In the vast world of hair care, the quest for a healthy-looking mane can feel never-ending. It seems like there’s a new haircut, style, or product every day. They all promise you your healthiest-looking hair yet, and we so want them to be true everytime. When it comes to our curls, however, we’re pretty particular. We won’t try anything new until it has been thoroughly vetted by our most trusted stylists, influencers, and friends. Which is why it’s pretty devastating when a product has received rave reviews and doesn’t make our ringlets look and feel as healthy as it should.
If you’re feeling lost and have no idea how to care for curly hair, we’re here to help. Having healthy-looking curls is actually pretty simple—if you know what to look for.
We teamed up with Ashley Brown, Mizani brand ambassador and stylist, to create the only guide to healthy-looking curls you’ll ever need. Continue reading to find out our best curly hair care tips and tricks, from how to tell if your hair is damaged to how to choose the right shampoo and conditioner for your ringlets. (Spoiler alert: You’re going to have to get rid of those split ends.)
How do you keep curly hair healthy?
Different hair types usually have wildly different needs, but Brown says the key to healthy hair is the same no matter your hair type or texture.
“The key to healthy hair, regardless of texture, is balance and a strong foundation. Hair needs a balance of protein and moisture to thrive and a strong foundation to be stable,” she explains. “A strong foundation can be achieved with regular trims and salon treatments.”
A strong foundation starts in the salon, but you’ll also want to invest in a stylist-approved at-home hair care regimen. Whether you’re trying to grow your hair out or are hoping for a whole new look, going to the hair salon every six to eight weeks is the key to healthy-looking hair. This will allow your stylist to track your hair health, as well as keep unsightly split ends at bay. If you are unsure whether or not your curls are healthy, be sure to schedule an appointment with a trusted hairstylist.
9 Best Curly Hair Care Tips
Choose the right shampoo.
Using the right shampoo is important for any hair type, but it’s particularly important for curly hair. Natural ringlets can sometimes be dry and frizzy—which is why you’ll want to find a shampoo that can tackle those issues head-on. Matrix’s new A Curl Can Dream Shampoo deeply cleanses curls and coils to remove product build-up while preserving your natural curl pattern.
Made with Manuka honey extract, a natural humectant known to moisturize hair, the formula leaves your strands nourished. While the formula is free of silicones, parabens, mineral oils, petrolatum, and paraffin, it does contain sulfates. The good news is that, while sulfates have a bad reputation in the hair world, they’re not always harmful to your hair. The A Curl Can Dream Shampoo is made with sulfates to give your mane a deep clean that wouldn’t be possible with a sulfate-free cleanser. While sulfates can typically be drying, this formula is made with hydrating ingredients to ensure that it isn’t too harsh for your ringlets.
Avoid scorching hot water while you shower.
Before you dunk your hair under your showerhead, be sure to turn down the water temperature to lukewarm. Hot water can strip your hair of its natural oils, and since curls are typically drier than other hair types, this step is crucial for curly girls to follow.
Don’t forget the conditioner.
Ask any curl hair pro, and they’ll likely tell you that conditioner is the most important step in any curly hair routine. After cleansing your mane, replenishing it with moisture is crucial. If you have really dry strands, you can even replace the conditioner with an intense hair mask like Matrix A Curl Can Dream Rich Mask. This rich, Manuka honey-infused formula provides deep hydration that preserves the pattern of curls and coils.
Make pre-shampoo treatments a priority.
If your ringlets are prone to tangles, knots, or product build-up, we recommend trying a pre-shampoo treatment. Not sure what pre-shampoo (or pre-poo) treatment is? It’s exactly what it sounds like—a product used before shampoo in your routine that helps soften, detangle, and prep your hair and scalp before cleansing. For those dealing with intense product build-up, reach for a formula like Mizani’s Style Shifter Society Wonder Crown Scalp Foaming Pre-Cleanser. This foaming and non-stripping pre-cleanser removes product buildup from your scalp while also preparing it for styling.
Skip daily shampoos.
How often you wash your hair is a personal decision that usually depends on your weekly schedule and whether you’re partial to day one hair or day five hair. While there is no one-size-fits-all answer for ladies with curls, you should aim to wash your hair at least once a week. This will help to keep product build-up at bay and make sure your scalp is squeaky clean.
When it comes to washing curly hair, however, less is always more. Washing your hair every day can strip your strands of its natural oil, causing it to become dry and frizzy. If you need to refresh your ringlets between washes, use a styling product like Kérastase Curl Manifesto Refresh Absolu. This lightweight mist formula is made with Manuka honey and ceramide to instantly rehydrate and reactivate curl deﬁnition between shampoos. It promotes natural pattern formation, enhances bounce, volume, and shine while reducing frizz.
Try a co-wash.
Here’s another option for your cleansing routine: a co-wash. Co-washing is the act of cleansing your hair with a cleansing conditioner. While it can’t provide as deep of a clean as regular shampoo, it’s a great product to use in-between wash days to revive your ringlets without drying them out. Matrix’s A Curl Can Cream Co-Wash is a sulfate and silicone-free formula that gently cleanses while keeping curls moisturized and defined.
Detangle curls using a wide-toothed comb while it's still damp. Why? Because regular brushes can be too harsh for the structure of curls—particularly if it's already knotted. A wide-tooth comb will easily glide through damp ringlets. Pro tip: detangle your hair before rinsing your conditioner or hair mask out for extra detangling support.
Use hair oils for extra hydration and frizz control.
The natural oil your scalp produces, also known as sebum, is what keeps your mane hydrated. Unfortunately for those with curly hair, sebum has a hard time traveling through the lengths of your hair, which is why your strands might be on the drier side. Luckily, that’s what salon-quality hair oils are for! These formulas can hydrate, tame frizz, strengthen, and add shine.
Searching for one to add to your routine? If it's shine and definition you’re after, opt for Matrix A Curl Can Dream Lightweight Oil. Infused with sunflower seed oil, this vegan hair oil provides curl control, definition, and enhancement while giving ringlets lightweight shine. For ringlets in need of an extra boost of hydration, we recommend Kérastase Curl Manifesto Huile Sublime Repair Hair Oil. The nourishing, multi-tasking scalp and hair oil blends Manuka honey and ceramide to hydrate even the tightest of coils.
Get trims every six to eight weeks to prevent damage.
Trimming your hair can help minimize the look and feel of damage and split ends. Wondering if you’re already dealing with damage? Brown says there are two key indicators to be mindful of when trying to determine whether or not your curls are damaged: elasticity and porosity. Elasticity refers to your ringlets’ ability to be stretched and return back to their normal state without breaking. Brown says the easiest way to test your hairs' elasticity is to pluck a few strands from your head and stretch them—literally.
“While your hair is wet, hold the strand of hair and stretch it. If the hair stretches and returns back to its original length and shape after being released, then it has good elasticity. If it snaps off or doesn't return to its former shape, this is a sign of poor elasticity and damage,” she explains.
Porosity refers to your hair’s ability to absorb and hold onto moisture. Porosity is important because strands need to be able to retain moisture to remain as healthy-looking as possible. Low porosity hair often appears damaged or dry, and it may have a difficult time absorbing moisture. Once low porosity strands absorb moisture, however, they have no trouble holding onto it. Highly porous hair absorbs moisture easily but isn’t able to retain moisture well, which means high porosity strands often look and feel the most damaged.
While there is no foolproof way to test for porosity, Brown says taking a closer look at how your strands look and feel can usually offer some insight.
“Separate a strand of hair from the rest of your hair and slide your fingers up the strand towards the scalp. If you feel bumps along the way up, that may indicate the cuticle is lifted, and your porosity is high. If your fingers slip up the strand smoothly, this may indicate your porosity is low,” she explains.
How To Style Curly Hair
You have two options when it comes to styling curls: Heat styling and embracing your natural texture by air drying. While we always suggest using hot tools in moderation, sometimes reaching for your blow dryer is inevitable. When you do, however, always be sure to prep your hair with a heat protectant like Kérastase Curl Manifesto Creme De Jour Fondamentale Hair Cream and use a diffuser attachment on your blow dryer. A diffuser helps disperse the hair evenly throughout your hair to prevent frizz and keep your curl pattern intact. Want to learn more about diffusing curly hair? Watch the video below.
Next up: air drying. To achieve the best results, you’ll need the perfect cocktail of products that enhance, control, and protect your natural hair texture. When you step out of the shower, grab a cotton T-shirt or microfiber hair towel and gently scrunch your hair to remove any excess water. Next, it’s time to apply products. Add a few sprays of leave-in conditioner like Mizani 25 Miracle Milk throughout your mane. This formula boasts 25 beautifying hair benefits, including heat protection, controlling frizz, and repairing damage. If you prefer a leave-in conditioner with a little more weight, use a cream like Matrix A Curl Can Dream Cream.
Then, Use a lightweight hair gel like Matrix A Curl Can Dream Light-Hold Gel. The pattern-preserving, defining gel controls, defines, and hydrates curls without flakes or crunchiness.
Plop your hair once all of your products are applied. This technique gathers your curls on top of your head and condenses them, encouraging a more defined curl pattern. You can either wait until your hair is 50 percent dry or completely dry before removing the t-shirt or towel— experiment to see what technique works best for you! Give your air-dried ringlets a few spritzes of lightweight hairspray like Mizani Humidity Resistant Mist Hairspray to complete your look.
How To Sleep With Curly Hair
If your hair could use a little extra protection, Brown recommends wrapping your hair in a silk scarf at night or swapping out your cotton pillowcase for a satin one. This will help to prevent any harsh pulling as you toss and turn at night. It will also preserve the structure of your ringlets while you sleep. Want more tips on preserving your ringlets overnight? Check out the video above.
Interested in more tips for curly hair? Use our salon locator to book an appointment at a salon near you.