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How to Refresh Your Curls According to an Expert

December 27, 2021

6 Min read

If you want your curls to stay springy, it requires you stick to a require a specific regimen. But remember this: You must resist the urge to wash your curls the second that spring turns to sprung. Instead, know that there is a curl refresh regimen awaiting you—one that can get the bounce and definition back into each ringlet without parching your curls and scalp with shampoo.

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Yes, you will still need to shampoo eventually, which is of utmost importance. For that reason, shampooing is not the enemy—but over shampooing is, especially when there are various ways to refresh without a full wash.

What is the best way to refresh curls? For that, we spoke with editorial hair stylist Carlos Arriola, from Mexico City. As if his portfolio and work experience weren’t enough to make him an expert on the topic, Arriola himself has long, luscious, curly hair, and knows exactly how to refresh curls.

How to refresh curls

If springy curls are your thing, follow this advice to keep curls defined and bouncy on non-wash days. From using curl refreshers to reactivating your curls with just water, there are a few different roads you can take to refresh your curls. Read on for Arriola’s recommendations, including his personal favorite curl refreshing method.

How do you know when curls need a refresh?

The frequency of “needing a curl refresh” will differ from one person to the next. But the surest way to know, says Arriola, is as soon as the curls start to develop unwanted frizz, and become less defined. It could be the second day or the fifth between washes, and it could be the result of the season, the environment around you, or the products you use. You simply need to read the signs: When they lack volume and liveliness, curls usually need a refresh. 

That being said, typically the tighter the curl, the more time they can endure without a wash (assuming they are properly hydrated and cared for)—which means more space in their routine for curl refreshing methods.

What do curl refreshers do?

Curl refreshers can smooth the surface of the hair on a granular level, Arriola says, and they do so in a way that preserves the curl’s own definition and shape. In other words, a simple refreshing spray or cream keeps curls hydrated and fortifies them with necessary nutrients. Sometimes they simply “reactivate” the products that are already in the hair, or pump nutrients into the strands that help it retain its buoyancy and prevent drying out.

The best products to refresh your curls

Curl refreshers can take various forms, and the product you use will often be determined by your hair type and oil production levels. However, what’s most important, Arriola notes, is that you shop the entire spectrum of refresh products with your own hair type in mind, rather than sticking to only one category of hair refreshers (sprays, oils, milks, dry shampoos, or creams).

Curl reactivating spray: Arriola’s favorite refresh method is a curl reactivating spray. “These don’t leave the curls crunchy and you need just a few sprays to bring hair back to life,” he says. Sometimes they moonlight as curl detanglers, too, or vice versa. They’re terrific to spray into day-after-wash hair, even when you already have terrific texture. “That’s because they add necessary moisture and nutrients,” Arriola says. “They can extend the life of your desired texture.”

Anti-frizz oils: He also often uses anti-humidity, frizz-fighting oils on curly clients, since these oils absorb quickly into the hairs to restore definition, shine, and body. 

Dry shampoos: Dry shampoo is a solution for refreshing overly oily scalps—since frizzing and dryness often impact the ends of the hair, while sebum can accumulate at the roots. Even a light application could be all you need to absorb that oil at the base, thus lifting your hair and restoring volume and bounce.

Curl creams: While you might see some curl creams advertised as “refresh” products, Arriola advises against them for this purpose. “Usually I only use the curl cream on my wash days,” he says. “Then I use curl reactivating sprays or oils on non-wash days to help re-engage the curl cream.” If you think you may have rinsed out too much of the product the night before, or if you choose to co-wash between shampoo days, then Arriola says it can help to add a little more curl cream into the hair. “Mix the cream with water in this instance, so that it is not heavy,” he says. “Try not to build up product, whatever you do.”

Consider co-washing

Although this method doesn’t work for all hair types or textures, washing your hair with a conditioning product is one way to “rinse” away excess sebum, product accumulation, and grime from the day— without actually washing your hair. Arriola says that this can buy you an extra few days before a full wash, since the conditioning product adds nutrients and moisture into the hair. Depending on how your hair responds to a co-wash, you may need to experiment in order to discover the best refresh method for you (perhaps Arriola’s water + curl cream mixing method will work well).

The best ways to refresh curls without hair products

If your next-day curls still have yesterday’s curl cream throughout, then Arriola says a simple water spritz could be all that’s needed to reactivate the product. Scrunch the curls before letting them air dry, or you can speed things up by drying them with a diffuser on a cool setting. (That diffuser trick can be used with other reactivating products, too.)

The best curl refreshing regimen

The curl refresh regimen that works best for you will be exactly that: The one that works best for you. However, if you need a good baseline regimen from which to experiment and test variables, then use Arriola’s:

  1. Shampoo: Twice per week, or as many as three times if you feel like you need it (based on sebum or product buildup). Drier hair types can aim for twice every 10 days.
  2. Condition after washing, and sometimes between washes: The conditioner will add moisture and life back to curls after the wash, and is a nourishing way to “rinse” curls between washes, without having to strip away any moisture.
  3. Apply a hydrating mask on wash days: For the added nourishment and fortification, immediately following a moisture-stripping wash.
  4.  Apply curl creams/leave-in conditioners on wash days (or the following mornings): This is the baseline “styling product” you’ll use, and which can be reactivated with refresh sprays on subsequent days. This is also where any other types of styling products fall, like gels.
  5.  Refresh curls on non-wash days: Use your refresh sprays, anti-frizz oils, dry shampoos, etc here.

Wrap up

In order not to strip your curls of the moisture they need to flourish, spacing out your wash days and learning how to refresh your curls sans shower is a must. Depending on how oily or dry your hair tends to be, how often you wash vs. refresh your curls will vary. Be sure to follow Arriola’s steps on how to refresh your curls while you’re on your way to perfecting your perfect curly hair routine.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Adam Hurly has been writing about grooming since 2013. His work has appeared in GQ, Esquire, Men’s Journal, Bloomberg, and more. He is a South Dakota USA native but now resides in Berlin, Germany.

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