The Ultimate Curly Hair Guide

by Gaia Tonanzi

Curly hair comes in many forms, and this guide will teach you everything you need to know to care for this type in the best way possible. From how to identify your curls, to how to wash and care for them, with this knowledge you’ll have gorgeous, bouncy curls in no time! 

What are the Characteristics of Curly Hair?

Curly hair, also known as type 3 hair, is one of the curly hair types. Depending on how tight the curl pattern is, this can further be broken down into type 3A, 3B, and 3C hair. Curly hair is described as having either ‘O’ or corkscrew shaped curls. These curls can range anywhere from loose to as tight as a pencil diameter. If you are unsure as to whether you have curly hair, take our curl quiz to help you understand. This can help decide what routine will be best for you and your curly hair!      

do I have curly hair?

Wavy hair on the other hand has a slightly different curl pattern because it is typically in between straight and curly hair. This means the curls can appear looser and more tousled. Whereas coily hair differs again because the characteristics of this hair type means the curl pattern is a lot tighter together. Seeing the appearance as more of a ‘Z’ formation.

Once you’ve identified that you have curly hair, it’s important to also find your hair porosity. Depending on whether you have high porosity, medium porosity, or low porosity, you will want to care for your curly hair in slightly different ways.

Type 3A Hair

what is curly hair?

Type 3A hair has large, loose curls that tend to be about an inch in width. Some areas of this curly hair tend to become flatter as the days go, especially the ones close to the nape of your neck. To preserve the texture as long as possible, it’s important to protect your curly hair when sleeping by using a bonnet or a silk pillowcase.

Type 3B Hair

how to care for curly hair

3B curly hair has a tighter corkscrew pattern that tends to be around the width of your little finger. Definition is key to enhance this curly hair pattern, so working with stronger hold styling products like gels can help keep your curls springy and bouncy for longer. 

Type 3C Hair

how do I know if I have curly hair

3C hair consists of very tight curls, about the size of a drinking straw. The curls are very dense which leads to 3C hair having generally lots of volume. It’s the driest type of curly hair so it’s essential to lock in moisture by deep conditioning regularly and using a leave-in conditioner before your styling products. 

How Should Curly Hair be Washed?

the best way to wash curly hair

Curly hair tends to be quite dry, so it is key to make sure you are not stripping your hair too much of its natural oils. We recommend washing only 2-3 times per week with a gentle shampoo like our Vivid Tones Vibrancy Shampoo or our Core Strength Shampoo. If you feel like you need to wash your curly hair more often than that, we recommend using our Curl Quenching Conditioning Wash instead, as the gentler nature of the co-wash will help maintain curly hair’s natural moisture. You could also introduce a clarifying shampoo like our Wash & Scrub Detox Pro-Biotic in your routine once every other week, to really purify the scalp from build-up. And don’t forget the conditioner! Moisture is super important for any curl type, so make sure you always use a conditioning product every time you wash your curly hair. When it comes to deep conditioning you should incorporate a hair treatment into your curly hair routine once a week. This will help maintain your hair’s shine, keeping it soft and healthy too.

7 Tips on How to Style Curly Hair

how to style curly hair

Having the right techniques and products is essential for styling curly hair. Knowing how best to style your curls will make sure they're always looking their best! We’ve put together our favourite ways to style curly hair.

  1. Apply your products on soaking wet hair. This will disperse the product and make sure it covers all your curls, helping to prevent frizz
  2. Apply your styling products with your head upright to have more control on the application, and then flip your head upside down and scrunch to encourage curl formation in your curly hair
  3. Don’t touch your curly hair whilst it's drying. This will help create a ‘cast’ around your curls, a slightly crunchy layer that prevents the development of frizz. No need to worry about the crunchiness, once your hair is fully dry you only need to gently scrunch it to break the cast and reveal soft, bouncy hair.
  4. Use a pick brush at your roots to encourage volume in your curly hair
  5. Try layering multiple styling products to achieve the best results. For example, rake a light gel like our Curl Defining Styling Soufflé all through your curls. Then glide over just a little bit of In-Shower Style Fixer on your lengths, to increase hold and make the definition last longer. 
  6. Don’t forget a leave-in conditioner. Curly hair tends to be dry, and a leave-in is the best way to ensure moisture stays locked in for longer. Apply this before your gel.
  7. You can either diffuse or air dry depending on if you’re looking for a more voluminous style or more defined curls. 

Protecting Curly Hair in Between Washes

If you want to make sure your curls last until the next wash, it is very important to protect them when you sleep. To keep your curly hair from rubbing and pulling on your pillowcase, we recommend using a loose bonnet. Make sure to choose the bonnet size based on your curly hair length, as if you pick one that is too short the curls may shrink overnight and look very wonky in the morning. 

Understanding your hair pattern can help to determine how often to wash your curly hair as well. This in turn will again help to protect the structure, leaving your locks shiny and healthy.   

How to Refresh Curly Hair

Curly hair is often very prone to frizz, so if you want to maintain your style until the next wash we recommend refreshing. You may not need to refresh every day, like wavy hair does, so you can just do it when needed based on how well your curls hold. Here are our top refreshing tips: 

  • Spray your hair with water or use a steamer before applying products. Water will soften the stylers you have previously applied and it will help the fresh products glide on effortlessly
  • Always use some type of cream to refresh your curly hair. Most frizz is due to a lack of moisture, so adding some back into the curls will help to tame it down. Our Moisture Memory Reactivator is one of our super convenient frizz control hair products to do it with. 
  • If you feel the curls are losing shape, add a bit of gel with a gliding motion on the areas that need it most.

About Curlsmith

Curlsmith produces premium, gourmet hair care products to help nourish curly hair. Our wide range of products have a well crafted formula to help to lock in moisture and care for your curls. We only use clean ingredients in all of our ranges, whether that be our strength line, our scalp treatments, our temporary hair colors or our moisture line. We also pledge to never test on animals. You will also notice we don’t use any Sulphates, Parabens or Silicones, meaning our products are gentle on all hair!