Hair 101: How To Style & Care For Kinky & Coily Curls

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Learning how to style kinky and coily hair is a journey: you need to get to know your curl pattern and invest in its growth (quite literally). This means showing your locks non-stop love with curl creams and gels, styling it to minimize damage, and hugging it with silk each night. To help you guys navigate the world of 3C and 4C tresses, we turned to celebrity hairstylist Ro Morgan, who has worked with queens Winne Harlow and Naomi Campbell, as well as curly hair God, Vernon Francois. So, the next time you’re in need of some styling inspo or your hair’s thirsty for attention, check this out.

How to Get to Know Your Curl Pattern

Coily (Type 3 hair): “Coily hair is one of the most versatile curl types,” explains Vernon. “It can be very fragile because it tends to have quite a thin external layer. When it comes to styling this hair type you should always pat hair dry with a microfiber towel or a cotton T-shirt to help prevent breakage. It’s also a good idea to sleep in a silk cap or on a silk pillow to help retain moisture in your hair strands.”

Kinky Curl (Type 4 hair): According to Vernon, “Kinky hair is when each strand of hair is zig-zag shaped. It’s often quite dry because the natural oil, which is produced at your scalp has an indirect journey to the ends.” This is why Vernon says it’s “essential to look for sulfate-free shampoos and treat your hair to leave-ins.” He also recommends “not using a hairbrush but instead to use a wide-tooth comb to minimize damage.”

Tips for Styling Kinky and Coily Hair

If you want to let your locks flow, there are so many amazing ways to style your curls. Here are Ro’s recommendations:

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Wash and Go: When washing coily or kinky curls, you need to load up on hydration in the shower and then style with multiple creams and gels to provide that extra surge of moisture your curl pattern requires.

Begin by rinsing your hair with warm water or a sulfate-free, curly hair shampoo like the Shea Moisture Coconut & Hibiscus Curl and Shine Shampoo, $11, followed by a moisturizing conditioner, ideally, one that’s targetted for textured hair like the Shea Moisture Shea Butter Restorative Conditioner, $10. Rinse the conditioner, then pat your hair dry with a Microfiber Towel, $19, or an old cotton T-shirt. Once it’s dried slightly, apply an intensive leave-in conditioner, working it through your hair. You may need to section your tresses at this point to ensure you moisturize every strand, you can also apply hair oil to seal the cuticle and lock in hydration. Ro Morgan suggests finishing by drying your hair by “Utilizing a diffuser attachment like the Dyson Supersonic Hair Dryer, $399.”

How often you choose to wash your hair is up for debate. According to the curly girl method, you should only shampoo your hair every two weeks as the cleansing agents can dehydrate your hair further. However, others believe this is a misconception, and that it should vary person to person. Especially, when you consider the amount of product type 4 and 3 hair requires, it could result in extreme product build-up and impact your scalp health. We say experiment and find what works for you.

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Twist Outs: If you’re looking to add definition or texture to your natural curl pattern, Ro Morgan says twists are a super cute option. To create the twists, start with damp hair. If your hair’s dry, use some water in a spray bottle for convenience or a targetted moisture spray like the Vernon Francois Pure-Fro Moisture Spray, $24. Then take a section of your hair and start twisting at the base until you reach the ends. Ro adds; “The smaller the twist, the tighter the coil. The bigger the twist, the looser the coil.” Just make sure your hair is tangle-free before you twist to avoid damage or split ends forming. A cream-based product like the Deva Curl Super Cream Coconut Curl Styler, $28, will also enhance the curl pattern and help the curl hold: apply it once you’ve spritzed your hair before you twist. But the most important thing to get right? Don’t take your twists out until your hair is completely dry otherwise the curl pattern won’s stay.

Then to keep your hair fresh between twist outs, Ro Morgan says to “Emulsify an ample amount of oil in your hands and evenly distribute throughout hair.” He also recommends to “Take a pick and lift at the roots for volume.”

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Braid Outs: Another great styling method is braid outs. Follow the same steps as outlined above, but braid the hair strands rather than twist. The final result has a little more texture.

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Traditional Afro: If you’re coming to the end of your wash cycle, a traditional afro is a perfect style to slay. To create a fluffy even fro, start by sectioning your hair into four sections. Spray each section with moisture spray, then work a hydrating custard through your hair, detangling the strands with your fingers or a wide-tooth comb. Begin with the front section, brushing the hair forward as this will help maintain height and volume – no saggy fro here! Once it’s detangled, twist it loosely and tie it into a Bantu knot while you work the other sections. Follow with the side sections and finish with the back.

Once all sections have been moisturized and detangled, fluff your hair out with your fingers to create volume, then pat it back down to create that round shape. If your fro is not standing up, spritz your locks with some water and pick it out with your comb.

Updos for Kinky and Coily Hair

If you wake up to discover that you’re having a certifiable bad hair day, don’t panic as there are plenty of quick styles to turn your morning around… STAT. Ro Morgan recommends:

The Pineapple: “The pineapple is when you gather all your hair to the crown of your head and either use pins or a large headband to secure. You can wrap a scarf around the perimeter of your head for a fun look.” Silk scarfs are ideal as they create less friction and minimize damage. Plus, it can double up as a nighttime hair wrap. If you’re not vibing a headscarf, you can wear a visor cap or a cap that’s made specifically with curly hair in mind, like the Velvet Backless Cap by Ivy Park, $22. Another cute option is to let the hair strands around your forehead hang loose to create a shaggy fringe.

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The Ballerina Bun: According to Ro Morgan “A nice easy bun works well” however, he does add that you should “Try not to pull your hair too tight to preserve your edges.”

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Haircare for Kinky and Coily hair

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If you have kinky or coily hair, your number one priority is hydration. You want to keep your locks as moisturized as possible to add definition to your curl pattern and prevent frizz. Here are Ro Morgan’s haircare need-to-knows:

Detangle with care: Whenever you’re detangling, Ro says to “Use a generous amount of leave-in conditioner. Then follow with a wide-tooth comb or the Felicia Leatherwood Brush, $17. Always start combing from the ends and work your way up.” However, if you have the time, it’s best to detangle with your fingers to minimize damage.

Retain moisture between wash days: At night “Sleep with a satin bonnet on your head or use a satin pillowcase. Before you hit snooze apply a few drops of the Pattern Argan Oil Hair Serum, $25″ or whatever oil you’re currently using. Coconut oil is one of our all-time faves and can be purchased at most grocery stores.

Load up on hydrating products: According to Ro the “Design Essentials Almond & Avocado Leave-In Conditioner, $7,” is a must-have “because it helps cut down the detangling time by 30 minutes and leaves hair feeling soft.” Another great product is the “PATTERN Leave-In Conditioner, $25, because it hydrates and defines kinks and coils.” Finally, “R+CO Pinstripe Intense Detangling Spray, $24, because the ginger root extract helps seal in moisture and the Abyssinica seed oil helps prevent moisture loss.”

Don’t leave the house with damp hair: Vernon believes that one of the most damaging things you can do to your hair is to leave the house with damp hair and expose it to cooler temperatures. He explains “We all know that water freezes when temperatures are very low. If this happens on the outside of your hair it can actually damage the cuticle layer – the hair’s outside surface.” Hence why Vernon always recommends “Planning ahead and giving yourself a little extra time when using heat rather than rushing.”

For more tips on taking care of your curls, check out the curly girl method.