How to Care for Curly Hair

Medically Reviewed by Poonam Sachdev on November 07, 2022
5 min read

If you have curly hair, you may wonder what it takes to make sure your curls look their best. Maintaining your thick curly hair may initially be daunting. Curly hair is more likely to break and have dryness when compared to other less unruly hair types. But by understanding more about your hair type and with the right care and maintenance, you can keep your curls healthy and shiny.

Curly hair comes in a variety of shapes. While the basic hair fiber structure is the same, many different factors determine the shape. Ethnicity and geography play a role in the shape of curly hair.  

Researchers use the degrees of the curl to determine what kind of curly hair you have. These variations include: 

  • Straight
  • Wavy
  • Curly
  • Extra curly

Most curly hair care guides will focus on how to get twists or kink curls. Wave and crimp curls are irregular and don’t require much effort to maintain. You can train twisted and kinked curls to be more uniform.

Keratin makes up about 90% of your hair. Keratin is a fibrous protein found in your skin and nails. How the keratin binds to your hair shafts determines the curliness of your hair. These bindings are done through disulfide bridges, meaning you have some sulfur in your hair.

How your follicle grows into your scalp determines your curly hair patterns or formations. If the hair follicle is asymmetrical, your hair will be curlier. The formation of your hair comes from your DNA and cannot change, even with temporary hair treatments

By adulthood, your hair shape typically stays the same. Your hair cycle remains the same in most cases. Yet, your hair follicle does go through a rebirth every hair cycle

What causes curly hair to change includes some medications and mutations in your epidermal growth factor receptor. You should talk to your doctor if you notice other hair changes, like with your eyebrows or eyelashes. These side effects are pretty rare.

Limited research suggests environmental temperature may play a factor in your curly hair. In warm climates, having curly hair helps keep your head cool.

Knowing your curly hair patterns can help you take care of it and style it. Your curl pattern is what your hair looks like after it dries naturally without heat. It is possible to have more than one curl pattern on your head. There are four main curly hair patterns. But factors like follicle porosity, density, and texture also affect your hair. 

The shape of your follicle also affects your curly hair patterns. If the follicle is flatter or oval-shaped, your hair will be curlier. If the follicle is circular, it’ll be straighter. The follicles at your root determine the amount of curl you have. 

Curl patterns can change due to the following reasons: 

  • Age
  • Environment
  • Health conditions
  • Pregnancy

Caring for your root and scalp health can help your curly hair break less and shine more. Hair breakage is a common problem for people with curly hair. The breakage is likely caused by how you care for your hair and the structural characteristics of your roots.

When caring for curly hair, try following these tips: 

  • Wash your hair when needed instead of daily. 
  • Make sure your hair is moisturized with conditioner and oils. 
  • Prioritize scalp health with deep cleanses when you wash your hair. 
  • Keep your hair from tangling using a comb to detangle your hair between washes. 
  • Use a heat protectant on your curls. 
  • Preserve your curls overnight.

Try to avoid shampoo with sulfates, as these chemicals can dry out your hair. A dry scalp and dry hair can cause your hair to be unruly and greasier. Make sure you’re managing your scalp and hair health in between washes.

Curly hair density and texture play a role in how you should care for your hair. Your hair density is how much hair you have. If you have thick hair, then you have more curly hair density. The best way to find your hair density is by looking at your scalp. You have thick hair if you can’t see your scalp well. 

The texture of your hair refers to the size of your hair follicle. Fine hair has a smaller diameter, and coarse hair has a larger diameter. Curly hair can be thin, thick, fine, or coarse.  

Curly hair porosity is how well your hair absorbs and maintains moisture. Curly hair is typically dryer which means it’s high-porosity. The cuticle of your hair shaft is one of three parts. The closer your hair’s cuticles are, the lower the curly hair porosity. That means your hair can maintain moisture better.

High-porosity hair is dryer and tends to break or be damaged easier. That’s why conditioner is important for curly hair.

One of the golden rules of caring for curly hair is never to brush your dry curls. Brushing curls make them frizzy and fragile. A wide-tooth comb is best for detangling your curls. Start at the bottom and work your way up. 

One of the main tips for keeping your hair healthy is keeping your body healthy. Making sure you have enough protein, vitamins, and minerals. Stress and mental health troubles can affect hair growth as well. 

Also, make sure you’re taking care of your scalp health with the right shampoos, oils, and conditioners. Avoid thick gels, mouses, or pomades that can trap oil and dirt on your scalp. Companies may market these products to curly-haired people, but that doesn’t mean they’re good for your hair. The buildup is a leading cause of oily, greasy, damaged hair. 

Another good tip to try on your curls is to let them air dry overnight. A "plopping" technique is when you wrap your hair in an old t-shirt overnight to keep it from rubbing on your pillowcase. You can also use a silk bonnet or other wrap to protect your curls. 

These tips and tricks can help you achieve healthy, bouncing curls.