The Definitive Curly Hair Survival Guide

Aly Walansky


Anyone with curly hair is well-acquainted with the ongoing battle of finding the perfect products, the best hairstylist, and the most efficient styling routine, as well as the feeling you get when you realize that despite having all your ducks in a row, there are still just some days where you wake up looking like Medusa. Don’t panic: Just obey the commandments of this curly hair survival guide.

Less is more.
Lauren Carelli, bridal hair and makeup artist at Blushing Brides, has one huge tip for curly-haired girls: When it comes to product, less is most definitely more. “It’s not 1995, and crunchy curls are not trending right now,” she says, “but soft, full curls are.” She recommends using a curl lotion or cream as opposed to a gel or mousse. “My favorite products are Kevin Murphy Motion Lotion and Hair Resort. Not only are these lightweight products, but you [just] need a small amount,” says Carelli. Even better? Her faves are completely water-soluble, which means that you can just refresh your day-after curls with a bit of water to amp up slept-on style.

Avoid brushing.
Not only does brushing curly hair break apart your curls, but it only serves to create more tangles and knots, Carelli says. Limit brushing and use your fingers (and a good detangling leave-in product) to comb and style instead, and if you really feel like you need to brush, go for a wide-toothed comb instead.

Know how to treat a curl.
Whether at home or in the salon, it’s crucial to use products and treatments specifically target toward curly hair types, says Jeffrey Mayo, Eufora International Educator and stylist. Curls naturally tend to be dry and frizzy, so moisturizing them properly helps to bring the shine and bounce back to life for better hair days.

Hands off.
Using your hands to create your style is inevitable—in fact, you should ideally always be handling your curls with your hands rather than a comb or a brush, says Colleen Camp, director of education for Obliphica Professional. This will allow them to maintain their natural (and naturally beautiful!) shape, but once you’ve got that shape and styled it as desired, don’t touch.

Embrace unconventional shampoo.
Using conditioning cream shampoos rather than traditional sudsy formulas will gently clean, detangle, and deodorize curls without stripping natural oils, which is so important. “While cream shampoos are lower in the lather factor, they more than make up for it in the moisturizing and smoothing department!,” Mayo says.

Pay attention to water pressure.
Believe it or not, the way you use water in the shower will impact your outcome. Here’s how to do it right: Leave an excess amount of water in your hair during the conditioning process, says Camp. Comb through your curls with your hands, utilizing tension to remove any tangles, then rinse out your conditioner once your curls feel silky smooth without any roughness. Reduce your water pressure when rinsing to allow your curls to retain their natural shape. High water pressure, Camp says, can result in tons of unwanted frizz.

Don’t skip salon visits.
With curly hair, it’s easy to procrastinate that dreaded “trim” because it’s so difficult to find a stylist that can really perfect the curly hairstyle. “Try asking a stranger on the street with great curls who does their hair, then be sure to communicate clearly with your new stylist any concerns or fears you might have with your curls,” Mayo recommends. Curly hair should be trimmed every 6-7 weeks, because split ends creep up the hair shaft more quickly on curly hair than on straight hair.

Read more: Curly Hair Tips to Help You Love Your Texture