lady enjoying shampooing her hair at the beach

In any of my school photos from kindergarten through my senior year in high school, my clothes change and my face matures. But one thing stays the same: my big, frizzy head of hair. It fills the photo’s whole frame and makes me cringe now the way it did back then. It’s too bad really, because all I needed to love my school pics was to know how to cleanse my curls properly. With the right technique, my hair could have been clean, hydrated and beautiful. But you can learn from my mistakes! Here are some essential tips for washing curly hair.

1. Lose the lather

The biggest rule in washing curly is to ban shampoo from your bathroom and your hair. Why? Because it contains ingredients called sulfates. These detergents give shampoo its rich lather, but they also strip your hair of its natural oils. This is a huge problem for us curly girls since our hair is intrinsically drier than other types. We need to hang onto any and all oils and moisture that we can or we'll end up with parched-looking hair and frizz, frizz and more frizz. “Companies still use these detergents in shampoos because they’re cheap ingredients and because people are addicted to suds," explains Lorraine Massey, author of "Curly Girl: The Handbook." "But you don’t need them to clean your curls.” Instead, look for sulfate free cleansers like DevaCurl No-Poo.

2. Cleanse right

Don’t scrub your hair aggressively because harsher hands don’t result in cleaner hair. “Resist the impulse to start scrubbing your head the second you get in the shower because this disturbs the basic shape of your curls,” says Massey. When your curls' natural shape are disrupted, you also get some frizz. Instead, let the water cascade through your hair when you get into the shower. Then apply your sulfate-free cleanser to your fingertips and gently massage it into your scalp using firm, circular motions. “The friction of your fingertips combined with the cleanser will loosen up any dirt and product buildup, leaving your scalp and hair cleansed and deodorized,” says Massey.

3. Wash less often

Mama may have told you to wash your hair daily, but that’s another myth for us curly girls. Instead, you can get by with wetting your hair and hydrating it daily with conditioner.  I use a cleanser on my hair once or twice a week. The rest of the time I gently massage my scalp with conditioner. Once I rinse that down the drain, I condition my hair some more.

4. Stay poo-free on the road

Shampoo that is. This goes for even those times when you’re desperate. For example, recently I was staying at a really nice hotel that offered bathroom products from a top-notch brand. I had forgotten my sulfate-free cleanser, but still I didn’t dare reach for the hotel’s tiny bottle of shampoo. Instead, I just cleansed my scalp using my conditioner. (I used the top notch brand’s shampoo to hand wash my lingerie and bathing suits instead!)

Stay tuned this month for a daily dose of tips for happier, healthier curls, coils and waves!