How to Care for Curly Hair Naturally
Whether you love your curls and want to learn how to enhance them. Maybe you are yet to fall in love with your curls or just want advice on how to take care of curly hair. Whatever your reason for searching out how to care for curly hair, you’ve come to the right place. I’ve been working with curly hair for over 35 years.
In this blog, I’ll share my expert advice on how to take care of curly hair naturally. My mantra is keep it simple. You don’t need multiple curly hair products. I advocate taking a simple approach for maximum impact.
Curls come in many shapes, sizes and textures but there is one thing they all have in common; curls give hair natural body, volume and movement. Getting volume and movement in hair is the holy grail of hair styling and if you have curls I congratulate you, because you’ve got it naturally.
As you may have guessed, I love curls. However, I do understand that learning how to look after curly hair can be a challenge. So following on from my guide on treatments for dry hair, here’s my Ultimate Guide on How to Care for Curly Hair. Based on years of salon experience I share advice on how to take care of curly hair naturally.
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- How to care for Fine Curly Hair
- How to care for Thick Curly Hair
- How to Care for Coily or Afro-Textured Hair
- The Porosity of Hair
How to care for Curly Hair: What’s my Type?
Understanding how to look after curly hair starts with understanding your curl type.
Curl type is particularly important for cutting the hair. Getting the right shape and cut for your curl type is the difference between hair that looks ordinary and hair that looks wow! I think of the curl type as the personality of your hair and letting it shine through is what a good hair cut is all about.
- Wavy: Flatter near the scalp with movement and waves at the mid-lengths and ends of the hair. Waves tend to be looser and have an ‘S’ shape.
- Curly: Hair may have more ringlets and corkscrew shapes but not necessarily all the way through the hair. Curls can give hair the appearance of being thicker even if the hair is fine.
- Coils: Hair has tight, small, corkscrew curls from the scalp to the ends of the hair. This mainly describes afro-textured hair. Whilst the curls tend to be smaller in size, the hair is much denser.
How to care for Curly Hair: By Hair Type
Curl type has it’s part to play in determining how to care for curly hair but its also important to think about the texture of your hair.
So, for example, is your hair thick and coarse or fine? To keep things simple, I’ve split my advice into 3 sections; How to care for Fine Curly Hair, How to care for Thick Curly Hair and How to Care for Coily or Afro-Textured Hair.
For more in-depth reading I’ve written a section on the Porosity of Hair. This is useful as a way of understanding how your curls absorb moisture and the best techniques for building moisture. You can discover more about hair porosity below.
How to care for Fine Curly Hair
If you have fine curly hair your hair may be prone to product build-up. You may find that your hair can’t absorb a lot of product so I recommend building moisture into fine curls a little at a time.
Good hair care starts with the right shampoo and conditioner for your hair type.
Choose shampoos that add volume to your hair. Curls need hydration but it’s vital not to overload the hair when it’s fine. Fine hair is more prone to tangles so choose lightweight, detangling, conditioners. If you find your hair is very dry due to colour treatments or heated styling, you can choose a more hydrating conditioner to complement your volume-boosting shampoo.
Make sure you focus on the ends and mid-lengths and avoid the root area when applying conditioner. I recommend warming conditioners up in your palms before you apply to the hair. That will give you a better spread of product on the hair and prevent build-up in any single area. And don’t forget the importance of a deep hair conditioner to give your curls that essential moisture boost.
Use a deep conditioning hair mask once a week to define your curls and waves.
Avoid products that contain silicone as they weigh heavily on fine curly hair. They coat the hair to give it the appearance of a smooth shiny finish but they can make your hair drier over time. Your curls and waves are your secret weapon for body and volume and the last thing you want to do is leave them flat.
Look out for deep conditioning hair treatments such as Restore and Shine Hair Masque. It contains emollients; glycerin, avocado and tocopherol (vitamin E) are all great for smoothing frizz and improving curl definition. Building the moisture in your hair with a weekly hair mask will help maintain definition and make hair easier to style to boot! I recommend little and often for fine curls and waves.
When it comes to styling Fine Curly Hair…
Focus on getting body at the roots when styling fine curly or wavy hair.
Once hair is prepped with the right shampoo and conditioner, its time to put those curls and waves to work! Work with your natural curls and waves to give hair more body and movement. When drying hair with a hairdryer focus on the roots where hair may be flatter. I encourage my curly haired clients to ditch the brush and use fingers to gently lift the roots as they dry the hair.
Choose lightweight styling products for volume to give your hair some help. You can use short blasts of heat as you gently lift the roots. Turn your head upside down for extra lift and volume. The key is not to over dry the hair as this can leave it flat. Switch the hairdryer off when hair is around 80% dry and leave the hair to dry naturally.
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Use a diffuser when using a hair dryer or let your hair air dry.
If you are using a hairdryer to dry your fine curls I recommend a diffuser. A diffuser attachment on your hairdryer disperses the air and prevents the heat from roughing up the cuticle. It reduces frizz and keeps your curls intact. Alternatively, you can air dry your hair or dry your hair with the hairdryer on it’s coolest setting. If you want to know how to air dry your hair for volume, follow my Salon Know How Tips below.
Sleep on a silk or satin pillow or wear a satin bonnet to care for curly hair overnight.
Choosing a silk or satin pillow is the best way of caring for your hair overnight. They reduce the friction on hair as you move your head overnight, helping to protect against split ends. For those of us with curls and waves, they also help to retain the definition of hair. If you are frustrated with flat hair in the mornings you can also try a satin bonnet to prevent tangles and frizz.
Opt for mid-length and shorter styles to maximise volume in fine curly or wavy hair.
Mid-length and shorter styles will give fine hair more volume. However, when it comes to cutting hair the shape and balance of your curls are key. So what do I mean by shape and balance? I’m talking about how you maximise the haircut to get weight in the right places to leave hair as full and thick as possible. A haircut should be versatile enough for you to be able to change the parting or try different styling options when you style it at home.
Curly hair is one of the most challenging hair types to cut but get it right and it can look incredible. I recommend getting a consultation with your stylist to discuss what shape would best suit your and hair. Don’t just talk to your stylist about the length, ask them about where they would recommend more weight in the hair and what changes they can make to give you more movement.
How to Air Dry Fine hair and Add Volume Naturally
The Wet Stage
- Shampoo, condition and rinse hair.
- Wrap a microfibre towel around the hair to soak up excess water and remove, using it to gently squeeze out any dripping water.
- Hair should be damp, not dripping wet. Spritz the hair with a styling product for fine hair.
- Now relax and leave to dry.
The Semi-Dry Stage
- Once your hair is starting to dry you can give it another spritz of styling mist to give you more control.
- Start working with the hair using your hands. Yes, your hands! No other tools required. Use your fingers to gently lift the roots. Turn your head upside down if you want to create extra lift and volume. Alternatively, imagine you are working with a hairdryer, lifting the hair and moving your fingers in circular movements to gently ease and shape the hair.
- Hair is easy to manipulate at this stage and a styling product will give you the control you need to create volume.
The Dry Stage
- Once the hair is dry you can start to play with it a bit more. But not too much! You don’t want to lose definition.
- Lift the hair gently and use your fingers to mimic the brush and give the hair plenty of natural movement.
- If you want, you can spritz styling mist on your fingers and push into the hair.
Three stages may sound a bit onerous but at each of the steps, you don’t need to do much to get hair in shape. This is a great way of drying your hair on holiday in a hotter climate. Whilst you apply your make-up and decide what you are going to wear, your hair can be getting on with the job!
How to care for Thick Curly Hair
If you have thick curly hair you may well be the envy of your fine-haired friends. However, I’ve worked with many clients over the years who just wanted to contain their curls and waves; some would keep their hair tied back, others were attached to their straighteners.
The thing they had in common was that they’d never been taught how to work with their curls. By tackling the things they didn’t like about their hair (dryness, frizz, tangles and lack of shine) I helped them to embrace their natural hair. So if you find yourself longing for straight locks or you feel that your hair is out of control, I can help. Put down your straighteners, follow my 6 steps to frizz-free, shiny curls.
Six Steps to Frizz-Free, Shiny Curls
1 Choose a hydrating shampoo and conditioner to moisturise thick wavy or curly hair.
2 Use a deep conditioning hair mask once a week to give your curls a moisture boost.
It’s worth taking some time to think about the structure of curly hair. Each strand of hair has a cuticle made of keratin and is wrapped around the cortex. The cuticle sits on the cortex protecting it like tiles protecting a roof.
The cuticle, a protective layer, naturally breaks and lifts over time. It can be lifted by sunlight and oxygen but also colour-treatments or heated styling.
The cortex is protein and holds water at the centre of the follicle. If the protective cuticles lift the cortex loses moisture. Because curly hair has an uneven shape, its more fragile and the cuticle is more prone to lifting. This leaves curly and wavy hair prone to dehydration. It needs more moisture than other hair types.
Whether your concern is frizz, dryness, tangles, lack of shine, lack of curl definition, getting into a good routine of a weekly hair mask treatments will improve the texture and performance of your curls.
3 Reduce or avoid heat when drying curly hair.
Heat leaves hair feeling parched. I understand that its not always possible to air dry your hair but, if you are using a hairdryer, try to use a diffuser which helps with curl definition and creates less frizz. Always use the hairdryer on a cooler setting and look at options such as partially drying your hair with the hairdryer and then leaving to air dry. I recommend experimenting and seeing what works best for your hair.
4 Use a microfibre towel for curly hair.
If you’ve yet to discover the microfibre towel, you are in for a treat. It’s gentle on the hair and doesn’t rough up the cuticle like a standard towel. Remember, when you are drying your hair with a towel, be gentle. Your hair is like a delicate fabric and its at it most fragile when wet so use the towel to gently squeeze out the excess water to prep for styling. Hair that’s prepped for styling should be damp not soaking wet.
5 Sleep on a silk or satin pillow or wear a satin bonnet to care for curly hair overnight
A silk or satin pillow is a great way of protecting the cuticle. Cotton pillows tend to rough up the cuticle and by avoiding this you can prevent tangles and breakage.
6 Find the right stylist for you and your hair.
Cutting curly hair is a labour of love. With its kinks and waves, it can have many challenges. Find a stylist who loves curls and understands not only how to work with them but how to get the best from them. Getting the right shape for curly hair is essential for getting the right movement and body in the hair. I recommend a consultation with your stylist before you go for the chop.
How to Style Curly Hair Naturally
Often, the job of curly hair products is to constrain the hair, layering on heavy ingredients that flatten and smooth, rather than encourage the bounce and body that comes naturally with curls.
I take a different approach.
I believe that the way to combat frizz is to hydrate the hair from within. Think about it in terms of giving your hair a drink of water. Except, the water, in this case, is pro-vitamin B5. Pro-vitamin B5 is one of the few ingredients that can penetrate the hair cuticle with moisture. It helps the hair retain moisture and, by penetrating the cuticle, helps the other moisturising ingredients to do their job.
This level of deep moisture is the foundation for curly hair. Get this right and there’s no need to spend time layering on multiple products.
4 Tips to Add Moisture to Curly Hair Naturally
1 Get the right foundation with a hydrating shampoo.
Start with a hydrating shampoo. Often an ingredient used primarily for conditioners, my shampoos are formulated with a generous amount of pro-vitamin B5. Why? Because it’s vital to add moisture to the hair when you cleanse. Adding moisture at this stage when the hair is wet helps to kick-start the process of frizz-free curls.
2 Leave your conditioner on for longer and let your hair soak up those ingredients.
Choose a hydrating conditioner. Squeeze the excess water out of your hair before you apply conditioner. I recommend leaving the conditioner on hair for at least a couple of minutes if you can. Plenty of time for your hair to soak up all those nourishing ingredients. If you feel like your hair just eats up conditioner, it’s probably dry. Build a regular routine of cleansing and conditioning and you should find your hair builds moisture and needs less product over time.
3 Avoid silicones that leave the hair dry.
If you use a drying styling product with synthetic ingredients, such as silicone, it will leave your hair feeling dry. If you use heavy oils your hair can become oily at the roots, attracting dirt and start to look dull very quickly.
I recommend a very simple approach. Instead of applying styling products immediately after you have washed your hair, use some conditioner. When your hair is damp but not dripping wet, apply a small amount of Hydrate and Shine Conditioner through the ends and mid-lengths of your hair. Twist your hair and leave to dry naturally. This will give your hair some time to soak up the hydrating ingredients before styling. Work with it the same way you would work with a curl cream.
4 Define Curls with natural styling products.
When your hair is semi-dry, spritz with Styling Mist for Natural Hold and Glossy Finish. Another multi-tasking product, this lightweight mist is a lightweight conditioner and will give your hair definition and hold the curls. Style your hair with a hair dryer on a cool setting, applying short blasts of heat in areas where you want to create more volume. Once completely dry, shake your head and let those curls loose! No constraints, no more smoothing, just beautiful curls with body.
How to care for Coily or Afro-Textured Hair
Afro-textured hair is the most common coily hair type. Because of the structure afro-textured, coily curls are the most fragile. They can be prone to breakage and tangling. The way to prevent breakage and tangling is to keep hair hydrated. Coily hair is often, but not always, dense which makes it prone to losing moisture. This curly hair type is thirsty and building a regular routine of deep conditioning is the answer to achieving beautiful natural coily hair.
Take care of afro-textured hair with a hydrating shampoo and conditioner
If you are keeping your afro-textured hair natural, I recommend washing hair once a week. Choosing a gentle, moisturising shampoo and conditioner is your priority. Look out for ingredients such as Glycerin and Panthenol (pro-vitamin B5) in both shampoos and conditioners.
You want to get as much moisture into your hair as possible to help with detangling and to prevent breakage. Pro-vitamin is one of the few ingredients that can penetrate the cuticle to get moisture right to the core of the hair. Plus it’s a great ingredient for moisturising the scalp. Glycerin helps to prevent moisture loss in hair by smoothing and sealing the cuticle.
Take care when detangling coily hair.
Your hair is at its most fragile after washing. Treat it like a delicate fabric. A microfibre towel is a great investment for drying the hair without roughing up the cuticle. Wrap your hair in a towel for a few minutes and then gently squeeze the hair with the towel to soak up any excess water. Your hair should be damp but not dripping wet. You can detangle hair at this stage but be careful not to pull at the roots.
- Use products that can help you detangle the hair. Restore and Shine Hair Masque is the best for detangling. With emollients such as glycerin, avocado oil and tocopherol (vitamin E) you can feed it into the ends of your hair to detangle and soften.
- Take sections of hair and gently hold them at the mid-lengths so that you don’t put any tension on the roots.
- Use a wide tooth comb or afro comb to tease out any tangles at the ends of the hair.
- For extra moisture, use a spritz of Styling Mist for Natural Hold and Glossy Finish. It contains Sugar Beet which helps the hair retain extra moisture. 2 to 3 spritzes is enough and style as normal.
Treat your coily, afro-textured hair to moisture every day.
Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate your hair every day. I recommend feeding hair with a little of our Restore and Shine Hair Masque in the evenings before bed. You can do this on dry hair. Take a small amount of hair mask, mix with a little water, work up in your hands and feed into your hair like a curl cream. Be careful not to overload the hair. How much product your hair can take depends on your hair’s porosity. You can find out more about hair porosity and how to test your own hair below.
Avoid heat when drying coily, afro-textured hair.
Heat exacerbates dryness and I recommend letting your hair air dry. It may take time but it’s much less damaging for the hair and will help to promote good condition. Washing your hair in warm, not hot, water will help to maintain condition. Gently squeezing as much excess water out of your hair with a microfibre towel will help to speed up drying time.
Sleep on a silk or satin pillow or wear a satin bonnet to care for curly hair overnight.
Choosing a silk or satin pillow is the best way of caring for afro-textured hair overnight. They reduce the friction as you move your head overnight, helping to protect against split ends. They also help to retain the curl definition of hair and prevent breakage and tangles. If you are frustrated with flat hair in the mornings you can also try a satin bonnet. This is particularly good if you are using a hair treatment to hydrate your hair overnight. The bonnet will stop the product from marking your pillowcase.
Wrapping hair in a stylish scarf will help protect your hair from drying out.
This is more than just a style statement. Environmental factors play their part in drying out hair; sun, wind, pollution, air conditioning and central heating can all have an impact. If you want to give your hair a break from styling, a scarf is a great option to save time and protect your hair from the elements.
How to care for Curly Hair: Find out how to Hydrate your Curls by testing the Porosity.
Porosity is important as it helps you to understand how your hair absorbs moisture. Curly hair tends to be more porous but that’s not always the case. Some things such as chemical treatments can damage the hair and affect the porosity, making it more porous. It’s worth checking your porosity as it makes a difference in how you care for curls.
You can categorise hair into 3 types of porosity.
- Low Porosity: Hair doesn’t absorb moisture well and you may find that product easily builds up on your hair.
- Normal Porosity: Easily absorbs and retains moisture. It requires little maintenance.
- High Porosity: This hair is thirsty! It easily absorbs moisture but it always wants more and can become frizzy.
Your stylist will be able to tell which category your hair falls into. There’s also a test you can do at home. We call it the Hair Hydration Test.
- Simply take a strand of hair, from your comb or hairbrush and pop it into a glass of water.
- Leave it for a couple of minutes and see what happens.
- Hair that floats has low porosity.
- If it sinks slowly it has normal porosity.
- If hair sinks quickly it has high porosity.
In a humid environment, porous hair will soak up the moisture in the atmosphere and become frizzy. Using a weekly hair mask treatment will help the hair retain moisture and seal the cuticle to prevent it from soaking up the water in the atmosphere and reduce frizz. The more porous your hair, the more hydration it needs.
Once you’ve established your Hair Hydration Type, you can start to think about your own routine to improve condition and manageability.
Low Porosity Wavy, Curly or Coily Hair
- Avoid heavy oils and for this hair type, less is definitely more.
- Little and often works for this hair type. Don’t overload your hair with a lot of product at once. Give it time to absorb products. Its also important to make sure that hair is damp, not dripping wet when you apply conditioner.
- Because it doesn’t absorb moisture easily it may look and feel dry so it’s essential to build a weekly mask treatment into your hair care routine. Make sure you warm the product up in your hands before application. This will help you get an even spread on the hair. Gentle heat helps hair absorb moisture so once your mask is on, put on a plastic shower cap, leave for a couple of hours and rinse.
- Stay clear of heavy styling products. Our styling range contains pro-vitamin b5 so it’s good for helping the hair to absorb moisture. It also has a pump that creates a super-fine mist. Perfect for ensuring an even spread on the hair.
Normal Porosity Wavy, Curly or Coily Hair
Its all about maintenance. Regular shampooing and conditioning. I recommend 2 to 3 times a week but just go with what works for your hair, maintain the routine and don’t forget a weekly mask to keep your hair in tip-top condition!
High Porosity Wavy, Curly or Coily Hair
It can feel like a full-time job to keep these thirsty locks hydrated and sometimes you might feel like giving up. But if you persist and establish a good routine it will be worth it.
- Keep heat to a minimum. Air dry where you can and when you are using the hair dryer keep it on a low heat.
- A weekly mask treatment is essential and perhaps even twice a week. Try leaving the Restore and Shine Masque on for a few hours or even overnight.
- Avoid styling products with alcohol-denat and silicone as they can make the hair dry.
- Keep products in your handbag. If your hair needs a boost during the day spritz it with the styling mist for a refresh. Or you can even use a little conditioner. Put a small amount in the palm of your hands, mix with a little water and apply to the hair.
How to care for Curly Hair: Check the density of your Curls
This is all about how much hair you’ve got. This makes a difference in the amount of volume your hair has and the type of product it might need. Low-Density hair needs less moisture than High-Density hair.
- Low Density Hair: You can easily see your scalp when parting dry hair.
- Medium Density Hair: You can only partially see your scalp when parting dry hair.
- High Density Hair: It’s difficult to see the scalp and partings don’t hold easily.
Taking care of curly hair shouldn’t be complicated.
Follow my guide to develop a routine of looking after your own unique curls. I’ve summarised the key points below.
- Curls come in different shapes; wavy, curly, coily. When thinking about cutting hair this is an important factor in getting the right shape and balance for your curls.
- Choose the right shampoo and conditioner for your hair type. For fine curls and waves choose products to add volume. For thick curls, waves and coils choose shampoos and conditioners for moisture.
- A weekly deep conditioning hair mask is essential for maintaining moisture and sealing the cuticle to fight frizz, dryness, tangles and leave hair shiny. Opt a good quality hair mask.
- Use a diffuser to dry waves and curls but try to minimise the heat. Learn how to air dry your hair. For afro-textured hair avoid heat altogether.
- Reduce dryness and breakage of curly hair by sleeping on a silk or satin pillow, turn down the heat on your hairdryer and wash hair in warm, not hot water.
- Invest in a microfibre towel to avoid breakage and damage to hair when it’s most fragile after washing.
- Find a stylist who knows how to work with curly hair. Always have a consultation to agree on the best style for you and your curls.
- Wapping afro-textured hair in a scarf can prevent the elements from drying out your hair.
- Check your hair Porosity to understand how it absorbs moisture and follow our tips for your porosity hair type. And don’t forget, the density of your hair has an impact on how much moisture your hair needs.
My final piece of advice?
Love your curls. Like us, curls respond to love and attention. Treat them right and they will feel and look beautiful.
About the Author
Over the years, I’ve talked to and helped a lot of customers with dry hair concerns. Additionally, I write about all aspects of healthy hair, from how to stop frizzy hair to how to get rid of split ends and share expert tips and techniques for looking after all hair types.
I’ve suggested some further reading below. Go to our Healthy Hair Care Blog to find more articles.
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Ogario London is a salon developed, natural hair care range. We are passionate about our products, and, delivering the best results is at the heart of what we do. Do you have questions about our products? Or, would you like advice on the best products for your hair type? Maybe have another question about how to look after your hair? If you do, please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Restore and Shine Hair Masque was awarded best hair mask in the Ultimate Natural Beauty Bible Awards. As an independent hair care brand, we are incredibly proud to be recognised alongside some of the industry’s biggest haircare brands. Because I spend time ensuring that our products deliver the best results, I couldn’t be happier to get this review and win this prestigious award.
Here’s what Josephine Fairley and Sarah Stacey had to say,
“Beauty Bible fell in love with this mask when we discovered it at a Cosmetic Executive Women product demo evening. The brand comes from a London hair salon, and the mask is a huge boon for hair – packed with avocado, olive oil, aloe vera, nettle and horsetail, together with sage (which is rich in vitamins A, C and E). Just a sniff of this rich, unctuous creamy mask perks you up. Use for gleaming shiny, healthy hair.”