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Hair Care for Curly Hair

There was time when hair care for curly hair meant figuring out how to straighten and hide curls. Those days are over. With everyone from to Macy Gray to Minnie Driver rocking their natural assets, there are ample looks from which to choose. Leave those relaxers and straightening rods behind, and try some of the new approaches to caring for curly hair.


Before you begin caring for your curls, determine your curly hair type, because each type of curly hair demands a different approach. Andre Walker, a stylist and writer, created a template that helps people classify their curls. One type is wavy hair, which can be cut and styled similarly to straight hair. The next type is loose curly hair, as seen on Julia Roberts. This type absorbs lotion-style conditioners and looks great medium long to long. The last type are corkscrew and kinky curls, as seen on Macy Gray. This type of hair is surprisingly fragile.


One of the key ways to prevent frizzy hair and get bouncing gorgeous curls is to break your shampoo habit. Curly hair stylists Lorraine Massey and Deborah Chiel pioneered this approach, as outlined in their book, “A Celebration of Curls: How to cut them, care for them, love them and set them free.” In essence, most curly girls can leave the drying, destructive forces of shampoo behind. Instead, scrub the scalp with a dab of light conditioner or use Massey’s No Poo shampoo replacement product.


For far too long, stylists have attacked a head of curls with a thinning razor, which destroys curly hair, or with a layered cut, which works only for wavy hair. People with naturally curly hair need to find a stylist who understands the properties of curly hair or learn to cut it themselves. Most experienced stylists cut curly hair dry, because cutting it wet leads to unpredictable levels of shrinkage. They emphasize a curl’s bounce by trimming each individual curl at the sweet spot, right where the curl begins to crest.


No curly hair care regime is complete without assembling a line of hair care products. Many curly girls go for the curl cocktail, blending a leave-in conditioner or cream with gel and a finishing spray. Others swear by a certain product or line of products. This part of the hair care routine begins with wetting curly hair. Before you do anything else, squeeze out the water thoroughly. This helps your leave-in product be more effective in carving out individual curls. The next step is using your fingers to comb leave-in conditioner through your curls. People with wavy hair or very loose curls can use a lotion-style conditioner but, for people with thicker hair and bigger curls, it’s a waste of time. Go straight to the puddings and muds. Use duck bill clips to pin up the top layer of curls so that the underlying layers have a chance to curl up as well.

Expert Insight

With people letting their curly locks go natural, there are many hair care and styling products from which to choose. The stylists and curly-tops at Naturally Curly (see Resources) share their observations about what works for particular hair types. Women with thick curls recommend Hot Buttered Curls, Ouidad Deep Treatment for Frizzy Hair, Blended Beauty Happy Nappy Styles, Curl Junkie Curl Rehab Moisturizing Treatment, Long Lovely Lock Coco Light, MopTop Herbal Pomade and Mixed Chicks Leave-in Conditioner.

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