How To Care for Long Curly Hair

Woman with long curly hair

Nothing polarizes women quite so quickly as their hair! Those with long, straight hair dream of curls, brunettes want to be blondes, blondes want to be redheads, those with fine, straight locks covet the thick waves of another--in fact, it's rare to experience a moment of pure satisfaction with one's hair, outside of a particularly skilled effort by a hairstylist.

This seems to be especially true of women with long, curly locks. It will probably shock women with shorter straight hair to learn this, but those of us "blessed" with long curls experience great frustration with those ringlets and exasperation when the curl turns to frizz. In desperation, many a long-haired curly-top has opted for a short shag, thinking it would be easier to tame the hair into submission (read "make it straight and eliminate all trace of curl").

There is help, and hope, without taking such drastic measures. But the key is in working with your hair type and not against it. That means not loading your hair up with goopy products, yanking it tightly against a round brush and searing it with a blast of fiery hot air in order to make it straight, which doesn't even really work anyway. In a few hours, most women will experience some curls springing back up, especially around the face, and especially on warm, humid days.

So how do you care for your long curly locks? This list should help:

  1. Invest in high-quality moisturizing shampoos and conditioners. The thing about curls is that they're thirsty for moisture, more so than any other hair type. That curl comes with a price, and the price is keeping it well-conditioned and hydrated. Don't use clarifying shampoos more often than once a month. When shopping for a regular shampoo, look for one that is not transparent but thickly opaque or pearlescent in appearance (the transparency is a feature of certain detergents that will strip the hair of moisture--you want that in a clarifying shampoo or one formulated for volumizing, but not for your curls).
  2. Treat your hair very, very gently. Learn how to shampoo your hair without scrubbing by using the pads of your fingertips (not the nails) to massage the scalp and gently work the shampoo down the shaft of the hair instead of piling it all on top of your head and scrubbing harshly. Use a comb only when the hair is soaking wet, straight out of the shower, and only to detangle and arrange the part. And never use a brush except just before washing, or if you've caved into pressure and blow-dried it straight!
  3. Perform a biweekly or monthly deep conditioning treatment at home. Skip the hot oil and go straight for the tubs of hair masks or conditioners with the consistency of buttercream frosting. After shampooing, slather on the conditioner thickly, using approximately two ounces for shoulder-length hair. Don't skimp! Get it everywhere, and pile the hair loosely on top of your head. Cover it with a shower cap. Then put a towel in the dryer to get it hot and wrap the towel around the cap. Relax for an hour. Then rinse with warm water.
  4. Make sure your diet contains sufficient nutrients for good hair health. Take a good multivitamin and stay away from junk food! Your hair will reflect nutritional deficiencies quickly, so eat well, and drink plenty of water.
  5. When styling your hair, disturb it as little as possible . The culprit behind frizz is generally a disturbance of the curl pattern. This happens when a curl is brushed, or otherwise overmanipulated during styling. The best way to style your hair is to let it dry naturally after arranging it while it's soaking wet and then blotting the ends with a thick towel (never rub your hair with a towel, for the same reason). If that's not possible, look for a hair dryer with a diffuser attachment and use it whenever you use the dryer.
  6. Finally, invest in a haircut from a stylist who knows how to cut curly hair. Not every stylist understands the structure of curly hair. Blunt cuts on curls simply do not work; they'll just leave you with an unfortunate pyramid effect as the weight of the curl weighs down the hair at the crown and keeps it flat against the scalp, but then poofs out at the ends. Even standard layer cuts won't work on curlyheads--the layers will interrupt the curl pattern and end up creating optimal conditions for frizz. There is a way to cut curls diagonally that is not the same as layering but achieves a similar effect. Look for a stylist who knows this technique or has extensive experience with curls, even if her prices are a little steeper than you'd normally pay--it's worth the added expense.


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