How to protect your naturally curly hair
Because of all of the above, lather-rinse-repeat is for the rest of them. For girls with naturally curly hair, the hair care regimen is completely different. Here are smart hair care tips for all kinds of natural curls.
Don't shampoo daily
Curly hair doesn’t need to be shampooed as frequently as straight hair. Frequent shampooing can stretch and stress out fragile strands, and dry out thirsty curls. However, conditioner is your friend. Welcome that friend into the shower with you frequently, applying conditioner even if you don’t shampoo your hair.
Choose products wisely
Think of your curly hair as fine cashmere. You wouldn’t wash your cashmere sweater with a harsh detergent, and you shouldn’t cleanse your curls with a harsh shampoo. Use a mild shampoo or a low-lather cleansing conditioner that will refresh your hair and scalp without stripping away too much of its natural moisture and oils. Many curly girls even go a step further and dilute their shampoos or cleansing conditioners with distilled water.
Turn down the heat
Yes, a cold water shampoo and/or rinse doesn’t make for the most luxurious hair washing experience. But cold water will snap those cuticles shut, which in turn will lock in moisture, make your hair shinier and reduce frizz.
Blow dryers, flat irons, curling irons—all of these thermal tools lead to breakage. If you’re a hot tool addict, try to wean yourself off of the heat. Opt for air drying on the weekends or at night. Set your hair in twists or on foam rollers and let it dry naturally.
When you do use tools, invest in the highest quality you can afford. Look for tools containing ionic properties, made with tourmaline or ceramic. Always apply a heat protection product prior to styling.
If you must style with heat, consider switching to a diffuser. It minimizes frizz by evenly distributing heat, and it’s much gentler than direct heat from a blow dryer. To diffuse, start at the roots using circular motions, moving in the same direction. Continue drying, keeping the dryer at a 90-degree angle to your scalp. Finally diffuse the ends. Finally, when your hair is just about dry, hit the cool button on your dryer to lock in shine.
Pile on the conditioner
With curly hair, it’s always a delicate balance between moisture and protein. Too much of the first and your hair could become limp and mushy. Too much of the latter, and it may become too stiff and brittle. Always monitor the condition of your hair and adjust your conditioner as needed. Factors like the time of year (humidity in the summer vs. dry winter air), or your body’s own cycles can change up your moisture/protein balance and require a switch in the shower.
As with your shampoo and pre-shampoo formulas, work this formula into your hair in sections to be sure it’s applied thoroughly. Avoid the scalp—that’s not where you typically need moisture. Use a wide tooth comb to distribute the conditioner evenly. Then let the conditioner go to work. Place your hair under a plastic cap or hood dryer for 10 minutes, or cover it with a towel for 20 minutes and let your body heat do the work.
If you’re using a moisturizing conditioner, and your hair has absorbed most of it, you may not want or need to rinse. But if you’re using a protein conditioner, rinsing is essential. These formulas could cause your hair to become brittle and lead to breakage if left in the hair. In these cases, if you feel you need more moisture, opt for applying a leave-in conditioner after rinsing out the protein conditioner and before styling your hair.