If you have curly hair, you may know that it needs a lot of TLC, but do you know why? As curl can play a dominating role in hair’s overall appearance and properties (i.e. body, combing ease and style retention), Pantene scientists have carefully considered its unique characteristics in developing products for curly hair. Read on to find out what makes curly hair curly, and how you can best care for your unique asset.

The Nature of Curls

Believe it or not, there are several theories for how curl formation happens, including the shape of the follicle, the growth rate of the hair and the distribution of proteins in the hair fiber. What is known is that there are several properties that define curly hair:

Uplifted Cuticles and High Spots

Curly hair’s twists and turns cause cuticles to lift and weaken, which can leave hair rough.Due to the uneven shape of the hair fiber, the hair shaft can have “high spots” where the cuticle is slightly lifted compared to the cuticle on the rest of the hair fiber. When the cuticles are lifted, the internal structure becomes exposed, leaving the hair weaker.

Curvature

Hair curvature is the term scientists use to refer to the degree of curl in a hair strand. As the degree of curl increases, the other fiber properties, such as fiber thickness, become less important in determining how hair looks and behaves. Due to this curvature, curly hair starts with a large amount of volume, which may make it challenging to tame.

Variations within Fiber Curl Patterns

Considering the “high spots” that form on the cuticle layer and the relatively intricate, intertwined network of curly fibers in its 3-D structure, each curly hair fiber can present challenges to its neighboring fiber, such as fiber friction, which can lead to hair breakage. Knots form easily in curly hair, and may also lead to damaged hair and breakage.

Celebrity stylist Danilo puts curly hair into three categories: Kinky, curly, and wavy. Kinky curly hair consists of an often frizzy, tighter curl pattern. Curly hair tends to have a looser hair pattern than kinky and wavy hair consists of a more open, softer pattern.

So what is a curly-haired girl to do about all this? Do not fret! Danilo believes you can create any look you want when you have healthy-looking hair because of its diversity!

For beautiful curls, it’s crucial to use quality curly hair products:

  • Because curly hair is actually harder to comb when it’s dry than when it’s wet, friction absorbers like rich, emollient fatty alcohols help lubricate hair and minimize damage from close fiber encounters.
  • The lifted cuticle is smoothed. An effective conditioning gel network helps to reduce friction on “high spots,” which ultimately helps tame the curls and create straight looks.
  • Style definition is easy. Effective shampoo and conditioner systems help control the movement of moisture in and out of hair and keep a style defined, while curl definition is given a boost by styling polymers that help the curl hold its shape, even in humidity.

How to Care for Curly Hair

Now that you know all the things that make your hair curly, you probably want to know what you can do to ensure that you’re treating your curls right. Here’s a great list of tips and tricks

Be extra cautious when using heat and use a heat protection spray or cream! Curly hair is vulnerable to damage from flat irons, blow dryers and curling irons because of its already rougher cuticle.

Enjoy that your hair most likely never looks limp or greasy. That’s because unlike straight hair, curly hair tends to inhibit the transport of scalp oils to the entire hair shaft. This is also what can make curly hair look and feel drier than straight hair, so be sure you’re using moisturizing shampoos and conditioners for your curls.

Take care when brushing your hair when it’s dry. Contrary to straight or wavy hair, combing forces are lower for wet curly hair than for dry curly hair, so curly hair needs extra TLC in the dry state.

A diffuser is a curly girl’s best friend because it doesn't have the rapid air movement of a blow dryer that could disrupt the curl pattern.

Avoid razor cuts, which can lead to split ends and a frizzy look.

Curly hair tends to look best in a blunt cut, but is dependent on other things too, like the shape of your face and how large or tight the curls are.

For larger, looser curls, a long-layered cut can give you a full-volume hair style, but you may want to avoid lots of layers if your curl is tighter or you have very abundant hair.