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Washing Curly Hair: Girl Loves Curl

Washing Curly Hair: Girl Loves Curl

Washing curly hair is a science of its own! Curly hair is generally drier than straight hair, so the main goal when washing curly hair is adding moisture. Moisture helps keep frizz at ease and makes the hair healthier. Because keeping moisture in the hair is the ultimate goal, it is not recommended to wash curls daily. If you have only worked with straight hair, this might seem like a foreign concept but it is a very common practice for curly hair!

Generally speaking, the more curly the hair is, the more moisture the curls need. Using that same thought, the curlier the hair is, the less frequently washes need to happen as well. If you are worried about reviving curls, or making them last more than one day, we will be going over that a little later! For today, we will be talking about the actual curly hair washing and conditioning process.

How to Wash Curly Hair

Washing Curly Hair Video

The video to show the curly hair washing process comes with step by step instructions. However, there is a lot more information shared in the text of this lesson. Be sure that you read the text of the lesson as well, to get the most out of the lesson. The video is more of a brief overview.


Where To Wash Curly Hair

Wash days can look differently for everyone. Some curly hair types will wash their hair in the bath or shower, and others will use a shampoo bowl attachment in their sink. In my home, we do a combination of all three of those options, depending on what our schedule looks like.

When we wash in the sink, we use the Shampoo Buddy. I was really on the fence about investing in one but we have loved it! We typically roll up a towel right under the neck piece to give a little more support but that is the only addition we use to make it work well on our kitchen sink. My girls love that they can lay down and relax while we wash.

Curly hair wash days need to be treated like a spa experience. It isn’t something that should be rushed through. This could be a major adjustment for someone with straight hair.

Sink Shampoo Bowl

How to Wash Curly Hair

A common hair misconception for all hair types is covering the whole head with shampoo. Did you know that shampoo is mostly meant for scalps? Shampoo only needs to go where it is absolutely necessary.  Focus the shampoo on the scalp, and the shampoo will run down the strands of hair to give it a wash. 

For curly hair, shampoo doesn’t need to be used every time you wash. This can differ for different curl types. Remember, the more curly the hair, the less frequently the hair typically needs to be washed. If the hair isn’t washed often, shampooing each time is smart. For curls being washed more often, using shampoo every time isn’t necessary. If the curls are prone to major frizz, it is common to wet the hair in the shower and only condition it!

How often to Shampoo Curly Hair

When shampoo isn’t used, it is still important to massage the scalp to promote proper scalp blood flow. Curly hair isn’t brushed on a regular basis. Brushing hair gives the scalp a massage and promotes that blood flow. When curls aren’t being brushed, the scalp can miss out on that massage. This is why it is important to treat wash days as a spa experience. Take your time to really massage the scalp with the shampoo, or just give the scalp a nice massage if shampoo isn’t being used. Use pads of your fingertips to really rub the scalp. Avoid using your fingernails as they can carry bacteria that can lead to scalp issues. By giving the scalp a good scrub you are allowing build-up to break apart and blood to flow through the scalp, creating healthy hair follicles. 

When shampooing, always work in sections. Curls will curl up together and become damaged if you pull them apart too fiercely. But remember, it is important to get to the scalp. So, carefully pull part curls to get to the scalp as you shampoo.

Using Co-Wash in Curly Hair

Types of Shampoo for Curly Hair

Using a mild shampoo or co-wash (also known as a conditioning wash) is the best way to give curly hair the moisture it needs. If you have never used a co-wash before, it might surprise you that it doesn’t create suds at all and looks much more like a conditioner. This is how the product is meant to be. Cleansing still happens, even when suds aren’t being created. This type of shampoo cleans the hair without pulling all of the moisture out of the hair. 

Bad ingredients for Curly Hair

There is a long list of ingredients you want to stay away from when it comes to curly hair products. Thankfully, most products marketed for curly hair, stay away from those ingredients as much as possible. I don’t expect you to be a scientist or to carry around a list of ingredients while you shop for curly hair products. If you use a product with an ingredient that isn’t the best for curly hair, it isn’t the end of the world. 

As a general rule, stay away from silicone products, sulfate products, and paraben products. There is a much longer list that you could create that include mineral oils, waxes, and alcohol products but if you plan to wear your hair straight sometimes, I have a place for some of those last ingredients. This is where a lot of people totally freeze up. They are too scared to get the wrong type of products. Don’t let it scare you! Grab a co-wash or mild shampoo and check for the silicone, sulfate, and paraben products. Many of them will even advertise on the front of the bottle if they are free from those products, making it easier for you. 

Curly Hair Shampoo and Conditioner

Recommended Shampoo for Curly Hair

We are big fans of the Hairitage by Mindy products and have used them for quite a while. Something I appreciate is they are made for many hair types, including curly hair. They also are all paraben, silicone, and sulfate free! We love the Double Down Conditioning Wash and the Outta My Hair Gentle Shampoo. For fine hair, I would stick with the gentle shampoo, over a co-wash. If the hair is medium to coarse, the co-wash is a great option.

Conditioning Curly Hair

The absolute most important part of washing curly hair is conditioning! Condition, condition, condition! Those curls need conditioning! If the hair doesn’t need to be shampooed, it still needs to be conditioned. Curls that don’t have enough moisture in them tend to be frizzier than curls properly moisturized. While using a great conditioner one time can definitely help, creating a habit of really treating curls to a conditioning session will change the life of the curls tremendously over time.

While conditioning curls, work in sections to ensure each section of hair gets conditioner on it. Use a high moisturizing conditioner. Stay away from conditioners that claim to build body in the hair, as they don’t carry as much moisture in them. The same rules apply when you are looking for a conditioner as they do for a shampoo. Stay away from silicone products, sulfate products, and paraben products.

If you are using a strengthening conditioner, use another type of conditioner every other time you wash. Strengthening shampoos and conditioners contain protein. Protein is good but if these products are used too frequently, protein can build up as little beads on the hair. These little beads act the same way as split ends do and actually break the hair off! 

Apply the conditioner and let the curls soak it in before rinsing it out. Wash day shouldn’t be treated as a quick process. Let those curls soak up that moisture! Focus most of the product on the ends of the hair and work your way up. Scalps don’t need conditioner but the curly hair on the scalp can benefit from it, to keep frizz down. Don’t worry about massaging conditioner into the scalp, just the hair!

Conditioning Curly Hair

Deep Conditioner for Curly Hair

Using a deep conditioner in hair is the best for curly hair. A deep conditioner is a second step after conditioning. Deep conditioning products identify as a variety of things. Sometimes they are called a hair mask, a hair treatment, or a deep conditioner. They are the same thing. This third step is crucial to curly hair wash days. Don’t skip it!

When you are choosing a deep conditioner, it is good to know what hair strand type you are working with. Fine hair needs a lighter deep conditioner and coarse hair can have a much heavier deep conditioner. This can take a little trial and error to find the right one for the specific curls you are working with. Just know that every head of curls in your house might need a different deep conditioner.

Combing During Deep Condition

My personal preference is to put the deep conditioner in after the regular conditioner and let it sit, while using a wide tooth comb or fingers to comb through the hair. This is the perfect time to get out all the tangles and to get rid of any hair that has shed and fallen out. It isn’t common practice to brush curly hair after washing it, so use this time to really comb out all the tangles, until the comb can run through smoothly. We usually do a combination of a wide tooth comb and our fingers to get it all detangled. 

Deep Conditioning Curly Hair

When you comb curls in the middle of washing, it allows the curls to reactivate with the water. It is also a lot less damaging to the hair if the detangling process happens while there is deep conditioner in. I think this step is what makes the biggest difference for curly hair. This one step makes the hair look a lot healthier, than if no deep conditioner is used and the curls are brushed after getting out of the shower. Do NOT skip this step!

While you are brushing through curls, you will notice a lot of hair coming out. Hair shedding is totally normal! It happens to everyone. Like every head of hair, curly hair sheds everyday. The difference is when it does shed, it can get caught in the curls, rather than falling out. So, when you are washing and conditioning the hair, there is going to be a lot of hair coming comes out. Don’t panic! This is a good thing! It is allowing all of the hair falling out since the last shampoo to come out. This is another reason why I really love combing through the hair with a conditioner or a deep conditioner. It lets the shed come right out, without many tangles that will potentially damage the hair.

Hair Shed with Curly Hair

Caring for Curly Hair

Sometimes a shampoo, conditioner, and deep conditioner isn’t enough for particular curls. If the hair is really prone to damage, conditioner or conditioning oil can be added in hair and lightly combed through in sections, before shampooing. This isn’t a common practice, but it can be done if tangles are a major issue.

If you are washing a child’s hair and all of these curly hair washing procedures sound too daunting, remember this doesn’t need to be done daily! Remember to treat wash day as a spa day. Washing, conditioning, and combing out curls can take a long time and doing it while my girls are in the tub can turn bath time into a chore. We still do it that way often but I have found through washing my girls’ hair in the sink, it changes bath time to a fun experience and allows their hair washing days to feel more like a spa experience.

Girl Loves Curl

I hope you have learned some tips to make your curls extra hydrated and how to be happy while washing them! If you missed the first lesson in Girl Loves Curl, make sure to go over to learn about curly hair types and hair categories.

Girl Loves Curl Lesson 1: Curly Hair Types

Girl Loves Curl Curly Hair Course

If you haven’t subscribed to the free Girl Loves Curl course, sign up to get the lessons sent straight to your inbox!

Eda Hill

Tuesday 23rd of March 2021

You gave recommendations for shampoo, but not for conditioning. Could you please add a list of products that would be best.