When your hair is curly, washing it is more methodical than simply jumping in the shower and reaching for the shampoo. The process of cleansing natural curls is kind of like making a soufflé: A lot of waiting around and temperature adjustments are involved in order to keep coils defined and frizz-free. Reason being? No matter what your curl type may be, "Curly hair strands are more fragile than straight hair," sisters LaToya, LaTasha, and LaTrice Stirrup tell Allure. The three are behind a new line of tools for curls called Kazmaleje. "Each bend along the hair shaft is a weak point. Therefore, it must be handled with care." On top of that, ringlets tend to tangle easily so necessary precautions must be taken to avoid knots.
With this in mind, I gathered up 11 tried-and-true tips from seven women with natural, curly hair who have wash day down to a science — and some of them you may recognize from YouTube. Thousands of people look to their videos on product essentials and routines to help maintain their curly hair, so their hands-on experience has helped them discover some genius tricks.
Because curls thrive off of the natural oils in your hair, you'll need to follow these tips only about once a week. Model Aliana King designates Friday, specifically, as her wash day. "My hair can dry and get bigger over the weekend and be ready for work on Monday," she explains. Read on for all the tips you need for making the most of your wash day.
Step 1: Pre-Poo
Before you even think about turning on your shower, you'll want to detangle and prep your hair first. Many of the curl experts slather on a deep conditioner, oil, or a no-poo like the DevaCurl No‑Poo Decadence to help them out with the process. "Pre-pooing before jumping into your full wash-day routine helps prep the hair for the wash process," Courtney Danielle, the creator of Curls and Couture, tells Allure. "Although it’s an extra step, it does make your routine much smoother by softening, making detangling much easier, and adding some extra nourishment to dry hair.”
Double up your detangling. “First, finger-detangle. Then, use a wide-tooth comb or detangling brush," Courtney Danielle suggests. "I like to finger-detangle first because it's much gentler and I can control how I detangle any knots I come across rather than breaking my hair. I feel if I use a brush immediately, I'm more likely to rip through any knots that I could have easily manipulated with my hands first.”
Be patient. “Allow the pre-poo to sit for 20 to 30 minutes before saturating hair with water,” she says.
Step 2: Shampoo
Now that you're in the shower and your curls are soaking wet, you'll need a game plan for getting the most out of your shampoo.
Start at the root. "Try to focus your shampoo on the scalp and hold the ends of your hair together so that it doesn't get tangled while scrubbing," Breanna Chevolleau of Mini Marley tells Allure.
Rinse and repeat. "First, [use a clarifying] shampoo while focusing on your scalp before rinsing it out and following up with a moisturizing shampoo," Rayna Ali-Patterson of Happycurlhappygirl tells Allure. Starting out with the clarifying shampoo helps remove any product buildup, the Stirrup sisters add, while the moisturizing one helps hydrate and detangle hair.
Turn the temperature up. "Rinse out the shampoo with warm water to open up the cuticle," Ali-Patterson recommends. This helps your hair absorb more moisture from the conditioner in your next step.
Step 3: Conditioner
Once you've shampooed, it's time for conditioner. Keep these four tips in mind.
Squeeze first. “Gently wring the excess water out of your hair before applying a moisturizing conditioner," the Stirrups recommend.
Avoid your scalp. "I put SheaMoisture Coconut & Hibiscus Curl & Shine Conditioner on all of my hair except my roots," King says. "This helps you not have to wash it as often."
Turn off the shower. If you have time to spare, "let the conditioner sit for five to 10 minutes under a plastic shower cap," the Stirrups say.
Chill out. "I rinse my hair out with cold water, leaving a little conditioner in my hair,” King says. The cooler temperature helps seal in the moisture from the conditioner.
Step 4: Drying
After your hair is completely washed, you've gotta make sure your curls are properly dried and prepped for styling.
Ditch your terrycloth towel. "Instead, use a microfiber towel or T-shirt to dry your hair," Courtney Danielle says. "Cotton towels have tiny loops that curly hair can get stuck in and cause breakage."
Skip drying altogether. "I normally don’t dry my hair at all," King says. "I put a hand towel on my back so that I don’t get wet and put my product in while my hair is wet."
Speaking of product, applying styling products is a completely separate routine. Luckily, Allure's hair editor Jihan Forbes, as well as several others, shared their go-to curl cocktails. With those tips and this wash-day recipe, your curls will be as springy and soft as a perfectly baked soufflé.
Read more about products for curly hair:
- The Best Curl Creams Under $20
- These Drugstore Hair-Care Products Worked Like a Dream for Three Different Curl Types
- This Cream Got My Curls to Get in Formation
Now, learn about 100 years of curly-hair history: