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How to Moisturize Curly Hair: A 6-Step Guide

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Maintaining moisture is crucial for addressing curly hair dryness. Its unique structure, characterized by twists and coils, makes it naturally prone to dryness. Effective moisturization combats common issues, such as dryness and frizz, to enhance the appearance and health of curly hair.

A tailored approach, grounded in understanding the specifics of curly hair, is essential for optimal hydration. This guide provides a practical and scientifically informed routine to achieve and maintain well-hydrated curls.

Continue reading to learn how to moisturize curly hair with recommended techniques and products that will keep your curls moisturized for the long term.

The science behind why curly hair lacks moisture

The reason you’re experiencing a loss or lack of moisture with your natural hair is explainable through science.

Curly hair is uniquely beautiful, but its structure makes it susceptible to dryness. The spiral shape of curls prevents natural oils from the scalp from traveling down the hair shaft, often leaving the ends dry and brittle. Moreover, the outer layer of curly hair, the cuticle, tends to be more open than in straight hair, making it easier for moisture to escape. This explains why your curls might often feel dry or frizzy.

Additionally, the proteins in curly hair are unevenly distributed, unlike their even distribution in straight hair. While this makes it easier for the cuticle to stretch and bend over the curves of your curls, it also means these curly strands are weaker. This lack of strength leads to fragile strands that are more vulnerable to breakage.‌

In order to tackle curly hair dryness and restore your hair’s strength, shine, and smoothness, it has to be moisturized through proper hair treatment or conditioning.

Close-up view of a person holding two coral-colored Living Proof product bottles that hydrate curly hair: Curl Shampoo and Curl Conditioner.

5 ways to tell if your curly hair is dry

Recognizing the signs of dryness in curly hair is the first step to restoring its health and vitality. Here are the key indicators:

  1. Rough texture: Healthy curly hair should feel soft and pliable. If your curls feel rough or coarse, it could be a sign they lack moisture. This change in texture is due to the raised cuticles on the hair shaft, which occur when hair is dehydrated.
  2. Split ends: Examine the ends of your hair. Split ends are not just a sign of needing a trim; they can also indicate that the tips of your hair are not retaining enough moisture. These splits can travel up the hair shaft if left unaddressed, leading to further damage.
  3. Dullness: Curly hair that lacks shine and looks dull often needs more moisture. Healthy hair reflects light better, but when the cuticles are raised due to dryness, light reflection is diminished, leading to a lackluster appearance.
  4. Frizz: While some frizz is normal, especially in curly hair, excessive frizz can be a sign of dryness. It indicates that the hair is seeking moisture from the environment, leading to a frizzy texture as the hair cuticles lift to absorb moisture from the air.
  5. Excessive tangling: Dry hair tends to tangle more easily, leading to knots. This is because dry, rough hair fibers catch on each other more than smooth, moisturized hair. Frequent tangles can lead to breakage, especially when detangling.

6 Steps to hydrate dry, curly hair

Hydration is a key factor in maintaining the health and vitality of curly hair. It’s essential to adopt a hydration-focused haircare routine that not only restores moisture but also helps retain it over time.

To revitalize dry, lifeless curls, follow this comprehensive routine:

Step 1: Choose the right products

The foundation of any good haircare routine is the right set of products. For curly hair, this means products that are specifically designed to infuse and retain moisture without weighing down the curls. Look for hydrating ingredients like glycerin, aloe vera, and natural oils.

Step 2: Shampoo with care

Curly hair doesn’t need daily washing. When you do shampoo, use a gentle, sulfate-free product like Living Proof’s Curl Shampoo. Focus on the scalp to remove buildup, as over-washing can strip away natural oils that are essential for healthy hair.

‌Step 3: Condition generously

After shampooing, apply a rich conditioner designed for curls. Living Proof’s Curl Conditioner not only hydrates but also helps detangle and reduce frizz, leaving your curls smooth and defined.

Step 4: Gently dry your hair

Ditch traditional towels that can roughen the hair cuticle. Instead, opt for a ‘plopping’ method using a soft t-shirt or microfiber towel to gently absorb water without causing frizz.

Step 5: Apply a leave-in treatment‌

A leave-in treatment is essential for long-lasting moisture. Apply it to damp hair to help seal in the hydration from your wash routine. Our Curl Collection styler products, including EnhancerDefiner, and Elongator offer a balance of conditioning and styling, perfect for every curl type.

We recommend reaching for a product that provides both treatment and styling benefits. Our Curl Collection styler products offer the conditioning of a leave-in treatment and styling benefits of a styling product. Our curl defining and curl enhancing products contain a perfectly balanced conditioning base and a cuticle sealer to lock in moisture and deliver visibly healthier and more defined curls. With each use, you will see curls that look shiny and frizz-free, and over time, visibly healthier.

Up-close view of a person pumping Living Proof Curl Defining Gel into their palm to address curly hair dryness.

Step 6: Apply hair oil‌

A good hair oil can make a world of difference. It not only adds moisture but also forms a protective layer to keep that moisture locked in. Our Curl Moisturizing Shine Oil is formulated to nourish and enhance shine without weighing down your curls.‌

This oil features a custom blend that mimics hair’s natural conditioning fatty acids and lipids to replenish lost moisture and help eliminate frizz. Plus, it is formulated with a moisturizing base specifically created for textured hair that delivers added smoothness, manageability, and shine to any curl type. You can apply it to wet hair after your styling product, or to dry hair when your curls need an extra boost of moisture and shine.‌

Bonus: Deep condition

Incorporate a deep conditioning treatment like our Restore Repair Mask into your routine one to two times a week. These treatments are essential for restoring and maintaining deep hydration in your curls.

The LOC method

The LOC method is a game-changer for curly hair dryness, especially for those with high porosity hair, or hair that both soaks up moisture and dries out quickly. This acronym stands for leave-in (or liquid), oil, cream — a technique that layers hydration and sealing products in a specific order to maximize moisture retention.

  1. Leave-in or Liquid: This is the first step and involves hydrating your curls with a water-based product. The aim here is to introduce moisture into the hair shaft. For this, you can use a light leave-in conditioner or simply water. This step is crucial because it sets the foundation for the products that follow.
  2. Oil: Next, apply oil to your hair. The right oil will seal in the moisture you just added with your leave-in or liquid. It acts as a barrier, keeping the moisture from evaporating. Consider oils like coconut, jojoba, or argan oil, or our Curl Moisturizing Shine Oil, which are excellent for curly hair as they lock in moisture effectively.
  3. Cream: The final step is to apply a cream-based product. This helps seal in all the moisture you’ve added so far. The cream should be heavy enough to provide lasting hydration but not so heavy that it weighs down your curls. A good curl cream will also help define your curls and reduce frizz.

Each hair type might react differently to various products, so it’s essential to experiment with different leave-ins, oils, and creams to find the combination that works best for your curls. For example, those with low porosity hair, or hair that repels water, a modified LCO (leave-in, cream, oil) method that incorporates more lightweight products may work better.

How to keep curly hair moisturized

Maintaining moisture in curly hair is critical for its health and appearance. Given its natural tendency to dry out, a dedicated and effective hydration strategy is essential. Here are key practices to ensure your curls remain hydrated:

Don’t wash too often

It’s important not to overwash curly hair with harsh shampoos that can strip away natural oils. Living Proof offers specially-formulated shampoos that can be used without drying out your curls. In between washes, consider using a dry shampoo to keep your hair fresh without the need for frequent washing, which can help maintain natural moisture levels.

Protect when using excessive heat

A woman blow drying her curly hair with a diffuser

We all know heat causes damage, which leads to frizzy, dry curls. If you can, avoid using hot tools on your curls when possible. When you do blow dry your hair, use a diffuser on a low setting to avoid blasting your sensitive curls with too much heat, and always use a heat protectant. Never used this tool? Check out our guide on how to diffuse curly hair before getting started! We recommend using either our Heat Styling Spray or Restore Perfecting Spray before blow drying or curling any pieces of hair to provide ample heat protection.

Use a clarifying shampoo

When product builds up on the hair, it acts as a barrier and makes it difficult for any additional product to supply moisture. You can avoid build-up by avoiding products that feel too heavy (i.e., your hair still feels dense or oily hours after you apply product) and by using a cleansing, yet hydrating, clarifying shampoo that deep cleans without stripping it of its natural oils.

Use moisturizing hair products

Select products specifically designed for curly hair, enriched with hydrating ingredients. These help retain moisture and prevent the hair from becoming dry.

Incorporate regular deep conditioning

Deep conditioning is crucial for infusing moisture into curly hair. Aim for a deep conditioning session at least once a week.

Protect hair overnight

Use a silk or satin pillowcase or bonnet to minimize moisture loss and reduce friction during sleep.

Go for regular trims

Trimming wavy hair with comb and scissors

Trimming your hair regularly helps address split ends, which can lead to further dryness and damage.

Try a cold water rinse

Finish washing your hair with a cold water rinse to help seal the hair cuticles, locking in moisture and enhancing shine.

Choose silicone and sulfate-free products

Avoid products with harsh ingredients such as sulfates, which can strip natural oils and increase dryness. Additionally, silicone-based ingredients can cause product build-up on your hair, leaving it weighed down and appearing greasy.

Refresh hair with a moisturizing mist

Between washes, apply a moisturizing or conditioning mist to keep curls hydrated.

Try not to touch hair too often

Frequent touching or styling can remove natural oils. Handle your curls gently and only when necessary.

Nourish your curly hair with Living Proof

Side-by-side photos of a woman with brown curly hair

Achieving and maintaining well-hydrated curly hair goes beyond just following a routine; it requires the right products that cater to the unique needs of curly hair. At Living Proof, we offer a full line of curl products specifically formulated for curly hair types.

Our collection is designed to address the various challenges curly hair faces. From shampoos and conditioners that gently cleanse and deeply hydrate without weighing your curls down, to styling products that define and enhance your natural curl pattern while locking in moisture, Living Proof provides a holistic solution for curly haircare.

What sets our products apart is our science-backed formulation. Each product in our curly hair line is enriched with ingredients known for their hydrating properties, ensuring that every step of your haircare routine contributes to the overall health and vitality of your curls.

Whether you’re looking for a daily shampoo that cleanses without stripping, a deep conditioning treatment for those extra thirsty days, or a styling product that offers both hydration and definition, Living Proof has you covered. Our products are free from harsh ingredients and are designed to work with your hair’s natural biology, promoting long term health and vibrancy.

Frequently asked questions

What causes curly hair dryness?

Curly hair is prone to dryness due to its structure. The curls and coils make it difficult for natural oils from the scalp to travel down the hair shaft. This, combined with the tendency for curly hair cuticles to be raised, leads to moisture loss.

How often should I wash my curly hair to avoid dryness?

The frequency that you wash your hair depends on factors including your hair type, needs, lifestyle, and styling habits. It’s generally recommended to wash curly hair no more than 2–3 times a week. Over-washing can strip the hair of its natural oils, leading to dryness. Use a gentle, moisturizing shampoo and always follow with a hydrating conditioner.

What type of shampoo and conditioner should I use on my curly hair?

Opt for sulfate- and silicone-free shampoos and conditioners specifically formulated for curly hair. These products should be hydrating and gentle to preserve your hair’s natural oils and avoid stripping moisture.

Should I use oils to moisturize my curly hair?

Depending on your hair type, oils can be a vital part of moisturizing curly hair. They help seal in moisture and protect the hair shaft. Lightweight oils like argan, jojoba, or sweet almond oil are great for curly hair as they provide moisture without weighing the hair down. Heavier oils like castor or coconut oil can be used for deeper treatments. Keep in mind that if you have low-porosity hair, it may not absorb oils as effectively.

Create the perfect routine for your curly hair

Our quiz makes it easy to create a custom haircare routine that will replenish even the driest curls.

Take the Quiz

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Living Proof Review Team

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