As a kid coming out of the pin-straight hair '90s era, I’ve spent my whole life trying to embrace my natural curls. At 24 years old, I think I’m as close as I’ll ever be. Washing and styling curly hair requires so much more than retiring your blow dryer and “just letting it dry,” even if you’ve got hair that curls naturally on its own. A great curly hair routine is beyond necessary, and that’s why I reached out to Damian Santiago — renowned stylist, curly hair specialist, and co-founder of Mizu New York Salon.
According to Santiago, properly caring for curly hair is not at all the same as taking care of straight hair. “It is extremely important that curly hair be looked after with a focus on avoiding dryness and maintaining moisture levels,” he says, and in doing that, there are tons of no-nos for naturally curly hair. “Once curly hair has fully dried, never take a brush or comb to it. It will fuzz it up and can certainly result in damaged split ends,” Santiago says, and drying synthetic ingredients in your shampoos and mousses will do more of the same. If you’re looking to avoid curly hair mistakes so you can get the healthiest, bounciest curls of your life, check out Santiago’s top tips and product picks.
1. Always Use Ultra-Moisturizing Shampoos And Conditioners
According to Santiago, “When working with curly hair, always start with either a curly hair or moisturizing shampoo and conditioner.” LuxeOrganix Moroccan Argan Oil shampoo and conditioner is great for any kind of hair type, but especially curly, because it’s got all-natural ingredients like argan oil that add tons of moisture, vitamins, and definition. It skips all the chemicals, and instead leaves hair feeling soft, lightweight, and really manageable.
2. Go All-Natural Whenever Possible
When it comes to the ingredients that Santiago looks for in his curly hair products, he says, “All natural ingredients that are the correct match for the wide range of curly hair textures — moisture and lightness for some shine and richness for others.” If you’re looking for an extra boost of moisture and protective shine in the shower, Shea Moisture's yucca and baobab masque is a great option. It’s got organic ingredients that soak into strands to nourish them from the inside-out, and reviewers say it’s a total “must for naturally curly hair.”
3. Never Dry Curly Hair With An Abrasive Towel
“Curly hair care requires specific step by step care to ensure soft non fuzzy results,” says Santiago. “A rough towel would definitely be contrary to correct curly hair care.” Instead of using rough cotton to towel-dry your hair, try something like this YYXR microfiber hair drying towel. It’s made of a coral fleece material that’s beyond soft, so it won’t cause damage, breakage, or frizz. It’s also lightweight and super absorbent, so hair dries quickly while staying out of your way.
4. Always Put A Diffuser On The End Of Your Dryer
If you’re using a blow dryer, Santiago says “a diffuser is a must; it muffles the power and speed of the air flow, resulting in undisturbed curls.” The BaBylissPRO nano titanium universal finger diffuser fits most dryers (though be sure to check the size), and it has long fingers and far-infrared heat that penetrates strands for quick drying.
5. Go For A Wide-Tooth Comb While Detangling
For detangling while wet, “a large wide tooth comb is always my go to for curly hair,” Santiago says. “A quick tip is to always comb the hair out by starting from the bottom up, one section at a time working through to the top layers. Leaving a touch of conditioner in the hair will aid in an easy and smooth comb out.” This Breezelike sandalwood wide tooth comb is an awesome choice because it’s made from natural sandalwood instead of rough plastic. The wide teeth make it easy to detangle without damage or static, and people love the natural calming smell.
6. Give Thin Curls A Little More Definition
For hair that’s thin and curly, Santiago says he loves the R+Co Dallas thickening spray, as it’s “light with a modest hold.” It adds loads of volume, control, and shine, but it won’t leave hair feeling weighed down or clumpy — something that’s essential when dealing with thinner hair. Reviewers also say that it smells beyond incredible.
7. For Thicker Hair, Go For A Reliable And Moisturizing Cream
“For a bit more hold, I go for R+Co Jackpot Styling Crème,” says Santiago. While it’s great for keeping a blowout in shape all day despite humidity, those with naturally curly hair also love it, as it’s got ingredients like aloe vera that keep hair defined, hydrated, and manageable. That’s why reviewers are saying things like, “Perfect hold and lasts all day.”
8. Tame Frizz With Tons Of Silky Hydration
If frizz and dryness is your biggest issue, another one of Santiago’s favorite go-tos right now is Oribe's 'Curl Control' silkening crème. "I love the Oribe products in these categories," he says. This one offers a non-crunchy satin hold, all while taming frizz and providing loads of shine. Instead of leaving curls sticky, they’re bouncy and silky-smooth, and it’s great for both thick and thin hair alike.
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