How To Wash Curly Hair The Right Way

Washing your hair seems straightforward: lather, rinse, repeat. But as with all things curly hair, you could be doing a great deal of damage to your curls with this one-size-fits-all approach. Knowing how to wash curly hair, as well as how often, will dramatically improve the health of your curls and help them look their best.

We’ve listed several methods and tips on how to wash curly hair below. Keep in mind, however, that how you wash your curly hair, as well as how often, is very personal. Each head of curls reacts slightly differently, and it will take a bit of fine-tuning to get the best routine for you. Use the tips and methods listed below as a guide rather than a rigid set of rules, and tweak as necessary for your hair’s needs.

how to wash curly hair

Start With The Right Shampoo

One of the main challenges when caring for curly hair is maintaining moisture. Unfortunately, many shampoos, including those specifically marketed towards curly hair, are far too drying for your curls. When choosing a shampoo, take a look at the label and make sure that it does not contain SLS (sodium laureth sulfate or sodium lauryl sulfate). SLS acts as a detergent and lathering agent, and while it may be perfectly suitable for straight hair, it can wreak havoc on more delicate curly hair by stripping away far too much moisture and leaving your curls dry and damaged.

how often should you wash curly hair

How Often To Wash

Knowing how often to wash curly hair can be challenging, as it is a very personal answer and is usually only found through trial and error. Begin by cutting down to one wash a week, and give your hair a few weeks to adjust to the new wash schedule. Your hair may feel a bit greasy initially, but that’s just because it has become used to overcompensating sebum production to keep up with frequent washes. If you find your hair has not adjusted after 4-6 weeks, you may need to wash more frequently. Alternatively, if your hair is not greasy or doesn’t feel dirty after a week, cut down your wash schedule to once every week and a half to two weeks. You should only wash your hair when it becomes dirty, or if you experience product or hard water buildup. Otherwise, washing your hair serves no purpose and unnecessarily dries out your curls.
how often to wash curly hair

Consider Co-Washing Instead

Many curlies opt to combine co-washing with their low- or no-poo washing routine. Co-washing simply means that you wash your hair using a CG-friendly, silicone-free conditioner instead of shampoo. Co-washing is generally done with a specially formulated co-washing shampoo, which contains very gentle cleansers instead of the much harsher detergents found in shampoos. Co-washing can be used in combination with a low-poo method by incorporating it in between shampoo washes to mitigate the drying effects of shampooing. Co-washing can also be used as its own standalone method for washing if your hair is particularly dry and prone to damage.

how often should i wash my curly hair

Prepare Your Hair With A Pre-Poo

To mitigate the drying effects of shampoo on their curly locks, many curlies opt for a pre-poo treatment. Your pre-poo product can either be a specifically formulated pre-poo product, or it can be a hydrating conditioner, hair mask, or oil. The important thing is to apply the pre-poo to clean, dry hair, and to allow it to seep into your hair for at least 20-30 minutes. To boost product absorption, plop your hair or cover with a plastic shower cap. This process allows your hair to absorb moisture before shampooing, and makes the process of washing curly hair much easier on your hair.
Rehydrate curly hair

Rehydrate Your Hair With Every Wash

Each wash, whether you’re co-washing or shampooing, should be followed by a hydrating conditioner. Distribute the conditioner evenly through your hair, and allow it to sit for at least 5-10 minutes so that it can absorb into your hair. Use an upward squishing motion to encourage the conditioner to seep deep into each strand. Take this opportunity to gently detangle your curls, either with your fingers or with the aid of a wide-tooth comb. If you have very curly or particularly thick hair, detangle in small sections to avoid damage and breakage. Rinse out the conditioner with the same upward squishing motion, and finish off with cold water to snap the cuticle shut and seal in the moisture.

Dry curly hair

Dry Your Hair Correctly

Don’t let all the effort you put into washing your hair be undone by a towel! Keep towels away from your curls, and opt instead for drying with a cotton t-shirt or microfiber towel. Terrycloth towels are far too rough for curly hair, and absorb too much moisture too fast. Squish out excess moisture using an upward motion, and plop <link to plopping guide> your hair to gently absorb excess water after a wash.