The Ultimate Curly Hair Guide

by GAIA TONANZI
The Ultimate Curly Hair Guide

Curly hair comes in many forms, from loose loops to tight corkscrews. It is the most common among the curl types, and this guide will teach you everything you need to know to care for this hair in the best way possible. 

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. 

Wavy hair, in comparison, has a different curl pattern, looser, because it is typically in between straight and curly hair. Coily hair instead differs again because it is a lot tighter together, more of a ‘Z’-shaped pattern.

Type 3A Hair

type-3a-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

type-3b-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

type-3c-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.

Curly hair and Porosity

Hair porosity is the shaft's ability to absorb and retain water. It indicates how healthy the hair is and how well it can hold on to moisture. Depending on your porosity, you will have different needs to maintain a healthy protein moisture balance: the higher the porosity, the more protein-rich products you'll need in your routine. 

There are 3 main porosity types: 

  • High Porosity: This hair type is fairly damaged and has wide open cuticles. Moisture can easily enter the hair, but it's also spit out very quickly, so high porosity hair is often dry.
  • Medium Porosity: The cuticles in medium porosity are halfway open and let hydration is relatively easy, without losing it as quickly. This makes it relatively easy to care for. 
  • Low Porosity: The cuticles in low porosity hair are very tightly closed. This keeps moisture trapped inside, but it also makes it difficult for it to enter when you need it to. 

How Should Curly Hair be Washed?

how-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. 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. 

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 will control frizz and keep them defined and juicy for longer. 

  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 ‘gel 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 styler of choice.
  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

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 in between. 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. Pick one with a very light consistency, like the Shape Up Aqua Gel

How to select the right product for Curly Hair

Knowing your curl type is very important for your styling technique, but it doesn't influence your product choice much. Understanding your hair density, thickness and porosity will give you a clearer picture and help you find the perfect products for your needs. Not sure which ones to pick? Head over to our curl quiz
Gaia Tonanzi
Product Development & Textured Hair Expert

Product development expert on a mission to shine the spotlight on textured hair, bringing awareness of the category to the whole haircare industry. She is passionate about debunking false myths and bringing science-backed facts to the community, creating easy-to-follow guides to simplify curly haircare.

Gaia Tonanzi
Product Development & Textured Hair Expert

Product development expert on a mission to shine the spotlight on textured hair, bringing awareness of the category to the whole haircare industry. She is passionate about debunking false myths and bringing science-backed facts to the community, creating easy-to-follow guides to simplify curly haircare.