It can often feel like our curls have a mind of their own: coils, flyaways, and frizz each have a unique temperament answerable only to the moon. Navigating the unpredictability of curly hair’s twists and turns requires a healthy dose of patience—and the right products. Curls come in varying shapes, sizes, and porosity, and finding the right product and routine is more often than not a game of trial and error. For general care, however, we’ve broken down the optimal steps for the perfect curl.
Curly or not, healthy hair begins with the scalp. And like the rest of our skin, our scalps should be exfoliated regularly to help remove excess buildup of dead skin cells and built-up product, as well as nourish roots for shinier, thicker hair. Nioxin’s biodegradable Scalp Recovery Purifying Exfoliator can be massaged onto a dry scalp before washing every few weeks or once a month.
Cleanse and Condition
Always use lukewarm to cold water directly on your hair when washing—hot water strips away natural moisture from hair, making it dry and frizzy. Use a shampoo and conditioner targeted at curly hair that’s free of sulfates and parabens. Targeting dull and distressed curly hair, SheaMoisture’s Moringa and Avocado line features a shampoo and conditioner made from a blend of moringa, avocado, kale, matcha, and green algae with fair trade shea butter. The line also has a Power Greens Reconstructor mask for an added boost of moisture; leave the mask in for five to10 minutes before rinsing. To revive flat curls, Vancouver’s own AG Hair has a curly hair care line including a sulfate-free shampoo and conditioner made with its exclusive Curl Creating Complex (C3): a blend of rice amino acids and bio-fermented tomato fruit extract to encourage curls.
The fight against frizz is a long-term battle. Once a week or so, plan to tame frizz and nourish your hair with a moisturizing hair mask. Moroccanoil’s Smoothing Mask, infused with argan butter, can be applied to towel-dried hair and left in for five to 10 minutes. Comb the mask through with a wide-toothed comb for an even application—it’s best to detangle wet hair with your fingers first from the ends up to avoid breakage, then comb it out.
After washing and conditioning, and before styling, apply a detangling cream with fingers from the ends toward the roots. Oribe’s Priming Lotion leave-in conditioning detangler is infused with cupuaçu—a Brazilian fruit known for its hydrating benefits—and mango seed butters. Detanglers act as primers on damp hair, gently removing tangles and prepping curls for styling, but they can also be used on dry hair to renourish curls.
It’s best to let your curls air dry, but if heat is unavoidable, use a protectant to guard against heat damage. The award-winning Perfect Defence aerosol spray from Moroccanoil protects hair against heat up to 450⁰F/230⁰C.
To style, work a styling cream through damp hair with fingers, twisting curls as desired and scrunching hair in an upward motion. Oribe’s Styling Butter curl-enhancing crème defines curls and prevents breakage with shea butter and avocado oil. For added volume, opt for a mousse; Wella’s EIMI Nutricurls line, made with a complex of wheat bran extract and jojoba oil, features a Boost Bounce mousse that boosts curls while fighting frizz. The line also has a Curl Shaper for more defined curls. For a lightweight option, Sebastian Professional’s Twisted Curl Magnifier: Curl Cream won’t leave hair feeling heavy. The cream is from the brand’s Twisted styling and care line, made with a Flexi Alg Complex of carrageenan—red seaweed—extract.
If you plan to blow dry your curls, opt for a hair diffuser. The direct and harsh air from blow dryers can break apart curls and introduce frizz. Diffusers are pronged attachments for hair dryers that offer a more gentle and even air distribution to ensure less frizz and breakage. Dyson’s Supersonic Diffuser simulates the natural drying process and has long prongs for more control. Using a lower heat or cool setting, tilt your head sideways or upside down and gently lift sections of hair with the diffuser toward roots, taking care not to break apart curls while drying. Though tempting, try not to touch your hair too much once dried, since it causes frizzing.
Hair oils can be used on damp or dry hair for a little extra nourishment, but a little goes a long way. When applying to dry hair, oils are best used from mid-length toward the ends; too much oil on roots can end up looking greasy. AG Hair’s Vegan Slip Vitamin C dry oil spray combines vitamin C with plant-based squalane for smoother locks any time in the day. Sebastian Professional’s Dark Oil is a lightweight yet effective mix of cedarwood, sandalwood, and argan oil that smooths hair cuticles and melts into hair without a trace.
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