Anyone with curly hair knows that curl care tips aren’t one-size-fits-all. That’s why Cosmopolitan.com put together a cheat sheet to help you get the most beautiful curls of your life no matter what kind of curl pattern you have.
For Corkscrew Curls
Handle With Care
As the name implies, corkscrew curls resemble the essential tool you use to open bottles of bubbly — that much you know off the bat. But what might be more of a surprise is that they’re super fragile and prone to frizz, so it’s time to ditch the same ol’ cotton towel you’ve had since college. The fabric and texture can create frizz and damage your strands, instead of drying them. “Gently pat your hair dry with a paper towel or a microfiber towel,” advises Patrick Wellington, hairstylist and owner of Wellington Hair Spa in New York City. Both options reduce the amount of friction applied to hair, minimizing frizz and damage.
“For this type of delicate hair, adding moisture and avoiding heat are the best ways to eliminate breakage and damage,” says Wellington. He recommends topping off your hair routine with a lightweight styling cream like SheaMoisture Coconut & Hibiscus Curl & Style Milk, $11. “This keeps curls bouncy and light,” he explains.
For Loose Curls
Clarify on the Reg
Since these curls are loose, they’re prone to drooping and losing their definition. Piling on a million styling products in an effort to fix the problem just amounts to leftover gunk, which weighs these curls down and stretches them out. “It’s essential to use a clarifying shampoo at least once a month to avoid buildup from products,” says Wellington. This helps boost your hair’s natural volume and frees you from overloading on products.
By nature, these kinds of curls have a tendency to fall flat — it’s just the way they’re structured. Still, their coarse, dense texture requires moisture if you’re after that soft, shiny look. That’s why a curl-defining product with conditioning ingredients is your MVP; it "keeps the style neat and your curls from falling,” says Wellington. Try SheaMoisture Fruit Fusion Coconut Water Weightless Style Mousse, $11 for grip and hold, while also giving your strands a dose of moisture with shea butter and coconut water.
For S-Shaped Curls
Less Is More
Curls are notoriously dry, since your scalp’s natural oils can’t easily slide down the hair shaft like they do with straight hair. But S-shaped curls, which look like a squiggle, actually retain moisture better than other types of curls, so they require less maintenance if you prep correctly. “You can wash-and-go if you use a rich, creamy leave-in product,” says Wellington. SheaMoisture Coconut & Hibiscus Curl Enhancing Smoothie, $13, pairs coconut oil and silk proteins for max hydration and smoothness.
Twist Them Out
S-shaped curls stand up well to handling compared to their counterparts. Take advantage of this and prep your hair before bed: Run a curl-defining cream through your hair, twist two sections around one another, then secure the ends with an elastic. Repeat these twist-outs all over your head. “It enhances the curl definition, eliminates frizz, and maintains the moisture balance,” says Wellington. When you wake up, just take them out and boom — your hair is already done.
For Z-Shaped Curls:
Choose Your ’Do Wisely
This type of curl has a fluffy appearance, says Wellington. And it can shrink up to 70 percent when wet, which can easily lead to breakages. Because the hair is so fragile, “it benefits the most from protective styling," he explains. This means styles that won’t weaken hair or cause breakage like braids, twists, or even just pulled back with a headband are all good options. The one to avoid: tight ponytails.
Cut Down the Moisture
Remember that whole point about curly hair benefitting from mega-hydration? This curl type is the exception. Too much moisture can actually cause breakage because these curls are so delicate that rich, heavy products can make hair snap. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t treat your hair to a deep conditioner — just do so in moderation. Try it once a week, says Wellington.