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How to Take Care of Curly Hair: 8 Common Mistakes to Avoid

BY Alyssa Montemurro

How to take care of curly hair: woman with curly hair covering her face with her hands

If you have curly hair, you already know that caring for it can be a bit of a handful. Unlike straight and wavy hair types, curly hair often comes with its own unique challenges — among them, an increased likelihood of breakage, frizz, and dryness. Whether your natural curl type is 3a, 3b, or 3c, chances are you’ve already encountered at least one or two of these concerns in your quest for bouncy, frizz-free, defined curls. 

The struggle is real. That’s why we caught up with our team of in-house haircare experts to get the scoop on the most common curly hair mistakes. Read on to find out what you can do to avoid them and keep your curls smooth, shiny, and intact.

How to Take Care of Curly Hair: Steer Clear of These 8 Mistakes

How often should you wash your curly hair? How do you style naturally curly hair? How can you make your curls stay?

These are common questions that many in the Curly Girl club have to face almost every day. Fortunately, our expert-approved hair tips tackle the most common mistakes so you can avoid them and properly care for your precious swirls.

Mistake #1: Over-Cleansing​ Your Hair

How often you wash your hair is entirely up to you. It typically depends on several factors, such as your scalp’s moisture level, sebum production, and your workout schedule.

That said, it’s generally recommended that those with curly hair keep their wash days to a minimum. Unlike straight hair types, you should refrain from shampooing your hair every day. Textured hair needs its natural oils to stay healthy. If cleansed too frequently, your hair strands may dry out, which can lead to damage and breakage.

For best results, limit your hair-washing frequency to just once or twice a week.

Bonus Tip: Try a co-wash on your wash days if you find regular shampoos too harsh and drying for your tresses. Function of Beauty’s custom co-wash is a cleansing conditioner that gently clears away scalp buildup while promoting optimal hydration. This Curly Girl Method-approved* formula is free of silicones if you’d like that option in your hair product.

Mistake #2: Skipping Conditioner

How to take care of curly hair: bottles of shampoo, conditioner, and a leave-in conditioner

Curly and coily hair types often lean toward the dry, dull, and frizzy end of the natural hair spectrum. That’s why you must keep those spirals well-hydrated. In other words: Don’t skip out on conditioner!

A hydrating conditioner that’s specially designed to work with your curly hair — like Function of Beauty’s customizable formulas — will help provide a healthy dose of hydration, nourishment, and protection that your mane isn’t able to get from shampoo alone. Just be sure to look for hair-loving ingredients like coconut oil, shea butter, avocado oil, and aloe vera.

Bonus Tip: If your curls are flat on top, try rinsing your hair upside down before using the pineapple method at night. Rinsing your hair with your head back can flatten your curls, causing them to lose volume and definition.

Mistake #3: Waiting Too Long to Apply Styling Products

So, how to take care of curly hair during your styling sesh? The answer: The sooner you can set your curls, the better. For that reason, it’s recommended that you apply styling products while your hair is still damp and before the frizz has time to set in.

If you wait too long, you may rough up the hair cuticle, causing your swirls to become frizzy and undefined. When applying product, be sure to work it through with closed hands. Take care not to rake through your fragile curls as this can incite frizz and damage.

Mistake #4: Blow-Drying Your Hair the Wrong Way

Yellow blow dryer GIF

How to dry curly hair the right way? Air-drying your hair whenever possible is typically the best choice for curly-haired girls. To speed up the drying process, gently scrunch your curls and towel off the excess water with a microfiber towel before you air-dry your locks. A soft, cotton T-shirt also works well on wet hair.

If you’re going to blow-dry your hair, add a diffuser attachment to your blow-dryer. This styling tip helps limit the amount of direct heat and forceful air hitting your strands. By using a diffuser with your hairdryer, you’ll be able to keep your curls from being tossed around too much while you dry. This, in turn, creates less friction and less frizz, promoting the appearance of healthy hair.

Bonus Tip: Always apply a heat protectant to your tresses before reaching for your blow-dryer. A good option is our custom hair serum that’s proven to thermally protect hair from damage up to 400 degrees.

Mistake #5: Not Using a Leave-In Conditioner

Curly hair before and after leave-in

It’s not enough to just condition your hair in the shower. Textured curls and ringlets need long-lasting moisture and protection to minimize unwanted tangles.

It’s highly recommended that you invest in a lightweight leave-in conditioner like Function of Beauty’s customizable leave-in treatment. It provides your hair with a hefty dose of long-lasting moisture. Plus, it forms a protective barrier around your fibers to help block out elements that can harm your curls.

Plus, like with all of our products, you’ll be able to choose the hair goals of your unique formula. This means you can add things like “anti-frizz,” “fix split ends,” and “curl definition” to your leave-in treatment.

Bonus Tip: A hair mask is another expert-approved tip on how to take care of curly hair. Our custom hair mask is an intensive deep-conditioning treatment you can use weekly. It delivers a moisturizing blend of ingredients to help your tresses look their best.

Mistake #6: Using a Brush to Detangle

If you take just one tidbit away from this post on how to take care of curly hair, let it be this: Never brush or detangle your hair post-shower. Using a fine-tooth comb on textured hair is the easiest way to disrupt your curl pattern, causing your strands to turn into one giant, unruly mess.

Instead, try gently combing and detangling your curls in the shower while you condition your hair. The best hair brush for your hair type would actually be a wide-tooth comb that lets you work the conditioner through the length of your hair. Be sure to detangle from the ends to the roots until your curls are knot-free.

Once you’ve completely rinsed out the conditioner, refrain from combing or detangling your hair (even with your fingers). This will only break apart your curls and create more unnecessary frustration.

Mistake #7: Using Products With Sulfates

How to take care of curly hair: mason jars in shelves

While we always make it a point to stay away from products containing sulfates (those cleansing agents responsible for the rich lather in shampoos), it’s especially important to do so when you’re dealing with curly hair.

Sulfates have a propensity to strip and dehydrate strands, causing them to become brittle and frizzy. When it comes to textured hair, you want to look for moisture-based products that gently nourish your hair shafts without stripping them of their natural oils.

This is where our customizable formulas come into play. In addition to being 100% sulfate-free, our hair products also give you the option to add up to five curl-approved hair goals to your formula. This includes “anti-frizz,” “deep condition,” and “curl definition,” so your curls can stay smooth and bouncy all year-round.

Mistake #8: Not Protecting Your Hair While You Sleep

Curly-haired gals often wonder, “How can I sleep with curly hair without ruining my hairstyle?”

It might seem a little high maintenance, but protecting your hair while you sleep is a crucial step in caring for your delicate spirals. No matter how expensive your sheets might be, cotton is still a fabric that’s too harsh on your strands. Cotton also soaks up your hair’s natural sebum while you sleep, and can potentially deplete your tresses of moisture.

To combat this issue, try wrapping your locks in a silk scarf or sleeping on a silk pillowcase. These simple hacks will help preserve your curl pattern and reduce the amount of friction they’re exposed to throughout the night.

Knowing How to Take Care of Curly Hair Isn’t as Tough as You Think

You may have made one (or a few) of the above curly hair mistakes, but simple tweaks to your haircare routine and everyday lifestyle will set your mane on the right path again. While learning how to take care of curly hair takes some effort, it’s totally worth it.

Ready to bring your curly hair game to the next level? Find made-for-you haircare formulations by taking our hair quiz.

*Function of Beauty is not associated with Lorraine Massey, the Curly Girl Method (“CGM”), or Curly Girl: The Handbook. Reference to the Curly Girl Method is provided is for informational purposes only and is accurate to the best of our knowledge, however, it is not guaranteed. Product formulas can change at any time.