How To Maintain Curly Hair

Above the shoulders curly hair and buttoned silk blouse
Image: AI illustration
Care and Maintenance of Curly Hair
I’m often stopped and asked by women (and men) who have very curly hair how they can better care for their hair. The most common complaint is about the lack of manageability in many curly hair types. The hair is unruly, prone to frizz and tangles, and generally seems intent on doing only what it wants.
Usually, after discussion, it turns out that many of the styling techniques used are only adding to the problem. It’s in these areas that my advice can be most helpful.
Let's take a look at some tips on caring for curly hair. We'll start with the basics, then move on to specific problems and some solutions, all while including professional tips to deal with curly hair.
Basic Care:
We’ve said before that the hair needs only to be shampooed when it becomes soiled, but that it should be conditioned every day. We’ve also explained that most rinse-through conditioners are alkaline enough to remove the minor amounts of soil from most people’s daily routines. Curly hair especially can benefit from a cleansing-conditioner routine, since it helps to maintain high levels of moisture and emollients in the hair to improve manageability, tame frizz, and give shine.
Luckily, modern advances in hair care offer us special formulations of shampoo and conditioner specifically for curly hair to help create smooth, controlled curls. Many of these contain additives and ingredients that help smooth the cuticle layer to seal in moisture and offer definition to the curls.
Short curly hair with visible earlobes
Image: AI illustration
Yet the treatment of the hair after shampooing or conditioning is just as important when dealing with curly hair. The process of drying the hair should never include "rubbing or buffeting" the head with a towel, especially not when dealing with curly hair. The hair should be carefully wrapped in the folds of a clean, dry towel and gently squeezed to absorb the moisture.
With shorter lengths, press the hair against the scalp or squeeze it with your fingers through the towel. Once the majority of the water has been wicked away, use a second clean, dry towel to wrap the head in turban fashion and let the hair continue to be wicked of moisture while you do other things in your routine.
Professional Tip: One trick many stylists use when dealing with curly hair is to dry the hair using paper towels. These disposable towels are highly absorbent and perfect for removing excess moisture without roughing up the hairs and leaving frizz. As an added bonus, the paper towel is perfect for targeted removal of moisture - from the scalp area, or from the ends - anywhere that is needed.
Styling Care
Curly hair is generally styled in limited ways. Unless it is physically reconfigured by methods such as braiding, or held in ponytails or clips, styling curly hair is usually a matter of making use of the natural wave. This generally means blow-drying the hair with a diffuser and trying to avoid creating a poof.
Blow drying curly hair with a diffuser attachment
Image: Diego Cerro Jimenez/Canva
Yet any time you plan to use heat styling tools (and a blow dryer IS a heat styling tool) on curly hair, you want to make sure to use a protective product to help prevent damage to the hair. This may be a leave-in conditioner, an anti-frizz serum, or maybe a protective balm, whichever you prefer.
Follow this by making sure to use the proper settings for the dryer with diffuser attached: low heat and high air flow. The goal is to allow air to circulate through the curls and evaporate the moisture, using the fingers to gently lift and scrunch the curls to help them retain their shape.
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