If you’re anything like me, you’ve struggled for years to find the perfect curly hair care routine. One day my curls would have a gorgeous definition, only to turn into a frizzy, tangled mess the next wash day. No matter how many tips I read or products I tried, I couldn’t figure out how to care for my curls properly. That is until I created the ultimate curly hair wash day checklist.
The following checklist covers everything – from prepping your hair before washing to drying and styling those luscious locks.
So grab your favorite shampoo (you’ll still need it), and let’s get washing!
- Gather The Essential Curly Hair Care Products and Tools
- 1. Thoroughly Detangle Curly Hair in Sections
- 2. Apply Pre-Shampoo Treatments for Extra Hydration
- 3. Only Use Lukewarm Water When Washing Curly Hair
- 4. Shampoo and Condition Curly Hair in Sections
- 5. Rinse Out Thoroughly
- 6. Gently Blot Out Excess Water with a Microfiber Towel
- 7. Apply Leave-In Conditioner and hold products
- 8. Diffuse or Air Dry in Sections
- 9. Crack the Gel Cast for Touchably Soft Curls
- 10. Top it off with a Silk Scarf or Bonnet (optional)
- Stick to This Ultimate Wash Day Checklist for Healthy, Defined Curls
Gather The Essential Curly Hair Care Products and Tools
Before stepping foot in the shower, prep your hair care arsenal. Having the right products and tools on hand will make the entire process smoother.
Here’s what you’ll need:
- Sulfate-free shampoo & conditioner
- Wide-tooth comb or wet brush
- Microfiber hair towel
- Leave-in conditioner
- Curl cream or gel
- Diffuser attachment for blow dryer
- Silk bonnet or scarf
Having these products ready to go will save you from frantically realizing mid-shower that you forgot something essential!
1. Thoroughly Detangle Curly Hair in Sections
Neglecting this step is one of the biggest curly hair wash day mistakes. Detangling before and during cleansing helps prevent knots, damage, and breakage when hair is most vulnerable.
Start by sectioning dry hair into four parts using clips. Then, working through each section one at a time, use a wide-tooth comb or wet brush to gently detangle your curls from ends to roots. Be patient and don’t force the comb through knots. This helps minimize breakage.
Once hair is tangle-free, wet it slightly with water or apply a pre-wash treatment (more on those later!) to help lubricate strands. Detangling in sections ensures you don’t miss any tangles that could become tighter in the shower.
2. Apply Pre-Shampoo Treatments for Extra Hydration
In case you haven’t noticed, curly hair tends to be drier than straight locks. That’s why nourishing strands before cleansing is so beneficial. Pre-wash treatments like hair masks and oils get to work penetrating the hair shaft while you wash, resulting in superior moisture retention.
Some of my favorite pre-shampoo options are coconut oil, avocado masks, and aloe vera gel. Focus on mid-lengths and ends instead of roots when applying treatments to avoid greasiness. Then use a shower cap before hopping in the shower to lock in all that nourishment.
3. Only Use Lukewarm Water When Washing Curly Hair
Hot water may feel great on your skin, but it actually swells and expands the hair cuticle. This leads to frizz and makes curly hair more prone to snapping and tangling. Lukewarm water around 85-90 degrees Fahrenheit is ideal.
Not only does lukewarm water prevent frizz, but it helps lock in moisture too. Win-win! For best results, start your shower off hot to open your hair follicles. But before stepping under the stream, dial down the temperature. Your curls will thank you.
4. Shampoo and Condition Curly Hair in Sections
By now you’ve probably noticed a common theme – always work in sections! Just as with detangling and applying treatments, shampooing and conditioning curly hair in sections ensures even product distribution. No area will be missed or neglected.
Use your trusty clips to section damp hair into four parts before lathering up with sulfate-free shampoo. Gently massage and scrub the scalp, not strands, to lift dirt and buildup without stripping necessary oils.
Then comes my favorite part – the conditioner! Using a quarter-sized amount per section, thoroughly coat mid-lengths to ends, leaving roots alone to avoid limp curls. I like to twist each section into a loose bun while conditioning to encourage clumping.
5. Rinse Out Thoroughly
After cleansing and treating those luscious locks, it’s incredibly important to rinse thoroughly. Any leftover product residue can weigh hair down, impeding volume and the infamous pyramid head curl formation.
I like to do a “quad check” by running my fingers through each section, feeling for any slimy residue or product buildup. When hair feels squeaky clean from roots to ends, I know all the shampoo and conditioner have been rinsed properly.
6. Gently Blot Out Excess Water with a Microfiber Towel
Now that washing is complete, it’s time to dry those dripping strands. Ditch the terry cloth towels – they create frizz and sop up too much moisture from thirsty curls. For best results, use an old cotton t-shirt or microfiber towel.
Gently squeeze excess water out of hair in sections, being careful not to rub the strands. Then let your hair air dry or diffuse to preserve moisture and definition. skipping this step and air drying uncovered can elongate the drying process, resulting in frizz.
7. Apply Leave-In Conditioner and hold products
The key to defined, frizz-free curls? Lots and lots of moisture! That’s why leave-in conditioners and curl creams are absolute necessities post-shower. I apply mine right after blotting out excess moisture on wash days.
Start with a quarter-sized amount of leave-in conditioner applied to soaking wet hair. This provides a base layer of hydration crucial for curl enhancement.
Then rake a nickel-sized amount of curl cream or gel through each section, scrunching up into strands, to define coil formation, provide hold, and seal in moisture. I like to do the “squish to condish” method by cupping curls in my hands and pulsing them upwards to encourage bounce.
8. Diffuse or Air Dry in Sections
By dividing damp hair into four sections once again and clipping up the rest, you ensure every ringlet dries uniformly. No awkward shrinkage or frizziness.
If opting to diffuse, start at the roots on a low heat/low-speed setting, gently scrunching hair upwards to “train” your curl pattern before blasting strands directly with heat. Diffuse until 80% dry.
If air drying, make sure to continue scrunching coils as the hair dries to prevent wonky shapes from forming.
9. Crack the Gel Cast for Touchably Soft Curls
If you used a strong hold gel or curl cream, your hair likely feels crunchy or stiff to the touch, even when totally dry. This is what’s known as a “gel cast”. It helps set the curl pattern especially while diffusing and provides a definition. It’s necessary that you ‘scrunch the crunch’ to prevent making it weigh your curls down or worse, somehow ending up depositing at your roots.
To crack the cast, simply scrunch out each section by cupping curls in your hands and pulsing upwards to break up the product seal. Your once-crunchy coils will transform into fabulously soft, touchable strands with lasting bounce.
10. Top it off with a Silk Scarf or Bonnet (optional)
I saved this one for the last for the curlies who prefer to wash before bedtime. In that case, using a silk bonnet or scarf at bedtime prevents strands from drying out and preserves styling.
The slippery texture of silk minimizes friction, allowing curls to slide smoothly against linens instead of catching and frizzing out. I’ve made a separate guide for prepping your curls before bedtime, do check that out.
Stick to This Ultimate Wash Day Checklist for Healthy, Defined Curls
Phew, I know that seemed like a lot of steps! But trust me, religiously following this comprehensive curly hair wash day checklist will transform the way you care for those coils.
The key is sticking to a thorough yet gentle routine and always keeping hair hydrated. Master this checklist, and you’ll master wash days for good. No more frustrating trial and error!
Now get out there, embrace those luscious locks, and show off your gorgeous curls!