The Ultimate Guide to Naturally Curly Hair

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I didn’t always believe it, but now as a twenty-something I think that there is nothing more beautiful than a girl who embraces and rocks her naturally curly hair!

Over the past six months or so, I’ve been wanting to take better care of my hair and have been doing lots of research to figure out what products and methods work best to enhance my natural curls.

I turned to YOU wonderful friends on Instagram and HOLY COW! Y’all showed UP! So many of you were eager and excited to share about your curly hair journey and the tips and tricks you’ve found to be most helpful. 

First of all, we all know that everyone’s hair texture, curl pattern, etc. is totally different! You may have to do some fun trial and error to figure out what methods and products work best for you. 

I’ve tried lots of YouTube tutorials that didn’t work for me or my curl type, so don’t be afraid to keep experimenting until you find a combination of things that brings out your best, most naturally curly self!

That being said, here are six guidelines that seem to be universally popular with almost every girl who has naturally curly hair, myself included.

This will be a post I will come back and update as I try and discover new things!

1. Cleansing

My advice is to wash your hair only once a week. Before you judge, hear me out! I’ve been doing this for about two years now and it’s been a game changer.

A lot of you subscribe to the curly girl method, which advises us to avoid any product that contains parabens, silicones, sulfates, etc.

In my personal experience, following this rule hasn’t made much of a difference for my curls. The sulfate free shampoo’s I’ve tried have made my hair super flat and greasy, but maybe I just haven’t landed on the right product yet and should give some of your recommendations a shot.

I currently use whatever shampoo is cheapest from Costco. Ha!

As far as conditioner goes, my sister gave me a bottle of Briogeo Don’t Despair, Repair! Honey Moisture Deep Conditioning Mask for Christmas and I love it!

Your favorite cleansing products for curly hair:

2. Brushing

Many of you have a hard and fast rule about not brushing your hair while it’s dry, since doing so can easily cause breakage and damage to your curls.

While I don’t follow this rule all the time, I just recently started brushing my hair out after applying conditioner in the shower (with this brush) and love how my curls form afterwards.

Some of you also suggested using a wide tooth comb instead of a brush.

3. Drying

We all agreed on this curly hair care tip: always use a microfiber towel or a t-shirt to gently squeeze the water out of your hair after showering rather than a regular towel.

I bought my husband this pack of microfiber towels for the gym a couple years ago and have been using one as my hair towel for the past six months or so and it works great!

I flip my hair over and scrunch all the excess water out of my hair using my microfiber towel right after my weekly wash.

Many curl experts also advise us to avoid excess heat, which includes using styling tools and blow drying our hair.

I’ve seen a couple of hairstylists in the past who’ve asked me to come to my appointment with straight hair and I’m always like DO YOU REALIZE WHAT SORT OF TORTURE I MUST SUBJECT MYSELF TO TO HONOR YOUR REQUEST?!

I definitely steer clear of using any kind of straighteners or flat irons nowadays, and as a result only have straight hair a few times a year when my stylist blows it out at my color appointments! My husband always says he doesn’t recognize me afterwards. Ha!

While it’s good to use heat as little as possible, I have to be honest.

Sometimes I LIKE to.

I don’t feel badly about enhancing my curls with this Revlon curling wand or a one-inch curling iron a few times a month AT ALL. You do you, girl!

A lot of you said you diffuse your curls with a blow dryer, which is something I’ve never been able to figure out. It doesn’t work great on my hair type but it may on yours! If you do try out a method using a diffuser, the advice you gave me was to set your dryer on a low heat setting.

4. Apply a leave in conditioner or product to lock in moisture and prevent breakage.

Lately, I’ve been using Shea Moisture 100% Virgin Coconut Oil Leave-In Conditioner on my damp hair after my weekly wash and it smells so good!

Your number one recommendation was to use Moroccan Oil on your hair.

I have yet to be bold enough to apply oil regularly on my hair (it just seems counter intuitive when I want my clean hair to last a whole week).

But so many of you recommended this that I may have to try it out!

A few of you also suggested using straight coconut oil once a week in place of a leave in conditioner.

Several of you who were hairstylists suggested using Olaplex products. I’ve heard great things about them!

Your other favorite moisturizing products for curly hair:

5. Apply a curl defining cream, mousse or gel to help eliminate frizz.

My 8th grade self used to scrunch gel into her hair and often had some real crispy (like Wendy’s crispy chicken sandwich crispy) crunchy curls plastered to her little head.

I’ve since decided I like a looser hold on my curls, so gels are not something I ever use anymore.

BUT I still appreciate not looking like Hagrid with a frizzy mane every day! I used to brush my wet hair out before applying product, but have found that if I don’t touch my hair with a brush after washing it, the curls are able to form so much better!

After applying my leave in conditioner, I use Kristen Ess Hydrating Curl Defining Cream and scrunch the product in, then let my hair air dry.

hailey gardiner the ultimate guide to naturally curly hair

I’m super minimalist when it comes to products so I plan to keep using this one until it runs out, but am definitely excited to try out some of your favorite products and see how they work on my hair when I need a restock!

Your favorite curl defining products:

6. Maintain and refresh your curls between washes.

In an effort to help the structure of my curls last as long as possible, I use a loose scrunchy and pile my hair up in a “pineapple” on top of my head before bed and sleep with a silk pillowcase!

I used to make fun of my mom growing up because she’d always have this mess of curls on top of her head in the morning, but Mama was right! Rocking the pineapple definitely helps maintain volume and prevents flattening your curls.

To refresh my 2nd/3rd/6th day hair, I use Batiste Dry Shampoo in Divine Dark, which also helps cover my grey roots.

Yes, I started going grey at the ripe old age of TWENTY ONE!

I’ve also seen a lot of YouTube videos where girls will re-wet their hair with a spray bottle between washes, and then re-apply product and let it air dry again.

My low maintenance self can’t maintain any beauty routine that takes longer than 10-15 minutes, so instead of soaking my hair again mid-week, I just use Aussie Miracle Curls Refresher to tame down frizz and redefine my curls on day 3 or 4.

And there you have it! I hope you fellow curly girls found this guide helpful. I’m stoked to continue to try new products and methods and really lock in a routine that keeps my natural curls happy and healthy.