Curly hair is both a blessing and a curse. Sure, all of your friends with straight hair can’t stop telling you how jealous they are of your ringlets, but little do they know how much effort you put into styling those strands. And that’s especially the case during the summer, when frizz and frazzled ends are on the menu thanks to relentless humidity and heat. Rather than hide your mane under a hat for the remainder of the season, learn easy techniques to care for and style curly hair during the hottest, steamiest time of the year.
1. Wash your hair less often. Skip a daily shampoo when it’s above 90 degrees? Yes, we’re serious! “To control frizz, wash as infrequently as possible,” says Andrew Fitzsimons, a celebrity hairstylist who’s worked with Shay Mitchell, Kendall Jenner, and Ashley Graham. “If you have a corkscrew texture, try co-washing and deep conditioning around every four days or so.”
If you prefer an actual cleanser, Kali Ferrara, New York City-based hairstylist and colorist, advises using a hydrating, frizz-fighting shampoo and conditioning system. Holly Pistas, artistic director and master hair and makeup designer at Gordon Salon, for example, loves Aveda Be Curly Co-Wash ($24) and Aveda Be Curly Conditioner ($21).
Just make sure to rinse off in cool H20 for max frizz-fighting benefits. “When shampooing your hair, always use cool or lukewarm water,” says Michelle Dixon, stylist at Maxine Salon. “It cuts down on frizz typically caused by using warm or hot water, and cool water doesn’t strip moisture from your hair as much.”
2. Kick conditioning up a notch. Curly hair is prone to dryness already (since your scalp’s natural oils often aren’t able to make their way from your scalp throughout the rest of your hair), but spending time in the sun can leave it even more parched than it is the rest of the year. That’s why Dana White, owner of Paralee Boyd Salons, recommends using a deep conditioner regularly if you have curly hair. The curlier your hair is, the heavier the conditioner you should use. “You don’t want your hair to be weighed down,” says White. “Someone with type 1 [straight] hair might not need as heavy a conditioner as someone with a type 4 curl pattern.”
Dixon is a fan of Shu Uemura Shusu Sleek Smoothing Treatment ($55) for coils, which she suggests using once or twice a week, depending on how thick and/or dry your hair is. Both White and Dixon recommend adding a steam treatment to your deep conditioning routine. “Sitting under a steamer, using a handheld steamer, or deep conditioning in a warm shower will help the mask penetrate the hair better,” Dixon adds.
3. Be gentle on your hair. Washing and conditioning the right way will help you fight untamed locks during the summer, but how you handle your hair post-shower will go a long way in how smooth it looks too. “While conditioner is still in the hair, use a wide-tooth comb to gently detangle, then rinse well without heavily manipulating the hair,” offers Pistas. “Blot and scrunch hair with a T-shirt so as not to rough up hair. You don’t want those little fuzz balls on a regular towel to snag and frizz your hair from too much friction.”
4. Cocktail your styling products. Frozen cocktails are oh-so-tasty during the summer months, but beauty product cocktails are almost as sweet, as they’ll keep your curls looking their best as the temperature rises. “Before you even dry your hair, everyone needs to put leave-in conditioner to help with the smoothness and moisture to keep frizz to a minimum,” says Max Charnley, hairstylist at Ian McCabe Studio. He likes following up with a sea salt spray and letting your hair air-dry. “Due to your scalp holding the most oil, the sea salt combination leaves a gritty texture and adds volume to your hair,” says Charnley.
For a foolproof combo, try Marc Anthony True Professional Define & Defrizz Curl Cocktail ($8), which houses both products in a dual-chamber package. Otherwise Pistas’ go-to combo of styling products for summer is a few pumps of Aveda Be Curly Style-Prep ($25) followed by Aveda Texture Tonic ($25). “The Style-Prep repels humidity for 12 hours, nourishes frizz, and moisturizes, while the Texture Tonic gives me piece-y beachy waves from the Epsom salt and shine from the sugar,” she says. You can let your hair air-dry or use a diffuser after applying both products, advises Pistas.
5. Braid, braid, braid. Ladies with chemical-free tendrils, listen up! “During those summer months, keeping it simple is key for embracing your natural curls,” says Miko Branch, co-founder and CEO of Miss Jessie’s. “Braid-outs are a quick and easy way to get beautiful curls and keep your frizz under control.” Braid-outs involve wetting your hair, applying a leave-in conditioner and any styling products you’d like to use, creating multiple braids, then taking out the braids once your hair has dried. “After releasing the braids, you can wear your hair half up or half down or just braided on one side,” says Branch. “There’s so much versatility with this style, and it works well with frizz during those humid summer days.”
6. Rock a messy bun. A messy bun is another great option for ringlets during the summer. “Throwing your curls into a messy bun is one of the most low maintenance and easy styles to go for, plus, it’s great to get hair off your shoulders in the summer,” says Fitzsimons. To get the look, he suggests using a little pomade or styling paste to give your strands grip and hold where you need it.
7. Air-dry to perfection. Ditch the heat tools this summer. While your hair is soaking wet, add an ample amount of a curl-controlling product. Ferrara likes Oribe Curl Shaping Mousse ($39) for volume or Oribe Matte Waves Texture Lotion ($42) for a beachy, undone look. Part your hair into four sections and cover each portion of hair from root to end in the same amount of product. Then, take each section and rake your fingers through, separating individual strands that will become individual curls. You can even twirl the strands into a pattern. Once you’re done, flip your head over and scrunch. For more defined rings, use a diffuser. Turn your head upside down and dry the hair until it’s about 75 percent dry.
8. Try a trendy wet look. “I’m getting asked for more and more wet looks from my clients of all hair textures,” says Fitzsimons. “This isn’t just a look for fashion editorials anymore.” To create this trendy hairstyle, Fitzsimons recommends using a high gloss gel to give your ringlets definition and all-day shine. “Be careful not to choose a gel that dries with a crunch,” he says. One of our standbys is Paul Mitchell Firm Style Super Clean Sculpting Gel ($20). “Depending on the gel, I like to mix it with a nourishing oil for added conditioning benefits,” says Fitzsimons.
9. Work with, not against, your hair’s texture. “Nobody’s hair looks perfect all the time in the summer,” says Fitzsimons, “so flaunt what you’ve got. It’s so cool and modern to allow your flyaways and flatter pieces to mix in with your defined curls.” Prep damp hair with mousse, then blow-dry with a diffuser and be on your merry way.
(Photos via Getty, Shari Ulmer/EyeEm/Getty Images, Francesco Sambati / EyeEm/Getty, Getty)
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