Experts suggest following these 7 tips to keep curly hair healthy all summer
There are some things that only people with curly hair understand, like avoiding brushing your hair when it’s dry. Similarly, anyone with curly hair understands the challenge of keeping curly hair healthy in the summer. Learning how to take care of curly hair can take years, and just when you think you have it down, the seasons change and the new weather conditions require a few modifications. With an increase in temperatures comes increased humidity, and this can make curls more frizzy, change the shape of a cut, and make hair particularly hard to style, says celebrity hairstylist Justine Marjan.
In addition to humidity there is also the issue of harmful UV rays. We all know how the sun can have harmful effects on our skin, but there is also research on how UVA and UVB rays affect the scalp and hair. Studies show that UVA radiation is responsible for hair discoloration, and UVB radiation leads to hair protein loss. The absorption of radiation in amino acids produces free radicals, which affects hair proteins such as keratin. That is to say: Our hair requires sun protection, just like our skin. Even chlorine—although great for ridding public swimming pools of bacteria—can strip the hair of its natural oils, causing a damaging effect.
Between the increased temperatures, humidity, UV rays, and chlorine exposure, your curls can go from looking lustrous and shiny to dull and brittle if they’re not taken care of properly. Below, four experts explain what we can do to keep curly hair healthy in the summer.
1Start with a healthy diet.
Healthy hair starts with a healthy diet. According to Healthline, eating a balanced diet with the right nutrients can help with hair growth. For example, salmon, mackerel, and herring contain omega-3 fatty acids, which have been linked to hair health. Other foods that can positively affect the hair include eggs, avocados, spinach, berries, and other fresh fruit and vegetables. Deficiencies in certain vitamins can weaken the hair and cause hair loss. Per the American Academy of Dermatology, a lack of protein or iron in the diet can lead to hair loss. What you eat can profoundly affect your hair health and is always a great place to start if you start noticing signs of damage.
2Use quality hair oils for both the scalp and hair shaft.
To protect the scalp, Bridgette Hill, a trichologist and stylist at Paul Labrecque Salon, suggests that “curly-haired clients should use detoxifying and cleansing oils every other day instead of more frequent shampooing, since that can disrupt curl definition. Detoxifying cleansing oils keep the balance of the healthy yeast (Malassezia) on the scalp and protect it against unhealthy bacteria and harmful yeast that may develop as a result of summer conditions.” Her favorite scalp detox oil is Rene Furterer Complex 5 (note that this product is for the scalp only and not for hair fiber).
For the hair, use a hair oil like Playa Ritual Hair Oil or OUAI Hair Oil. A lot of what we do to protect curly hair starts when the hair is wet. Start with your ends, and work your way up so that any minimal leftover product is near the roots. New York City-based trichologist and stylist Penny James recommends not applying too much oil onto the scalp as this can “clog the follicle and may lead to scalp irritation.”
3Use a deep conditioning hair mask.
Curly hair is already prone to dryness, and being in the sun can leave it feeling even drier. Use a hydrating mask for the hair and scalp to “seal the cuticle and help keep the hair moisturized and soft with a healthy sheen,” says James. Marjan recommends the TRESemmé Keratin Smooth Nourishing Mask. A mask will counteract the tendency for curly hair to be dry by adding moisture and shine. Another option is Olaplex Hair Perfector No. 3, which repairs broken bonds caused by thermal, mechanical, and chemical damage.
“The more you infuse the hair fiber with moisture, the less the hair fiber will expand to attract the moisture in the air, ”adds Hill. “It is the act of the hair fiber responding and gravitating to the moisture in the air that causes shrinkage and frizz.” Hill also recommends adding a steam treatment to your deep conditioning routine, such as Q-Redew, a hand-held hair steamer designed to quickly refresh hair. You can also deep-condition in a warm shower to achieve a steaming effect.
4Be gentle with your curls.
Curly hair is fragile by nature, especially when it’s wet, and the way you treat it will have a huge impact on its health. Instead of rubbing your hair with a conventional towel, use a microfiber turban wrap to dry your hair by gently squeezing out the moisture. Then, use your fingers to separate and detangle your damp curls.
Brush hair only when it is wet so you don’t cause “breakage that can lead to additional frizz,” suggests Marjan. She recommends the Wet Brush Go Green Detangler Brush (a 2020 Beauty Crush Award winner!), which gently detangles hair without causing breakage or pain. Gina Sullivan, a hairstylist at Philly-based Mirror & Mantel Salon, explains that this should be “the last time you brush your hair until you wash it again—brushing dry curly hair creates a head of frizz.”
While hair is still wet, work a leave-in conditioner—like the Playa Monoi Milk Leave-in Conditioner—into your hair. This is especially important when spending the day at the beach or pool since it will seal the hair cuticle to diminish frizz, restore shine, and maintain moisture.
For people looking to color-treat their hair, Marjan recommends “avoiding bleach, as this can change the curl pattern in your hair.” Instead, she suggests opting for semi- or demi-permanent hair color to keep the hair shinier and healthier without blowing out the cuticle layer.
In general, try to avoid washing your hair too often.
5Minimize heat styling.
Heating tools can be a curly girl’s secret weapon. In the summer, though, try to limit heating tools to avoid drying out the hair. Hot blow dryers and straighteners can damage your hair’s protein, which can then allow heat from the sun to penetrate the hair and cause breakage. Opt for heat-free styling techniques and try air-drying to create an undone look.
6Sleep on a silk pillowcase.
Sleeping on a silk pillowcase is key for maintaining curly hair since “silk keeps the moisture in the hair instead of absorbing it into the material of your pillowcase while you sleep,” says Marjan. As an alternative, you can “sleep with your hair in a silk cap or turban to protect the curls.” Sullivan explains that the silk helps extend your curl life so you can get an extra couple of days without washing your hair.
7Consider using a hat.
Lastly, Sullivan recommends wearing a hat, “especially if you have color in your hair, since it can get lighter with sun exposure.” It sounds simple, but a wide-brim hat or headscarf creates a physical barrier between you and the sun and protects your scalp and hair. Also, “use [hair] products with a heat protectant,” suggests Sullivan. Look for products with UV protection that will shield your hair throughout the day, such as Bumble and bumble Hairdresser’s Invisible Oil Heat/UV Protective Primer.
The key to keeping curly hair healthy is to embrace your hair’s natural texture. Before you can start thinking about styling your curly hair, create a healthy baseline, which will ultimately help you achieve any look you’re craving.