How to Take Care of Curly Hair

woman with curly hair

We love curls! But we know how hard it can be to keep them looking amazing. Even if you do manage to find a hairdresser who knows just how to handle them.

Today, we’ll show just how to look after your curly hair, so you can have the big, bouncy, healthy curls you’ve always dreamt of, rather than worrying about them being flat, lifeless and dull.

We’ll help you find out exactly what type of curls you have before talking you through the routine I advise all my clients follow to keep their curls looking amazing and highlighting the products I most recommend for each type of curly hair.

The different types of curly hair

Everyone with curly hair has a different curl pattern, and if you’re to keep yours in the best shape possible you need to figure out which pattern your hair fits so you can treat it appropriately. Slightly wavy hair needs a whole different routine to afro hair, after all!

There are four main types of curly hair, which are broken down into three sub-types. Before you create your routine, have a look to see which curly hair type you fall under. The biggest mistake I see is people approaching looking after their curly hair with a “one-size-fits-all” approach.

Type 1 curly hair

Type 1 curly hair

Broken down into 1a, 1b and 1c, Type 1 curls hair are seen on straighter hair. With this type of hair, if you leave it hair to dry naturally it will have a slight wave, whereas if you used a salt spray on your hair and scrunched or twisted it before letting it air dry, you’d get a beachy wave effect.

Type 2 curly hair

type 2 curly hair

Type 2 is the most common type of curly hair and the one people will typically associate with the look when thinking about getting their hair curled. Type 2 curly is hair is smooth at the roots but gets really curly through the mid-lengths and ends, meaning you probably wouldn’t want to use a smoothing cream at the root.

If you have type 2 curly hair you’ve got the option to let it air dry or use a diffuser – just using a hair dryer without the diffuser would risk making it frizzy, however.

Type 3 curly hair

type 3 curly hair

Curly from root to tip, type 3 curly hair is difficult to tame and can get quite frizzy, but looks amazing if you diffuse it properly. Type 3 curls can also get quite dry, so it’s important you use products which moisturise your hair.

Type 4 curly hair

type 4 curly hair

Most commonly described as afro hair, type 4 curls are called coily hair and consist of lots of small, incredibly tight curls. Afro hair is prone to getting dry, meaning moisturising products are a must-have, and can be diffused or left to air dry.

Braids are a common styling choice for people with Type 4 curly hair as they make management much easier.

How to look after curly hair

There are so many curly hair products out there claiming to be the best thing to ever happen to curly hair it can be a little daunting when shopping for them. I’ve mentioned a few of my favourites below, but my first tip is to always take the time to do a little extra research into the product you’re buying before taking the plunge. 

Specifically, you need to take into consideration the thickness of your hair – the product you buy might be perfect for someone with thick hair, but if yours is finer you’ll just weigh your curls down. Alternatively, the product you’re looking at may be perfect for people with type 2 curls, but if you’re a type 4 it probably isn’t going to do a massive amount.

You should also make sure you have regular haircuts to keep your curls looking amazing, even if it’s just the tiniest trim every six weeks. Curly hair will always have a tendency to get dry and coarse, especially at the ends, getting a trim will help bring your curls to life in a big way.

If you’re someone who likes to mix it up and straighten your hair occasionally, make sure you always use heat protectors to minimise damaging your hair. I’d also recommend blow drying it straight rather than using straighteners where possible. Overheating your hair will ruin your curls, and straightening it regularly is a massive contributor to this.

Have you noticed your hair curls really well from the roots to the mid-lengths but the ends are quite straight? This will be because you’ve damaged your hair from over straightening it – you’ll need to have more than usual cut off during your next hair appointment to enhance your curls through to the ends and be more careful when applying heat in the future.

I’d also recommend using a mask at least once a week – this will add moisture to your hair and help it feel less coarse/dry.

The AHP curly hair routine

  • Firstly, only brush or comb your hair when it’s wet before you apply your curl enhancement products. If you brush it when dry your hair’s going to expand and get very frizzy very quickly!
  • Shampoo and condition your hair around twice a week. When applying conditioner, make sure to start from the ends and work your way up before you comb it through 
  • Once you’ve washed and conditioned your hair, lightly towel dry it to remove some of the moisture before brushing it through
  • Apply your products. When applying your curl cream or serum I recommend using an amount the size of a 10p coin – place it in your hands and rub both hands together, moving the product all over your hands while making sure the product is still wet and visible in your hands. This helps to spread the product evenly through your hair, avoiding those annoying clumps of products on individual strands of hair. It also helps make your product last longer!
  • Once you’ve applied your products, it’s time to twist and scrunch! Most people like to go straight to scrunching curly hair, but I’ve found twisting small sections can really enhance your curls
  • After this, it’s time to start diffusing. You can either dry your hair completely or leave it a bit damp once you’ve diffused your hair, keep an eye on how your curls are looking and make your decision based on this, if it’s starting to look a little frizzy make sure you stop immediately.
  • When you’re diffusing your hair, try to avoid touching it. Just have your hair placed in the diffuser and let it work it’s magic. It can look bad before it looks good sometimes, you just have to trust the process!
  • Leave your hair to cool down for a minute after drying before touching it, and don’t panic if you’ve dried it a little too much, you can apply a leave-in conditioner spray or oil to help bring your curls to life.
  • Once you’ve done this, finish your hair off using oils or serums, and remember – if you’re going to twist your hair, always twist away from your face!
  • To dress your hair, take sections of hair, place your fingers at the roots and shake it rather than pulling your hands through. This stops the curls from looking to set and by shaking the curls you leave them looking nice and bouncy, whereas if you were to pull it, you could disturb the curl and make it frizzy.

How to use a diffuser

  1. Try to get some of the damp off the roots by placing the diffuser over the roots, don’t be afraid of really getting in at them! 
  2. Once the damp has been removed from the roots, tilt your head side to side placing the diffuser from the ends, repeat on the other side
  3. Then tilt your head all the way forward and place the diffuser at the back of your head to get the underneath dry
  4. Once you have followed these steps, go over any damp sections you find to finish off

The best products for curly hair

So, you’ve got a routine mastered and you’re ready to make your curls look better than ever, but we’re still missing one vital aspect: the products!

This is where choosing something specifically for your hair really comes into its own – the right product is the difference between frizzy, flat hair and sleek, fabulous curls. Below, I’ve listed my favourite products for every type of curl, so you don’t have to spend hours researching it yourself.

Shampoo for type one and two curly hair

UNITE 7Seconds Shampoo

unite 7seconds shampoo

This is the go-to shampoo I use almost every single day in the salon and recommend to the majority of my clients, so although it might not specifically say it’s for curly hair, I know this shampoo works wonders for anyone with type one or two curls.

Unite was founded in 2003 by hairdresser Anthony Dale with a focus on creating easy-to-use products suitable for everyday use on all hair types, and their 7Seconds shampoo really exemplifies this outlook.

The rich, nourishing shampoo contains everything you need to keep your hair healthy, is colour-safe and contains no added sulphates, parabens or sodium chloride.

If you’ve got type one or two curls, UNITE 7Seconds shampoo will help keep your hair happy, healthy and bouncy every day. All of my clients with similar hair to you can attest to that!

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See our other recommendations on shampoo for type one and two curls

Shampoo for type three curly hair

UNITE BOING Curl Shampoo

unite boing curl shampoo

If you’ve got type three curls, however, you’ll need a shampoo which is a bit more specialised and has been specifically developed to keep your curls looking amazing. This is where the UNITE BOING Curl shampoo steps in.

While this is great for all curl types, I find it works best with type three curls. The shampoo gently cleanses your hair while restoring elasticity and shine. It contains a unique combination of ingredients, including coconut extracts which restore your hair’s PH balance, vegetable proteins which strengthen and nourish your hair, plant source vitamins for moisture replenishment and curl control and camomile and oats to encourage hair growth.

In short: UNITE BOING shampoo will help keep your type three curls healthy, hydrated and frizz-free, so you always look your best.

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Shampoo for type four curly hair

Philip Kingsley Moisture Extreme Enriching Shampoo

philip kingsley moisture extreme enriching shampoo for curly hair

Developed especially for tightly coiled type four curls, Philip Kingsley’s Moisture Extreme Enriching shampoo lives up to its name by providing incredible hydration for your hair.

This vegan-friendly shampoo has been formulated by some of the world’s leading hair and scalp experts  and is full of a unique combination of nourishing oils which are proven to make your hair soft, strong and easy to style.

Oils such as Oliqioquat M, Guar and Sodium Cocoamphoacetate (derived from Cocoa Butter) combine to repair damaged cuticles, remove static, smoothen your hair as well as cleansing and conditioning.

It’s suitable for use on natural, relaxed or synthetic hair, making it incredibly easy to add to your hair care routine.

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Conditioner for type one and two curls

UNITE 7Seconds Conditioner

unite 7seconds conditioner

The perfect partner for your 7Seconds shampoo, UNITE’s 7Seconds conditioner nourishes and hydrates your hair without adding weight, meaning your curls will stay bright and bouncy all day long.

As well as keeping your hair healthy and hydrated, UNITE 7Seconds conditioner is formulated with a unique blend which provides heat, UV and colour protection. This helps to protect your hair from two of the most common causes of damage while keeping your colour looking brighter for longer.

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Conditioner for type three curls

Sebastian Professional Twisted Elastic Detangler Conditioner

sebastian twisted elastic conditioner

The Sebastian Professional range is a favourite of salons across the country, and if you’ve got type three curls their Twisted Elastic conditioner will soon become one of your favourite hair products as well.

Suitable for daily use, this lightweight conditioner has been developed specifically to help people with type three curls keep their hair healthy and hydrated. It contains a unique Flexi Alg Complex of Red Seaweed extract which keeps your curls big, bouncy and resilient.

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Conditioner for type four curls

Philip Kingsley Moisture Extreme Enriching Conditioner

philip kingsley moisture extreme enriching conditioner

Developed to work alongside their Moisture Extreme Enriching Shampoo, Philip Kingsley’s Moisture Extreme Enriching Conditioner uses a unique combination of nourishing oils to coat your curls and lock in moisture.

This conditioner has been created specifically for 4c curls and high porosity hair by some of the world’s leading experts in hair care. As well as locking in moisture, this conditioner has detangling properties which help reduce breakage, meaning your hair is always smooth and shiny.

Four naturally-derived oils form the basis for the conditioner: Almond Oil, Wheatgerm Oil, Avocado Oil and Babassu – these combine to enhance shine, smoothen, strengthen and moisturise while leaving your hair soft, shiny and frizz-free.

It’s also vegan-friendly and suitable for use on natural, relaxed or synthetic hair.

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Styling product for type one curls

UNITE Boing Curl Leave-In Conditioner

unite boing curl leave-in conditioner

One of my absolute favourites! I use UNITE’s Boing Curl Leave-In Conditioner to style type one curls in the salon all the time, and the results are always amazing.

Like all UNITE products, this leave-in conditioner has thermal, UV and colour protection to help keep your hair in amazing shape; but as well as being a great leave-in conditioner, it works amazingly well as a styling product for curly hair.

All you need to do is spray some on your hair before scrunching and twisting to make your curls look amazing, and it works perfectly whether you want to air dry or diffuse your hair. All of this means you can use this product on its own, so you don’t have to deal with having loads of product build up!

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Styling product for type two curls

UNITE Boing Define Curl Cream

unite boing defining curl cream

The UNITE Boing Define Curl Cream is amazing for really enhancing your curls. Whether you like to scrunch or you’re more of a twister, a 10p-sized amount of this cream distributed evenly will make it easy for you to quickly boost your curls and keep them looking amazing all day every day.

The coconut-infused formula of this cream delivers nutrients deep into your hair shaft, activating your curls while keeping them frizz-free. It’s perfect for anyone with type two curls who needs more hold than the average styling product can provide and wants to keep their hair looking amazing and healthy day in, day out.

As an added bonus, it’s also got no added parabens or Sodium Chloride and is another one of my salon favourites!

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Styling product for type three curls

Moroccanoil Intense Curl Cream

moroccanoil intense curl cream

Created to help you enhance and define your curly hair, Moroccanoil Intense Curl Cream is packed full of antioxidants and leaves your curls soft and hydrated.

All you need to do is apply one or two pumps evenly throughout your hair then style to your heart’s content, knowing you’ll be left with shiny, refreshed hair which doesn’t have that horrible sticky residue you’ll often get from other styling products. You can then choose to let your hair air dry or diffuse for more volume.

This cream is also infused with argan oils and vitamins specifically chosen for their proven ability to keep your hair nourished, hydrated and beautifully soft all day. It makes styling and looking after type three curls a much easier task than you thought possible.

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Styling product for type four curls

Cantu Shea Butter for Natural Hair Moisturizing Twist & Lock Gel

Cantu Shea Butter for Natural Hair Moisturizing Twist & Lock Gel

This award-winning product makes styling your curls simple.

Cantu’s Shea Butter for Natural Hair is made with pure Shea Butter and has no mineral oil, sulphates, parabens, silicones, phthalates, gluten, paraffin or propylene. Their formula keeps your hair smooth and moisturised, so you can stop worrying about frizz and focus on making sure your hair always looks perfect.

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Finishing products for curly hair

Finishing products are great to use after you’ve diffused your hair, or if you just think it needs a bit of a boost the day after. A good finishing product will help to tame your hair and dress your curls so they don’t look too set, I usually recommend oils but smoothing creams work well too. I’ve put a favourite of each here:

System Professional Luxe Oil Reconstructive Elixir

System Professional Luxe Oil Reconstructive Elixir

This hair oil contains Argan, Jojoba and Almond Oils and has a weightless formula which is suitable for all hair types – it’s perfect for any curl type.

This oil makes your hair super soft and sleek while making it incredibly easy to manage, without leaving any greasy residue. You can use it on wet hair as a styling aid, or once your hair is dry to add some serious shine! 

System Professional Luxe Oil Reconstructive Elixir also helps eliminate frizz while protecting your hair from heat damage, UV rays and mechanical stress. It’s the finishing products I’ll always recommend to keep your curls looking amazing.

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System Professional CC Soft Touch Cream

System Professional CC Soft Touch Cream

If you’re not a fan of using oil, System Professional’s CC Soft Touch Cream is a great alternative for anyone looking for a finishing product for curly hair.

Ideal for medium to coarse hair and curls, this cream lightly defines your curls while adding a healthy shine. It’s a non-greasy formula containing a high concentration of softening polymers which help to combat frizz and flyaways to make your hair much more manageable. Adding it to your routine will help you achieve perfect curls every time.

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Heat protectors for curly hair

As well as all the products mentioned, I’d like to end by recommending a couple of heat protectors I think work really well with all curly hair types. Everyone knows how important good heat protection is if you want to keep your curls in perfect shape – these are my two favourites:

UNITE 7Seconds Detangler

UNITE 7Seconds Detangler

While this one is promoted as being focused on being a detangler, it also has the added benefit of being an amazing heat protector!

If you’d like a heat protector which also instantly detangles, smooths, strengthens and moisturises your hair, while also helping to keep your colour looking great for longer the UNITE 7Seconds Detangler is the product you’ve been waiting for!

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Cloud Nine Magical Potion Heat Protection

Cloud Nine Magical Potion Heat Protection

Cloud Nine’s Magical Potion Heat Protection is a more traditional heat protector. It won’t weigh down your hair and protects your hair from damage caused by high heat styling while reducing drying time by up to 50%! Perfect for protection and if you’re in a bit of a rush.

It’s anti-static, anti-frizz and perfect for anyone looking for a standard heat protection spray. It also smells amazing!

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This page contains Affiliate links which pay me a small commission if you purchase from them. This products all remain the same price for you as everyone else. Commission earned from these links go to paying for the costs of running this website, so I don’t have to put annoying adverts everywhere.

Rebecca Johnston

I've been hairdressing for almost a decade, during that time I noticed I keep getting asked the same questions by people about their hair, and loads have the same misconceptions.

I started this website to answer these all-too-common questions and correct those misconceptions, so everyone can always have amazing looking hair!

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