Whether you’re new to your curly hair journey or you’ve been on this road for a while, you know that getting and keeping the perfect curls can be hit or miss. The key to success lies in your wash day routine for curly hair.
I’ve been on this road on and off for a few years. When COVID forced me to grow out my recent bob cut stage, I decided to embrace my hair’s natural texture.
In this article, my recommendations are primarily for ladies with 2C/3A curl types. Doing the research, I’ve found that the ten steps below are essential to achieve volume and definition with minimal frizz. To be honest, I haven’t mastered it yet (especially the NO TOUCHING part!) but I’m confident that the wash day map below for curly hair is the secret sauce!
Every step is essential and must be followed in order. Reader be warned: skipping any of the steps below will yield sub-optimal results.
Step 1: Cleanse
Shampoo and condition your hair. Sulfate-free shampoos are recommended. You may even want to consider using a co-wash instead to retain moisture and minimize frizz. Every once in a while, though, do use a clarifying shampoo to remove all the inevitable product buildup that occurs from maintaining curly hair.
Deep condition once a week or once every two weeks. Alternate between a moisturizing and protein deep conditioner because your hair needs both for balance. Follow the directions! A lot of women think they can keep deep conditioners in their hair for hours or even overnight. However, doing so risks hygral fatigue and, unfortunately, the only remedy for that will be scissors!
5 minutes is usually all your need.
Step 2: Use a Leave-in Conditioner
Pick something light and make sure you apply a generous amount throughout your hair. Section, if you have to.
Shea Moisture Sugarcane Extract & Meadowfoam Seed Silicone Free Miracle Styler Leave-in Treatment
Curlsmith Weightless Air Dry Cream
Eva NYC Satin Dream Leave-in Cream
Step 3: Style & Hold (take your time here!)
You need products that are going to a) help your curls form and b) keep their shape. Again, apply generous amounts through sectioned hair.
Personally, I’ve sped through this step in the past. Unfortunately, my curls paid the price for it. I think it’s because, in the past, I may have used products that were heavier and better suited for thicker, coarser hair. In those situations, yes, less is more.
But today, with a greater variety of product formulations, specifically for looser curls, more is now better. I recommend really saturating each section of hair with the recommended amount of product first. If you’re results leave you with hair that feels greasy or weighed-down curls, then adjust the next time.
My recommendations below list options for curl formation and hold separately. However, there may be newer products that claim to provide both benefits in one. Don’t be afraid to test them out!
I recommend applying these products using both the raking technique and praying hands method.
Ouidad Advanced Climate Control Featherlight Styling Cream
Curlsmith Hold Me Softly Style Balm
Aveda Be Curly Curl Enhancer
Aveda Confixor Liquid Gel
Curlsmith Hydro Style Flexi Jelly
Ouidad VitalCurl+ Soft Defining Mousse
Step 4: Distribute, Distribute Distribute
Another easily overlooked step. Once you’ve generously applied your products throughout your hair, make sure you evenly distribute with a wide-toothed comb or a Denman brush.
When I first saw all the YouTube tutorials demonstrating this brush, I honestly thought it was a hype. They were just trying to get me to buy another expensive, but ultimately non-essential product.
I was wrong.
I bought the product to prove that it’s results would be negligible. Turns out, there was a significant improvement with my curl pattern after using this brush. I do highly recommend!
Whether or not you’re on the Denman brush boat, find something more significant than just your fingers to ensure your strands are adequately coated.
Step 5: Finger Coil
If your hair is like mine, it may need some encouragement to remember that it’s curly. To prevent sections of your hair from drying limp, section your hair again and finger coil.
Yes, you’re noticing a lot of hair sectioning on wash day. It’s clearly important. Also, finger coiling works best if your hair is properly saturated with product. Please see steps 2, 3 and 4 above.
Step 6: Diffuse
You could air dry, but if you have long hair, this could take hours and I’m guessing that you ain’t got time for that! Plus, it’s harder to get volume at roots.
Diffusing yields great results but there are very strict rules here!
- NO TOUCHING! Sit on your hands if you have to. Fingers in your wet hair while drying a) removes product and b) encourages frizz.
- Set your dryer to high heat and low speed. If your dryer doesn’t give you options for both of these separately, then please get yourself a new dryer. I recently bought this one and I LOVE!
- Stick to a hovering technique. Don’t start plopping your hair with the diffuser cup! This will also cause frizz. The goal is to let whatever hold product you used form a cast on your hair. SIT ON YOUR HANDS! Focus the diffuser around your roots and mid-sections.
- Diffuse until your hair is 80-90% dry. Otherwise, you risk over-drying which leads to frizz. Plus, you still need just a little bit of moisture present in your hair to seal in moisture to maximize the longevity of your curls.
Step 7: Seal-in Your Curls
When your hair is 80-90% dry and still has a little bit of moisture in it, apply an oil or serum to your palms and coat your strands using the praying hands method.
OGX Nourishing Coconut Oil Weightless Hydrating Oil Mist
OUAI Hair Oil
Olaplex No.7 Bonding Oil
Step 8: Air Dry the Rest
Don’t forget, your hair is not completely dry just yet! You could still encourage frizz formation if you start touching so SIT ON YOUR HANDS!
Step 9: Scrunch & Fluff
Once your hair is 100% dry…and only when it is 100% dry…break the cast by scrunching the curls. I recommend coating your hands with oil first as an added frizz prevention technique. You should see the curls immediately soften. Your hair should not feel stiff or greasy.
For added volume, stick your fingers underneath your hair and gently shake and fluff out the roots. Never do this on the top of your hair. This will only cause frizz. You can also use a hair pick as an alternative.
Voila! Your hair is done and should be looking all kinds of fabulous.
But your wash day routine is not done yet!
Step 10: Preserve Your Curls
All this hard work will be ruined if you don’t protect your curls. Sleep in a bonnet if you want your locks to last for days. Your curls will look exactly the same the next morning as they did when you put the bonnet on the previous night.
Other popular options to preserve your curls:
- Sleep on on a silk or satin pillow case. However, from my experience, I still wake up with frizz and limp curls.
- Tie your hair in a silk scarf. This is great if you can get the scarf to stay on your head all night. For me, I find that the scarf loosens and falls apart in the middle of the night making my curls susceptible to frizz and friction.
- The pineapple method. This is when you pile your curls on top of your head in a high ponytail, securing with a silk or satin scrunchy. It’s not a terrible method but there’s still the risk of disrupting the curl pattern.
I really find the bonnet to be the best method so far.
Getting wash day right is the key to success for curly hair. It starts with using the right products to cleanse, style and finish. It depends on adequate application and distribution of product throughout the hair. It requires patience and proper technique during the drying process. Finally, the importance of locking in moisture and preserving your hard work cannot be underestimated.
All of the above may sound like an ordeal. But for me, I’ve found that I jump out of bed the mornings of wash day because I’m so excited to work through the process and see the results. This is coming from someone who is not a morning person! I’m having fun experimenting with products and seeing the results to find the perfect curly hair cocktail and I can’t wait to share my experiences with you.
Manes by Mell | 5 EASY WAYS TO GET RID OF FRIZZY CURLY HAIR | YouTube Video, April 10, 2018
Manes by Mell | HOW TO DIFFUSE CURLY HAIR WITHOUT FRIZZ | YouTube Video, April 17, 2018