The ‘Do of Your Dreams: Achieve Your Best Curls

Woman in green off-shoulder top with long brunette curls

Caring for curls is a process, but your approach to it is easy as pie with this simple mantra: Love your curls, and they’ll love you back. Here’s how gals all over the world over get their best curls.


First, Prep for Best Curls.

The right products take your mane from gorgeous to downright enviable. Start by reading the labels of your current arsenal. These ingredients — aside from being potentially toxic — are a no-no for curly gals.

Sulfates

Did you know that the same chemicals used to cut grease in many dish soaps are also found in shampoo? It’s true! The ingredients that put the lather in “lather, rinse, repeat” are detergents. And they are not for your hair. Not unlike those heartbreaking commercials of wildlife getting soaped up after an oil spill, your hair’s stripped of oil (the good kind of oil that you need) when you use sulfate-containing shampoos. Without these healthy oils, you’re looking at extra dryness (to which curly hair is already prone) and — you guessed it — frizz. Plan to ditch these products, but hang onto your sulfate-containing shampoo for one last wash before you begin your curly journey.

Silicones

These are present in a lot of conditioners and styling products, especially the ones that promise to smooth, heat-protect and add shine to your tresses. Sounds nice, right? Think again. Silicone-containing ingredients (the ones that end in “-cone”) are essentially plastic. They build up over time, making it harder for hair to absorb moisture and nutrients. The result? Limp, lifeless, dull hair. Oof. Rid your hair of that buildup by washing with your sulfate-y shampoo — once. Then, toss that soapy bottle, and  your silicone-containing products.

Parabens

Less for hair, more for health: Avoid parabens (chemical preservatives) altogether. Seriously. Just don’t use ’em.

Are we saying you need to run out and buy new stuff right now? No. The techniques we cover here will enhance your natural texture regardless of what products you use. If you don’t want to waste what’s already shelved by your shower, it’s okay to use it up and buy curl-safe products next time.

Curly-Hair Terms You Should Know

Next, brush up (but please don’t brush curls!) on essential vocabulary from our curl-iculum (har har).

Leave-in: A leave-in conditioner. Try applying liberally on wet hair while you’re still in the shower to really lock in moisture.

Plopping: Wrapping wet hair up in a tee or microfiber (NOT terrycloth) towel to speed up drying time and minimize frizz. Many curly gals apply a leave-in before plopping. Just make sure to use plenty, since some will transfer to your tee. To plop, lay your T-shirt down on a chair (or the top of the toilet) with the sleeves facing you. Bend down and flip hair forward so it falls in the middle of the tee. Take the bottom of the shirt and place it across the nape of your neck, tie the sleeves in a knot behind your head, and finish your post-shower routine. Remove after 10-20 minutes.

Praying hands: Applying conditioner and styling product with hands pressed together (rather than running your fingers through) to avoid separating curls. Tip your head upside down, then “pancake” sections of hair between your hands, and slide hands down from root to tip.

Gel cast: Applying gel (lots of gel) to wet hair so that hair and product dry together. Do this post-plop.

Scrunch out the crunch: What you do after with a gel cast after your hair dries. It’s a gentle scrunching motion in little sections at a time, leaving curls defined but not wet-looking.

No-poo: A shampoo-less curly hair routine. If you decide to go no-poo, remember that your scalp is SKIN and still needs attention. There are lots of mild cleansers out there designed for this very purpose.

Co-wash: Short for “conditioner wash”. If you have curly hair, you may have been doing this before you knew it had a name! Co-washing is only using conditioner in the shower, and a great way to revitalize curls in between shampooing.

The tips above can help even if coaxing out those curls isn’t your cup of tea. We’re here for you if you want to achieve and amazing at-home blowdry, too!

Long-haired model surrounded by curling iron, brushes, styling tools

Shop Zulily for all the supplies and gear you need to get those locks lookin’ lovely every day.