Naturally curly hair is known for being “difficult”—from dryness and breakage to the dreaded halo of frizz, the wrong hair care regimen and styling tools can turn any curly mane unmanageable.
But let’s turn the narrative around, shall we? Instead of difficult, how about we say “deserving of only the best the world has to offer.” Now your hair sounds like the elite and pseudo-divine beauty icon it can be!
If you’re just starting to embrace your natural curly or coily hair texture, you may be unsure how to get the best results. While there are a hundred stunning ways to wear your curly hair, knowing the right method to nourish your natural texture is the first step to unlocking a new level of confidence and a new array of options.
In this guide, we’ll go over our favorite tips and tricks on how to enhance natural curls.
Know Your Curl Type
When it comes to achieving well-defined curls, there’s no one-size-fits-all rulebook. After all, there is a wide range of curl types. That’s why it pays to get familiar with your hair’s specific texture so that you can find the styling products perfect for your unique locks.
There are four major hair types, with subcategories under each type:
Type 1 – Straight hair that may not hold a curl.
Type 2 – Wavy hair that can hold a curl with the right styling tools.
Type 3– Curly hair, from jumbo-chalk-sized curls to pencil-sized ringlets.
Type 4– Coily hair, from tight knitting-needle sized curls to z-shaped coils.
(Dive into our guide on different hair textures to learn more.)
Someone with Type 2 hair might need to use rollers and texturizing spray to coax their hair into curls. In contrast, someone with Type 4 hair will need to add moisture and curl cream to help clump her coils together into defined curls. Read more on the best products for 4c hair.
But why do different hair types have such different needs? Here are just a few reasons:
The shape of the strands defines the care of the hair– As a general rule, straighter hair needs less moisture, because the scalp’s natural oil (also called sebum) can easily travel down the hair shaft. The curlier the hair, the bigger the need for more intensely nourishing, moisturizing products. Check out more on the best products for curly frizzy hair.
How your hair absorbs moisture can impact your style choices–Porosity also plays a role in hair care. Figure out whether you have low or high porosity hair by placing a strand in a cup of water. If it floats, your hair is nonporous. If it sinks, it’s porous. Nonporous and Type 4 hair may not easily absorb water-based products, so oil-based products can come in handy. This hair moisturizer for curly hair could easily weigh down wavy/curly Type 2 hair.
Despite the differences between individual locks, there are a few tricks that can help nourish just about any curl type. In the rest of our guide, we’ll go over our best tips for curly girls of every stripe.
Get a Curl-Enhancing Cut
Have you ever gone to the salon, gotten your hair washed, and then watched with concern (or horror) as the stylist leveled your locks in a uniform line while it’s still wet?
If you have naturally curly hair, you know better than anybody that the shape will change significantly as your hair dries.
A cut that looks even while wet could result in a completely uneven, bushy, and triangular coif.
An inexperienced stylist may not take shrinkage into account, resulting in a cut that’s much shorter than intended. If this happened to you, learn how to grow 4c hair here.
Many women with curls and coils prefer stylists trained in dry-cutting—a process where all or most of the cut is done on dry hair so that you and your hairdresser canboth see what the shape will look like when your curls are out in full force.
Look for salons that explicitly offer “curly haircuts,” “natural curl haircuts,” and “dry haircuts.” These signs point to a staff that understands how to bring out natural curls.
Whether you’re looking to sport long curly tresses, a short springy faux-hawk, or coils and bangs, you’ll be glad you went to a stylist who helped give your curls shape and texture.
Use Organic Products
The next step for curls that pop? Make sure to avoid products that contain artificial ingredients, harsh chemicals, and/or sulfates.
Why? Artificial ingredients, harsh chemicals, and sulfates are the enemy of juicy curls.
Here’s the breakdown: Curly hair usually has less sebum—or natural oil from the scalp—since the oil struggles to travel down the hair shaft. This tends to make strands dry and fragile. Sulfates and chemicals strip your hair of its natural oils leaving your hair sad and broken—that is, vulnerable to breakage and undernourished.
That’s why it’s so important to look for organic, natural hair products that contain naturally nourishing ingredients like the following:
Shop by Type 3 and Type 4 hair to find the best products for your specific curl shape.
Make the Most of Your Washing Routine
Now that you’ve found the organic shampoo and conditioner that are right for your hair type, it’s time to finetune your washing routine.
First of all, consider how often you wash your hair.
Women with Type 3 hair might find their hair does best with weekly or twice-weekly washing.
Type 4 naturalistas may only need to wash once every week or two weeks.
When youdo wash your hair, take the time to give your tresses some extra TLC. Wash and condition as follows:
Shampoo from root to end, or consider co-washing (using a cream formula instead of a traditional shampoo). If your hair is ultra-thick or coily, you may find it helpful to use clips to segment your hair and shampoo section by section.
Use a wide-toothed comb or your fingertips to help detangle your hair as you apply your conditioner of choice. Afterward, use a detangling brush if needed.
Consider trying out a leave-in conditioner or hair mask once a month. Dryer, less porous hair may benefit from more regular treatment.
With your hair fresh, clean, and hydrated, you’re ready to start curling.
Post-Shower, Give Your Curls a Helping Hand
Whenever your hair is wet, you have an opportunity to encourage strands to dry in a curly pattern.
Our most important tip? Give up towel-drying, which adds friction to your mane and can result in unwanted frizz. Instead, use a microfiber towel or turban to “plop” your hair.
What is plopping?
To plop, flip your mane over your head and swaddle it in a microfiber towel to absorb excess moisture. You can also use a cotton t-shirt or a silk scarf.
By placing your hair fibers in this gravity-defying position, you can create volume while gently wicking away moisture.
Leave the towel on for 15-20 minutes. After plopping, your hair will still be damp and ready for the additional steps needed to reinforce your natural curl pattern.
Apply a curl cream or pomade of your choice, and then use your fingers to curl or coil your hair.
If needed, clip your roots to create added volume.
Alternately, you can pin curls down with clips and other tools to encourage a tighter ringlet.
You don’t want to head out on the town with a wet head of hair. Take advantage of your drying time to boost the wow-factor of your curls.
After reinforcing your natural curl pattern, you have several options for drying:
Attach a diffuser to your blow dryer.
Dry your hair under a hood if you have access to one.
Let your hair air dry overnight.
The key is to be gentle. Excess heat can damage your hair and lead to frizz.
Remember never to use a brush or comb on dry hair, unless you’re looking for a puffed-out, frizzy effect. Learn everything you need to know about how to blow dry curly hair here.
Your Sleep Habits Matter
Speaking of air drying— whether your curls are still damp at bedtime or you’ve already been sporting them for a few days, the way you take care of your hair while sleeping can affect its health and happiness.
Sleeping on a cotton or synthetic pillowcase can lead to frizz, breakage, and other unwanted side effects. For best results, try sleeping in a silk hair turban or on a silk pillowcase. Silk is gentle on your strands—plus, you’ll feel like you’re getting the royal treatment every night.
You can also consider putting your curls up in a “pineapple”to add volume while retaining your curl shape.
Refresh and Restyle Your Curls
Now that you know how to enhance curls, the trick is maintaining your look until the next wash.
After a few nights’ sleep, your curls may start to lose definition and stretch out. Sometimes, this is actually desirable—your tight curls are finally starting to relax, letting you show off your natural length!
Other times, you might feel like your hair looks a little flat or undefined.