Caring for and keeping curly hair healthy requires some discipline, especially if you want to avoid snags and knots. And while we’ve all run into those issues—it’s difficult to find someone with curls, from types A to C, who hasn’t struggled to tame her locks before work or an event—it is absolutely possible to have more good hair days than bad. Start by breaking a few habits that hurt more than they help.
Discover 7 expert tips to avoid doing to your curls, as well as how to care for them
When refreshing your curls, don’t use too much water
Because curls crave moisture, it may seem logical to use as much water as possible when refreshing them between washes, but this is actually the wrong approach, says Justi Embree, a celebrity hairstylist and owner of Embree Theory Hair. Ultimately, your curls want to retain moisture, and their ability to do so is determined by two factors: porosity and hair condition.
As a result, less is more: Over-watering coils can result in a variety of issues, including dry, brittle strands and lifeless, dull tangles. To maintain or refresh the integrity of your curls, be sure to have a few water-free products on hand—and never skip the conditioning process, which helps you retain moisture for longer (no refresh needed). Celebrity curl expert and Curl Queen founder Nai’vasha adds that nourishing your coils will help them look their best.
Never forget to protect your curls at night
A nightly routine that doesn’t include covering your hair before your sleep might lead to frizzy coils. Regardless of your hair type, most experts recommend protecting your strands while sleeping—and this is especially true for those with curly or coily hair.
“This is where your hair routine’s discipline comes into play,” notes Embree, adding that styling your curls will be much easier if you wake up with a solid starting point.
As for what happens if you don’t cover your hair? Fibres in your pillowcase’s fabrics press up against your curls and disrupt them; protecting your hair with a satin-lined head covering, on the other hand, will leave your hair soft and manageable for the day ahead. “You’ll notice an immediate difference by the morning,” affirms Embree.
Avoid hooded dryers at salons
As a general rule, Nai’vasha advises against over-exposing your curls to hot tools, including the blow dryer, as this can cause irreversible damage. And if you’re at the salon? Avoid hooded heaters at all costs. “To set your curls, stay away from hooded dryers,” she explains.
When it comes to styling textured hair overall, Embree affirms that the dryer is not your friend. “Hooded dryers are designed to evaporate moisture and are therefore ineffective for styling moisture-loving hair. Allow your hair to air dry naturally so that it can retain just the right amount of moisture,” she adds.
Don’t over-exfoliate your scalp—or under-wash your hair
In Embree’s experience, most hair textures require a clarifying shampoo, which exfoliates the scalp and removes build-up, once a month. Any more than that, she warns, will deplete your strands of the nourishing sebaceous oil produced by your scalp. “Your hair will most likely turn into a dried-out disaster if you deprive it of moisture,” she says.
The opposite is also true: Under-washing isn’t the answer, either. Nai’vasha advises against co-washing—which means skipping shampoo and using a cleansing conditioner, instead—your hair excessively. “At least once a week, your hair should be thoroughly cleansed,” she says.
Avoid brushing your hair when it is dry
Curly hair has a tendency to be deficient in natural oil at the tips, namely because the oil originates from the roots; getting it to your ends can be a challenge. According to Embree, those with a loose wave patterns may be able to brush that nourishing oil through after your hair has dried—but the rest of the curly-haired community should avoid doing so at all costs.
Brushing curls, wet or dry, can be tricky, but “things happen,” notes Embree. “If you need to brush your hair while it’s still wet, [which is safer], mist it with water from an aerosol spray bottle to loosen any tangled hairs.” Be sure to use a detangling brush suited for your hair type when brushing—and avoid going to bed while curls are still damp (doing so could result in major tangles).
Keep your hands off your curls—and don’t style them until they are dry
Curls look amazing when they’re wet, and Embree advises not to touch them as they dry. Back-combing and teasing curly hair is a bad idea, according to Nai’vasha, because it makes curly hair look frizzy. “The more you touch your curls, the more frizzy they become, the wider they grow, and the less defined they will be,” she says.
As a result, Embree suggests waiting until your hair is completely dry before styling it: “After they’ve dried, gently separate the curls or coils.”
Don’t skip haircuts
Your hair behaves similarly to a growing plant: If you don’t trim it, you’ll probably end up with breakage and a lack of growth. Embree emphasises the importance of checking in with your favourite hairstylist for regular trims so you can maintain consistent growth and perform damage control if needed.
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