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How to Care For Delicate, Curly Hair

If you’re rocking 4b or 4c curls, then your delicate, curly hair is in need of way more TLC than the curls of women who roll out of bed with their loose waves still intact. (If only!)

Without proper care, you’ll face dry, brittle curls that threaten to split, break, and give up the ghost.

So stop worrying about your hair and settle into a routine that will help you feel polished and put-together – even if you’re rocking an afro.

Follow these 8 tips for building a tried-and-true routine for kinky hair:

1. Cut Down on Cleansing

4b and 4c textures are naturally dry – which means you can’t afford to over-wash your hair.

“Fine and delicate, your curls are extra dry and vulnerable to heat and style damage because they have fewer cuticle layers than other textures,” explains Erica Metzger at Refinery29.

This means you should cut back on regular shampoos to retain moisture (Metzger recommends only shampooing once every 10-14 days), and only reach for sulfate-free shampoo when it’s time to cleanse.

Co-washing can also be a good substitute for regular shampooing, since it helps dry hair retain moisture.

“That’s why some curly girls swear by the co-washing routine,” writes Nadine Anglin at Huffington Post Canada.

“They wash their hair with sulphate-free conditioners only, and then use a mild clarifying shampoo once a month to remove product build-up.”

Your hair should feel softer, smoother, and oh-so-silky.

2. Hot Oils Galore

In need of a moisture boost? You can’t go wrong with a hot oil treatment, perfect for restoring moisture to delicate curls without overwhelming them.

At Bustle, beauty editor Kristin Collins Jackson reveals some of her favorite hot oil treatments for curly and kinky hair – including a combination for ladies with 4b and 4c curls.

“Castor oil is a lifesaver when it comes to fighting dry, brittle hair,” writes Jackson. “Combine it with coconut oil, which is amazing at sealing in moisture…and [lavender] oil [for] a healthy scalp.”

An added bonus? Castor oil and coconut oil will help you detangle with ease.

Just remember: some oils are used to seal in existing moisture, while other oils are used to condition, or add, moisture to your hair. As you navigate life with kinky curly hair, the difference is crucial.

“Take time to understand the difference between moisturizing and oil products,” stylist Vernon François told Allure.

And be patient, he adds. “It can take several weeks to notice major changes. Give a product time to work before you give up on it, unless you notice drastic negative effects.”

3. Consider Your Conditioner

When you have tightly coiled, delicate curls, regular leave-in conditioner won’t cut it, says Keora Bernard at CurlyNikki.com.

If you have high-porosity, delicate curls, try a water-based conditioner that won’t weigh your hair down. “Fine hair appreciates mists, sprays, and lighter conditioning products,” Bernard suggests.

Apply your leave-in conditioner right after you get out of the shower, and follow up with your regular styling products, whether that’s curling cream, oil, or a light pomade.

4. Dry Demands

Women with delicate, curly hair have unique needs when it comes to drying hair out of the shower. Towels can be too rough, and heat styling can sap your hair of life.

“Post-shower, blot your curls with a microfiber towel or cotton T-shirt, and apply a small dollop of styling primer through your hair,” suggests Metzger.

Many women will put damp hair into protective styles, like twist-outs, while their hair air dries – though you can expect this to take just about all day!

Finally, says Michael Lupo, be wary of cotton. Pillowcases and clothing can do a number on delicate, shoulder-length hair, especially if you’re transitioning to your natural texture.

“When your strands are constantly brushing against your shoulders, friction will do its nasty work and the clothes you are wearing, particularly cotton, will sap the moisture from your ends and make them more prone to breakage,” Lupo told Huffington Post.

You know it’s serious when a stylist puts your t-shirt on the chopping block!

5. Primed and Ready

Plan on using heated styling tools? Then you need to break out the primer, says Sabrina Perkins at NaturallyCurly.com.

Primers “create a weightless, humidity-resistant shield between the strands and whatever you apply or that comes in contact with your hair,” writes Perkins.

“They allow the style to last longer, frizz to be at bay and stave off damage during styling.”

And – yes – even women with 4b and 4c curls can use primer without weighing down their hair.

If pairing with curling cream – as recommended by our friends at Refinery29 – remember to go easy on the application.

6. Embrace Curling Cream

One thing’s for sure – when you have 4b or 4c curls, rolling out of bed is basically impossible. To protect your curls from freaking out with frizz, you’ll have to use a curling cream on damp hair.

Instead of giving your head the old pat-down, actually work the curling cream into your hair, suggests beauty editor Nicole Catanese.

“[Rub] a quarter-size amount of curl cream…in your palm, taking random-size sections, and twisting your curls around and around your finger, so each curl gets wave-defining attention,” writes Catanese at Cosmopolitan.

Make sure to only use a little – otherwise, you’ll weigh down your delicate curls, cautions Michael Lupo, the marketing director for natural hair care line Carol’s Daughter.

“When we change anything about our hair, we always panic, buy a ton of extra styling products and put it all on,” Lupo told Huffington Post.

“Our hair ends up looking greasy or weighed down, so we end up washing our hair too frequently which just dries it out.”

Don’t get stuck in this cycle because you went overboard on curling cream.

7. Protection Spell

Need a break from heat styling, relaxers, or other harsh treatments? Embrace protective styles, suggests beauty editor Anglin.

“Constant tugging from brushes and combs plus intense heat from blow dryers can lead to dried out tresses, traction (thinning) around the hairline, and even breakage,” warns Anglin at Huffington Post Canada.

“Take a styling sabbatical for a few weeks or months, and try braids, twists, head wraps, or even a weave.”

Not sure which protective style suits you best? Check out this list from natural hair blog, Her Given Hair.

8. Trim Trim Trim

If your delicate curls are prone to breakage, heading to the salon can feel a little bit like torture.

But you have to do it, says trichologist Steve Pullan, otherwise you’ll be prone to split ends and breakage that could permanently damage your hair.

Women with 4b and 4c curls must treat their hair ever so delicately – but that doesn’t mean skipping your turn in the stylist’s chair. Plan on getting a trim every 8 to 12 weeks.

“Think of your hair as fiber or as a cashmere sweater,” Pullan told Self. “You wouldn’t drag your hands over a delicate cardigan 100 times, so make sure you’re being just as gentle with your hair when you comb and style it.”

Curls as cashmere? How’s that for self-care advice?

While rocking natural curls with a delicate texture might be a lot of upkeep, we hope you embrace your curl pattern and all that it has to offer.

With regular moisturizing treatments, extra TLC, and protective styling, your delicate, curly hair should stay strong and healthy – until it’s time to hit the stylist’s chair again.

Do you have 4b or 4c curls? Tell us which strategy gives your curls an extra boost in the comments below:

Images: Unsplash, Unsplash, Unsplash, Unsplash

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