12 Seriously helpful curly hair tips!
Curly hair is amazing and we love it but we know that it needs extra care!
Curls involve experimentation and finding your perfect curly routine can be a journey.
We’ve rounded up some of the top curly hair tips for looking after your curls and for styling them so that they always look their best!
Get Creative With Towels
The days of giving hair a good rub with a proper towel are on the way out!
Terry towels are for the body and our curls need something gentler. Normal towels are rough and coarse and can roughen up the hair’s cuticle as we dry. This in turn can lead to broken hair.
There are 2 ways forward..microfibre towels or a good old t-shirt.
Micro-fibre towels are best for absorbing water. They are gentler than a regular towel and will still absorb moisture from your hair to reduce drying time.
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T-shirts are best for retaining curl shapes and clumps. They will still remove some water and are extremely gentle due to their soft texture. They are great for ‘plopping’. Gently guiding your hair onto a t-shirt and then folding it over and letting your hair sit on top of your head while it starts to dry.
Tip Summary: Dry using soft fabrics such as t-shirts or microfibre towels
One of the curly hair tips you will hear most frequently but one of the most important! Curly hair is dry by nature. Sebum does not travel as easily from the roots to the ends of the hair when it is curly and this leads to dryness. The drier the hair, the more likely it is to be brittle and break.
We need to preserve the hair’s natural oils and sulphates in shampoo will remove them as we wash.
Sulphates are a form of detergent added to shampoos to make them effective cleansers, but shampoos can cleanse without sulphates. Sulphate-free shampoos will still clean your hair without removing the moisture from your hair’s natural oils.
Low-poo or co-washes are another way of cleansing your hair.
These are conditioning cleansers which are gentle, but continuous use can lead to greasy roots on finer curly hair.
If you are going to try them it is best to work out how your hair responds – thicker, drier curly hair will most likely be able to handle regular co-washing, whereas they can be good for occasional use on finer curly hair types.
There is such a thing as over-moisturising – it will weigh hair down.
Read my post on the 10 best curly girl method-approved shampoos available in the UK
It is worth noting that sulphate-free cleansers will clean your hair and scalp but they may not remove heavier products from your hair.
This is one of the reasons why it is a good idea to avoid using silicones too. Silicones are most frequently found in styling products. They are just the kind of pesky ingredient that will build up and lead to greasy, limp, lifeless curls over time.
Tip Summary: Use a sulphate-free shampoo and avoid silicones in styling products
No more waking up to a bird’s nest! Night time is a crucial time in a curly hair routine.
Getting this right will mean that your curls will last for days and still look great. It’s curl preservation!
There are several curly hair tips which will help with this.
My personal favourite is a simple ‘pineapple’.
This is making a very high ponytail on top of your head. One that sits really far forwards, as close to your hairline as is comfortable.
Don’t use a hair elastic, we need something gentle that won’t leave a line when we come to remove it in the morning and won’t risk breaking our hair as we move around at night.
Silk/ satin scrunchies are perfect for this.
These are gentle fabrics and will hold your hair without snags or the risk of breakage. Remove them carefully to ensure they don’t pull on any curls.
If you prefer to give your hair its freedom at night then you might prefer a silk bonnet or a silk/satin pillowcase.
Both of these will protect your hair as you sleep, keeping your curls in tact and preventing any damage or moisture loss.
Tip Summary: Protect curls and limit damage while you sleep with silk or satin
Check What’s Inside
Checking the ingredients of hair products before you buy them is one of the best curly hair tips to ensure that you are caring for your curls in the best possible way.
First, check the first 5 ingredients listed.
These will make up the bulk of the product. If a product advertises argan oil as an active ingredient but doesn’t list it in the first 5, it may be providing fewer benefits than you hoped.
Look out for certain ingredients that can have a negative impact on curls.
We have mentioned sulphates and silicones. Most brands will now state if their products are sulphate or silicone-free on the bottle.
There are also drying alcohols to be aware of. These decrease drying time but they also remove too much moisture from your hair.
Read my post on alcohols in hair products – what you should know
Even if you are not strictly following the Curly Girl Method, a site like ‘Is It CG?’ can be really helpful.
Copy and paste the ingredients list in and it will flag up any potential nasties. We can make informed decisions with this knowledge.
Tip Summary: Have a quick look at the ingredients of a curly hair product, you never know what may be lurking
Water Is Your Friend
Water is your curls’ best friend.
It is easy to get carried away moisturising our hair with oils, butters and masks and forget that water is the ultimate moisturiser!
Our goal is to use water to hydrate and moisturise our hair and then find ways of retaining that moisture!
The term ‘squish to condish’ is all about using water. It can make a HUGE difference and is one of my favourite curly hair tips.
It is using a small amount of your usual conditioner as a leave-in when you get out of the shower.
Take a small blob and apply it to your hair in a squishing motion moving the curls upwards towards your scalp. The conditioner is creating a seal over the water, ‘trapping’ it in your hair.
Tip Summary: ‘Trap’ water in your hair for the ultimate moisturising routine
If you haven’t tried styling your curly hair with gel yet then this is going to change everything!
It can be a difficult switch to make because gel has such connotations with crispy, crunchy hair and we want out curls to be soft and bouncy. They will be.
You just have to trust the gel!
This was one of the key points made by Lorraine Massey in her original Curly Girl Handbook. Gel is actually amazing for curly hair.
Gel retains curl shape and pattern as your hair dries, keeping clumps together while reducing frizz.
Apply the gel to soaking wet hair and scrunch upwards towards your scalp. You can then air dry or diffuse. As your hair begins to dry the gel will form a cast around your curl clumps, keeping them in place.
Once your hair is fully dry you remove this cast by gently scrunching it out. Gently cup curl clumps in your hands and scrunch them upwards towards your roots. You will be left with defined, soft curls. Bingo.
The cast also holds in the moisture from the water as your hair dries.
Read my post on gel – essential product or crispy mess?
Tip Summary: Gel creates defined, moisturised curls
Apply Products to Soaking Wet Hair
Whichever products you are using to style, creme, mousse, gel, spray, they should be applied to hair when it is soaking wet.
It makes for an awkward few minutes as you get out of the shower but it is worth it! Don’t be tempted to remove any of the water from your hair before you apply the products, no matter how tempting!
It is easier to encourage curls when they are wet and still malleable.
Clumps will naturally form when it is wet and these are what we need to achieve defined curls. Styling on wet hair means that we are capturing our curls at this early stage and ensuring that they dry just the way we like.
As soon as hair starts to dry without products it will lose a bit of its definition and, even worse, frizz will start to form!
Apply products and then use a t-shirt or microfibre towel to gently blot your hair or ‘plop’. You won’t remove the products by doing this and if you feel like you need to add more, you can.
Tip Summary: Capture curls in their best state by starting the styling process on soaking wet hair
Moisturise, Moisturise, Moisturise
Back to moisturising! In addition to using water to moisturise and styling products to hold water in, curls love deep conditioning. There are 2 main ways – pre-poo and masks.
Pre-poo (pre-shampoo) means adding a product onto dry hair before you shampoo and then shampooing it out and conditioning as usual. This will usually be an oil.
This is an intense way of conditioning because not all of the oil will be removed by your shampoo so you don’t want to overdo it.
I do this treatment once a month, and use argan oil which is a lighter penetrating oil. Other oils you could use are extra virgin olive oil, avocado, coconut oil.
Secondly you can use a mask to deep condition. Apply the mask onto wet hair once you have shampooed and leave it – the recommended time is usually around 30 minutes.
Gentle heat can be applied during this time with a hairdryer to help it penetrate the hair. Then rinse well. Deep conditioning with a mask should be done every 1-2 weeks on curly hair to keep it healthy.
Read my post – 7 easy ways to moisturise your hair
Tip Summary: Use a pre-shampoo treatment or mask regularly
Learn About Frizz
Frizz is notorious for ruining a good hair day but it simply means hair that doesn’t sit in line with the surrounding hair. This can be due to a variety of factors including genetics, the weather and damage.
Genetics is a tricky one to overcome but the other two we can combat.
The moisture from humid air causes hair strands to swell and this moves them away from their curl clumps leading to frizz. Keeping hair healthy and moisturised will help in the battle with frizz. If hair is moisturised it is less likely to take in additional moisture from the air.
Weak, broken hair is also likely to sit away from the rest of our hair. Hair can be weak or broken due to heat damage, bleaching, friction, dehydration or too much brushing. Minimising these factors will help reduce frizz.
Many anti-frizz products contain silicones, these will reduce frizz by weighing hair down. Try to avoid these and go for moisturising silicone-free products that won’t sit on the surface of your hair.
Read my post – what is frizzy hair? Help!
Tip Summary: Combat frizz with by moisturising with silicone-free products
We are all about the clumps here.
Beautiful curls form by drying in clumps. These can be left as they are or broken up gently once hair is 100% dry.
We need to be really careful not to disturb these clumps as they dry. It is so tempting to touch our hair and move it around but they key is to get your hair into position before it starts to dry.
I like to find a good parting and apply the products on soaking hair and then scrunch, scrunch, scrunch while it is still wet.
This encourages the curls. Then, I leave well alone!
I may gently diffuse, but I won’t touch my hair again until it is completely dry. Then I will gently zhuzh the roots and scrunch out the crunch from the gel.
Tip Summary: Scrunch products in while wet and then don’t touch!
Learn To Love Low Heat Diffusing
There are 2 camps – camp air-dry and camp diffuse.
Each has its own benefits. Air-drying is great for the condition of your hair because it minimises damage. Diffusing will add more volume and usually more curl definition.
I like to diffuse for about 5 minutes while my hair is still wet and then let the rest air dry. Some people prefer to diffuse to 100% dry. A lot of it has to do with how much time you have available because we know curly hair takes a long time to dry!
If you are going to be diffusing your hair one of the best curly hair tips is to use a low heat.
It is tempting to up it a notch to dry your hair faster, but the damage to your hair in the long run will be much greater.
Curly hair is more prone to damage than straight hair due to the cross sectional points – the place where hair bends to make it curly. These points are weaker and can break when exposed to too much heat.
The best thing we can do is diffuse on the lowest heat. I have even seen people diffuse on the ‘cold’ setting! It will take longer, but our hair will remain in better condition as a result.
Read my post – is heat bad for curls? What every curly girl should know
Tip Summary: Limit heat damage by diffusing on a low temperature
Don’t Be Afraid To Cheat Occasionally
Sometimes we can do everything right..follow all the curly hair tips above and yet..a curl doesn’t behave. It just doesn’t form properly. I say there is nothing wrong with helping it out.
I’m not talking about reaching for a curling wand but tackling it with clips or even a roller.
We put a lot of effort into our hair..I think we can allow ourselves a little guilt-free cheating.
I have these clips in mind
First spray the curl clump with water or a refresh spray. Then roll the curl clump, following the direction of the curl into a small circle and clip it into place at the root.
Then leave to air-dry or diffuse.
Remove the clip carefully and unroll the curl. Nobody needs to know!
I actually have a set of perm rollers that I occasionally use just for this purpose!
Tip Summary: Use clips to help curls that won’t behave!
Read my post on using perm rollers to style curly hair!