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How to Love Your Curly Hair—Even in Summer

Humidity, chlorine and salt—don’t let these aspects of summer fun defeat your love for your curly hair.

Curly hair
Credit: Getty Images

As we get older, things change, and our hair is no exception. In recent years my hair, which I had always thought of as “wavy,” has found its way into the “curly” category. With the guidance of my curl-expert hair stylist, I’ve learned to lean into my hair’s pattern and texture and, if you’ll forgive the metaphor, ride the wave.

Summertime is a challenging time for curly-topped heads. Curly hair does love moisture—which is stripped away by chlorine and salt from leisurely summer swims. But in an ironic, ahem, twist, hyper-humid summer air is too much moisture, often teasing our curls in more of a “frizz” direction. 

Part of living with authentic positivity means loving yourself just as you are, even when the season is inconvenient to the parts of us that are always growing and changing—including, but not limited to our hair.

Procure the Proper Products
For most of the summer, I do my level best to keep my curls organized to any extent possible. My stylist, Liz King, wrote an article that is my guiding star for loving my curls. One of the top tips has to do with conditioner. She advises, “Don’t be shy with your conditioner….on sopping wet hair, and I mean sopping wet, apply a good amount of conditioner to the mid-lengths and ends, because they are the thirstiest.” And most game-changingly of all, she advises us not to rinse all the conditioner out in the shower. Leaving a light coating of conditioner in our hair should leave a ”slight silky film feeling” that will keep our curls together when we head out the door.

Scrunch-Dry with a T-Shirt
Another a-ha learning I got from Liz is that terry cloth towels, while soft and lovely for drying our bodies, are unkind to curly hair—the little fingers of terry cloth get into our hair and tease apart our curls. This is a job the towel might start, but the summer humidity will finish. So to keep my curls big and juicy, I flip my hair upside down while it’s still very wet, smooth in some gel or cream, and scrunch it dry with an old t-shirt. The smooth cotton of the tee is absorbent, and it won’t prevent your curls from going where they want to go.

Go “Full Mermaid”
When I go to the beach in the summer, I let go of anything resembling fussy hair maintenance. On summer vacations when I was growing up, my mother always wore her hair in two braids, and put my sister’s and my long locks in the same style. Braiding damp hair keeps some of the damage of humidity and swimming (literally) out of our hair. Black women have a long and beautiful history of what are called “protective styles”—read this empowering story to learn more about the history of braids, twists and locs. For me, when I’m dry and cool after a long, languid summer day, I love the feeling of releasing my braids into a tumble of fluffy, braid-marked waves that might not be my preferred style for the rest of the year, but leaves me feeling free and beautiful in the summer. 

What do you love about your curly hair?

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