Today, I’m going to dive into how to care for curly hair and ditch the shampoo. If you’re a curly-haired human and reading this, I’m betting that you are looking for how to take care of your curly hair.
My Bad Hair Years
I fought my curly hair for years and really wish someone would have given me the low-down on what to do with curly hair.
Believe me, I’ve had my share of bad hair YEARS.
I’ve also had a slew of bad hair cuts. All of them were basically attempts to tame my tresses. In fact, when I was 4, my mom chopped off my cherub curls. I looked like a little boy and neither of us knew how to manage my curls.
The reality is curly hair can be very difficult to care for IF you fight the curl or don’t understand what your hair needs.
But back to my curly hair…it was bad people. Really really bad! The picture below is me in that boy haircut. I’m the boy on the left.
My hair was kept short until I was about 9 or 10. By then I had finally talked my mom into letting me grow it out.
For years I fought the curly hair. I always had it tied back and never let my hair down – literally.
Chopping it All Off
Just before joining the Air Force, I chopped it to a bob and straightened it every day. It still wasn’t right but I finally had the straight hair I longed for. When I joined the military, I cut it even shorter to a boy haircut again and straightened it as best I could. I was desperate and didn’t know what else to do to keep my hair under control.
Turns out humidity (I was first stationed on Guam) and straightened naturally curly hair are not a great combo, but I survived somehow and even got a few dates.
I finally decided to grow my locks out. What do ya know…Mark loves me in long hair so I’ve pretty much had to learn how to deal with it over the years.
BUT for the past 5 years, I’ve not just learned to deal with curly hair, I’ve fully embraced my curls.
I have found that there are really 2 things that make or break a curly head of hair.
- Control Issues
This is the first installment of 3, I cover how to wash your curls and what tools work the best. The next post will be all about how to style your curly hair. And the last one is all about how to tell your stylist to cut your hair (if you’re looking for a long style).
So without further adieu…
How to Wash Curly Hair
1. Give Up Shampoo. Curly hair is just naturally dry and that is because of the structure of curly hair. No way around it. Curly-haired folks NEED to apply more moisture to their hair and avoid harsh shampoos. I opt for NO-POO.
You read right.
I do NOT shampoo my hair. Seems crazy? But believe me, I CAN NOT shampoo my hair. If I even shampoo my hair twice a week, it becomes very brittle and damages quickly. Not only that, but it is frizzy and out of control.
It sounds gross, but if you have curly hair, you understand the dryness and need for moisture. Without shampoo, my hair is not funky. I don’t have any problems from not using shamPOO my hair. But trust me, my hair is not nasty, and neither will yours be.
2. Wash With Conditioner. So what do I do? Every two or three days, I wash my hair with conditioner. To wash, I just apply a generous amount of conditioner to my hair and scalp and scrub. Next, I run my fingers through my hair to remove any tangles. Once all the tangles are out, I rinse out most of the conditioner but leave a little in there since my hair is a moisture hog.
3. Periodically Clean Scalp. Every 2 weeks or so, I scrub my scalp with a conditioner/sugar scrub mixture. I can tell when I need to scrub my scalp because it starts to get a little itchy.
For the scalp scrub, mix 1 tablespoon sugar to 3 tablespoons conditioner to make a paste and scrub that into my scalp followed by a good rinse.
Curly Hair Products ~ From the Grocery Store
At the time of writing this, I hadn’t found a salon formula that I loved and we were on a strict budget. I had been using grocery store hair products for years. I used 3 products on my hair and they were lifesavers.
- Conditioner – TRESemme Moisture Rich Vitamin E formula. It’s reasonably priced and gets the job done. **UPDATE: I’ve switched to a paraffin-free conditioner from Costco (Kirkland’s Signature) LOVE it as far as a grocery store brand conditioner goes.
- Oil – I use an Argon oil blend by Shea Moisture, Raw Shea Butter Reconstructive Elixir (it’s available from Target). I LOVE LOVE LOVE this stuff! I put it on just before I put gel on my hair (but I’ll get into that in the next post)
- Styling Gel – I still use my TRESemme #4 Tres Gel. The hold is just right. #5 makes my hair crunchy, and #3 is not strong enough. Just call me Goldilocks.
Curly Girl Handbook. I cannot recommend this book enough! It is full of so much information. I read it years ago and what an eye-opener. I’ve found what works for me from the book and made my own way. If you have curly hair, this book is a great starting point! It is packed with loads of information.
The author breaks curly hair down into seven 7 different types of curls. For each type they have very specific tips and hints to work with your curl. The book has been updated from years ago when I first read it and it has even more valuable information.
Everyone with curly hair should have this book! It also contains hair recipes and helps for getting a good cut along with other valuable information.
Here are some photos from the book to give you a peek inside.
Next, we’ll cover curly hair styling tips…
48 thoughts on “How to Care for Curly Hair – No Poo”
Your excellent article has been of great value to me. I have learned a lot about this topic and appreciate the inromfation. I am hoping to get more information from you in the near future.
Not shampooing your hair is actually unhealthy. The conditioner leaves residue and buildup that can really damage your roots and scalp. I have VERY curly hair so I understand the dryness your trying to avoid. I find that if conditioning 2-3 times a week then shampooing once a week doesn’t dry me out but I know people who only shampoo every two weeks too.
Thank you for your comment Taylan. I have tried shampooing infrequently in the past (where I shampooed once every 2 weeks) and still my hair was overly dry and frizzy. I used the same haircare products, only added the shampoo. I know for me, I’ve not had any root or scalp problems by not using shampoo and it has been several years. I do scrub my scalp with the conditioner before rinsing most of the conditioner out. Everyone is different though so each person should listen to their body and use what methods work best for their scalp/hair.
I’ve been no-poo for several years now, and my hair has never been healthier! To combat build-up from conditioner and product, I use a fistful of baking soda in my conditioner-wash every couple of weeks. Most conditioners contain alcohols to help them rinse out, though, and luckily for us no-poo-ers, it takes most of the dirt and grime along with it. Some conditioners are even made to be “clarifying” and remove build-up. Then there are no-poo shampoos, which do not contain the drying laurel-sulfate ingredients (which make them foamy and sudsy).
To each their own, though! Seriously, curls are so versatile and different, what works for YOU can hardly be expected to work for ANYONE else with curls. for example: My bff has the exact same curl pattern as me, but her scalp is very very oily, so she HAS to shampoo once per week, followed by a deep conditioning treatment to keep it from frizzing out.
Yes! Definitely NOT a once size fits all!! Thank you!
You can try using sulfate free shampoo It doesn’t dry your hair out but it does wash it, I use it everyday and my hair is extremely healthy. I think Loreal has an entire line of sulfate free shampoo
Thank you for the tip Madison!
This is all very much dependent on your scalp and hair’s unique individual biome. I used to suffer awfully from shampooing even though I have always washed my hair infrequently. My scalp would break out in sores, and itched like crazy. I tried the mildest shampoos and conditioners, some with natural ingredients, but I eventually realized that any kind of sulfate, mineral oil or synthetic wax would irritate my head. Finally, I stopped shampooing altogether, and voila! No more breakouts.
i love the idea of no shampoo! i cut down big time on my shampoo usage when i realized you can get rid of an oily scalp with just conditioner. you can remove residue buildup without the help of shampoo. just do an apple cider vinegar wash every couple of weeks!
You are exactly right Harlowe!! In fact, I’m getting ready to post my curly hair “shampoo” which is a conditioner/ AC vinegar rinse.
I’ve been trying no poo for about 6 months.. On and off and I do see a difference in my curls but my scalp is another problem… After 4 day of not shampoo I have pimples all over my scalp. I’ve tried to add tea tree oil to my conditioner and even scrubbed my scalp once a week with the brown sugar… Any other tips you can suggest?
It sounds like you might have dandruff Alexis.
Later this week, I’m putting up a post about an apple cider vinegar/conditioner rinse. Since it’s not going to be up until later this week, I’ll give you a sneak peek. You mix 1 part ACV to 2 parts conditioner, mix well and apply to hair and scalp. Rinse well, (or you’ll smell like vinegar) and apply any conditioner as needed. Try that and see if helps. I’m going to include sugar scalp scrub in my post but you’re already doing that.
Lastly, this article maybe helpful to you, http://www.naturalnews.com/041827_home_remedies_dandruff_treatments_hair_care.html# Hope you find a solution that works.
Clary Sage is a great essential oil for hair and it would make a great addition to this conditioner formula. It definitely softens my hair!
This stuff works great for me when flaking becomes an issue. Sage Shampoo for Heavy Dandruff with Jojoba & Organic Spikenard – 100% Natural, Sulfate Free
You can find it on amazon.com
I love the picture of when you were little because it matches all of mine! My mom had straight hair and did not know what to do with my curly hair. She chopped it off for years. Then when it did grow out, she would brush it out like hers….. what a frizzy awful mess! I was so elated in middle school to find gel for curly hair. It changed my life. Your posts are amazing! I have learned even more. I do love the Shea Moisture products. Thank you so Much!
I’m so glad this series could help you Tiffani!! I hate seeing my “boy” pictures as a little girl but I look at them as reminders of how crazy unmanageable curly hair can be. (and the desperate measures people will take to control it) Oh our poor mothers, they didn’t know any better! 🙂
My mother had that absolutely gorgeous “Breck Girl” smooth hair, but she spent her life setting it in rollers and sleeping in them at night. I wanted to be free from that drudgery and wearing my hair with its natural curl, now I am!
On the days you don’t noPoo, how do you get the curl back into your hair? Do you wet your hair and then put in products? My hair looks awful after sleeping on it, so I’m looking for some helpful advice. Thanks.
Have you looked at Part 2 of my series? I explain 2nd Day Hair in that post in lots of detail. It all starts with tying your hair up high (and loosely) so you don’t disturb your curls as much when you sleep.
I do wet my hair slightly and use Shea Moisture “Smoothie” to get things curly again. Lots more detail in the post but I hope this helps. Let me know if you have anymore questions. Best wishes!
I just found this blog post on Pinterest!! This is the best information I have ever seen on curly hair. I can’t believe you had short hair as a kid! I was sick of the tangles as a kid and my mom took me to get it cut. I finally grew it out in 3rd grade after being sick and tired of people calling me a boy. I still struggle with controlling it but much better than I used to.
Oh the woes of curly hair! 🙂 I know it!! Glad you are learning to work with your curls!
i just found your post and have to say I love it!!! I have curly hair and so does my oldest daughter. However my problem is if I don’t shampoo it every day it gets extremely greasy. What do u recommend to combat that problem???
Hmmm…I’d start out by only shampooing every other day if you can try it for a few days. Then evaluate how your scalp responds. You could also incorporate a vinegar rinse for your hair in leu of shampoo. I’m sorry I can’t be more help. Most of the time, curly hair is dry and oiliness is not an issue. Is your hair dry/frizzy and scalp oily?
So glad I found your posts on Pinterest! I’m always looking for tips on curly hair. I have a similar routine as you. Haven’t used shampoo in YEARS! It sounds gross…always get a few funny looks when people ask about my hair and I start explaining what I use…
Just wanted to add a tip…I condition my hair every day, and use an oil like you do. When you condition try putting the oil in first (on wet hair), then layering the conditioner on top of that. I usually go through a “washing” motion as if I were shampooing, and comb it through with a wide tooth comb. I leave it on while washing up, and rinse my hair very last. My hair is always soft, shiny, and never any tangles. I love the Garnier line of gel and oil. I usually use Paul Mitchell Tea Tree oil conditioner, but started to switch over to RenPure BB Conditioner… I may have to try the trsseme conditioner. I also use their Leave in spray…great stuff!
Doing curly hair is like being a mad scientist! Everything has to go in at just the right time and amount…otherwise it’s a disaster!
Thank you for the tip Marissa! I’m going to give my argon oil a try before conditioner. You are so right, curly hair is like being a mad scientist – LOL! Thank you again!
I am loving these posts! A fellow curly head who struggles with finding the right style and how to wear my hair.
Where can I get the curly hair handbook?
Thank you Christina! The Kindle Version is available on Amazon. Or the Print Versionis here.
Thank you so much for this whole post! All parts! I love my curls curls but a lot of the time it seems like they don’t love me back! But hopefully with your tips they will! I’ve known for a while that I needed to get shoet layers but ypu confirmed it for me thanks! Also, I will try out the NoPoo method 😛 Thanks againM
I just started the no-poo hair care, and it really helps define my curly/wavy hair. I use the baking soda wash and apple cider vinegar rinse. At first I thought the vinegar would make my hair smell, but after your hair drys you can’t even tell 🙂 I have always struggled with dry hair. I straightened my waves everyday for years. I really like my hair curly now. I even think it looked nicer than it does straight.
So glad you found a combination that works well for you Kayla! I’ve really learned to embrace my curls too!
HI thanks for the tips, I find shampoo is ok once a week or so but no more poo every day. And bc dryness is an issue I switched from styling gel ( alcohol based) to styling cream ( oil based). My favorite is “it’s a 10” miracle styling cream.
Ahhh…thank you Sandy! I appreciate the tip!
We are hair twins and oddly, I used to use the same conditioner and gel that you share in this post! I’ve switched as of a couple of months ago and if you haven’t tried these products, you should check them out because they make my hair so much curlier and healthy and easier to work with. The products are the suave professionals conditioner with argan oil (it’s a gold bottle) and the Shea Moisture coconut and hibiscus curl enhancing smoothie in the pinkish tub.
I was happy to come across your article I to have curly hair had used wen products for a while but I started loosing large amounts of hair and discontinued now I’m using a sulfate free shampoo 2 times a week and my hair has gotten better I’m always looking for ways to take better care of my hair for it’s been frizzy & dry at times but with everything I read it has helped a lot
Good advice. I have the classic crazy 10 foot wide hair. Great in the 80’s, not so much at 46 now. One tip that works is replacing hair gels, mousse, and oils with simple hand lotion. A few pumps and run it through your hair. Do not brush or comb though. You will be amazed at how manageable and soft the curls are. Air dry and go natural!
Fellow curly hair here! I have struggled with my “mop” or what others have called my “Tarzan Jane hair”for years. I am the only one who had curls and so it got cut off and I never understood how to care for the curls. But I have been learning and adjusting. I use a sulfate free shampoo but am considering going no poo. I also have been doing a coconut oil treatment and it is amazing. Viva labs coconut oil. 🙂 my problem is still frizz…ugh. Humidity is my worst enemy. This post has helped me a lot. 🙂
So glad it helped!!
I loved your tutorial! I plan to try some of these products to search for my perfect combo as I deal with frizz a lot of days. Some of the product names you mentioned in the article did not match those in the photo. Do you like both equally or should I search based off one or the other? Also, do you mind saying where you find these products? I couldn’t find the particular Shea Moisture products you listed at a couple different shops where I looked. Thanks again for sharing your tips for beautiful curls! They look great!
I just updated this particular post with more information Hilarie. Shea Moisture can be bought at Target or Amazon. The other products should match up with the photo. I do like Kirkland’s signature conditioner better now and use it in place of the TreSemme conditioner.
Hope this helps you Hilarie! Happy curls!!
Hey! This post was so useful! Am definitely gonna try twists! I was wondering if you could help me with dandruf problem. I badly wanna try co washing but i have always stayed away from it coz of dandruf problem. So i end up using shampoo which causes more frizz. Also i suffer from excessice hairloss from roots as well as breakage. My hair growth rate is also really slow. It probably grows an inch an year. So the hair loss plus dandruff plus slow growth rate makes it a terrible combination! It would be awesome if you could help me out with this
Intriguing! I wonder, do these tips work for permed hair as well? (I have to pay for my curls.) Thank you very much!
I’m learning a lot from your website Julie. Thanks! My hair looked a lot like yours when I was much younger. Beautiful! I’m 59 now and going gray. (My husband loves the color and I do get lots of compliments.) The bottom layer is almost to my shoulders (which I think makes me look older but my husband likes longer hair) and the shortest just below my eyebrows. The hair right around my face will not grow out so I have “baby hair” kinda framing my face. My hair is very dry and I use lots of the type products you recommend along with pure coconut oil. I haven’t found a stylist where I live that can cut my hair without a lot of input from me.? Can you offer me any advice? Thank you!
Hi, I have a question how to treat your curly hair when you swiim? I use a swimming cap and always wet my hair with water chlorine. Before swimming I wet my hair in the shower and apply oil and then the swimming cup. Do you think I am doing the right thing. Under this circumstances I have to wash my hair after swimming every day. Any advised on how to treat my hair if I swiim every day. Thanks julieta