We’ve learned a lot about curly hair over the past twenty years. From products, to tools, to techniques with odd-sounding names like plopping, there are countless hacks that we use in our individual regimens. Below are the very best of them, cultivated from our Naturally Curly community.
Build a customized routine.
The Curly Girl Method taught us a lot about caring for and respecting our hair. For some of us, ceasing the use of silicones, sulphates, parabens, drying alcohols, and heat, along with co-washing, and other mainstays of the method, introduced us to curls we never knew we had. However, some of us found that we needed to make tweaks such as continuing to use silicones and sulphates, or ditching co-washing altogether in order for our hair to be its healthy and beautiful best. No matter which rules you follow (or create) if the end result is you loving your curls then you are doing curly right.
Pay attention to ingredients.
As curlies, we have learned to do the bottle flip—i.e., completely ignore the description on the front of the bottle and flip it over to read the ingredients on the back. Besides the stuff that we may not want, like parabens, we want to look for the ingredients that make our hair thrive, for example aloe, fatty alcohols, and botanical extracts. Making a mental note of the ingredients in products that work well for your hair will help you save money and time when you want to switch up your routine and try something new.
Give your hair the right amount of moisture.
Moisture is critical for every curl type, porosity, and density. Too little moisture, and your hair will become dry and frizzy, and will be difficult to detangle and style. Too much, and you can run into issues withhygral fatigue. Finding the right amount can leave you with hydrated, healthy curls with lots of spring and bounce.
Maintain the correct moisture-to-protein balance.
While not everyone needs extra protein in their products, especially if they are prone to protein overload, for some, a little protein in products can provide structure and support to curls. It can also help to make hair stronger and eliminate that spongey-frizz that hygral fatigue can cause. For more on this topic, click here.
Be aware of the variables that can impact your hair.
Every head of curly hair is unique, and what works for one curly can be totally different from someone else with a similar curl pattern, porosity, and/or density. There are many variables that impact our hair, from the climate we live in, the change of seasons, to hormones, to even haircuts, so respecting your hair’s evolving needs is key to keeping it in great shape.
Clarifying hair is critical for a healthy scalp and head of hair. It removes dirt, debris, dead skin cells and product buildup that can clog scalp pores and impede hair growth. It also thoroughly cleanses the hair leaving it bouncier and fuller. Click here for clarifying shampoos that work great for curly hair.
Detangle with care.
There was a time in the not-too-distant past that detangling was done on dry hair with a brush which led to breakage and frizz. We now know that detangling is best done on thoroughly saturated hair with products that have plenty of slip. Fingers, wide-toothed combs, and tangle-teasers can be used to help get out the knots and tangles.
Use enough product.
Curly hair needs product to help keep it moisturized, to encourage curl formation, and to create a cast which will lock curls into form. How much is enough can be variable, but as a general rule of thumb, your hair should make that squishing sound when you scrunch it.
Seal in moisture.
Once you have applied moisturizing products to your hair, it is important to trap moisture so that curls stay hydrated. There are many ways to do this, including the LOC Method and the 1-2-3 Gel Method.
On wash days, remove excess water after you have applied products.
After you have applied products onto your saturated hair, it is important to remove any excess. For curlies with looser textures, this may mean using a microfiber towel or tee-shirt, and then scrunching. Curlies with tighter textures may find that shaking out their curls gets rid of just the right amount of water while still leaving their curls hydrated.
Encourage curl definition.
You encourage curls to help them to find their correct shape. There are many ways to do this which include: finger coiling, scrunching (which also locks in moisture), the Rake and Shake Method, and shingling.
Don’t let your roots fall flat.
The weight of water in the hair can drag down the roots causing them to be flat. There are many ways to avoid this, including using a microfiber towel, using duckbill clips, jaw clips, and plopping.
Diffuse with care.
Diffusing hair can be a great way to create springy curls and to get excess volume. However, it is a delicate operation. Gently and carefully pushing up a few curls at a time from their ends to the scalp is the best way to do this. Time, care, and patience are necessary.
Scrunch out the crunch.
Once a cast has formed around those gorgeous curls, you need to scrunch out the crunch in order to keep your hair from looking crispy. I like to do this by flipping my head over and starting at the back.
Use a pick.
A pick is an excellent tool for getting volume without losing definition or causing breakage. You can use it to help break up a cast (just pick out the roots only), or to fluff up your hair when it has fallen flat.
Avoid heat styling.
Heat styling tools such as blow-dryers, flat irons, and barrel irons can permanently wreck your curl pattern as well as causing permanent damage and breakage. While using a tiny bit of heat is usually okay, for example, a hair dryer set to ‘Medium’ with a diffuser every so often (depending on the health of the hair), for the most part, avoiding heat can help you get the healthy, shiny, bouncy curls that you crave.
Get serious about deep conditioning.
Using deep conditioning treatments at regular intervals can help your hair to thrive. With them, you will see an improvement in hair’s elasticity, strength, and growth rates. Hair will also be less brittle and prone to breakage at the ends.
Get regular trims at a salon.
No matter how skilled you are with the scissors, your hair still needs help from a trained stylist to keep those dry ends at bay, especially in the back. Without regular trims, split ends will progress up the hair shaft causing you to lose length. More so, dry ends will drag down your hair, and make it difficult to work with. Snipping them off periodically will keep your curls in good shape.
Choose haircuts that suit your style and your hair type.
Curly hair is so versatile, and is beautiful at any length, and in a variety of styles. While you do need to find stylists with the proper training to cut and care for curly hair, you usually do not need to go to the most expensive salon in your city to get a great cut. You also do not need to stick to a particular style, technique, or length. The best cut for you is the one that works with your style, curl type, and lifestyle.
Change up your routine as needed.
Even if you have the perfect routine for your hair, you will need to adjust it periodically due to the weather, the length of your hair, hormonal factors, moving or travelling to a different climate, and other variables. This does not mean that you will need to abandon your current routine entirely, but you may just need to add a bit more moisture in the form of, for example, a richer leave-in conditioner, or clarify a tad more frequently.
What are your favorite curly hair hacks? Let us know in the comments. Click here for tips that are specific to winter weather.