A blustery winter can take an especially tough toll on textured tresses. Now, as spring helps you thaw out from the big chill, you'll want to return to the healthy habit of deep conditioning to protect and prepare your curls for the warmer months to come.
"Deep conditioners fill in the cracks in the surface of the hair, so there's no friction between the strands, and the hair is smooth," says Titi Branch, owner of Miss Jessie's Salon & Products in Brooklyn, N.Y. "A deep treatment can make all the difference in how your hair handles."
"It's a moisture issue," adds Brent Hardgrave, a curly stylist at Salon 124 in Roswell, Ga. "As soon as you step into the humidity, whatever moisture is not in your hair, your hair is going to find it. If you practice preventive medicine on your hair, you have more opportunity to battle the humidity."
Curl-centric stylists say the key is knowing how to apply the treatment — and making sure it includes the right ingredients for your curl type. Here, expert advice and a deep-treatment guide for every curl type.
Wavy (Curl Type: 2)
Ingredients: Wavies want to look for amino acids for curl repair — since this curl type is most likely to go back and forth between curly and straight — as well as a lightweight, conditioning ingredient like coconut oil, according to Hardgrave, also a Redken artist.
"Coconut oil is extremely moisture-rich, but it won't weigh your hair down," Hardgrave says. "Oleo-amido, an amino acid, will also repair the hair from stretching and give it moisture. Every time you pull curly hair you're breaking down the bonds in the hair, so you need to replenish where the bonds have been broken.
How often: Once a week for dry climates, and up to three times a week in humid environments, according to Hardgrave. "A daily curl refiner or leave-in, anti-frizz detangler, also with coconut oil in it, will really help," he says.
Timing: Five minutes is usually long enough. If you're multitasking, you can apply the treatment in the shower and just leave it in while shaving your legs. Or, you can spritz your waves with water, apply the treatment and leave it in while working out or cleaning the house. "The heat from your body that comes from being active will help," Hardgrave says.
Amount: Less is more, especially for wavies with fine hair. Focus on the ends, not the scalp.
Application: For wavies, start at the mid-shaft of the hair and work your way down. Always use a wide-toothed comb in the shower or dampen the hair and then apply, to avoid breakage. "Don't just glop it on the top of the head and comb it through," says Hardgrave, noting that's a common mistake.
Curly (Curl Type: 3s)
Ingredients: Curl experts agree that shea butter is your best bet, with just enough weight and slip to it so the detangling process works so much easier. Finding a treatment that includes natural oils will also help, according to Anna-Lee, a stylist with Chaz Dean Studio in Los Angeles, Calif. "Your ends are the most porous and need the most hydration," Anna-Lee says.
How often: For shoulder-length curlies, twice a month; once a week for longer locks. Of course, every curly is unique, so apply the treatment more often if your curls are especially dry or brittle. "Longer hair requires a lot of care with deep treatments because it's older, so you want to protect the hair and apply as much deep treatment as you possibly can," Branch says.
Timing: At least 10 minutes.
Amount: Again, it depends on the length and density of your textured tress.
"You want to have enough coverage," Branch says. For shoulder-length curlies, a golf-ball size amount of treatment should be enough, and simply add more for longer lengths.
Application: Start a quarter-inch from the scalp and work your way down. Always use wide-toothed comb only on wet hair or your fingers.
"If you can sleep with the treatment, and rinse it out in the morning, even better," Anna-Lee says.
Tight Coils and Kinks (Curl Type: 4s)
Ingredients: "This curl type is very kinky so you definitely want shea butter, which is a very rich emollient," Branch says. "It allows the hair to be slippery, easily detangled and helps the strands align with one another, so there's an elimination of frizz."
Cetyl alcohol, which is a natural fatty alcohol (not the drying kind that often comes to mind), is also recommended as an emollient and lubricant to the hair shaft. "Cetyl alcohol gives the hair a lot of slippage, which is going to create smoothness on the surface of the hair," Branch adds.
How often: At least once or twice a week. "No deep conditioning is too much for Type 4," Branch explains.
Timing: 20 minutes. For an even deeper treatment, use a heating cap or apply the product while in the shower; the steam will make it more effective.
Amount: For every four inches, add at least a quarter-size amount of treatment. "Type 4 tends to be the most dense curl type and you want to use enough product to get good coverage," Branch says. "There's more strands per square inch on a tighter, kinkier coil then there is on a Botticelli type of curl."
Application: Again, avoid the scalp and start a quarter-inch from the roots, working your way down. Make sure the treatment is applied evenly throughout and remember to concentrate your effort on the ends — especially important for Type 4 curls, which are the kinkiest and driest of textures.
"With kinkier hair, don't rinse the treatment completely out, either," Branch adds. "Leave in about one-tenth of the treatment to protect and coat the hair."
Finally, always finish with a cool rinse to seal the hair shaft, lock the moisture in and show off a smooth, shinier — and healthier — curl.