8 Sneaky Shower Mistakes That Damage Curly Hair

Like overwashing, for one.

by Elena Hart
Originally Published: 
Avoid these common shower mistakes when washing curly hair in order to prevent damage.
Delmaine Donson/E+/Getty Images

Behind every head of bouncy, springing curls is a girl who knows how to treat her hair right in the shower. While there's no official rule book for taking care of your hair, you might be making certain curly hair washing mistakes in the shower that are leading to damage and preventing your curls from being healthy and happy. The mistakes are easy to avoid, and they all have simple solutions that will have you never wanting to go back to your old ways.

"Curly hair has to be treated entirely differently because of the fact that it is a dryer hair type naturally," Shab Reslan, hairstylist, hair health advisor at HairClub, and founder of soon-to-launch hair growth brand, tells Bustle. "Hair is [in] the most fragile state when wet and therefore needs to be treated as delicately as silk."

One extremely common mistake? You're probably washing your curly hair more often than you need to, which can lead to dry hair and frizz. Beyond that, there are plenty of mistakes that occur when you're in the shower. For instance, if you wait until stepping out of the shower to detangle your hair, you should try combing in the shower under running water with a wide-tooth wet comb. Once you're ready to dry off, you can wrap your smooth, tangle-free hair in a soft, quick-drying microfiber towel. Drying with one of these compact towels will keep your hair free from the frizz and breakage that comes from rubbing your hair with terrycloth.

Read on for more shower tips for your healthiest hair, and be prepared to share your intel with your friends — trust me, they'll be curious.

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1. Use The Best Shampoo For Curly Hair When Washing

As a general rule, curly hair types should avoid silicone-based shampoos, according to Kerry E. Yates, hair expert and creator of Colour Collective. "These have a tendency to build up on the hair, creating a barrier [that limits] moisture absorption," she tells Bustle, noting that this then leads to brittle strands. Reslan says that the best shampoos for curly hair on the coarser side are those that are heavier and deeply moisturizing (conditioners too), while thinner and finer curly hair types should stick to a heavier conditioner but a regular shampoo to ensure "you're not getting too much weight from both," she says.

This curl-enhancing shampoo by Aveda has a wheat protein and organic aloe blend that expands when your hair is wet (and retracts when it's dry) to enhance your natural texture and wave pattern. Users call this the perfect shampoo because it fights frizz and boosts shine. Bonus: The citrus smell of this product is delicious, created with organic lime, lemon, bergamot, and orange.

2. Remove Curly Hair Scalp Buildup With The Right Products

Regularly using styling products like curl mousse or dry shampoo can lead to product buildup, which weighs down your hair and prevents it from being its healthiest self. "I recommend a weekly deep cleansing or detoxifying shampoo in this situation," says Reslan. "The shampoos are ideal for a deeper cleanse and for removing part buildup and residue." That said, she suggests not using these sorts of shampoos on a regular basis as they "tend to use harsher cleansing agents," which can dry out your strands. For a detoxifying shampoo, try something like Briogeo's Scalp Revival Charcoal + Coconut Oil Micro-Exfoliating Shampoo.

You can also mix a sulfate-free shampoo with a curl-quenching conditioner — like Oidad's Curl Quencher Moisturizing Shampoo — to remove excess product and oils without stripping your hair of the moisture it needs. The deep nourishment in this hydrating product boosts your curls' internal weight and will shield the cuticle from any future damage.

3. Wash Curly Hair Properly To Avoid Damage

According to Reslan, the number one shower mistake to avoid is applying your shampoo from the scalp to the ends and rubbing it in too vigorously. "If you roughen up your cuticles from a damaging shampoo scrub, your hair will be compromised from the get-go," she tells Bustle. "It's important to apply shampoo very gently through the ends while giving the scalp a good scrub."

Yates echoes this point, noting that curly hair has an elliptical shape with thick/thin bends along the hair shaft. "This is why it's important to use a light touch when applying shampoo and conditioner," she says. "Always focus on washing directly at the scalp vs. agitating the mid-lengths and ends which can cause hair stress and extreme tangles." She recommends applying shampoo through the ends of your curls.

When conditioning, Reslan suggests squeezing excess water out of your hair before applying your product. "This will allow the product to penetrate the hair more effectively, which will greatly benefit curly hair," she says. "It's important to clip your hair up and give the product a few minutes before rinsing." And, according to Yates, be sure to distribute conditioner through the mid-lengths and ends with your fingers rather than a brush in order to avoid breakage. Opt for one of the best conditioners for curly hair, the Intensive Conditioner by Pattern Beauty.

4. Use A Microfiber Towel For Curly Hair If You're Rubbing Your Hair Dry

One common culprit behind dry or frizzy curls is the towel you're using. "The best type of towel to use is one with minimal loops," says Yates, pointing to terrycloth towels as an example that pulls curls out of their shape and lead to dryness and frizz. She recommends using a towel that's similar in texture to your favorite cotton T-shirt. "The low-profile knit does a great job of wicking away the moisture without negatively impacting curl or pulling the hair and causing breakage," she tells Bustle.

Using a microfiber towel like the ones by DuraComfort have instant drying technology that cuts drying time down, and the material is super soft. Bonus: These towels are light and compact, so you can store them in your gym bag or pack them for your next weekend getaway.

5. Use A Shower Cap For Curly Hair For Added Moisture

"Covering your curls with a shower cap allows the shower steam to open your hair cuticles and lock in extra moisture for the best results," says Yates, adding that these caps also work to protect your curls from moisture while showering. "In a pinch it can also be used as a curl protector when sleeping."

This deep conditioning cap from Amazon,The HydraCap, is easy to put on, disposable, and uses the natural heat from your head (along with its snug fit) to produce the heat needed to activate deep conditioning treatments. One box comes with five caps, giving you an excuse to treat your hair to some extra love.

6. Use A Leave-In Conditioner If You Shower On Humid Days Or Need A Refresh

Protecting your curls against the elements is hard enough without adding the stress of your wash and dry routine. If your curly 'do needs a refresh, create a mix of water with an organic, curl-revitalizing leave-in conditioner to mist on your hair. The Opro Organic Leave-In Conditioner contains shine-infusing ingredients (like mineral oil) to leave hair feeling soft. One shopper, who has a problem with battling frizz in hot weather, said applying this product gives her the best curls she's ever had.

7. Detangle Curly Hair With The Proper Comb

For ultimate curly hair health, Yates says to avoid brushing your wet hair in the shower. "It pulls the curls out while exposing excess tension to already fragile hair," she says. "To effectively detangle while also keeping curls/waves, work from the bottom up by taking small sections to lightly work through with a wide-tooth comb. Her tip? Begin trying to work the tangles out with your fingers before following up with your comb.

This Wet Brush comb works with all hair types while it's still wet. Users give this tool high ratings for how well it glides through hair without pulling or damaging.

8. Use Dry Shampoo For Curly Hair Sparingly

Yates says that dry shampoos are the most mis-used hair care product on the market. "People with curly hair are normally challenged with dry scalp or dry hair conditions," she tells Bustle. "Dry shampoos do a great job of creating volume and camouflaging dirty hair smells, but they're not meant to be used in place of a regular wash." Shampooing daily can strip curls of their natural moisture, though, so an extra-absorbent dry shampoo on non-wash days can keep your hair smooth.

To properly use dry shampoo on curly hair, she recommends applying sparingly to the root area and then massaging through the first half-inch of the hair to create lift. Use something like Tigi Bed Head Rockaholic Dirty Secret Dry Shampoo for the job.

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