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6 curly hair care tips from dermatologists

6 curly hair tips from dermatologists

Follow these dermatologist tips to care for your curly or coily hair.

Naturally curly or coily hair can feel overwhelming to care for. Thick, curly hair is more prone to breakage and dryness than other hair types. However, with the right routine and hair care products, you can keep your curls healthy and looking good.

To care for curly hair, board-certified dermatologists recommend these tips.

  • Only wash your hair when needed. Washing curly hair too often can leave it dry, frizzy, and hard to manage. Thick, curly hair doesn’t need to be washed daily or even weekly. However, you should wash your hair a minimum of every 2 to 3 weeks for optimal scalp and hair health. If your hair is long or thick, wash it in sections to reduce damage or tangling. Choose a moisturizing shampoo that is formulated for curly hair. If you typically style your hair with gels, oils, creams, or pomades, consider using a clarifying shampoo before the moisturizing shampoo. To preserve your hair between washes, use a shower cap when bathing.

  • Keep your hair moisturized. Curly hair is drier than other hair types. To keep it moisturized, condition all your hair, not just the ends. Apply a thick conditioner after washing your hair. Then, apply oil or leave-in conditioner after you have finished washing and conditioning your hair to assist with moisturization. If your hair is very dry or if you have trouble detangling your hair before shampooing, you can also apply conditioner before washing your hair. Look for a conditioning product that contains ingredients such as argan oil, glycerin, or a fatty alcohol like cetyl or stearyl alcohol.

  • Take care of your scalp. If you go a long time between washes, you might get dandruff due to the overproduction of oil on your scalp. However, dandruff shampoo can dry your hair. Apply anti-dandruff shampoo only to your scalp, and then allow it to sit for 2-10 minutes or the time listed on the label before rinsing. Then, use a moisturizing shampoo on the rest of your hair. If you get dandruff, a board-certified dermatologist can also prescribe medicine to apply to your scalp.

  • Detangle your hair. Curly hair gets knotted easily. To detangle between washes, wet your hair thoroughly and apply a leave-in conditioner and detangle with your fingers or a wide-toothed comb and/or brush designed for curly or coily hair. Work in sections to make detangling easier. Avoid brushing your hair while it is dry to prevent your hair from breaking and frizzing. Make sure to detangle while washing your hair, too.

  • Protect your curls from the sun. Heat and the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays can dry out curly hair. To protect your curls, cover up with a wide-brimmed hat and keep your hair moisturized.

  • Care for your hair while you sleep. If you’re able, you can pull your hair into a loose ponytail on top of your head (resembling a pineapple) or a loose braid before sleeping to preserve your curls and reduce friction against your pillowcase, which can make your hair frizzy and easier to break.

Trial and error are often needed to find the best routine for curly or tightly coiled hair, so do not get discouraged if a certain product does not work for your hair type. If you have questions about how to care for thick, curly hair, make an appointment to see a board-certified dermatologist.

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Written by:
Brooke Schleehauf

Reviewed by:
Erin Ducharme, MD, FAAD
Matthew Elias, MD, FAAD
Laurel Geraghty, MD, FAAD
William Warren Kwan, MD, FAAD
Shari Lipner, MD, PhD, FAAD
Bassel Mahmoud, MD, FAAD
Sanna Ronkainen, MD, FAAD

Last updated: 6/29/22