How to Really Wash and Condition Curly Hair

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How to Condition Curly Hair

Three Methods:

Taking care of your curly hair can be a challenge, especially if it gets dry or damaged! Regular conditioning treatments, natural oil remedies, and deep conditioning can help restore your curls to their natural glory and prevent further damage.


Using Regular Conditioner

  1. Choose a conditioner of your choice.Make sure that you use shampoo and conditioner that you like. Look at the label and make sure it’s formulated for curly hair.
    • Light formulas with mild moisturizers are best for looser curls and oily hair. Thicker formulas are better for tighter curls and drier hair.
    • Tight curls or kinks will usually need a cream conditioner.
    • Dry curls will need a conditioner with heavy moisturizers or oils.
    • For damaged curls, buy a conditioner especially for damaged hair.
  2. Apply the conditioner.Curly hair tends to see the most dryness and damage at the ends since the ends are the oldest part of the hair. Focus on conditioning the ends and then work your way up towards the roots. Use more on the ends, and very little at the roots--this will help maintain your hair’s natural shape by preventing oily buildup at the roots.
  3. Let the conditioner sit for five to twenty minutes.Keep the conditioner in your hair for at least five minutes. You can increase the time to fifteen or twenty minutes if your hair is badly damaged or unusually dry.
  4. Rinse your hair with cool water.Rinse out your hair thoroughly, using cool water to lock in your hair’s natural oils and smooth your hair by sealing the cuticle. Run your fingers or a wide-tooth comb through your hair to detangle it while rinsing.
    • Using a wide-tooth comb is particularly useful for tightly coiled textured hair.
  5. Use a leave-in product (optional).Many companies make leave-in conditioners or hair masks, especially for curly hair. These can give your hair additional protection and make managing your curly hair a little easier. Apply according to the package directions, leave in, and style your hair as usual.
  6. Let your hair air dry.Air drying is the best way to prevent damage and frizz to curly hair. If you generally rely on blow drying to help style your hair, try other methods to curl or straighten your hair.
  7. Turn heat-styling tools to their lowest setting.Too much heat can damage your curly hair! If you use a curler, straightener, or hot comb, set it to the lowest temperature possible. If you use a curler, get a wide diameter one to prevent overusing it on your hair.

Conditioning with Oils

  1. Choose the right oil for your hair.Oils are a natural way to condition your curly hair without using chemicals or risking product buildup. What kind of oil is best for you depends on your hair texture and your own preferences.
    • Jojoba oil is an extra-light oil that feels less greasy than other options. It’s good for all curly hair but is especially useful for light curls.
    • Coconut oil is excellent at penetrating hair to restore strength and is ideal for African-American hair. Some people may not like the scent of coconut oil.
    • Olive oil or grapeseed oil are medium-thickness oils good for medium to tight curls. Besides softening your hair and providing shine, olive oil can help with scalp itchiness and dandruff. Just keep in mind that olive oil has a strong scent that not everyone enjoys.
  2. Heat up your oil with warm water.Warm oil is easier to use on hair since it’s usually in liquid form. Don’t heat it up in the microwave or on a stovetop--this can cause burns! Instead, put the oil container in a bowl of warm water until it feels warm on the outside.
    • It’s extra necessary to heat coconut oil until it melts, because coconut oil is solid at room temperature. However, if the air is warm enough, it may melt on its own.
  3. Protect your clothing.Oil can permanently mark clothes, so be sure to put on a hairdresser’s cape, apron, or rain poncho over your clothes before beginning.
  4. Rub the oil into your hair from the ends up.Use about 1 ounce (30 mL) to start, and increase if necessary. Start at the bottom of your hair and work upwards, rubbing the oil into your hair while using your fingers or a wide-tooth comb to detangle. Be careful not to spread oil directly on your scalp--this can clog your pores!
  5. Let the oil saturate your hair for five to twenty minutes.Allowing your hair to absorb the oil helps it retain nutrients and repair damage. Leave the oil in for about five minutes. If your hair is severely damaged, you can leave it in for up to twenty minutes.
  6. Rinse your hair with cold water.Cold water helps lock in oil treatments. Rinsing out oil may take much longer than rinsing out regular conditioner, so make sure you get all the oil out! Leaving your hair saturated in oil will make it appear greasy. Let your hair air-dry afterwards.

Using Deep Conditioning Treatments

  1. Choose a deep conditioner.Deep conditioner helps tame extra-curly or frizzy hair. It’s especially good for treating damaged hair! Make sure your deep conditioner is made for curly hair--the best deep conditioners for your hair will have ingredients like shea butter, avocado oil, keratin, argan oil, and coconut oil. You can also buy deep conditioners with proteins to treat badly damaged hair--look for ingredients like hydrolyzed collagen, Panthenol, soybean protein, or glycoprotein.
  2. Apply according to product directions.Work from the ends to the roots just like you do with regular conditioner.
  3. Apply heat (optional).This is an optional step, but heat will open up the cuticles of your hair, allowing the conditioner to penetrate more deeply. Using blow dryers on your curly hair can damage it, so instead wet three or four hand towels with cold water, wring them out, and microwave until hot, about 1–2 minutes. Wrap the towels around your head and leave on for 5–10 minutes.
  4. Rinse your hair with cool water.Rinse your hair thoroughly with cool water to remove the conditioner. You can detangle your hair with your fingers or with a wide-tooth comb.
  5. Wash your hair.Wash your hair as usual, with shampoo made for curly hair. Be sure to wash your hair in a downward motion before rinsing--this prevents tangles! You can use a regular conditioner afterward to help lock in the deep conditioning, but it isn't required.
  6. Section your hair.If you have long hair, divide it into 6–8 sections for more convenient handling. Detangle your hair with your fingers or a wide-toothed comb if necessary, but be gentle since wet hair is more vulnerable to damage.
  7. Apply any additional products.If you plan to use rollers, hair styling products, or a leave-in hair mask, go ahead and put them in now before letting your hair air-dry.
  8. Repeat regularly!Deep conditioners aren't made for everyday use, but you should be using them regularly. If your hair is very damaged, deep condition every week. If it's not, once a month is fine!

Community Q&A

  • Question
    How do I keep my curls sleek once my hair dries?

    Licensed Cosmetologist
    Ashley Adams is a Licensed Cosmetologist in Illinois. She completed her Cosmetology education from John Amico School of Hair Design in 2019.
    Licensed Cosmetologist
    Expert Answer
    Experiment with different hair products to see what works for you. You may want to try a different styling method, too.
  • Question
    What conditioner is suitable for getting back curls?

    Licensed Cosmetologist
    Ashley Adams is a Licensed Cosmetologist in Illinois. She completed her Cosmetology education from John Amico School of Hair Design in 2019.
    Licensed Cosmetologist
    Expert Answer
    It depends on why your curls have disappeared. If you recently straightened your hair, all you need to do is wash your hair with shampoo and apply a regular conditioner to get your curls back. Unfortunately, if your hair has lost its curliness because of heat damage, then conditioner won't be able to help.
  • Question
    What shampoo and conditioner should I use?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    Try to find ones for naturally curly hair, or ones with keratin added. Naturally curly hair has less keratin in it, so it needs as much as it can get.
  • Question
    Is it okay to use normal shampoo and conditioner?
    Isabel Lourie
    Community Answer
    If you're using normal shampoo, make sure not to shampoo your hair too often (maybe twice a week max?). It really is best to invest in special products for your hair.
  • Question
    Are these methods both safe to use and which is the best?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    Yes, as long as for the second method, you don't use a high heat directly. Depending on what type of hair you have, they both are similar. If you have normal hair, then just condition, but if you have dry hair, then use a deeper condition. Don't condition if you have greasy hair. And don't deep condition daily.
  • Question
    What if I have damaged hair?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    Use a deep conditioning mask at least once a week until your hair has recovered. Then switch to once a month to maintain it.
  • Question
    Is it okay to shampoo and condition my hair daily?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    Shampooing every day can damage your hair, I'd suggest you stick to every other day. Conditioning every day is fine.
Unanswered Questions
  • Should I comb my hair twice a day?
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  • Sulfates (such as ammonium laureth sulfate or sodium lauryl sulfate) are found in most shampoos and can be drying and damaging to curly hair. Consider using purchasing a sulfate-free shampoo, not shampooing or washing with only conditioner ("co-washing"), which are popular techniques among many African-American women.
  • Consider a protective hairstyle such as braids or twists. These can be left in for a month or two, reducing damage from exposure. Do not leave the style in for longer than two months, or it may cause severe matting.
  • Curly hair has different needs during different seasons. In the summer, use more liquid products and/or reduce the amount of leave-in products, to prevent frizzing and increase definition. In winter, switch to heavier, creamer products and use more conditioner to combat dry, wintry air.
  • Conditioning is especially important after swimming in the ocean or chlorinated water.


  • Sun can damage hair. Look for a conditioner that includes sunscreen, or wear a wide-brimmed hat or scarf when in bright sun.
  • Don’t brush curly hair. This can cause breakage and ruin the natural shape of your curls.
  • If you are using essential oils, dilute them first with a thinner oil (not water) before using them on any part of your body - whether hair or skin.

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