And what is to blame for curl dehydration? It’s usually physics and geometry: “Due to the coil shape of the follicle, naturally-produced oil from the scalp has a harder time traveling down the shaft,” Ortiz says. “This can create dryness toward the ends.” That’s because your hair relies on your scalp’s natural sebum production for moisture. And, seeing as it’s hard enough for people with long, straight hair to get enough oil at the ends of their hairs, imagine how much harder it is for people whose hair doesn’t fall in a single, gravity-favored fall. Hence why curls require extra attention—and extra moisture.
Below are the key curly hair tips for men to commit to memory, with advice from Ortiz to help you maximize your curls—and their potential. Then, she walks us through a few of her favorite looks from her own curly-haired clients.
How to care for (and tame) your curls
1. Choose moisturizing ingredients for your shampoo and conditioner.
You might need to test out different key ingredients and formulas in order to find the one that works specifically for your curls, because Ortiz notes that no two people will experience identical benefits from the same product. (Score one for customized formulas.) “But in general, I like to look for natural oils, like argan oil or coconut oil, that can add extra moisture and create a protective seal,” Ortiz says. “Aloe and glycerine tend to be good, too.” Bottom line: Prioritize moisture, always.
2. Tighter curls need more moisture.
Curls require moisture—and lots of it—typically pulled from conditioners and leave-in conditioners or hair masks. But the tighter your curl, the more hydration they need, says Ortiz. So, keep the conditioning products (oils too) stocked up.
3. Try “pre-pooing”.
While it’s got a silly name, pre-pooing can keep curls from tangling, breaking, and frizzing. Ortiz achieves this by applying oil-based products to her clients’ hair prior to shampooing. She especially recommends this for clients with extra fine or coiled hair. Your hair oil formula may differ from the next person’s, but consider key ingredients like oils of argan, shea, rosehip and more.
4. Use dry shampoo, too.
Ortiz recommends using dry shampoo between washes, since you’re ideally only shampooing once every 7-10 days. Dry shampoo is targeted at the scalp, where it soaks up excess grime and oils without compromising the actual strands of hair themselves. This gives each strand extra lift, too, since the buildup is no longer weighing down hairs at their base. Don’t go too crazy with the dry shampoo, though—only when you notice limper hair or feel especially grimey up top. (Using it every 2-3 days is good spacing, in general.)
5. If you can, let them air dry. If not, learn to blow dry strategically.
“Air drying curls is best,” says Ortiz. “But if it’s not an option, blow dry with a diffuser on cold air first, until curls are formed and semi-dry. After the initial once-over, switch to hot air on a low setting to finish drying. Starting with cold air, without touching the curl, really helps reduce frizz when incorporating heating tools.”
6. Fight humidity with a foundation spray.
Ortiz says that sometimes, humidity can be your hair’s best friend, since it gives curls extra bounce. But humid air can also take things too far and give you a big, poofy mess. To combat this frizz, Ortiz says to use a foundation spray—”like a spray clay or wax in damp hair, or an anti-humidity shield applied after styling”—and you should be able to preserve your style exactly as you intend, despite the excessive moisture in the air.
Curly hairstyles for men to consider
Need a few ideas for how to wear your curls? Here are some looks Ortiz fashioned for her own curly coifed clients.
For receding hairlines:
“This cut relies on length and texture to enhance curl volume,” Ortiz says. “This style is flattering for anyone with a high hairline to push the curls slightly forward and minimize areas above the temples. To be able to exaggerate height, [ask your stylist to] leave the top to temples medium length and point cut the ends to give them form and movement.”
For tight curls:
“This natural afro is channeling the 70’s and focuses on shape and length,” notes Ortiz. “What makes it modern is breaking up the full, round shape with slightly more taper towards the neckline. The go-to length is around 5 inches up top and slightly shorter at the neckline and sides. This style would need the simple maintenance of spritzing periodically with some leave-in conditioner to avoid the tight curl pattern from drying out.”
For grown-out fades:
“This curly pompadour is a result of a grown out fade into a taper,” she says. “Allowing a fade to grow out into a taper cut can maximize the time between haircuts. This cut relies on the length in the front keeping the focus of the curls forward while the rest of the cut is tight around the head. To change up this style, smooth and volumize the front with a blow dryer and wear straight.”