How to take care of curly hair

Photo of person with curly hair
Nenad Stojkovic/Creative Commons

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Like many other curly-headed folks, I have historically had a love-hate relationship with my hair. As a kid, it was a source of both angst and pride. Especially in Newport Beach, surrounded by classmates with straightened, bleached blonde hair, my so-called “crazy” dark curls made me stand out.

No one in my immediate family has curly hair, and no one growing up around me did either. So once I became more generally aware of my appearance in late elementary school, I turned to the internet for hair care advice. Through trial and error, these are the steps I have found work best for my hair and my time-crunched lifestyle.

Know your hair type

The first step in learning how to properly care for your hair is to identify your hair type. There are four standard hair types, ranging from 1 to 4 and A to C. Type 1 hair is straight, type 2 is wavy, type 3 is curly and type 4 is coily. Type 3A hair is characterized by looser curls and less thick hair. They typically have an S-shape and the curls lay closer to the scalp. Type 3B hair is thicker and more frizz-prone. It is more prone to dryness than oiliness and does not lie flat on the scalp. Type 3B hair is more textured and voluminous, and is typically in a corkscrew shape. As a rule of thumb, hair types higher up on the spectrum require more hydration, while hair types lower down typically are more prone to oiliness.

Washing your hair

Curly hair requires more hydration than straight hair, and therefore it requires less washing. I typically try to only shampoo my hair once a week, and condition it twice a week. The exact number of times to shampoo per week depends on the individual, but typically, the fewer times the better. Hair will naturally get less oily as it “gets used” to being washed less often.

Hair products

Quality is more important than quantity when it comes to hair products. Silicones, sulfates and alcohols all ingredients commonly used in hair products strip oils from hair and can cause lasting damage. Checking the ingredients list before purchasing is a must.

I personally prefer to use very few products when doing my hair. If I use too many, my hair tends to get weighed down and lose its curl definition. For this reason, I just use a hair oil from Pelo y Piel, a local Berkeley brand and a Cantu hair gel. I’ve found this combination provides the right amount of hydration and definition. Hydration can also be provided by curl creams or leave-in conditioners, and definition can be provided by mousse or any type of gel.

Other tips and tricks

Drying your hair with a T-shirt instead of a towel prevents oils from being stripped from hair. Silk or satin pillowcases preserve curl definition overnight. Natural hair masks can be made with ingredients such as yogurt, honey, mayonnaise (yes it sounds gross, but it works, I promise), coconut oil, avocado and bananas. Healthy fats, such as oils, nuts and avocados, help to create strong hair. Finally, don’t be afraid to experiment!

The perfect hair routine takes time to create. Everyone’s hair is different, and therefore everyone’s hair care should be unique to them. The internet is a fantastic source of knowledge. Once you know your hair type, a multitude of resources can be found.

Contact Lauren von Aspen at [email protected].