Using Shampoo and Conditioner the Right Way for Curly Hair


Shampoo and conditioner are the building blocks of your 3c natural hair care routine.
That’s why it’s critical to know their unique functions and the right ways to use shampoo and conditioner for healthy, flourishing, natural curls. Let’s get into it!

The Basics of Shampoo

The purpose of shampoo is to cleanse your scalp and prepare your hair to receive moisture when you condition or apply moisturizing products.
According to dermatologists, the shape that curly hair takes as it grows out of its follicles makes it more fragile and prone to breakage. In addition, naturalistas tend to use more products on their hair (e.g. frizz control sprays or styling mousses), which increases the likelihood of product buildup on the scalp.
Product buildup, combined with the natural oils and dirt that accumulates on the scalp on a daily basis, creates a not-so-ideal environment for the scalp—fueling inflammation, flakes, and ultimately hindering hair health and growth. Therefore, shampooing should always be step one in your hair care routine, and should precede conditioning or application of any styling products.

How to Use Shampoo the Right Way

Use a dime size amount of clarifying or cleansing shampoo and work it through the hair, starting at the roots and working down to the ends.

Because your cleansing shampoo may have sulfates in it (sulfates act as the main cleansing agents in most shampoos), it is recommended to follow up with a moisturizing shampoo formulated specifically for curly hair. This will help to add moisture back into the hair.

With the moisturizing shampoo in your hair, begin the detangling process by gently separating the hair strands with your fingers or comb.

Pro tip: Make sure the temperature of the water is lukewarm, and not hot. Hot water tends to strip hair of moisture by aggravating the hair follicle (Carol’s Daughter).

To cleanse, opt for a sulfate-free shampoo or cleansing shampoo that is designed specifically for people with curly hair. Using shampoos that are not sulfate-free can dry out your hair and strip it of moisture.

Cleansing should be followed up immediately with the next step: conditioning.

The Basics of Conditionner

Conditioner acts as a moisturizer for your hair. Conditioner’s main moisturizing ingredients are surfactants, emollients, oils, and sometimes silicones (Cobb).

If there is heat damage present in the hair, or a chemical treatment has been used, conditioners work to replenish the moisture barrier that was damaged through these processes. 

How to Use Conditioner the Right Way

Shampooing should always be followed by a rinse-out conditioner. After the shampoo has been rinsed out and the detangling process has begun, distribute a quarter size amount of conditioner from the roots of the hair all the way to the ends of your hair.

It is recommended to focus the bulk of the product on the ends of the hair, as this is the oldest and driest part of the hair strand.

Pro tip: Applying too much conditioner on the roots may not be ideal for curlies who have fine or 2a-2c hair, as it can weigh the curls down and make the hair look greasy.

Other conditioning products include leave-in conditioners, hair masques, or hair treatments. 

Conditioner acts as a moisturizer for your hair

Afro natural hair holds styles beautifully due to its texture. Curly hair can be worn naturally in wash-n-go’s, styled into braids, blow dried and straightened, and much more.

To extend the freshness of your style, be sure to incorporate styling products that offer moisture and hold, such as hydrating gels or mousses.

Remember, figuring out what works best for YOUR hair boils down to trial and error—no matter the hair type. Take your time and enjoy the natural hair care journey!

What about Co-Washing?

Co-washing has grown in popularity within the natural hair community in recent years. The process of co-washing involves rinsing the hair with water and applying a rinse-out conditioner to replenish the hair in between wash days (i.e. in between shampoos). 

While co-washing may have its benefits, just using water will likely not remove the buildup or oils on your scalp and strands. If the hair is not properly cleansed, it cannot absorb moisture to its full capacity and you will just be wasting whatever conditioning agent you are using in the co-wash. 

Now that you know how to use conditioner and shampoo the right way, get ready to see your curls flourish!