Among the many truths in life, there is one many of us have come to understand: no one single hair care routine fits for all curly haired guys and gals. No two curly heads of hair are the same. Fortunately, there is a generally tried and true method for mastering your curly hair care routine.

Most curly headed people has gone through similar struggles and asked similar questions. Some of these might include “how often should I be shampooing?”, “how can I avoid the ‘crunchy’ look?”, or “what the heck does pineapple have to do with my hair?” We’ll try to not only answer these questions but also help you find a path to the curls of your dreams!

The Don’ts of Curly Hair

Before we get underway with hair care, there are a few things to know in regards to keeping your hair healthy. For starters, you should limit how often you shampoo your hair. Also, be sure to use a product free of harsh ingredients that can potentially damage your hair. A general sign that can indicate whether a product is less than ideal is if it lathers. We know lathering is the fun part, but you’ll learn to live without it.

In addition to avoiding harsh ingredients and products on your hair, you should also avoid heat. Curling irons, flat irons, and other styling tools that use heat damage the natural protein in your hair. Over time, that can permanently destroy your curl pattern. While largely debated, many curly haired people even opt to wash their hair with cold water. Hot water is necessary to remove dirt and buildup, but cold water can assist in retaining moisture and strength.

When it comes to styling, you should do your best to wear your hair naturally. If for any reason you need to wear your hair in a ponytail, especially on the regular, take care to use special ties. Spiral hair ties and scrunchies are a great option that will cause less stress at your hairline and pull less on your curls.

Girl with Curly Blue Hair

To avoid additional trauma to your curls, you should also avoid chemical treatments. This includes straighteners, perms, hair coloring, and even highlights or lowlights. Chemical treatments, especially in succession, can cause extreme brittleness and lead to breakage. Getting these treatments can be tempting, whether you want to keep up with a current fad or are simply looking for a change in appearance. The reality, however, is that it may cost you in the long run. Nevertheless, for an example of a brand that has some great and affordable products for curly hair, check out of Pump Haircare.

If there is one thing you have keyed into already, it is the breakage, frizz, and pain that comes with dry brushing curly hair. This task should solely take place in the shower. Instead of using a hair brush, try a wide tooth comb only when your hair is soaking wet. If you don’t have time to shower, you can reactivate your curls using a spray bottle containing a mixture of water and conditioner.

Must-Have Products

To properly wash your hair, you will need some specific tools and products. Depending on your hair type and personal needs, feel free to interchange the following products with those that you prefer.

Denman Brush 

Consider this the holy grail of hairbrushes. A Denman brush is less for detangling and more for styling. Use it post-shower and after you have thoroughly applied a styling product, as one swipe with a Denman brush will result in perfect curly coils. Then leave them to air dry or follow up with a diffuser for more volume.

Dual Side Wide and Small Tooth Comb

Sleek 3 in 1 Comb

As previously mentioned, a regular brush is a no-go for curly hair. Instead, a wide and small tooth comb will make detangling an overall easier and less damaging process. We love this Sleek 3 in 1 Styler Comb, which is convenient and makes for less clutter in the shower.

Microfiber Towel

We will discuss later why a microfiber towel is the best choice when it comes to curly hair. For now, we’ll mention that one of our favorites is the Rainleaf Microfiber Towel, as it comes with a convenient carry case and is available in several size options. 

Hair Dryer and Diffuser

Lucky for those with curly hair, a high end hair dryer is not necessary. As long as you have a diffuser, a cheap hair dryer will do. What is most important is that you choose an effective diffuser, one that properly disperses the air in order to dry the hair without causing frizz. Look for an attachment that has rods to separate hair strands and not too many holes. When using a diffuser, only use the lowest speed and heat settings. If you need the entire get up, try the popular Devacurl Dryer and Diffuser

Curl Cream

If we didn’t already say it, moisture is a must. A curl cream is the first styling step you need to take to lock in hydration. We’re currently loving Ouidad Curl Quencher Hydrafusion Intense Curl Cream but also the more affordable Cantu Moisturizing Curl Activator Cream.

Gel 

At the end of the day, the goal is to help your curls’ natural pattern shine. Using a gel will help hold that pattern in place throughout any drying time so that they don’t get too beat up in the process. Test out the always popular Kinky Curly Original Curling Custard Natural Styling Gel.

Edge Groomer 

If you have baby hairs that seem to fly every which way and refuse to lie down, an edge brush will solve your problems. This one on Amazon is super affordable. Pair it with Carol’s Daughter Edge Control Smoother for perfectly placed baby hairs that will stay in place all day and smell amazing.

The Art of Plopping

A word you will hear relatively frequently in the curly community is plopping. And once you learn about this god-send of a method and how to do it, plopping will become a staple in your routine.

So what is plopping? It is, in simple terms, when you plop your curls into a towel to assist in drying the hair in a natural and defined curl pattern. Done correctly, plopping your hair can also help reduce frizziness. Frizz is largely dependent on the type of towel you use due to friction from the texture of the material. For this reason, a microfiber towel is a popular choice instead of a standard bath towel. The high absorption of this material helps decrease drying time and remove excess product.

When to plop? Generally, it is agreed that the best time to plop is after you have washed your hair and applied your styler but before you begin the drying process. We recommend this helpful video by Youtuber “The Glam Belle”. She not only explains the benefits of plopping but also teaches the art of this method step-by-step.

Later on, we’ll revisit why learning to plop is a must in the curly hair world. Let us warn you, however, that plopping takes some practice to get decent results, so don’t expect perfection on your first attempt. Be patient and you will get there!

Curly Hair Care Routine in 10 Steps

Cleanse

 

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When your hair begins to feel greasy or too tangled to tame, start by soaking your hair and applying shampoo directly to your scalp and roots. You can comb it down to the ends of your hair, but do not apply it there directly. At most, cleanse your hair with shampoo once a week. You can go even longer without shampooing if your hair doesn’t produce a lot of oil. 

Condition or Co-Wash 

 

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Next up is conditioning. Curly hair craves moisture more than anything else. Apply a conditioner to the midsection of your hair with your fingers and then comb to detangle. Avoid conditioning your roots, as it can weight your curls down, leading to faster buildup and an overall greasy appearance. You can even skip shampoo altogether, which is called co-washing.

Detangle 

 

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The act of detangling is pretty self explanatory. However, detangling can be made easier by sectioning your hair, especially if it is past shoulder length. Invest in some sturdy clips if necessary.

Curl cream 

 

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A good, thick cream product is helpful to lock in your curls’ natural pattern as it dries. Simply work the product through your hair, the same way you would conditioner, while it is still partially wet. 

If you do not plan to use gel or to plop your hair, it is at this point that you can obtain coils using the Denman brush. Afterwards, skip to step 7, which is diffusing.

Gel 

 

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Gel is an optional but popular step in many curly hair routines. Start by scrunching the excess water from your hair. You want a little left to help mix the product in but not so much that it will run straight to the shower floor. Apply the gel to your palm and rub it between your hands before scrunching it directly onto the ends of your curls. Then work it upwards but not so far as to reach your roots. 

Note: If you put gel in your hair, you should not plop it. Skip to step 7.

Plop 

 

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Plopping is optional, although it debatably yields better results in combination with drying. Plopping is a potential end to the routine, depending on how much time you have or what style you are aiming for. If you’re simply washing and styling your hair for no reason other than cleanliness or you’re in a hurry to get out the door, you can end the routine here. Plop your hair and let it air dry OR plop your hair and sleep on it. Either way, voila, you’re done!

Diffuse 

 

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Diffusing is an additional step, often preferred for achieving optimal definition and volume. Diffusing can, however, take some time. You may only choose to do it for a special occasion or if you happen to have the time. Diffusing is relatively simple. Whichever section of hair you are drying, tilt your head so that your curls hang straight from your head. With the diffuser attachment, slowly scrunch the curls in a section of your head and hold it. Be sure to minimize movement to decrease frizz. Then once your hair is completely dry (especially if you opted to use gel), carefully scrunch your hair to break the gel and soften your curls.

Tease 

 

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Depending on your personal preference, you may want some extra volume and lift at the root of your hair. Curls can be pretty heavy and can easily weigh your hair down. To add volume back, use your fingers or a fine tooth comb to tease your roots. If volume is your goal from the get-go, try diffusing your hair upside down.

Protect 

 

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After you have successfully styled your curls, the last step is to protect it. A well protected hairstyle can last between 2 to 4 days, which means less washing and work for you. To protect your hair style, you can simply use a satin cap or invest in a satin pillowcase. Alternatively, you can use the pineapple method – use a scrunchy or coiled hair tie to tie your hair in a loose ponytail on the top of your head. Get it? You look like a pineapple. 

Mask 

 

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If your hair is looking a little dull or lacking moisture, treat yourself to a hair mask once a month. If you need something ASAP, conditioner can also do the trick. Just condition as normal and then wear a disposable plastic shower cap to sleep in. If you plan on leaving a mask on overnight, be sure to avoid a product with keratin or protein in it, as it can cause your hair to become even more brittle.

Conclusion

At the end of the day, the best hair care routine is the one that works for you. We hope this guide will help you start your journey, and in the long run, help you create a more specific routine that suits your personal style, needs, and hair type. 

Girl with Curly Hair on the Subway

Do you have any secret cleaning or styling tips of your own? Maybe a product that you can’t live without? Let us, and our other curly headed readers, know in the comments!

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