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4 Tips for Enhancing Your Thin Curly Hair

BY Jana Russick

When you have thin curly hair, your locks have plenty of shape and twist despite the fine-as-thread texture. Thin curly hair is less defined than thick hair curls and might merge into wavy hair territory. But even when you wet your hair strands and pull them to their longest length, your ringlets will eventually bounce back to their natural spiral shape.

Having this beautiful curl pattern surely comes with benefits. Just think about how much time your straight-haired friends spend with a curling iron simply to make their hair look like yours. That said, the fine hair texture of your locks can cause annoying issues like frizz and tangles.

Fortunately, with a little know-how, you can treat your natural curls right. We’re here to give you styling tips, hair product recommendations, and wash day routines catered to fine curly hair. Read on to see what you can do to achieve stylist-quality curls.

Best Tips for Thin Curly Hair Maintenance

Before revealing the best hair routine for your tendril texture, let’s paint a picture of what thin curly hair is. ICYMI, thin curly hair can sometimes fall into the type 3a hair category. This hair type is characterized by the following qualities:

  • S-shaped curl pattern
  • Looks wavy when wet
  • Curls are the size of sidewalk chalk

The looser curl pattern of type 3a hair makes it less voluminous than thicker and more densely defined 3b hair and 3c hair types. This lack of volume can make your hair appear flat, especially when you use heavy mousses and gels. Below are some easy ways to give your mane a boost.

Use a Lightweight Leave-In to Avoid Flat Curls

Word to the wise: It’s best to dodge styling products that are used to keep super-curly, thick locks in place. These may work for keeping tight-knit curls intact but they are far too strong for thin curly hair. When you have thin curls, heavy products like these will goop onto your locks and create product buildup. This only adds to the “flat effect” that you’re trying to overcome.

So how do you style your locks without flattening your curls? Use a lightweight leave-in treatment. For instance, Function of Beauty’s custom leave-in is a multi-tasking cream that works as a necessary step in your regular hair care routine. Leave-ins can be used on wash days, in between washes, or for quick touch-ups to give your strands a dose of soft conditioning without weighing them down.

Pro Tip: Here’s how to revitalize flat hair once and for all

Overcome Dryness With a Hair Mask

Have you ever noticed that when you try to air dry your thin curly hair, it comes out brittle and, well, dry? The ends look frazzled and frizzy and you might even notice some unsightly breakage (more on how to fight that below.) 

If dryness is dulling your natural hair’s shine, it might be because air drying can be damaging to your curly locks. In fact, air drying *might* cause more hair damage than using a hairdryer. So much for avoiding heat damage!

Another cause of dry hair is the S-shape of your curls, which makes it hard for natural oils to travel to the ends of your hair. To make up for loss of moisture, try incorporating a hydrating hair mask to your routine. 

This weekly treatment is formulated with ingredients such as Japanese sake extract, argan oil, and jojoba ester oil to give hair the moisture it needs. Plus, its deep conditioner capabilities can help revive locks from the inside out, which may decrease dryness.

Use the Right Brush to Battle Breakage

Ever notice after a long hair brushing session that a lot of your curly strands fall out? This could be because your strands are extra-delicate and prone to breakage when tugged too hard. While brushing hair when it’s dry is fine for some, it’s better to comb thin curly hair when it’s wet and less vulnerable to breakage.

While you’re in the shower and detangling your mane, make sure to use brushes made for curly hair. Detangling brushes and wide-tooth combs prevent your hair from snagging or breaking while you comb it. They can also help you detangle and smooth your curls without ruining their unique curl pattern. Once you’ve detangled your curls, apply some leave-in and allow them to dry into wonderfully defined spirals.

Pro Tip: Here are the best brushes for curly hair

Consider a Co-Wash to Maintain Moisture

While it’s important to find a shampoo and conditioner combo for your hair type, washing your hair every day might not be a good idea. That’s because anyone with hair as delicate as yours will not benefit from overwashing their tresses or overexposing their hair to sulfates, an ingredient in many shampoos.

Sulfates are a very common cleansing agent in shampoos. They easily trap and remove product buildup, grime, and residue that causes hair to feel dirty. No doubt this is a desirable effect for people with oily hair and scalp. But for those with dry hair, too much exposure to sulfates can strip hair of the natural oils that coat and protect your scalp and strands. As a result, hair can look (and feel) dry and lifeless. 

If you’re using a shampoo with sulfates and find that your hair’s feeling dry, it’s time to consider using a co-wash. Co-washes are sulfate-free cleansing conditioners that clear away scalp debris without depriving the scalp of hydration. They’re basically the perfect in-between of shampoo and conditioner as they are made to maximize moisture for curly-haired people. 

Co-washes can be used in place of regular shampoo, about 1-2 times a week, to cleanse your curls without drying locks or stripping them of their natural oils. If you have an oily scalp or find that your fine hair feels weighed down after co-washing, you may have to use it more often than you’d use regular shampoo. 

Function of Beauty’s custom co-wash is formulated with shea butter, Jamaican black castor seed oil, and aloe juice to help soften, detangle, and nourish naturally curly hair. Simply wet your curls, apply to the entire head, and leave on for five minutes for optimal hydration. Switch out your co-wash for a sulfate-free shampoo when your hair starts to feel extra oily. 

Creating Your Thin Curly Hair Routine Just Got a Whole Lot Easier

Having thin curly hair should be considered a gift. After all, it’s probably the most manageable and laid-back of all type 3 curly hair patterns. The ringlets have a beautiful, loose S-shape and are much less prone to frizz than tighter curls. But that doesn’t mean it’s indestructible against flatness, dryness, and breakage.

Remember that styling products that work for one curly-haired individual may not work for another. Heavy gels and mousses are made for those with thick voluminous curls but can cause unflattering buildup when applied to thin curly hair. Luckily, there are styling products like leave-in conditioner, hair masks, co-washes, and wide-tooth combs that can maximize your curly hair texture. Add these products to your haircare ritual and you’re on your way to more manageable and beautifully defined curls.

What else can you do to optimize the look of your thin curly hair and achieve even more hair goals? Take our hair quiz, fill out your custom hair profile, and choose from goals such as “volumize,” “curl definition,” and “strengthen.” Before you know it, you’ll be on your way to more beautiful-looking tresses.