How to Take Care of Curly Hair: Your Go-To Curl Care Guide

Curly hair, with its twists and turns, can be both a blessing and a challenge. Its unique structure makes it vulnerable to frizz, dryness, and damage.

woman with tanned skin and brown curly hair wearing a pink top and looking to the sideBut with the right care and techniques, you can embrace your natural curly hair texture and make the most of its unique curl patterns and beautiful bounce.

Here's your ultimate guide to caring for curly hair, compiled together by the team of experts at Color Wow.

Understanding Your Curls

Before diving into curl care routines, it's essential to understand your curl type.

Curly hair ranges from loose waves (type 2) to tight coils (type 4). Each type has its own needs, so identifying your curl type(s) is the first step towards proper care. Take a look at our guide to the different curly hair types to suss out which one you have!

Is Curly Hair Harder to Take Care of? Let’s tackle the myth!

Every hair type has its plusses and minuses....curly hair is no exception! Finding the right routine for your curls may take some trial and error.  
“The curls, twists and shape of curly/coily hair are challenging to both people born with curly hair AND to hair product formulators,” explains Color Wow Chief Chemist, Dr. Joe Cincotta, Ph.D.
curly hair, whether it's wavy, curly or coily, comes with a distinct set of issues: moisture retention (dryness), detangling/knots, frizz, fiber alignment, breakage and hair growth
woman with dark frizzy curly hair
  • Curly hair is more susceptible to Frizz and Tangles: Because it’s typically dry/dehydrated due to lack of natural oils, the surface cuticle layer of curly hair is often lifted, which allows humidity to enter hair and cause puffiness. 

    The raised cuticle also causes friction, which can lead to frizz and knots. Check out our ultimate guide to frizzy curly hair for more information on how you can help smooth and seal that cuticle layer, plus keep flyaways at bay.

  • Curly hair can be brittle, fragile and break easily: Due to its dryness, fragility and tendency to tangle, curly hair is more prone to breakage, especially when handled roughly, brushed vigorously or when using heat styling appliances.

  • Complexity of Curl Patterns: Curly hair is highly individualized, and has a broad spectrum of patterns and textures, each with its own specific needs.  There is no “one-size-fits-all” solution for all types of curly hair: learning to care for curls requires education, advice and some trial and error! 

  • Styling Time and Techniques: Styling curly hair can be time-consuming and require mastery of certain  techniques, like "plopping," diffusing, or finger-coiling, to enhance the natural curl pattern without causing frizz or damage.

  • Sensitivity to Products and Treatments: Curly hair can be particularly vulnerable  to certain ingredients and treatments. Harsh sulfates, certain types of silicones, and heat styling can strip moisture and damage the hair's structure.

Your Best Curly Hair Care Routine, Decoded! Essential Steps For Bouncy, Hydrated Curls 

1. Hydration is Key

Curly hair is naturally drier than straight hair because natural oils from the scalp (sebum) have a harder time traveling down the twists and turns of each strand. Not to mention, if your strands are highly porous, any moisture you apply can leach out quickly without any meaningful benefits, like renewing elasticity and strength.

To combat dryness:

curl wow hooked shampoo

Choose the Right Shampoo: Look for sulfate-free shampoos that cleanses without stripping natural oils.

Our fave? Hooked 100% Clean Shampoo. In addition to being sulfate-free, it’s also residue-free and formulated with Procapil® to help anchor hair in the follicles for reduced shedding.

curl wow conditioner

Deep Condition Regularly: Use a deep conditioner or hair mask at least once a week to replenish moisture. We love Coco-Motion Lubricating Conditioner! Rich in marula and coconut oils, it delivers deep-down moisture that’s never greasy or heavy. Use it as your regular conditioner or leave it on for up to 5 minutes for a deeper treatment.

curl wow flo-etry serum

Use a Leave-in Moisturizer/Curl Serum: Apply supplemental moisture to keep curls hydrated, resilient and frizz-free throughout the day. 

Our go-to is Flo-etry Vital Natural Serum. Remember how we said curly hair has a hard time staying moisturized because the scalp’s natural oils can’t easily travel down the twists and turns of each strand?

This serum mimics those natural oils (sebum) to provide the vital moisture that is lacking in curl, from root to ends! Visit our guide that covers all you need to know about washing curly hair for more info.

2. Styling and Detangling

woman combing brown curly hair with a purple comb

The fact that curly hair is typically dehydrated and brittle means that it is more susceptible to snagging and breakage, especially when the hair is wet. 

If you have curly hair, it’s crucial  to avoid pulling or yanking and when you shampoo, detangle or style your waves and curls. 

Detangle Gently, especially before shampooing: 
Because curly hair tangles easily when you move or manipulate it, the simple act of shampooing can be a frustrating (even painful!) task.

To stop your curls from knotting and matting when you wash your hair, and to make it easier to massage your hair and scalp for optimal freshness, we recommend prepping your curly hair BEFORE you begin to shampoo with a “tangle prevention” product

curl wow snag-free

We formulated our CURL WOW Snag-Free Pre-Shampoo Detangler with rich pracaxi and coconut oils to help lubricate your wet curls, smooth the surface and give them “slip.” 

Snag-Free makes shampooing faster, easier and gives you a deeper, fresher clean. Plus, it makes wet-combing a breeze to help stop pulling and breakage. 

Avoid Heat Styling: Heat can damage and dry out your curls. If you must use heat, apply a heat protectant beforehand. (Hint hint: All Curl Wow treatments and stylers contain heat protection!)

Use Weightless, Curl-Defining Products: Avoid heavy creams or gels that make hair stiff, sticky, crunchy or weighed down.

curl wow shookApply a Lightweight Serum to Reduce Frizz: Frizz is the arch-nemesis of curly hair. Shook Mix + Fix Bundling Spray’s potent combination of oils (Jojoba, Rice Bran, Passion Flower, Grape Seed + Profaxil-18 Complex™) make it a frizz-fighting powerhouse because it seals in moisture and creates a barrier against humidity. Independent tests prove SHOOK delivers 78% less frizz in high humidity!

3. Drying Your Curls

How you go about drying your curls makes a big difference in the styles you can achieve and the  healthy-looking appearance of your curls. 

  • Microfiber Towels or T-Shirts: Traditional terry-cloth towels will rough up hair’s cuticle and cause frizz. A better option: use a microfiber towel or a cotton T-shirt to gently blot your curly hair dry.

  • Diffuse with Care: If you're using a hairdryer, attach a diffuser. It disperses the air flow to reduce frizz and keep your curl pattern intact. 

4. Nighttime Care

Protecting your curls while you sleep can prevent tangles and breakage.

  • Silk or Satin Pillowcases: These materials reduce friction and help maintain your hair's natural oils.

  • Pineapple Method: Gently gather your curls at the top of your head with a scrunchie to prevent them from getting squished while you sleep.

How to Maintain Healthy Curly Hair: 4 Key Tips

Caring for curly hair doesn't stop at cleansing and styling. To keep your curls bouncy, elastic and in optimal condition, pay attention to these important aspects.

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Regular Trimming and Its Benefits: Trim curls regularly to remove dry, damaged split ends, which cause further damage if left unattended.

Aim for a trim every 3-6 months to prevent split ends from traveling up the hair shaft and causing breakage.

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Diet and Lifestyle for Healthiest-Looking Curls: Beautiful curls start from within, and a healthy diet plays an essential role in keeping your hair nourished.

Make sure to consume a balanced diet rich in vitamins, minerals, and healthy fats.

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Avoid Harsh Chemicals: Chemical treatments like colouring, straightening, or relaxing can be very damaging to curly hair. If you want to change your hair colour or style, look for gentler alternatives and consult with a professional who specializes in curly hair. And make sure to invest in a routine that prioritizes colour protection and moisture replenishment.

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Protect Your Hair from the Elements: Sun, wind, and chlorine can all be damaging to curly hair. Wear a satin-lined hat or use a protective spray when spending time outdoors, and always rinse your hair after swimming in chlorinated water. Check out our top tips for protecting hair from chlorine for more advice.

    By following these curly hair care tips and embracing your natural curls, you can rock your unique hair with confidence and style. Remember, each curl is beautifully unique, and with the right care, they can be your signature crowning glory.

    Read more curly hair tips and tricks on Color Wow Blog:

  1. Your Guide to Fixing Damaged Curly Hair
  2. How to Tame & Style Curly Hair without Frizz
  3. What Does "Co-Washing" Mean?
  4. Dr. Cincotta holds a Ph.D. in Organic Chemistry from the City University of New York, and is currently VP of Research + Development at Color Wow.

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