10 things you should never do if you have curly hair
Stop fighting with your hair and start celebrating it.
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Your straight-haired friends might all tell you that they’re jealous, but the truth is, if you’ve got curly hair, you know as well as I do how much of a hassle it can be just to manage your ‘do on a daily basis. From strands that go in every direction to frizz that never seems to go away, curly hair can be awesome, but it can also be stressful enough to put even the savviest stylist to the test.
“The single biggest and most repetitive problem that we have encountered clients make with curly hair is fighting their curls,” said Vu Nguyen of Vu Hair New York, in NYC's Peninsula Hotel. “Anything from daily hot tool use to harsh chemicals applications [can] change the shape of their curl.”
Many factors can conspire to make curls difficult to manage. Whether it’s knots, too much volume, ultra dryness, or just massive frizz because of the humidity, curly hair problems can leave you feeling so frustrated that you’d do just about anything not to have to deal with it anymore.
No matter what, curly hair stands out. Eager to find a better way to handle your curls so you can start making the kind of statement you really want? Here are some of the most common mistakes that hair experts see people making with curly hair, plus all the ways to solve them.
1. Overwashing your hair
It doesn’t matter whether your curls are wavy, coily, or kinky. Overwashing curly hair is one of the easiest mistakes to make and among the biggest things to avoid if you have curly locks, says Tony Odisho, master stylist and founder of Tony Odisho. The reason? It depletes the natural oils in each strand. Consider sticking to once or twice a week for cleansing—your curls will thank you for it.
2. Using shampoo and conditioners that have sulfates
What’s so bad about sulfates? Shampoos and conditioners that have them usually lather up a lot, which might seem good in theory but can actually be extremely harmful for your curls.
“Hair products with sulfates are very drying and should be avoided at all costs,” says Odisho.
By using a sulfate-free shampoo and conditioner duo like this one from DevaCurl, your curls will feel bouncier and more manageable with every wash.
3. Forgetting to use oil
Curly hair is naturally on the dry side because it takes longer for oil to reach the bottom of each strand, which can lead to split or damaged ends. According to Guy Ifrati, senior stylist at Vu Hair New York, a good oil like the Shu Uemura Essence Absolue Oilis crucial for helping heal brittle ends and rebalance moisture levels, so curls come out looking (and feeling) so much softer and healthier.
4. Relying too heavily on products
Over-relying on products can leave hair feeling weighed down, which in turn can pull out the spring in your tendrils and leave them limp and heavy. A replenishing hair treatment, like the Shea Moisture Coconut and Hibiscus Curl Enhancing Smoothie, will give curls a much-needed boost. But too much of a good thing may still create problems. Letting your hair be completely product-free a few days each week can end up making a huge difference toward its overall health.
5. Using the wrong type of comb
Detangling curly hair can be such a chore, but one thing you never want to do is use a textured or fine-tooth comb to do it. The reason? You’re just asking for trouble, says Jessica Lima, editor of Buzzcut Guide. A fine-tooth comb can pull on sensitive strands, disrupting a curl’s natural bounce. Plus it could potentially lead to knots and tangles. Using a wide-tooth comb (Lima specifically recommends this one) or even just your fingers to work through tangles can keep hair neat while also avoiding breakage.
6. Combing hair while it’s still wet
For curly hair that’s prone to snarls, brushing it out when it’s wet often seems like the best way to go. But in fact, you might be making things worse. If you need to brush your hair, Lima recommends doing it before you hop in the shower.
“Hair is more prone to break when wet, so when you do this not only will you be damaging your hair, you’re also not doing any favors to your curls,” she says.
7. Using the wrong type of towel
Fluffy cotton towels are not your friend when you’ve got curls. Their thick texture can actually damage and roughen up hair cuticles, leading to frizz. Using a microfiber towel is your best bet, since they’re much gentler and absorbent. Pro tip: Avoid drying with your head upside down or twisting your hair up in a towel, since these can both also inadvertently damage your hair.
8. Not using a diffuser
To keep your hair from looking like one ginormous puffball, you have to be careful about how you blow dry it. While air-drying is the safest way to protect curls, if you’re in a hurry, use a blow dryer with a diffuser attachment. Along with a diffuser, using one of the best hair dryers, like our favorite affordable model can circulate air without disrupting the pattern of your curls.
9. Keeping curls up
Wearing ponytails or buns throughout the week can alter the definition of your curls permanently, so it’s important to let strands be loose as much as possible—that way, curls will stay intact for days to come.
Sleeping with a silk pillowcase can help too. Unlike cotton, silk doesn’t soak up all the natural oils your scalp produces while you’re asleep. Instead, it can help your hair retain that moisture, making it less likely to feel dry and matted in the morning. If you’re still struggling to get definition in your curls, a curling iron or wand like our favorite Beachwaver curling iron can help, but remember to use a heat protectant spray to minimize damage—and never turn hot tools up all the way. That’s a big no-no.
- Get the Alaska Bear Natural Silk Pillowcase on Amazon for $26
- Get The Beachwaver Co. S1 Curling Iron on Amazon for $129
10. Skipping a trim
Curls that get wild are often adorable, but that kind of heaviness can also be hard to manage over time. Getting a trim regularly helps reduce volume and promote healthy growth. Most experts agree that you should avoid cutting curly hair when it’s wet, so be sure to find a hairdresser that understands your unique texture if you want to skip out on salon-related styling mishaps.
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