Dry Curly Hair 101: Why Is My Curly Hair So Dry?

One of the biggest pain points for curly hair is dehydration. If you find yourself wondering "why are my curls so dry?"  you’re definitely not the only one.

Learning how to moisturize curly hair properly can help not only solve issues of dryness, but can also help encourage curl definition, bounce, and shine.

We’re going to walk you through some essential curly hair tips so you can make sure your curls and waves have the essential moisture they need.

Key causes of dry curly hair


hair anatomy diagramThere’s a reason why curly hair is notorious for struggling with dehydration. From its oval-shaped follicle to its bends and twists down every strand, the anatomy of curly hair is a natural barrier to staying moisturized. 

These two factors make it difficult for your scalp’s natural oils (aka, sebum) to travel down each strand to help retain critical moisture and lubricate the hair surface. Without these natural oils, curly hair can be coarse, dull, frizzy, undefined and rigid.

For this reason alone, it’s vital to not only incorporate more moisture into your routine, but to also avoid ingredients or habits that rob your strands of even more moisture.


There are several ingredients that you should avoid to help prevent dry curly hair, some more critical than others.

sodium laurel sulfate icon1. Sodium Laurel Sulfate:

If you’ve researched the curly girl method, you already know that harsh sulfates can strip all textures, not just curls, of essential moisture.

That information might have led you to consider a moisturizing shampoo – but those cleansers often contain hard-to-rinse ingredients that stick to the scalp and can cause hair loss

Your best bet is to focus on using a cleanser that’s free of SLS and any ingredients that stay behind (learn more about the bad ingredients in shampoo here).

color wow hooked curly hair shampoo

Our pick? Curl Wow Hooked Shampoo - our super-sudsing, sulfate-free formula that leaves no residues behind, delivering optimally clean hair and scalp. Plus, it’s formulated with Procapil® to help anchor your hair into your follicles for reduced shedding. 

harsh alcohols diagram2. Harsh alcohols:

There are many alcohols that are super drying to the hair. Specifically, watch out for SD Alcohol 40 and Isopropyl Alcohol. But it’s important to remember not all alcohols are created equal. There are fatty alcohols that can actually help silken and soften hair, and can provide slip which helps with detangling. Learn more about good vs. bad alcohols here.

oils with a cross through it next to a white bottle3. Oils

You may have heard that oils are all the rage for curls. There are claims left and right – they can help your hair grow, they boost shine, etc. But the truth is that pure oils just sit on top of your hair and scalp. Oils don’t rinse away easily, and as they build up on the scalp, they can clog your follicle, which can lead to hair loss. (This is also true for butters, which are found in so many curl products.)

When it comes to your strand, most oils are actually too big to penetrate the hair and provide hydration. Instead they end up coating the cuticle and actually block moisture from penetrating the hair. But just like alcohols, not all oils are the same. If an oil has small enough molecules, it can penetrate the hair (especially if you have high porosity hair).

This is exactly the idea that inspired our Curl Wow line. Our Color Wow Lab developed a proprietary Profaxil-18™Complex that uses completely new micro-dispersion technology to help break down the oil particles in our formulas. This means our curl formulas (except for our pre-shampoo detangler and shampoo, as these are meant to rinse out) are uniquely able to penetrate each strand and infuse vital moisture. 

  • Coco-Motion Lubricating Conditioner – Marula Oil + Coconut Oil + Profaxil-18 Complex™ lubricate the protein chains inside dehydrated curls to bring back bounce, elasticity + fluid motion

    cocomotion curly hair conditioner
  • Flo-etry Vital Natural Serum – Jojoba, Pequi and Coconut Oils + Profaxil-18 Complex™ replace the essential scalp oils (sebum) that curls lack because oils can’t flow down the natural bends + twists

    floetry curly hair serum
  • Shook Mix + Fix Bundling Spray – Mix-to-activate spray combines a “layer” of advanced styling polymers with a “layer” of powerful moisturizing oils (Jojoba, Rice Bran, Passion Flower, Grape Seed + Profaxil-18 Complex™) for perfectly defined, weightless, glossy, frizz-free curls

    shook curly hair spray

water repellent silicones crossed out with white bottle4. Water-Repellent Silicones

While not all silicones are bad, there are definitely many that you want to avoid. Especially if you’re a curly girl with naturally dry hair. These kinds of  silicones, called occlusive silicones, are water-repellent. They create a barrier on the surface of hair, which can only be removed by shampooing. However, if your shampoo also contains silicones, this only compounds the problem. 

If these water-resistant silicones are left on the hair, they will act as a barrier, keeping critical moisture out. Which, for curly hair that is notoriously naturally dry, is a huge problem. 

For a list of silicones that are absolutely crucial for curly girls to avoid (and ones that are safe), check out our ultimate guide to silicones.

How to fix dry curly hair: our top tips

two women with dark curly hair

So, how exactly can you keep your curls hydrated and moisturized? The first step is selecting the right products - and that’s where our curl experts come in!

curl wow range

Our Curl Wow range is designed to give you perfectly, bundled, bouncy, juicy curls that look and feel totally natural, making these products a key step in your journey towards fixing dry curly hair. 

kendall dorsey celebrity stylist and curl specialistCelebrity stylist and curl specialist Kendall Dorsey says, “Naked Technology in Curl Wow formulas is going to change how people style curls in the future. It enhances styling results because the hair feels completely different....plush to the touch, completely naked...no grease, no crunch, weightless. Once people try Curl Wow and 'go naked', they won’t go back.”

You can read more about the science behind Curl Wow’s “Naked Technology” with our guide.

In addition to switching up your hair care routine, there are a number of other tips you can follow in your quest for curly curly hair hydration.

hair straightener iconMinimize Heat Styling: Reduce the use of heat styling tools, and always use a heat protectant spray when you do style to minimize damage

pillowcase iconProtect Your Hair at Night:
Sleep on a satin pillowcase or wrap your hair in a satin scarf to reduce moisture loss and protect against

scissors iconTrim Regularly
: Get regular trims to remove split ends and promote healthy hair growth.

water bottle iconStay Hydrated:
Drink plenty of water and maintain a healthy diet to nourish your hair from the inside out.

color wow money masque iconDeep Condition Regularly
: Add a
hair mask to your weekly routine to replenish moisture levels

hat iconProtect from the Elements:
Wear a hat or use protective sprays to shield your hair from sun, wind, and cold, which can cause dryness.

color wow dream filter iconDetox from hard water buildup:
Use a
hard water mineral remover to get rid of any mineral residues that can leave your texture feeling coarse and dry, in addition to distorting your color and weighing hair down.

blue wide tooth combDetangle Gently:
Use a
wide-tooth comb or your fingers to gently detangle your hair when it's wet and conditioned to avoid breakage.

    By incorporating sulfate-free products, indulging in deep conditioning treatments, and shielding your hair from daily stressors, you're well on your way to healthier, more vibrant curls.


    Read more about caring for your curls on the Color Wow Blog: