Curly and Coily Hair: Dermatologist Tips on How to Take Care of It

Many find it overwhelming to care for curly or coily hair because it requires extra care to keep it looking healthy. It can often be more fragile and prone to breakage. Since everyone's hair is different, it requires trial and error to find the products and care routine that is right for you. Read on to learn some tips on caring for curly and coily hair to keep it looking beautiful.

Key takeaways:

Different hair types

There are four different hair types:

  1. Straight
  2. Wavy
  3. Curly
  4. Coily

The shape of the follicle determines the type of hair you will have. If the follicle is growing completely straight and the follicle is round, your hair will be straight.

Curly and coily hair has an "s" shaped oval follicle. It also has many disulfide bonds within the hair shaft that keep it curly or coily. This shape of the follicle makes it more prone to dryness and breakage.

Factors controlling the appearance of your hair

Other things determine the appearance of your hair, such as structure, density, and porosity.

  • Structure. The structure of the hair refers to whether it is thin, fine, or thick, coarse hair. Curly and coily hair tends to be thicker.
  • Density. The density will determine how much hair you have. Curly and coily hair tends to have lower density.
  • Porosity. This refers to the amount of moisture your hair can absorb. If you have high porosity (curly or coily hair) and many openings in the cuticle of your hair, your hair will dry out easily and require extra moisture to keep it healthy.

Expert haircare tips for curly & coily hair:

Genetics ultimately determines what type of hair we will have and its characteristics. Many try to straighten their hair, but it is only a temporary change because you cannot change your genetic code with a simple salon treatment. Evolutionarily, curly and coily hair has the advantage of being more protective of the scalp and better at thermoregulation.

How to wash curly or coily hair

Because curly and coily hair is so fragile, it is critical to only wash it correctly.

  • Frequency. Wash about once a week with a gentle shampoo.
  • Technique. Do not scrub your scalp because that will cause excess oil production and irritate the scalp.
  • Water temperature. Use only use cool water. Hot water can dehydrate your hair.
  • Cleansing. Cleanse with clarifying shampoo every two weeks to remove product build-up.
  • Chemicals. Avoid sulfates and parabens.
  • Specialized products. Use only shampoos specially formulated for curly or coily hair.
  • Pre-shampoo. Consider using a conditioner before shampooing to protect the hair.

Using a conditioner with curly or coily hair

It is critical to use the correct conditioner every time you shampoo to protect and hydrate the hair.

  • Moisturize. Select a moisturizing conditioner specially designed for curly or coily hair.
  • Oils. Look for ingredients like coconut, avocado, or argan oil, which are super-hydrating.
  • Leave-ins. Consider a leave-in conditioner.

How to style curly or coily hair

There are definite dos and don'ts to styling curly or coily hair because it is so fragile.

  • Towel drying. Pat or squeeze the hair dry with a soft towel. Never rub your hair.
  • Prepping. Before combing your hair, apply a detangler.
  • Combing. Only use a wide-tooth comb or your fingers. Never brush wet hair.
  • Protecting. Use a heat-protecting spray with keratin if you must use a hair dryer or hot tools.
  • Air drying. It is best to air-dry your hair. If you must use a hair dryer, use it on the lowest heat for the shortest amount of time. Keep it at least 6 inches from your hair. Diffuser attachments are recommended.
  • Hair masks. Apply a hair mask every two weeks to give your hair extra moisture at night.
  • Trims. Have your hair professionally trimmed every 2–3 months.
  • Styles. Do not use tight braids or ponytails since they can lead to hair loss (traction alopecia).

Overnight tips for curly or coily hair

Because curly and coily hair is delicate, sleeping positions matter.

  • Avoid sleeping on your back because this can damage the hair.
  • Pull your hair up into a loose bun or braid at night.
  • Sleep on silk pillowcases, which will decrease friction and damage to the hair.
  • Apply nourishing oils overnight.
  • Consider sleeping in a silky bonnet to protect your hair at night.

Curly and coily hair requires a lot of care to prevent damage and breakage. It can be daunting for some. Just remember it is dry and fragile and treat it accordingly. With the right routine and nourishing products, you can keep your hair looking healthy and lustrous. If you need help, ask your dermatologist.


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