We receive a lot of questions from our customers looking to transition into healthier or more natural care for their hair, or those who have recently embraced their natural curls (for example, quit using straighteners, perms or relaxers), and would like to learn more about how to properly care for their newly grown coily, curly, wavy natural hair.
Our comprehensive guide has been written to provide helpful tips to help you maintain healthy, flourishing curls. We believe that curl care shouldn't be complicated which is why our range is streamlined. We also believe that the method should be straight forward. The truth is that hair continues to grow, and there should be no pressure at all. The main hair goal is that your hair is healthy.
There are two emotional ingredients that we believe that you will need to start your journey:
- Love: The willingness to love your hair and want to see it be healthy in general; and
- Patience: There is no miracle for longer hair. Hair grows at an average rate of 1/2-inch per month. The key is to maintain health ends and maintain your curls diligently.
Longer hair starts with healthy hair.
1. Determine Your Hair Type
Your hair type can often be a determinant of how your hair responds to applications. To simplify it: usually the tighter the curl, the drier the hair will tend to be and the more prone it can be to breakage. You can find your hair type using our curl type guide which is based on the popular Andre Walker's Hair Type Classification System. It is one of the most simplistic ways for categorising hair types. This system classifies hair types according to four main categories: type 2 (wavy), type 3 (curly) and type 4 (coily). The sub classifications - from A to C - are based upon the diameter of the wave, curl or coil.
2. Keep Your Hair Moisturised
A key factor in growing your natural hair is the importance of moisture, because it plays a key role in retaining length.
Moisture (i.e. water) is a vital component to hair. Moisture is what gives hair its elasticity and the ability to bend and not break under manipulation. Moisture is what keeps our skin soft. When hair lacks moisture, it will become dry and prone to breakage. Sebum (our natural scalp oil) is also known as the hair's natural conditioner. When sebum is released from the sebaceous glands, it forms a barrier on the strands to lock moisture into the hair and scalp.
With straight hair, sebum is able to easily travel down the hair shaft and seal in moisture along the entire length. However, with textured hair (especially highly textured, coily hair) sebum has a hard time journeying down our strands, usually stopping nearer to our roots unlike with straight hair, where there are no curves present. This is why our ends tend to be the driest part of our hair, making them more prone to breakage (3 Tips To Avoid Curl Breakage) in addition to our ends being the oldest part of our hair. This is why highly textured hair types tend to be drier because of the reduced moisture protective shield.
2a. Moisturise Your Hair – Effectively
Absorption of water by a strand increases its flexibility and therefore minimises its potential for breakage. Dry hair will tend to snap easily even with gentle force, which is why it is important to keep hair properly moisturised, and not just hydrated.
Why? Because water alone is insufficient. Because evaporation takes place, the hair strands can go from soft, plump and supple to dry and crunchy.
To keep your natural hair effectively hydrated, regularly combine water-based products (leave-in/daily/no rinse conditioner, refresher sprays, hydrating milks/creams) with oil or emollient-based products (styling gels/creams, glossifying natural oils, defining butters) to moisturise/lock in moisture and help your hair protect its hydration level during the week, and in effect, protect fragile ends. Learn the difference between moisture and hydration here.
A hair routine that has been known to help combat dry hair is the: LOC/LCO Method (Learn More). Both oil and butter are praised for their ability to create a protective layer along the hair shaft that helps prevent water from being evaporated and lost into the atmosphere, thus helping the hair to stay moisturised for as long as 2-3 days before reapplication is necessary. Some people experiment with adding gel to this method.
A great tip to get the most out of your moisture routine: be consistent with your routine by creating a regular regimen, and focus your moisture application on your ends.
Bear in mind to increase your moisture application during drier and windier weather, especially during the winter (How To Keep Your Natural Hair Moisturised and Soft During Winter).
3. Feed your hair with products that have good quality ingredients – and avoid the wrong ingredientsThe ingredients in your hair care products make a difference. Studies have found that the textured haircare market is more likely to contain harsh, unsafe and harmful ingredients (Source: EWG).
Not to fret, here’s how you can choose the right products to help optimise the health of your hair. Analyse and scan the ingredient list of any product you wish to purchase. Try and look at the first 5-8 ingredients, because they tend to make up the majority of the content. Harsh/drying and barrier-creating (preventing hydration) ingredients to avoid are ingredients that end with -fates or -cone.
Look for high quality natural oils and butters in products – almond, coconut, avocado, shea and grapeseed as opposed to mineral oil and petroleum which forms a thick coating on the hair shaft.
There are a lot different products that are marketed toward the textured hair. It's important to note that the use of more product does not necessarily mean more moisture or effectiveness. Many products:
- are highly water-based (the water simply evaporates off the hair cuticle)
- are silicone based (silicone forms a coating and provides the illusion of moisture)
- contain highly processed, cheap oils such as mineral oil (that form a coating)
- contain a lot of un-necessaries (which turn into buildup and become counter-intuitive for moisture penetration)
It's always good to bear in mind that ‘’natural’’ is not a regulated term in the cosmetic industry which means that companies can use it to promote their products regardless of their ingredient choices. Scanning the ingredient list is always your best bet before making a purchase – many companies list the complete list of ingredients on the back of their product labels and will hopefully do so on their website as well.
Most of all, listen to your hair.
4. Gentle Does It
Comb your natural hair gently using a wide tooth comb. Your hair is curly, so it takes slightly longer for the teeth of the comb to glide through the diameter of the curl. In addition, the extra space between the teeth of the comb allows for the curves of your hair to flow more easily which reduces the potential for knots or entanglement. Another option is to finger detangle your hair (you are able to feel for any knots and tangles as you motion your fingers in the same way you would a comb and gently release strands from knots). This tends to be an option for those with a tight curl pattern or denser hair.
Tip: If you have the ‘’hands-in-hair’’ problem, try to keep (anyone's) hands out of your hair apart from when it’s wash day or when you are styling your hair. We know that the temptation and boredom is real, but low manipulation is key to minimising breakage!
Tip: Never comb when hair is parched dry, always detangle when hair is a little damp or wet by applying a water-based product first. I find that slightly damp is the best state for me to comb because my hair is pliable and stretchable. It's more vulnerable when wet so it's great to be gentle. Applying a slippery and nourishing detangler like the Rose Water & Honey Leave-In Detangler assists.
Tip: It's better to start combing from the tips of your hair working up to the roots. Never start combing and detangling from the roots. By starting at the tips, you are releasing shed hair that usually gets entangled downward. It might take some extra time to detangle carefully, but the direction of combing is oh-so worth the reduced breakage.
5. Protect Your Ends
To minimise breakage and to retain moisture, try wearing your hair in a protective style every now and then. Protective styles are those styles which do not expose the ends, such as buns, twists, braids, ropes, halo braids, cornrows, to dry air and manipulation. Try and incorporate protective styles into your routine, and have fun by playing around with the versatility of your natural hair – the protective and time-saving benefits are just an added bonus!
6. Slice The Cake
You might find it easier, especially as your hair grows longer or if your hair is thicker, that you handle your hair in sections. It makes everything easier, including detangling. Moisturise in sections. Condition and wash in sections. This is particularly helpful if you have thicker or more tightly curled hair. It's easier to work with a smaller section/density of hair.
7. Condition More, Wash Less Often
A shampoo contains ingredients that cleanse the hair by removing dirt, dust and excess oil. It allows your curls to be responsive to your products again. Clean hair is important because we use daily moisturising products to keep our hair from drying out. The moisturisers and oils attract dirt from the air, even though it is not visible. At most, wash natural hair once a week to every 2-3 weeks. Shampooing too frequently can dry natural hair out because you are stripping the natural oils from your hair. A curl-friendly shampoo must clean without stripping hair of moisture content i.e. does not contain harsh surfactants or detergents such as sulfates. Some people opt for a moisturising shampoo, and then use a clarifying shampoo or clarifying treatment every 4-8 weeks to remove product build-up.
Tip: When you apply the shampoo, focus the application on your scalp only and allow the rinse-out to run down the length of your hair. No need to rub the shampoo throughout your entire length - this is to avoid stripping out your natural oils.
Conditioning your hair after shampooing replenishes the nutrients that were stripped by the shampoo. A curl-friendly, water-based deep conditioner will be free from silicones (a synthetic film that creates a barrier), have great slip, cause minimal build up, and be intensely fortified with penetrative natural ingredients, oils, butters and vitamins and proteins. Try and condition your hair once a week or at least every 2-3 weeks. Protein-based conditioners aim to strengthen weak and damaged hair and can be used every 4-6 weeks as a rule of thumb to strengthen the hair as the hair may weaken with regular wear and tear, while moisture-based conditioners aim to replenish hydration since moisture loss happens daily. Work out a balance, and listen to your hair to see what it needs weekly. Opt for more intensive 'deep' conditioners or mask if you hair is feeling extra dry in the month.
Heat encourages the cuticle layers of the hair to be lifted to allow the nutrients from the conditioners to penetrate easily and increase softness and suppleness.
Tip: After shampooing with lukewarm water, make sure to finalise the rinse after conditioning with cold water to close up the hair follicles and reduce frizz.
Tip: Apply a leave-in/no-rinse conditioner after shampooing and conditioning, and follow up with your regular styling product, whether that’s a curling cream, butter, oil, or gel. Some people will stretch their hair with braids, twists or buns or leave it as a regular 'wash-and-go' - literally.
Tip: Conventional cotton towels and their fibres are known for causing frizz and friction and absorbing too much moisture. Opt for a t-shirt or microfibre towel instead like our Gentle Curl Towel which is design to be ultra soft and gentle on all curl types. Gently blot, squeeze or pat excess water from your hair to minimise frizz.
Which routine/frequency will work for me?
You won't know what works until you experiment. Try routines for a month or two, assess, and proceed from there.
8. Minimise Heat Styling
All heat, including diffusing, can be damaging to hair if used intensely and too frequently. When you straighten your hair with heat (appliances such as blow dryers, curling irons and pressing combs), you are temporarily altering the protein bonds in your hair and weakening it. In addition, heat depletes moisture from hair. If you must heat-style, always apply a heat protectant spray first, use the lowest heat setting, on clean hair. Heat can melt dirt and build-up onto the hair cuticle.
If you want to go the extra mile, avoid heat styling all together or limit it to once every 3 months. Alternatively, the safest option is to air dry your hair and completely eliminate heat as this maintains the moisture in your hair for the longest.
9. Trim Ends Regularly
You might think this is the opposite of what you should do if you want to retain length but this is exactly what will keep your ends healthy. Split ends can be caused by regular wear and tear, improper detangling, brushing wet hair or excessive blow drying. Environmental breakage is caused by environmental factors that damage or break the hair. A good example is dryness that is caused from the hot summer sun, which is why it's good to use a natural oil like the African Citrus Bloom Hair Oil to protect your hair from the elements.
Contrary to popular thought, split ends can never be repaired. The only real cure for split ends is trimming them off. When you have split ends and you don't cut them, they will continue to split all the way up to the hair root, which can stunt length retention.
Not to fret, a minor trim (3-5mm) every 4-6 months will save you having to cut off an inch or more of extreme splits down the road. Analyse your tips closely to see if you detect lots of split ends.
Other ways to prevent split ends are by simply being gentle with your hair, avoiding excessive/rough combing, reducing the use of heat and keeping your hair moisturised.
9a. Trim Ends – Properly
You can either choose to cut your hair yourself or opt for a professional stylist who is experienced with cutting curly hair. Choosing a stylist that truly understands textured hair is essential. You do not have to straighten your hair, to give it a cut, especially if you don’t keep your hair straightened most of the time. You can cut your hair in its dry natural state or, if your hair is more coily, while in tiny mini twists at home If you choose to cut your hair, but make sure to cut it while its dry (cutting wet hair is like cutting wet paper), and never cut at an angle. Cut clean and in a straight line. Use sharp, professional hair scissors that are specially designed for cutting hair. Use them for cutting hair only. These scissors will cut quickly unlike dull scissors which may fray the hair further.
Tip: Looking for curly hair salons? Use Google or ask your curly-haired friends for recommendations of experienced persons/salons in your local area. You want to avoid getting a bad cut or experience from a stylist who is not experienced with your particular texture. Ask them for a consultation and review their product options. Bring your own products if you prefer, to give you more control about what you put on your hair.
10. Night Time Routine
A proper night time routine supports your curls. Wrap your hair before bed with a silk or satin scarf or using a silk or satin pillow case. These materials allow hair to slide smoothly, reducing hair and cuticle friction, frizz and dryness as opposed to using cotton which absorbs moisture. Your curls will thank you the next day!
11. Stay Hydrated and Maintain Your Wellbeing
Keep your curls moisturised by staying hydrated. Drink at least eight cups of water a day and eat a balanced diet of healthy foods such as fish, fruits, vegetables and nuts. The nutrients in your diet are nourishing to your nails, hair and overall wellbeing. Reducing stress is beneficial because the 'stress hormone' cortisol when high, can trigger premature greying and shedding. It's essential to positively manage stress in order to maintain healthy hair growth so that cortisol remains balanced.
12. Love your hair!
Last but never least, love your natural hair — regardless of type, texture, density or length. These factors simply help you to understand how your hair responds to techniques and manipulation. Love your hair in all its versatile and flexible ways— the beauty of curls. Our curls are simply incredible, from the ways they take various shapes to how they transform. Avoid using depreciating terms like ‘’tame’’, ‘‘control’’, ‘‘unmanageable’’ or ‘‘wild’’ and correct anyone who uses those terms. Your curls are not to be controlled, but simply to be understood. Don't force your hair to do or achieve something it won't or can't. Give your natural hair the freedom to express your identity with different style — long or short, coloured, or straightened. Understanding best and safe practices is key. Ps: this also means embracing the frizz - you can’t control it so why not love it.
I hope you have found this guide helpful and insightful! E-mail us at email@example.com if you have any questions about our Curl Guide!
For more information, we recommend the following read:
- The Science of Black Hair: A Comprehensive Guide to Textured Hair Care
- The Science of Transitioning: A Complete Guide to Hair Care for Transitioners and New Naturals
Founder | Flora & Curl Haircare