We spoke with Caroline Muir and Betty Di Salvo, cofounders of Toronto-based salon The Curl Ambassadors, about their expert-approved ways of achieving well-defined curls. By adhering to their favourite curl-styling secrets, you'll minimize your daily styling time and achieve healthy, luscious curls.
1. Adopt a four-product process
Muir affirms that the fastest way to style your curls is to abide by a four-product regimen: "You need a sulphate-, silicone- and alcohol-free shampoo," she begins. "You also need a hydrating conditioner, a leave-in conditioner and a defining gel or foam."
Beyond that, Muir and Di Salvo stress the importance of product "cocktailing." "Sometimes people have three to five different curl types in their hair," explains Muir, so finding the right mix may require a bit of trial and error. "There is a technique with products," she adds. "Choosing the right product for your hair type and texture, knowing how to apply the product and knowing how much of that product to apply will get you the best results." If you're overwhelmed by choices, begin by asking your hairstylist for some product samples and test them out on your own time.
2. Don't comb or brush
Di Salvo and Muir insist that curly hair should never be styled with brushes or combs. "The only time you should be combing your hair is once or twice a month, in the shower, with conditioner and a wide-tooth comb," explains Muir. "And that's only if your fingers can't get through your hair to detangle it. And never, ever brush your hair when it's dry."
The reason? "Brushes and combs separate your curls and therefore they make it impossible to create volume and substance," says Muir. "This can leave your hair looking limp and wet -- especially if you follow up with gel. Instead, run your fingers through your hair after applying leave-in conditioner so that your curls will remain defined, hydrated and easy to style."
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3. Ask your stylist to "shape," not cut, your curls
Muir and Di Salvo recommend "shaping" as opposed to cutting curls. "The secret to styling curly hair is consistently having a good shape," maintains Muir. "And while shaping is cutting, we call it shaping because it is shaping and respecting your hair, not cutting it in the traditional sense."
Therefore, instead of cutting ends bluntly as you would with a regular haircut, ask your stylist to shape and define your curls with scissors so that they fall in a flattering way. "Curly styles are really dependent on your own curly hair and what you see as a style for yourself," says Muir. Di Salvo agrees: Without achieving a proper hairstyle shape, you may be left with a flat, boxy cut that's unmanageable, overwhelming and impossible to work with.
4. Wash hair sparingly
Di Salvo and Muir recommend that you avoid shampooing too often -- and when you do wash your hair, to use a sulphate-free shampoo. These shampoos contain fewer of the harsh salts that dry your hair out and cause unruly curls. "Only wash your hair once or twice a week because the more you wash your hair, the more the shampoo eliminates your natural oils. The natural oils in your hair are essential because they create good health for your curls and diminish frizz." So, cut down your regular wash, rinse and repeat routine and refresh with a dry shampoo between washes.
5. Air-dry or diffuse
Towel drying separates curls and causes frizz. To prevent it, Di Salvo recommends squeezing excess water out of your hair with an old T-shirt or microfibre towel and then diffusing your hair or letting your curls air-dry. "Put in a lot of product and diffuse your hair for even more definition," says Muir. "A diffuser isn't as damaging as regular blow-drying because you're not applying direct heat in one localized spot -- the heat is spread out over a larger area. And only use the diffuser when your hair is 40 per cent dry to minimize breakage."
By following these five simple steps, you'll quickly gain control over your curls and be able to style your hair with ease.
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