True life: Getting your curls to cooperate is like fetching a cab in New York City on a rainy day—frizz-inducing and difficult AF. In our quest to let curly-haired girls off the struggle bus they’ve been riding in circles, we consulted Shai Amiel, 20-year curl expert and owner of Capella Salon, where he’s known as The Curl Doctor. With a curly-client roster that includes Isabella Peschardt, Tamera Mowry, and our very own OUAI Crush Cameron Patterson, Shai knows curls like the back of his hand (reading his 10 Curl'mandments is a must). Here, Shai shares seven habits to follow for bouncy, frizz-free, defined curls that won't make you go crazy.
1. Be Nice to Your Curls
Your curls are like your delicate fabric. They need a more delicate approach. The actual length of your curly hair is usually much longer than it appears due to shrinkage. So to keep things simple, your hair has been on your head a lot longer to show length. You’re dealing with older hair and that has to be addressed. When your curls need moisture, they will feel brittle, tangle easily, snap or have split ends. Ringlets won’t clump like when hair is wet. Frizz means your curls are searching for moisture in the air. I’ve never seen anything else like Saphira Hair Devine Mineral Mud. It’s truly the holy grail of treatments.
2. Use Water-Soluble Products
Buildup is the number one enemy of curly hair. I’ve always said we should hydrate, not lubricate. It’s best to use water-soluble products that will wash off the hair without issues. Water and oil don’t mix. Don’t apply oils to wet hair. The water will prevent the oil from penetrating the hair, leaving it on top of the cuticle layer like a waxy film.
3. Cut Three Times a Year
I recommend trimming healthy curls every four months on average. Healthier hair can sometimes go longer, but that only applies to hair that has no chemical service including color and is never stretched out with a tool, like a flat iron or the blowdryer. Damaged hair or hair that has been compromised should be trimmed more frequently, between 2-3 months. But never cut your curls with a razor or thinning shears.
4. Avoid Bleach
Bleach is a big no-no! It strips the hair by removing layers of healthy hair. It will cause the hair to break because it makes it so brittle. Avoid applying color to previously processed or colored curls as overlapping could cause breakage. Avoid sulfates because they will dry your hair and avoid silicones that stick to the hair—those will leave your curls weak and brittle. Lastly, avoid any procedure that stretches out your curls. They should be allowed to shrink all the way to avoid weakening them.
5. Wash According to Texture
Wash your hair just like how you wash a delicate fabric or a sweater. How often you wash your curls depends on the texture of the hair. The actual texture of each strand determines how often you should wash. Fine hair should be washed every 2-3 days. Thick hair can be washed every seven days. But, I’ve had clients go up to two weeks without washing it. Co-washing is great if your hair and scalp don’t feel dirty, but you want a fresh start if your goal is defined curls. You can spray a lavender-based mister in the scalp to revive it. I like grabbing an old cotton T-shirt from the hamper to blot excess moisture. You can also use paper towels or a micro-fiber towel.
6. Skip Heat
Hair is a very fragile “fabric” that can’t tolerate heat and rough stretching. You wouldn’t iron your delicate fabric with a very hot iron. The same approach should be used for hair. Any style that forces you to stretch out your curls isn’t ideal if you desire healthy curls.
7. Don't Air Dry in the Cold
Air drying is the healthiest way and the most fun once you master it. You can see your curls evolve throughout the day if you’re patient. But don’t leave your house with wet hair when it’s really cold out. Wet hair could freeze and break!