Depending on the forecast, summer can be the best—or worst—of times for curly hair. And there’s always one question: Is the humidity friend or foe? On the one hand, it can galvanize your curl pattern and take volume to new heights. On the other, it can compromise definition by causing coils to unfurl and frizz. And then there’s the exposure to harmful UV rays and drying chlorine or salt water, which can put hair health at risk. From protecting spirals amid the elements to game-changing styling techniques, here three hair pros create the blueprint for glossy, full-bodied ringlets all summer long.
Protect Against the Elements
Just as it’s harmful to your skin, prolonged exposure to the sun’s UVA and UVB rays can damage the cuticle, the outermost layer of the hair, which makes holding a curl more difficult. “In the summer, your activities change and if you’re exposed to more sun, you have to protect your hair accordingly,” says natural hair expert Stacey Ciceron, who was tapped by Oribe to expand its Moisture & Control range to include products for tighter curl textures. Ciceron also calls attention to chlorine, a sanitizing agent added to swimming pools that can strip the hair of its natural protective oils, as well as salt water, which can dehydrate the hair. Limiting exposure is ideal, but when you are relaxing by the pool or spending a long day at the beach, cover hair with a hat or head scarf, and use products with thermal and UV protectants, says Ciceron. She also suggests giving curls a break by styling them into protective styles (“what we call ‘vacation hair’ in the natural community,” says Ciceron), such as braids, twists, wigs, or weaves.
Supercharge Parched Strands
“Curly and kinky hair textures tend to be naturally dry and crave moisture,” explains celebrity hairstylist Vernon François, whose clients include Lupita Nyong’o, Serena Williams, and Amandla Stenberg. To counter the damage caused by the elements, regular deep hydration treatments, like Oribe’s Moisture & Control Deep Treatment Masque (infused with hydrating almond and coconut oils), are essential to “put moisture back in the hair,” explains Ciceron. In addition to masking, using a supercharged leave-in conditioner will not only keep hair healthy, but also help curls withstand any dampness in the air. “When hair gets frizzy, it reacts by looking for moisture in the air,” she explains. “To combat humidity, add more moisture and seal it in with [a nourishing] gel, butter, or mousse.”
Detangle Snags Gently
Summer weather inevitably leads to more perspiration, which can cause hair to become more matted with sweat than usual. Since curly hair is more fragile and delicate by nature, it’s essential to handle tangles with extra care. “Fingers are your best tools,” insists François. “Detangle as much as you can with your hands before using a tool.” And when you get out of the shower, be gentle with your wet hair, instructs pro hairstylist Garren. “Don’t rough it up!” he says. “Blot the hair with a towel, then use a wide-toothed comb or a detangling brush to gently brush through it. If you have extra-long hair, start at the bottom and work your way up to the top.” To prevent breakage while combing through curls, applying a detangling lotion is always a worthwhile extra step.
How often to wash hair varies from person to person, but with curly-textured hair, it tends to range from every three to seven days, or possibly longer for coily and kinky hair, says François. But no matter how often you cleanse, doing so with a sulfate-free shampoo is best for preserving natural moisture in the hair. And in that spirit, co-washing with a cleansing conditioner has even more appeal during the summer, when you’re likely to wash your hair more often. “It’s wonderful for gently cleansing and locking in moisture between regular shampoos,” says François.
Choose the Right Styling Product for Your Curl Type
Understanding where you fall on the curl pattern spectrum is vital to choosing the right products. Ciceron groups curls into three different categories: Waves, Spiral-y Curls, and Coils. For wavy hair, she recommends smoothing a lightweight priming lotion through lengths; for spirals, she advises using a gel to define the curls while locking in moisture. Then, for coils, the tightest curl pattern, Ciceron emphasizes the importance of treating the hair while you style it. “This type of hair tends to be the driest, so it’s important to look for products that provide a lot of moisture, protection, and nourishment,” she explains, recommending a thicker styling butter or cream that will hydrate the hair and protect it from breakage.
If you want to use the twisting technique for extra definition, François recommends choosing sections of strands that naturally group together, then twisting them from roots to ends in the direction the hair naturally spirals. At this point you can use a diffuser to “help put spring in your curls,” or let it air-dry. When the hair is completely dry, break each twist into two, run your fingertips through, and then flick your hair from side to side as you caress it. “It’s a great simple technique to set the hair, or for whenever your style needs re-energizing,” says François.
Reset Curls in Between Washes
Tending to curls in between washes is just as important as setting them. And all pros agree that resetting them with water is the simple—and lesser-known—secret to keeping your curl pattern robust. “If you wake up and your hair is a little fuzzy, you can spritz water on to reactivate [curls] without needing to put more product in the hair,” Garren explains, adding that he prefers to use purified water instead of unfiltered tap water whenever possible. When product is necessary to bring fallen curls back to life, Ciceron looks to a styling mist to revive curls and reactivate the product that’s already in the hair. “On looser curls, spray spots that need a pick-me-up and finger-coil the curl back in place,” she instructs. “On [coilier] hair, spray, then retwist areas with frizz. Once it dries, unravel the twists.”