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.
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.
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.
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.