Curly hair is amazing. It has enviable shape, volume and texture — characteristics of locks that straight-haired people are constantly after (it’s one of those “you always want what you can’t have” deals, you know?). But like all hair types, it comes with its own set of hurdles for keeping it healthy, shiny, tangle-free and easy to manage. These factors, plus the onset of windy weather, mean that your hair might need a little extra TLC to look amaze, so we chatted with New Jersey-based hairstylist Ricky Pennisi. After working his magic on curly locks for more than 20 years, he’s become known as the “king of curly hair,” so he knows his ish about all the tips, tricks and secrets to keep curls looking fab all year round. Read below to get the inside scoop on the dos and don’ts of styling natural curls.


1. The brush matters: Curly hair requires different tools than straight hair because of the shape and texture. To avoid breakage and painful tangles that are impossible to work through, use a slightly flexible brush like Ricky’s fave, the Wet Brush ($9). It’s a flat brush that has a squishy midsection — an important characteristic for a curly-haired gal’s hairbrush, according to Ricky, so that your hair doesn’t get yanked out when it encounters a tangle.

2. Brush your curls when your hair is *wet*: We know it’s hard to brush through curly hair sometimes, but there are ways to tackle tangles without pulling your hair out — literally. “Never brush dry curls because this will break up the curl, cause frizz and damage your hair,” Ricky said. Break out that wide-toothed comb or that flexible flat brush like the one mentioned above while you’re conditioning it. This is key because your curls are slick, conditioned and often the easiest to de-tangle.

3. Hydrating products are your curls’ BFF: Your hair is not a one-size-fits-all deal; everyone is different and the products you use with curly hair should reflect that, Ricky explained. He recommends leaning toward those that are hydrating, have a low alcohol count and are sulfate-free so that your hair won’t dry out. Give John Frieda Frizz-Ease Dream Curls Hydrating Shampoo and Conditioner ($7 each) a try for an affordable drugstore option that’s packed with a ton of moisture. Your curls will drink it UP.


4. A diffuser on a cold setting is a must-have: A good diffuser is a must-have tool for a curly-haired gal because it allows you to quickly dry your curls while minimizing frizz and keeping your hands out of your hair (something curly-haired ladies should avoid). It concentrates the stream of air so that, instead of blowing all over the place, it’s more direct and easier to target to a specific area. Ricky uses a diffuser on his clients to get their hair about 80% dry using the hot setting, and then uses the cold setting to seal the cuticle, which leads to less frizz.

5. Get frequent trims: All hair types are prone to (and experience) breakage from factors like constant brushing, deep tangles, crazy weather and heat styling, but curls can be a bit unforgiving when it comes to showing that damage. This is where trims come into play. Ricky explained how important it is to get in a hair trimming routine every two months during the winter months, because hair tends to be particularly dry during this time. Once it warms up, you can wait to get a fresh trim every three months to refresh your ‘do.

6. Step up your deep conditioning game: Ahhh, deep conditioners. They’re like these magical hair masks that can undo damage we’ve caused — whew! You should do a deep conditioner at least once each month to inject moisture back into your locks. If you have particularly dry hair, increase your frequency to three times per month. Look for a treatment that focuses on moisturizing your mane, like Neutrogena Triple Moisture Deep Recovery Hair Mask ($8), and get ready for your curls to shine with health.

So! If you have curly hair, hydration is the name of the game, a cold blast from your diffuser will work wonders, a wide-toothed comb will be your BFF and you can rock any haircut your heart desires. While all this is great info, the best (and most important) piece of advice Ricky shared with us is to love the hair you were born with. “Embrace your curls — there is nothing sexier.” Words to live by, y’all!

What are your tips and tricks for curly hair? Share your thoughts in the comments below.