Why is curly hair curly?
We’ll start with the basics. Do you sometimes wonder what a curl is, how a curl is created and why some people have curly hair and others don’t? Many great studies have been done on the how, what and why of curls. For this blog we take the literature study “The what, why and how of curly hair: a review” by The Royal Society as a starting point. This research goes in depth and brings together biological, anthropological and chemical factors that play a role in the degree to which hair curls. The research is based on other underlying studies.
A curl or straight hair starts in the hair follicle and is determined by the shape and position of the hair follicle:
- The rounder the hair follicle, the straighter the hair;
- The more oval the hair follicle, the curlier the hair.
The angle at which the hair grows out of your skull also plays an important role in the shape of your hair. If this angle is square, your hair will grow straight, and if the angle is curved, your hair will grow wavy or curly. So curls are formed by the curvature in the structure of the hair. If you care for your curls properly, it’s possible to support and perfectly shape the natural curves of your hair.
WHY DOES ONE HAIR CURL AND THE OTHER DOESN’T?
The “why” of a curl is of course closely related to the “what” of a curl. To find out why one hair curls and the other does not, the research measured anthropological (environment, climate and evolution), medicinal (the status of your health or the effect of medicines on the structure of your hair), biological (genes) and chemical (permanent treatment) factors. All of these factors can explain the ‘why’ of the curl.
Although more and more is known about this through various studies, the code of the curl hasn’t yet been cracked. What we can say with certainty is that your genes play a major role in the question of why one person has curly hair and the other doesn’t: your genes determine that for 85 to 95%. Is one of your parents blessed with curls? Then it’s likely that you will have them too.
Caring for curls: the 11 best curly hair tips
Soft and shiny curls are a dream for many women. We are happy to show you how to get them! Here are the 11 best curly hair tips that every curly girl should know:
- Find out your curl type so that you get to know your curls better. Curly hair is divided into three different curl types: wavy, curly and coily.
- Wash your curls with a sulfate-free shampoo.
- Or even better: use a conditioner instead of shampoo. This is also known as co-washing. Shampoo washes all the natural oils from your hair, that your dry curls need.
- Never brush your hair when it’s dry, only when it’s wet – preferably after applying conditioner. If you comb your hair after a shower, you will comb your curls apart, causing frizz.
- Don’t use a brush or comb, rather use a Denman Brush. This will prevent broken hair and saves the structure of your curls.
- Don’t use a towel to dry your curls. Normal towels absorb all the moisture from your hair and cause it to frizz. Rather use a cotton T-shirt or microfiber towel.
- Use your hands as much as possible when styling your hair. For example, massage your scalp to get volume or let a strand slide through your fingers for a nice structure. And of course: a lot of scrunching!
- Sleep on a satin or silk pillowcase to protect your curls at night.
- Avoid heat tools that harm your curls. If you can’t live without a hair dryer, use a diffuser. Preferably on medium or cold.
- Avoid oil-based silicones.
- Look for a good curl hair stylist.
What are the types of curls?
It’s useful to find out and understand your curl type, so you can adjust your routine, products and hairstyles accordingly. With this knowledge you can get beautiful and healthy curls. To determine your curl type, you can look at the image below. All hair types are classified in numbers from 1 to 4. Number 1 is straight hair, so we’ll leave that one out. The numbers 2, 3 and 4 indicate your curl type: 2 stands for wavy, 3 for curly and 4 for coily. You can also have a combination of two curl types that are close together. The letters A, B and C indicate how tightly your curls are rolled up.
If you have curl type 2 or 3, you probably need lighter products, if you have type 4 you will need heavier products and oil to take good care of your curls. In addition, porosity and hair density play an important role in choosing the most suitable hair products for your curls.
Also read: What is my Curly Girl hair type?
Does my curl porosity and elasticity affect which hair products I should use?
For sure. Not only your curl type is important, but the porosity and elasticity of your curls too. That’s how you discover whether your curls are very thirsty or just a little bit. The elasticity of your curl will tell you whether your curls need a lot of protein, a little bit, or not at all. In the articles below, we have explained in detail how you can determine the porosity and elasticity of your curls step by step. And that makes it easier for you to choose the right care for your curls!
Silicones and curls
You may have heard that you should avoid silicone in hair products. But why exactly? Silicones are ingredients that are added to hair products to make the hair shine. It gives you shiny and frizz-free hair, which makes it look like silicone products are good for your hair and nourish it. But actually the opposite happens. Silicones seal your hair, which means that they cover your hair with a thin layer. Good hair products – which do care for your hair – cannot get through it. In addition, most silicones are very difficult to wash out of your hair, causing it to build up in your hair. As a result, hair products will no longer work properly, because they cannot get through that layer. The many layers that adhere to your hair close off every hair, so that it can no longer breathe and the nutrients can no longer penetrate. The result is heavy and lifeless hair, which dries out slowly and becomes brittle. On top of that, you can only remove this build up with harsh shampoos with sulfates, which will give you even drier hair. It creates a vicious circle.
Recognizing silicones in hair products
You can recognize silicones in the ingredients list by the words ending in “-cone”, “conol”, “-xane” and “-col”:
- Cetearyl Methicone
Besides that, there are also water-based silicones. These silicones provide many of the desirable properties of regular silicones, such as shiny hair and no frizz, but you can wash them off with water. So they don’t cause a build up. This is a list of water soluble silicones:
- PEG-8 Dimethicone and other silicones that start with PEG
- Dimethicone Copolyol
- Lauryl Methicone Copolyol
- Hydrolyzed wheat protein (Hydroxypropyl Polysiloxane)
Sulfates and curls
Sulfates are ingredients that are often added to shampoo, to create foamy bubbles. This foaming effect not only gives a clean feeling in the shower, it’s also beneficial. It removes dirt, oil and dead skin from your scalp and hair. But that cleansing effect is actually too intense for your scalp and hair. Sulfates work so well, that they strip your hair not only of dirt, oil and dead skin, but also take away the natural oils on your scalp. And these oils are necessary to ensure hydration of your curls. It can cause an irritated and dry scalp, oily hair, dry hair, frizzy hair and / or a faded hair color.
Recognizing sulfates in hair products
Usually you can recognize sulfates on hair product labels by words ending in “-ate”, like:
- SLS = Sodium Lauryl Sulfate / SDS = Sodium Dodecyl Sulfate
- SLES = Sodium Lauryl Ether Sulfate / Sodium Laureth Sulfate
- ALS = Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate
- ALES = Ammonium Laureth Sulfate
Parabens and curls
Parabens are preservatives that are used in hair products to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria and mold. Nothing wrong with that, you would think. So why are parabens not recommended for curly hair? Parabens dry out your hair and can cause frizz, irritation and itching. In addition, parabens contained in care products can enter your body through your skin. Studies have shown that many types of parabens mimic the effects of estrogen, which can cause hormonal imbalances. And that may be linked to breast cancer, premature puberty and a decline in fertility. No direct link between parabens and breast cancer has ever been found. But, despite the fact that parabens have been used in many products for a long time, little research has been done into possible negative effects.
Recognizing parabens in hair products
On the labels of hair products you can pick parabens right out, because they end with “-parabens” or “-parabens”. These are the most common ones:
- Ethyl parabens
- Butyl parabens
What is the effect of alcohol on curls?
Alcohol and curls: If you have to believe the internet, you would think these two really don’t go together. Because alcohol can dry out your hair, especially if you have curls. Curly hair tends to be drier than straight hair, so you have to be careful with that. But not all alcohols are bad for your hair. Some are even good for your hair, and moisturize it! Alcohol that is extracted from a coconut or palm, for example, doesn’t have the drying effect. They act as an emulsifier, allowing water and oil to be mixed. These types of alcohol provide hydration to your curls. In addition, they ensure that your conditioner makes your curls feel soft and easy to comb.
What is the best way to clean your curls?
It’s better not to wash curly hair too often, because that will make your hair even drier. The oils your scalp produces, take longer to get to the hair strands of curly hair than straight hair. So if you keep washing your hair with a shampoo that contains a lot of harsh cleansers, your hair will stay dry. That’s why it’s best to co-wash your curls. This is a method where you wash your hair with conditioner instead of shampoo. Co-washing is much gentler on your hair and scalp than shampoo. The advantages of co-washing are as follows:
- Your hair and scalp will stay hydrated.
- Your hair gets more shiny.
- Less fluff.
- It helps to define your curls.
- It makes your hair softer, making it less brittle and easier to comb.
Of course there are also exceptions. Do you prefer to wash your hair with shampoo? Then you can, for example, use the DevaCurl Low-Poo Original Daily Cleanser, which gently removes impurities from your hair without sulfates.
Also read: Everything you want to know about co-washing
How to keep curls beautiful in between washes?
On days when you don’t wash your hair, you can refresh your curls. You do this by filling a spray bottle with water and a little leave-in conditioner. Spray this through your curls, apply a little styling product, scrunch this into your hair, and your curls will look like new again! The hair products that you apply during or after washing are not immediately gone after a night of sleep. You can “reuse” these products the next day by reactivating them. By spraying your hair with water, you activate the hair product that has water as its main ingredient.
Also read: Freshening up your curls in between washes
How to protect curls at night?
At night, you can protect your curls by putting them up in a pineapple. This is a bun on the top of your head, which resembles the shape of a pineapple. Pineappling hair allows you to prevent tangled hair and preserve your curls overnight. Besides that, it’s a good idea to sleep on a satin or silk pillowcase. Your hair will glide smoothly over the pillowcase, instead of rubbing against each other as it does on a cotton pillowcase. This way you will get less frizzy hair, tangles, and split ends.
Is the Curly Girl Method suitable for my curls?
The Curly Girl Method is a hair routine to care for curls in the most natural way possible. It’s also known as the CG Method, and works on all different hair types. The method is based on a number of basic principles: cut out harmful ingredients (such as sulfates) and products (such as blow dryers and brushes), learn your curl and hair type, and embrace new habits such as drying your curls with a cotton T-shirt in instead of a towel. It’s the ideal hair diet for textured, frizzy, waves or curly hair. Because on the one hand you stop dehydrating your hair by using products with sulfates, and on the other hand your hair really nourishes moisture instead of the superficial moisturizing effect of silicone. The method was invented by Lorraine Massey and described in her now famous book “Curly Girl: The Handbook“. It’s amazing how people can completely transform their hair simply by avoiding silicones and sulfates! Even straight hair will look more beautiful and healthier.
Is there an easier Curly Girl Method?
Already getting tired when reading the explanations, techniques and methods of the Curly Girl Method? Then the Lazy Curly Girl Method might be something for you. This is a variant of the CG Method, for people who don’t feel like or have the time to follow all the rules. The Lazy Curly Girl Method still starts from all the “rules”, but does not follow them so literally. The most important thing is to use products that do not contain silicones, sulfates and parabens.
Read more about it: The Lazy Curly Girl Method: for busy girls and their curls
ArE CURLs expensive?
Texture Trends has researched the spending habits of women with curly hair compared to other women. The outcome? Curlies are willing to spend twice as much on hair care products than straight-haired women. 91% is constantly looking for new products to add to their haircare regime. But on the other hand, they are less likely to go to a salon. One in four women with curls doesn’t go to a salon, instead, they style their hair with an arsenal of different products. Further research found that 60% of the curlies embrace their natural hair texture, instead of, for example, straightening or blow drying it.
What to do with dry curls?
Curls naturally are drier than straight hair, and therefore need more hydration. That’s why it’s important to stop using oil-based silicones, sulfates and parabens. Curls need intensive care, for which you can use a deep conditioner or hair mask. Deep conditioning is a treatment method aimed at nourishing your hair. Choose a good deep conditioner that is suitable for curls, apply a lot to your hair and leave it on for about twenty minutes. Then rinse the conditioner well. Do you have very dry hair? Then you can leave in a little bit. You will see: this helps you to have beautiful, healthy and shiny curls that shape better! We recommend using a deep conditioner hair mask once a week.
Which hair products are suitable for curls?
Because curly hair needs more hydration than straight hair, curly-specific products contain more moisturizing ingredients than other products. Curly-haired people often want airy, less frizzy and bouncy hair, and this is also taken into account in the products specifically formulated for curly hair. But hair products for curls can also differ enormously in function. Think of a curling cream, gel or leave-in conditioner. Depending on your curl and hair type, you use lighter or heavier products.
But remember that every curly girl is different! That’s why there is no ready-made advice. The best advice is: get to know your hair well, try out various hair products and find out what works for you. Take a good look at what happens to your hair after you have applied or used a product: has your hair started to shine more or less? How do your curls form through the product? Has your hair started to frizz more or less? Those are all questions you can ask yourself.
How do you keep your curls pretty?
The most important is to build a healthy routine for your curls. Include going to the hairdresser regularly, this will ensure that your curls stay in shape and don’t become too heavy. Especially with curls, the length and layering of your hair makes a big difference. Because the shorter your hair, the firmer your curls will be. So if you have long hair, the weight of your hair will also take away some curl. Always talk to your hairdresser about what you want, so that he or she can take your curls into account. Do know that cutting curls is a profession in itself. We therefore recommend that you opt for a curler, which specializes in curls. Curls require a different technique than straight hair, and this can even ensure that you get more curls!
Do you have any other questions about curls? Feel free to ask us on Instagram!