Curls are unpredictable — and that's the beauty of them. They're not perfect, yet they're perfect just the way they are. When it comes to styling your curls, the sky is the limit — whether you prefer to elongate and define each curl or you're cool with embracing some natural frizz and just want next-level volume.
No matter what look you're going for, all curly girls should focus on hydration. "While it varies from person to person, the general rule of thumb is the tighter your coil, the dryer your hair is," says celebrity hairstylist Tym Wallace. Your natural oils have a longer distance to travel down from your scalp to your ends. Seems simple, right? So why are there so many mixed messages when you search for how to style curly hair? Some articles say to just leave your hair alone and let your curls be sans moisturizing products, while others suggest to (gasp!) tame your curls and fight your gorgeous frizz using all the oils you can get your hands on. To lend some clear direction, we're bringing you styling tips according to the experts who know best, plus some moisturizing products that you can pick up on your next Sephora haul.
Clarifying shampoos are a godsend for certain hair types, but drier, curly types should avoid them at all costs, because they can strip your hair of its natural oils. "If your hair is dryer and coarser, use a shampoo that contains fewer surfactants and preferably one with natural oils or butters," says Bumble and bumble hairstylist Mischa G. She also recommends only shampooing once or twice per week max — regardless of what type of shampoo you're using.
Curls love moisture, so conditioner is an obvious must-have for this hair type. As with shampoos, look for ones infused with natural oils or butters — like this one featuring olive oil and shea butter. And instead of rinsing it completely out, "only rinse out about 85% of the product so that your hair can absorb the rest," says Wallace. Your curls will drink it up.
If your hair isn't that dry — or you simply want a tighter curl pattern — try a lighter soufflé on for size. "Soufflés are lighter than heavy creams and oils, so they'll keep your curls bouncy," says hairstylist Anu Prestonia. This Madam C.J. Walker Beauty Culture Curl Whip Styling Souffle features hydrating coconut and moringa oils yet still provides you with the flexible hold you need to keep your curls in place.
If you want elongated, sleek curls, layer on oil-infused moisturizing products that will pull your curls away from your scalp. If your hair is on the drier side, apply your products immediately post-shower. "The drier your hair is, the wetter you want your hair to be when applying product because it'll absorb [them] better," says Mischa G. First, section off your hair into four large sections, working on one section at a time. Then, rake through a heavy oil (like jojoba or castor), which will give your hair an initial surge of moisture. To finish, seal in said moisture with an oil-infused cream, like Moroccanoil Curl Defining Cream, and let your hair air dry.
"If you're looking for a lot of control with maximum definition, use a gel," says Lopez. That said, while gel will give you unparalleled hold, it can also dry out your hair if you're not careful. Try mixing one or two drops of a light rosehip oil into your gel before gently applying it to your hair. Then, rather than running your hands through your hair, flip your hair from side to side and gently break up your curl groupings, says Lopez.
To maintain the integrity of your natural curl pattern without elongating your curls, try this pro tip from Mischa G. Massage — don't comb — in your products, she says. "Raking product through your hair with a comb can be damaging if you're not super careful." Instead, once you're out of the shower, use a quarter-sized amount of a moisturizing curl-defining cream, like Bumble and bumble Bb. Curl (Style) Defining Creme, and gently massage it in with your palms. Then, try not to touch your hair until it's fully dry.
A hair oil is essentially the hair equivalent to a face mist — it's great to spray on midday when you're in desperate need of a refresher. "Just be sure to avoid ones with silicones in them," says celebrity stylist David Lopez. "Silicones coat the hair and repel water — which is not what you want. Your hair needs to absorb both oils and water to keep it moisturized." Try spritzing on a few sprays of this natural oil blend, then zhush your roots with your fingertips.
If you're going to be in a humid environment or you're headed out on the town for a night of dancing, a setting spray will be your curls' best friend. Find one that's — you guessed it — infused with natural oils to combat dryness. "A good setting spray will hold your curls in place — just be sure your hair is fully dry before applying it to avoid tackiness," says Prestonia.
A Curl Boss is more than just someone with curly hair. It’s someone who embraces and owns who they are and what they've got. To help you unlock your inner Curl Boss, we partnered with Sephora to bring you these handy guides for caring for and styling wavy, curly, and coily hair. The best part? You’ll know exactly what products work for you — and your gorgeous 'do — so that you can have the vivacious, luscious curls of your dreams.