1. Only wash hair when it’s dirty
Resist all urge to wash your hair frequently—certainly not daily, and probably not every second day, either. Acord tells his curly-haired clients to only wash their hair when it is truly dirty. That doesn’t mean you can’t give it a thorough rinse or even condition it between washes (because, after all, that will remove some excess product and grime buildup). “If you use water-soluble styling products, it will rinse right out,” he says. You should be able to gauge when your hair needs an actual shampooing, based on how weighed down, uncooperative, or grimey it feels. It’s going to vary from one guy to the next, but delaying those washes until they’re imperative will make a huge difference in the frequency of good hair days you experience.
2. Moisture is top priority
“Curly hair tends to look or be dry, so adding more moisture is key,” Acord says. “I love hydrating shampoos and conditioners for this very reason.” You should target products that in turn target your curls with hydrating ingredients (like natural oils and extracts) and fortifying proteins, to magnify curl definition and buoyancy. This might mean incorporating a leave-in / curl cream into rotation as needed. (Some people use them daily as stylers, while others apply them 1-3 times weekly as nourishing treatments.) Regardless of which approach works best for you, make sure moisture is top priority in your curly hair care regimen.
3. Use a pre-styling product
Before you style your hair for the day, consider using a “pre-styler” like a heat protectant (if you use a diffuser) to protect hair from heat damage, or a curl cream to magnify your geometry. These pre-stylers coat or penetrate the hairs to add an additional benefit prior to any styler. (Different brands offer an array of options, from saIt texturizing sprays to nourishing/hydrating ones.) Acord engineered a hair tonic for his male clients for this very reason: “It helps prep hair before styling and adds a splash of moisture to the hair. Also, I love tonic sprays that give off a nice fragrance and antiseptic properties, which helps if you are shampooing less frequently.” After you add your styler, however, it will be harder for these products to work (or too late, even), so that’s why they must be applied beforehand.
4. Let hair dry on its own, if you can
It’s best to avoid using any hot-drying tools after the shower, no matter how much of a hurry you’re in. That heat fries your hair and breaks the bonds in each strand, leaving curls frizzy, frayed, and breaking. If you do need or want to use a drier, however, look for one with ionic and ceramic technology that can better dry hair with far less heat damage, and use a diffuser attachment to distribute the heat evenly throughout the curls, rather than blasting one section with too much targeted, powerful heat.
5. Comb it out in the shower
Don’t use a comb or brush after you shower, says Acord. Instead, do any detangling and separating while there’s water in play—otherwise you’ll significantly compromise any curl-tential if you fuss with it after the fact. “After the shower, use only your hands to help shape curls,” he says. “Give curls an opportunity to dry before you shake them out. Otherwise, you will ‘break’ the curl and it will frizz.” Of course, you can also use a detangling spray or leave-in conditioner at the end of a day (when you don’t need hair to be presentable), and do whichever detangling you need. But don’t front-load the day with these techniques, because you’ll be rifling for a hat and a hair tie at the last second.
6. Don’t settle for a subpar stylist
Sorry to slow your flow, but your favorite stylist might be the very thing holding you back from having the best curls of your life. (And feeling repeatedly confused or uncomfortable with your hair is a good indication of this—or rather, of having not found the right stylist match for your variables.) “For curly-haired guys, shape, not flow, is the most important when it comes to a haircut, regardless of style,” Acord says. “To find your best shape, I recommend finding a groomer or stylist who is proficient in curls: Ask for recommendations and go to consultations to find the right fit for your hair.” By doing this, you’ll find someone who knows exactly what to do with your hair’s texture, growth patterns, longevity goals, head shape, environment factors, and so forth. Curly hair is a cut above other hair when it comes to stylist learning curves, and you don’t want to suffer through bad hair shaping and growth plans with an amateur. Get someone who listens to you and can communicate clearly what they are doing on each visit—so that you know how to best style it and maintain or grow it out.
7. Up the ante for tighter curls
There are so many types of curl patterns and textures, and the general rule of thumb is this: “The more coiled the hair, the more intense hydration needs to be,” Acord says. “This is where serums, oils, and heavier creams will be helpful to keep curls hydrated and touchable.” Those ultra-curly and coiled hairs are much more responsive to your styling and shaping if you nurture them from root to end, and an arsenal of the aforementioned hydrating products is the only obvious solution. (Oh, and a stylist who knows what they are is doing, too, as discussed in Tip #5.)
8. Sleep on your side or stomach
Sleeping on your back can put a lot of pressure on the hair follicles, leaving them knotted and mashed when you wake up. In addition to sleeping on your stomach or side, it’s worth investigating all different types of sleep strategies for curly hair, depending on your length and curl patterns, in order to wake up with the most presentable curls possible. (There are dozens of techniques that can help magnify and define curls as you rest, or protect them from damage or disarray.) One more such tip is to sleep with a silk or satin pillow: Who knew having curls could lead to such a fancy, cozy slumber?