Curls can get a bad reputation especially in the summer – while they are versatile to style, the ability to manage them when heat and humidity kicks in can be a total party crasher.
But no fear! In this article, we'll go over our top tips to keep your curls resilient and at their best during this humid summer season.
Why Is Hair Curly?
We're not trying to get you into a science lesson here, but it is helpful to understand the anatomy of your hair when trying to manage it effectively. By knowing what factors are at play in your hair's texture and shape, you'll be better equipped to manage and style it.
Here's a quick overview:
Hair is made up of three main parts - the cortex (innermost layer), medulla (middle layer) and the cuticle (outer layer). The cortex contains keratin proteins, which determine the strength, elasticity and moisture content of your hair.
Your hair follicles, the tiny tubes in your scalp that hair grows out of, also play a role in determining your hair's texture.
If your follicles are oval shaped, you're more likely to have straight hair. If they're round, you're likely to have curly or wavy hair.
And finally, the amount of sebum (oil) produced by your scalp's sebaceous glands can also affect your hair type. People with dry scalps tend to have frizzier, more damaged hair, while people with oily scalps have shinier, healthier hair.
What Can Heat And Humidity Do To Curly Hair?
Now that we know a little bit more about what makes hair curly, let's talk about how heat and humidity can affect it.
Human hair is surprisingly reactive to humidity. So much so in fact, that there's such a thing as a hair hygrometer - a device that uses real human hair to measure the humidity in the air.
When exposed to moisture, our hair reacts by swelling. The cortex of the hair absorbs water, causing the hair to expand. This is why your hair can feel heavier and look frizzy when it's humid out.
Heat can also influence curly hair. When hair is heated, the cortex expands, causing the hair to become weaker and more prone to damage.
This is why it's so important to take extra care of your curls during the summer months - heat and humidity can cause curly hair to become frizzy, dry and damaged.
The Best Tips for Managing Curly Hair in the Summertime
Summertime is tough on all hair types, but especially so for those of us with curly hair.
While the effects of the season's heat and humidity can differ based on what specific nature of curls you have, there are a few general tips that can help all curly girls keep their locks healthy and beautiful all summer long.
1. Use A Moisturizing Shampoo And Conditioner
Curly hair is naturally dry, so it's important to use a shampoo and conditioner to help replenish moisture. These products are designed to add hydration and help protect the hair from future damage. They go a step beyond traditional shampoos and conditioners in the sense that they're formulated to specifically apply to the hair's inner layers (medulla and cortex) and are all about absorbing and retaining natural water.
When seeking to understand and use hydrating products, it's important not to get them confused with moisture-based ones. While they do sound similar, both perform their own functions and yield different results when it comes to your hair's texture.
As we've already established, hydrating products serve the unique purpose of treating the hair's innermost layers to better absorb water. Moisturizers on the other hand, are designed to lock in and retain existing moisture, typically through the use of oils.
While both of these product types are helpful, you'll want to pay a special emphasis to hydrating shampoos and conditioners in the summertime - as they'll be best equipped to help your hair stay healthy amid the season's heat and humidity.
2. Avoid Heat Styling Tools
Heat styling tools are a no-no for curly hair during the summertime. This includes blow drying, flat ironing and curling. While less than ideal, remember that the last thing you want to do is damage your delicate curls during this already-harsh season.
As an alternative, we recommend opting for heatless tools and styles, like air-drying, diffusing and braid-outs. If you are looking to replicate a look similar to what you could achieve with a curling iron, try using Velcro rollers or rag curls. These will give you similar results without the damage!
If you absolutely must use heat on your hair, be sure to take extra care. Use the lowest setting possible, and always use a heat styling lotion before styling.
3. Avoid Over Washing Your Hair
"But wait... I thought washing my hair was a good thing?" - it is, but only to a certain extent. Over washing is a common mistake for those with curly hair or any kind in general, mainly damaging in the way that it strips your hair of its natural oils.
Your scalp produces sebum (an oily substance secreted by the sebaceous glands), which helps to keep your hair healthy, hydrated and looking shiny. When you over wash, you strip your hair of this sebum, causing it to become dry and brittle.
This is a bad situation to be in during the summertime, as harshly hot and humid conditions can do extra damage when your hair is already lacking in sebum and natural oils.
You might find yourself wanting to wash your hair more often than usual due to increased sweating and exposure to dirt and grime during the Summertime. While it is important to keep your hair clean, try not to overdo it. Washing your hair too often will only serve to dry it out further. We recommend fully washing your hair no more than 2-3 times a week, or every other day if needed. And when you do wash it, be sure to use a gentle, sulfate free shampoo followed by a rich conditioner.
4. Use A Leave-In Conditioner Or Curl Cream
Leave-in conditioners and curl creams are your best friend during the summertime. These products help to hydrate and protect your hair against the harsh conditions of the season. How? By forming a barrier between your hair and the elements.
We recommend using a leave-in conditioner or curl cream every time you style your hair, whether it be for an updo or air-drying. Simply apply to damp (not wet) hair from root to tip, and style as usual. Not only will this help to keep your hair hydrated, but it will also give your curls definition and hold - something that's often lacking in the summertime due to humidity.
5. Use A Wide Tooth Comb
In the summertime, you'll want to be especially careful when combing your hair, as hot and humid conditions can cause your strands to become even more tangled and matted. Wide tooth combs are an essential tool for curly hair in this respect, as they help to detangle without causing too much damage.
A wide tooth comb is different from a regular comb in the sense that its teeth are much further apart. This allows the comb to glide through your hair more easily, without snagging on knots and tangles.
When using a wide tooth comb, start from the bottom and slowly work your way up, being extra careful not to tug or pull on your hair. Forcing the comb through your hair will only serve to damage your strands further. Once you've reached the top, use your fingers to lightly comb through any remaining tangles. If your hair is especially tangled, you can also try using a detangling spray or conditioner before combing.
6. Protect Your Hair At Night
Sleeping with your hair uncovered is a recipe for disaster during the summertime. Not only will it expose your hair to the drying effects of AC and fans, but it will also make it more likely to tangle and mat overnight.
To avoid this, we recommend sleeping with your hair covered. You can do this by wrapping it in a silk scarf or using a satin pillowcase. Both of these options help to minimize friction and protect your hair while you sleep.
Another option is to pineapple your hair before bed. This involves gathering your hair at the top of your head and securing it with a silk scrunchie. This helps to keep your hair from tangling overnight, and also gives you cute, beachy waves in the morning.
The summer season should be a time for fun, not bad hair days. While managing curly hair in its humidity can be difficult, it is not impossible. By following the tips in this article, you can help to keep your hair hydrated, protected, and frizz-free all summer long!