How to manage Curly Hair

Curly hair care, products and styling tips from an expert!

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Table of Contents

I love my curly haired friends!! No two are the same, and playing in their luscious locks is fun and always a bit of a fun challenge.

Curly hair is BEAUTIFUL and FABULOUS and I love it when a curly girl embraces her curls instead of trying to fight them (and not win)

Many people believe curls are super easy, just wash and go! (WRONG)

Curls take love, nurturing, spoiling and PRODUCT!!!! If you come in and sit in my chair and say you want great curls but don't want product, you'll be met with a very blank, unbelieving stare! LOL – I AM serious about great curls!

Why do curls need product???

*Product helps keep naturally dry curls moisturized
*Product helps keep frizz under control

*Product helps define curls and hold their


It's RARE to find one product that does everything, and so most curly girl styling arsenal includes 2-3 products to get the best results. Sometimes the gel from one brand works great and the cream from another brand works great with it! Don't feel like you have to use all the same brand. Experiment till you find the magical cocktail that works for you and your girls (I mean curls)

I style a lot of curls, cuz it's my favorite thing to do!! As a curly hair specialist, I've tried many brands. Although I have found many great products that work well, my styling station can not hold all of them!! I finally broke down and limited myself to a few favorites. My clientele, for the most part, are Caucasian and have curls ranging from a 2C to a 3C, and so I keep products that work best for me and those curl types on hand.

I normally would tell my clients NOT to purchase their professional hair products from Amazon, because you don't know where they are really coming from, but I have vetted these products and know that they are offered through Amazon directly from the Manufacturer.

My Curly Hair Go-To Products are the following: (In the order I use them)

Surface Curl Shampoo  

To Moisturize, Cleanse, Soften and Shine

- Sulfate-Free And Paraben-Free

Natural Frizzy Hair Protection. The Smell is DELICIOUS as well!

Surface Curls Conditioner

To Moisturize, Cleanse, Soften And Shine

- Sulfate-Free And Paraben-Free

Natural Frizzy Hair Protection

Moroccan Oil Intense Hydrating Mask A five-minute,deep-conditioning mask that revives medium to thick dry hair.

Brazilian Blowout Smoothing Serum This unique smoothing formula detangles, conditions and seals the cuticle to lock-in moisture and lock- out humidity. It is also a Heat Protectant!

Oribe Curl Shaping Mousse

Shapes and holds curls. Creates body and bounce. Hydrates and prevents frizz.

Surface Curls Frizz Free Spray Gel
Lightweight Control With Cocoa Butter And Babassu Oil

Although I was trained as DEVA CURL inspired stylist, and love cutting and styling our curly girls, I have mastered my own techniques over time, with trial and error, and it's made me an expert in creating the best look for my curly heads! I have learned that one technique does not work for everyone, and my consultation with my Curly Haired Guest is thorough!

Getting A Hair Cut When You Have Curly Locks

Whether your will be sitting in my chair or another curly haired specialist's chair there are a few things you should know before coming in for a curly cut.

The best cut for curly hair is one that includes LAYERS!!! I know, I know.... you've had Christmas Tree Layers before, so you're scared... but don't be! Layers cut to the curl are a totally different thing!

1. PLEASE LET YOUR STYLIST KNOW when you make your appointment that you are a curly girl! Sometimes, especially if this is your first visit with the stylist, they may want to book just a few extra minutes to give your curls the attention that they deserve!

2. If you wear your hair curly most of the time, I’ll cut it to look great curly.
If you wear your hair blown out straight most of the time, we’ll cut it to look great straight.
YOU CAN’T HAVE BOTH – curly hair and straight haircuts do NOT always interchange and look great both ways. However, I can do a hybrid cut that will give you the almost best of both worlds if not the Greatest of one world… get my drift??

3. If you are coming in for a CURLY style cut – please come in with your hair clean, dry and curly the way you like to wear it. I prefer to be cutting it dry so that I can get the shape you want for your curly style. However, if your curls are not fresh and defined, I may cut it wet then refine after I dry it – same process, just in reverse.
After the dry cut, I will shampoo and style you curly with amazing Products (see my list above) and show you how to get the best out of your curls. Because I attack your cut differently than a traditional wet cut, and much of the cut is determined by the curl pattern, if you straighten it later it may look uneven or even a bit choppy.

Layered cuts for the traditional straight cut include feather and blending methods that can be a disaster on delicate curls! Again, this is why it's important to let your stylist know how you where it on a daily basis.

4. If you’re coming in for a straight style cut – I’ll shampoo you when you get here, blow it out, straighten and then do a dry cut.

Home Care for Curls is More Important Than You Think

Here are a few tips to keep your curls FABULOUS in between Salon Visits:

The best way to wash curly hair is with a 100 percent sulfate-free shampoo. Sodium lauryl sulfate, the key ingredient in most traditional shampoos, is both a salt and a detergent—an effective cleanser that's too harsh for most curls. Without enough conditioning agents, it can lift the hair's cuticles, leaving hair dry and frizzy. My recommendation the Surface Curl Shampoo and Conditioner. Both will result in a mound of bouncier, glossier curls. For fine hair, cleanse every other day; those with thick strands can usually go three or more days without a wash.

It's also a very good idea to clarify your hair every few washes as well because even the best products can tend to build up over time. On Clarify Days, do your first lather with a good clarifying shampoo like Moroccan Oil Clarifying Shampoo, then do your second lather with your curl shampoo.

Did I mention condition? The curlier the hair, the longer it takes for natural oils to travel from the scalp to the ends, causing the lower half to appear dry and frazzled. Why does it take longer you ask?? Well for starters, you are not brushing it every day! Another reason is that the curl of the strands lifts the cuticle creating a texture that keeps natural oils at the scalp.

Start adding moisture in the shower. Every 3rd Wash add the Moroccan Oil Intense Hydrating Mask to your Shampoo Day Routine. Then protect and hydrate every inch with a styling product that doubles as a leave-in conditioner. (Brazilian Blowout Smoothing Serum)

I am well aware that the Deva Curl and Curly Girl Method is all about the water, but I've found that you don't need to be dripping and sloppy wet when you add in your products. I feel like this ends up with a lot of your expensive product down the drain.

Here is how I do it.

A)   Out of the shower, wrap a Micro Fiber towel around your locks. If your hair is long, this is best done bending over with your hair hanging free. Use the towel to gently "wring" out the excess water. No scrubbing, rubbing or abusing!!

B)   Put a quarter size dollop of Leave In Conditioner (I've suggested Brazilian Blowout Smoothing Serum) in your palm and emulsify it by rubbing your hands together. Now take your product covered hands and rake them through your hair to distribute the product.

C)   Detangle your curls first with your fingers then follow up with a wide tooth comb. Keep in mind that hair is at it's most fragile when it's wet, so be gentle. This process will also continue to distribute the leave in conditioner throughout the hair.

D)   Now Add in your favorite mousse or cream, the same way you did the leave in conditioner. First by emulsifying in your hands, (*Note: no need to emulsify mousse!) then raking it through your hair with your fingers, followed by the wide tooth comb. My favorite Mousse is Oribe Curl Mousse and my favorite cream would be Moroccan Oil Curl Defining Cream.

E)   Now add in your final layer, which will most likely be a gel. I prefer a Surface spray gel, as I mentioned before, but a liquid gel works better for some. If it's spray, spray your hair generously with the product, then comb through. If it's a liquid gel, apply the same way you did the Mousse or Cream.

F)   I highly recommend doing a final run through with a Denman Brush before scrunching or plopping. There are also ways to form curls with the Denman Brush that look beautiful, but that is a lesson for another day!

#4 LIMIT ALCOHOL (and I don't mean the WINE!)

Styling products high in alcohol give curls a "crunchy, ramen-noodle" texture—they suck up every last bit of moisture. Hair spray tends to contain the most alcohol, as well as gels and mousses—really anything that provides hold or lift. I recommend water-soluble gels that don't feel sticky on your skin, and aerated mousses or foams that resemble beaten egg whites, to give hair fullness, control, and a non~brittle boost. Most curl specific gels are not the 80's hold your hair to Heaven Crunchy concoctions.

My GO TO Styling Products that have worked for ALL my clients is the Oribe Curl Shaping Mousse and the Surface Frizz Free Spray Gel

Choosing the right products can be a bit of trial and error until you get the combination of products that work best for YOUR curls. Most curly girls end up cock-tailing 2-3 products to get the best results.

Just be sure to pick the right formula to deliver moisture without weighing hair down. I recommend sprays for fine hair with soft curls, thicker gels for medium to big curls and denser creams for spiral coils.

The more you manhandle curly hair, the more you ruffle the cuticle, creating frizz. The key is to cut down on friction, so stop playing with your hair! I always have to giggle at my curly clients that come in, sit down in my chair and start complaining about all the frizz as they are running their fingers relentlessly through their locks.

Also avoid contact with coarse winter scarves, sweaters, and coats, which can contribute to fuzziness as well, and look for satin-lined hats and hoods.

Standard combs and brushes are a "NO NO NO!" – (especially on dry hair) your individual hairs group them selves into little families that create the beautiful curls. If you comb or brush through your hair (especially dry) you separate the families and the get so upset and disoriented!!! Detangle wet hair with a wide tooth comb.


Air drying your hair is the best for it. As it dries just continue to scrunch once in a while and flip the hair from one side to the other to create volume and lift as it dries. But alas, aint nobody got time for that!

So a blow dry situation is upon us: A regular nozzle disrupts the curl pattern and focuses hot air on one small section at a time, while a diffuser dries curls evenly for a full, uniform look. After applying your products and making sure your girls are tangle free, flip your head upside down and "diffuse right at the roots and midlength, making sure to dry the area completely to lock in volume. Do the ends last and leave them only semidry. Because the ends tend to be more damaged, let them air-dry more.

Although very expensive, I can not recommend enough the Dyson dryer and diffuser. I dry a lot of curly hair in my salon, and the Dyson Dryer and Diffuser, by far, does the best job!  My 2nd favorite would be the MASSIVE Diffuser Dryer from Curl Smith!

Bristles fray the hair, disturb curl formation, and create a cloud of frizz. Use your fingers to tousle curls, and refresh wilting ones with a spritz of curl reactivator. Choose a brand you like or make your own by combining one part of your regular conditioner with four parts tap water in a spray bottle. If you're feelin' fancy you can add some lavender oil for a nice scent. Mist it all over and then gently scrunch. Unsnag tangles with a wide-tooth pick or comb. (better yet, leave them till wash day if possible)

Excess heat alters the proteins that give curls their spiral shape. Over time, curls become more limp. Limit blow-drying to just twice a week, and if you use a flatiron, never go higher than 350 degrees. (fun fact / hair begins to melt at 415 degrees!) I tell my clients to always use hot tools that have an adjustable temp setting. Start at the lowest (325-340) then only increase the heat a little at a time if it’s not getting the desired result. You would be surprised how little heat you need to get a great result if you take smaller sections. If you notice your curls have lost their bounce, abstain from heat-styling entirely and use a conditioning mask in the shower. Once hair is exposed to moisture, new hydrogen bonds begin to form and restore the curl pattern.

FUN FACT: Hair can be abused or loved into submission! If you continue to straighten curly hair with heat, over time it will give up and the curls will weaken. However, if you spoil your curls and do all the good things, the curl pattern can become stronger over time.

Cotton soaks up moisture from your hair, causing frizz. Cotton fibers also tug on hair as you toss and turn, which can lead to breakage. A silk pillowcase cuts down on friction and keeps things smooth. … and it feels so fancy! Another option is a head wrap to keep your curls protected as you sleep.

#10 FIND A STYLIST THAT KNOWS CURLS  (if you can't see me!)
Curly dry hair and curly wet hair are two absolutely different things. Curls retract significantly when dry; some pieces may coil tightly, while others hang a bit looser.
A thorough consultation about how you wear your hair is MUST. Always show up to the salon with curly dry hair so that your stylist can see your true dry curl pattern. Once a good stylist has seen your curly hair dry cutting it wet or dry doesn't matter - because if they know what they are doing, they now know what can be done and what can't be done after seeing the curls.


Try to refrain from bleaching (highlighting) your hair. The chemicals in hi-lighting services break the bonds in the hair that form the curls. If you absolutely can NOT go without your summer hi-lights, make sure to go to a curly hair specialists that know how to protect your curls during the color service. Follow up any color services with a regimen of Olaplex or K18 following instructions on the label.

Stay Beautiful!