mission revolves around curls! Although their approaches may differ, their goal is the same: creating gorgeous, healthy curls for their clients.


 
   

CURL EXPERT: Shari Harbinger, partner of Lorraine Massey of New York’s Devachan Salon

CUT: When stylists at Devachan Salon prep for a curly cut, they know to trust their intuitive eye and their visual eye.

“You can’t really understand that if the hair is wet because you’re not seeing the hair as you wear it, in its natural form, which is dry,” says Shari Harbinger, who emphasizes that curls should be cut only when the hair is dry.

When curlies make an appointment at Devachan, they’re asked to stop shampooing their curly locks one to two weeks before their cut, although daily conditioning is recommended. When they step into the stylist’s chair, clients are required to arrive with their hair dry and in its natural state, uncombed and without any products in it at all.

“We look at the face shape, the hair, the curl type, the hydration level, and all those factors will determine where we cut, and how much we cut,” Harbinger adds.

The only tools in a Devachan curly cut are scissors and the stylist's hands — no combs or brushes.

“Combs aren’t necessary because you’re then stretching the curl out of its natural form, which defeats the whole purpose of cutting curly hair in its natural order," she says.

CLEANSE & CONDITION: Curly hair can’t get enough moisture, and Harbinger says sulfates in shampoos add to the dehydration of curly locks.

“The philosophy is to remove the sulfates from the product, which are the harsh, lathering and dehydrating ingredients found in 99 percent of the conventional shampoo on the market,” says Harbinger, noting DevaCurl’s product line includes No-Poo, a sulfate-free botanical cleanser. “Just by virtue of eliminating those sulfates and replacing them with botanically derived ingredients, the hair responds immediately.”

If curls are extremely dehydrated, she recommends conditioning every day. For a deeper treatment, Harbinger recommends leaving in the daily conditioner for a half hour to intensify the hydration.

“But you can cleanse every other day because our styling products have nothing synthetic in them to cause buildup or to make the hair feel dirty,” Harbinger says.

STYLE: The styling process begins the moment you’ve stepped out of the shower, Harbinger says.

“Gently tilt your head over, in an upside down position, and squeeze the excess water out of the hair with paper towels or a cotton t-shirt in an upward scrunching motion,” Harbinger says. “Regular towels cause friction and cause the cuticle of curly hair to fray and appear frizzy. They also absorb too much water out of the hair. For the best curl definition, you want to remove just enough water to release the curl of its own water weight and that’s best done by using a paper towel.”

Once you’ve applied a leave-in conditioner and/or gel, then gently bring your head and hair to an upright position and gently shake the curls.

“Wherever they lay, they shall stay,” says Harbinger, who recommends adding clips to the crown for additional lift. “Do not touch the curls when they’re drying because that can create frizz and cause the curl to lose its formation.”

As for flat irons, Harbinger views them as a “death sentence for all hair.”

“Every time you flat iron or ‘blow fry’ the hair, you’re one step further away from your curls being the best they can be,” Harbinger explains. “You’re compromising the elasticity of the curl. The curls will never be as authentic as they can be if they’re in a push-me, pull-me cycle or back and forth.”

Harbinger emphasizes that curly hair is not a trend, it’s a lifestyle.

“If we understand what we have and how to work with it, we can learn to embrace and love our curls,” she says.