Are You Making These Curly Hair Styling Mistakes?

Before you know it, party season – and all the tagged photos that come with it – will be upon us. Are your curls ready for their close-up? If your styling routine isn’t quite giving you the shining, bouncy curls you’re looking for, run down this checklist of common issues. A tiny tweak to your technique could make all the difference and leave you with a look you can’t wait to show off.

If your curls feel crunchy, you might be…forgetting to break your cast. Many curly haired folks neglect this essential finishing step once hair is dry, but it’s an important one. Typical curl stylers (especially gel formulas) work by creating a seal on hair. This seal prevents frizz from forming and helps lock in curl definition, but it’s not meant to be left in a stiff state. To soften things up, break the cast: Coat your palms with a thin layer of a finishing product such as serum or pomade. In one firm motion, smooth your hands over your entire mane from front to back, as if you’re creating a ponytail. The pressure of your fingers will soften the styler’s hold, but your curls will retain their shape.

If your curls are inconsistently defined, you might be…using too little product. If your curls tend to look inconsistent – defined in some places, frizzy in others – you may not be using enough gel or styling cream to coat every strand. Try dividing hair into four sections (nape of neck, crown of head, and both sides) and then applying product to ensure you don’t miss a single curl. Start with a dime-sized amount for each section, and add more product if your hair is extra long or thick. Worried about going through your bottle of anti-frizz gel too quickly? Don’t be. Curls that are well-styled on day one will hold up longer, allowing you to stretch your look for multiple days.

If your curls dry with frizz and flyaways, you might be…touching your hair while it dries. Whether you diffuse or air dry, hands off. Touching curly hair during the drying process can disrupt the curl pattern and lead to frizz and flyaways. If you blow dry with a diffuser, use a gentle motion to lift curls from the bottom – never use rough or aggressive movements. Wait until your curls are completely dry to fluff with your fingers or use a pick at the roots.

If your curls aren’t as smooth and shiny as you like, you might be…applying product to not-so-wet hair. Curly hair is smoothest when it’s soaking wet, so your goal should be to apply product as quickly as possible after you step out of the shower. Start with a leave-in conditioner or detangling primer spray to control flyaways quickly and seal in moisture before you begin the styling process. If you have low-porosity curls that don’t retain moisture for long, re-wet each section using a spray bottle before you apply your styler.

If your curls are falling flat or looking dry, you might be…using the wrong styler. Finding a styler that brings out the best in your natural texture can be an exercise in trial and error, but you can start to narrow it down by formula. Creams are best for hydration and elongation. Gels are best for definition and hold. Want the benefits of both? Apply a cream formula first as a primer, then layer on gel to lock in moisture and define your curls. If volume is your #1 goal, try a foam or mousse to boost your curls’ body.

Want more inspiration? Check out our curl gallery to see how real women are styling their curly hair.

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