Getty / LaylaBird
Healthy curls are undoubtably the goal for those with natural textures. Achieving that goal, however, requires the right tools: Everything from the type of comb or brush you use to the pillowcase you sleep on can have an impact on the strength of your hair. Here, several hair experts share the best hair tools to help you maintain a healthy curl pattern.
Paddle Brush and Wide-Tooth Comb
When styling her clients' curly, textured hair, Briana Cisneros, an ambassador for Wella Professionals North America, opts for either a wide-tooth comb or a paddle brush after washing and conditioning. "Depending on the tightness of the curl, I will use a wide paddle brush, like the Wet Brush Paddle Detangler Brush ($12.71, amazon.com) or possibly a wide-tooth comb—but I never use a comb with smaller teeth while the hair is wet," she says. "I divide the hair into smaller subsections and work from the ends up through the mid-lengths, and finally from the roots all of the way through the ends on each section."
Seeking another detangling brush option? Diane Stevens—Cole Stevens Salon owner, NIOXIN global stylist, and Wella Professionals master artist—recommends the Tangle Teezer Detangling Brush ($10, amazon.com): "This has a combination of the short bristles and the long bristles that magically detangle hair without any shedding and hair loss," she says. She also notes that wide-tooth combs should have smooth, rounded teeth at the ends.
"[Hair steamers] allow the hair to absorb so much moisture, that the curls are able to stretch and have greater elasticity," Stevens explains. She recommends pairing regular steamer treatments with the Nioxin System 5 Scalp Therapy Conditioner ($24, amazon.com) for low-porosity hair and the Wella Professionals Invigo Brilliance Mask ($16.80, ulta.com) for high-porosity strands.
The tools you use while drying your hair are critical, too. "My clients love the 'plopping technique' to get the excess moisture out of their hair while keeping the integrity of their natural curl pattern," Jessica Shakir of NuMe says. "You can use a soft cotton t-shirt or a towel made specifically for curly hair, like the NuMe Microfiber Hair Wrap ($18, numehair.com)." She recommends letting your curls "plop" into the t-shirt or microfiber towel and giving your hair a gentle scrunch. Stevens also recommends the t-shirt method, adding that "t-shirts are nice for at-home use because they are gentler than a towel. They are flat and allow the water to sink in without roughing up the hair."
After using a towel or t-shirt to absorb water after a wash, you can let your curls air dry or use a diffuser. Shakir recommends the DevaCurl DevaFuser ($23.97, amazon.com) for its 360-degree airflow. "A pro tip is to turn the blow dryer off as you're moving from one section to the next," the hair expert says. "After all, you don't want to blow your hair in all directions—the idea is to move your curls as little as possible." If you see frizz, that is a sign of friction in the drying process. Stevens also explains that using a diffuser—she recommends the GHD Professional Hair Dryer Diffuser ($30, ghdhair.com)—actually helps your hair's memory. "The more you wear it curly, the more defined it becomes," she notes. "Using a [diffuser] enables your curl definition to become greater and greater with each use."
Curling Iron or Wand
Redefining curls doesn't have to be a challenge, either. When you are looking for a refresh, Shakir says you can simply use a curling wand (she suggests the NuMe Octowand Curling Set ($200, numehair.com)). "Make sure to hold the styling wand pointing down to the floor and wrap small pieces of hair around it," she says. "Hold for three to five seconds. (Alternate directions to keep it looking undone.) And when you are curling the front of your hair, always wrap away from your face." If you would like a softer finish, Shakir says to pull at the end of the curl for more of a wavy look. For a tighter curl, simply let the hair slide off the wand and pin it with a clip. Let your hair cool for 10 minutes before taking out the hair clips for a longer-lasting hold, she says.
Do keep in mind, though, that the less heat, the better if you are defining your curls on a regular basis. "Sometimes it takes a while for your curls to bounce back if you have overused heat styling tools in the past," Cisneros says, adding that flexi rods are a great alternative. "Learning no-heat techniques, like Bantu knots, to let the hair dry in a looser, more defined curl pattern can also be a great way to stay away from the heat." Enhance your no-heat approach with a bonnet, Stevens says. "Custom sets using flexi rods, flat twists, finger coils, and rod sets will always last longer by using a hair bonnet," Stevens adds. "The bonnet will help the custom set retain moisture and maintain curl definition."
Since curly hair is prone to breakage, Stevens recommends sleeping on a satin or silk pillowcase to limit friction on your curls while you sleep. Cisneros notes that this will also help minimize frizz and keep strands hydrated.