Summer is the season when curls should look their best. If your hair is healthy, you can turn the humidity into your friend instead of a frizz-causing foe.
“The reason hair frizzes in the humidity is that the hair doesn’t have enough moisture, so it expands because it’s calling out to the environment for moisture,” says Shari Harbinger, director of education for New York’s Devachan Salon. “But if you can get the moisture in the hair before (you’re exposed to humidity), it won’t expand as much.”
The philosophy is that a wet sponge doesn’t absorb water. The key, stylists say, is to keep your hair healthy by making curl-conscious choices all summer long.
Here, five hair-healthy habits for sensational summer curls.
Habit #1: A Seasonal Cut
Finding the best haircut is most important, but keep in mind that your favorite cut in the winter can leave you struggling in the summertime. For example, curlies with tighter spirals can opt for a shorter style in the winter because there is less shrinkage. But when the humidity soars in the summer, experts say removing excess bulk—while keeping the length—is what works best.
“Tighter curls should be left longer in the summer because you’re counting on the weight and length of the hair to loosen the curls and pull them down,” says Jonathan Torch of Toronto’s Curly Hair Institute.
He suggests the opposite strategy for wavies.
“In the summertime, there’s a lot more bounce to looser curls because the s-formation of the curl is tighter,” Torch says. “They can try a shorter, funkier style, like individual ringlets around the face to make it look sexy, but the actual length is shorter.”
Habit #2: Cleanse Less
The summer heat can also bring on a sweaty stickiness that makes you feel like you need to wash your hair—yet again. But sweaty doesn’t mean dirty, stylists warn.
“The sun and heat definitely dehydrate the hair, and curly hair is already very susceptible to dryness, so shampoo your hair one less time per week than normal,” says Ouidad, author of “CurlTalk” and owner of New York’s Ouidad Salon.
Devachan’s Harbinger, who recommends sulfate-free cleansers, also encourages curlies to cleanse their curly locks less often in the summer—especially those with color-treated tresses.
“Sulfates fade hair color, so you’re getting a double hit when you’re in the sun,” Harbinger says. “Use a sulfate-free hair maintenance system (including a color-depositing cleanser and conditioner) to slow color fading and also to impart color tones into the hair to balance color at the same time.”
Several leading curly salons offer their own color-depositing hair care products, such as Devachan’s DevaColor and Christo’s Colorective lines in New York.
Another important factor in protecting hair color from the sun’s damaging rays is the pH level in products, according to Torch.
“If you want to protect your hair color from the sun, you have to understand the pH balance of your product will affect curly hair’s open cuticles,” Torch says. “If you want fantastic curls, make sure the pH of your products are more on the acidic side to keep those cuticles closed. A level of 4.5 to 5.5 is the best pH for curly hair shampoos.”
Habit #3: Condition More
To protect against the dehydrating heat, an extra dose of conditioning is even more important in the summer months, according to curl-centric stylists.
“Curly hair is very porous, and it takes a lot of moisture to make sure the hair retains it,” Torch says. “Proteins are also essential.”
“Keep a leave-in conditioner that contains proteins in your beach bag,” says Christo, global artistic director of New York’s Christo Fifth Avenue Salon. “You put sunscreen on every hour or half-hour. It’s the same thing with a leave-in (conditioning spray). And if you’re going to be out in the sun for a while, use a deep conditioning hair masque and slick your hair back.”
Stylists suggest curlies apply a deep-conditioning treatment up to twice weekly in the summer, leaving it on for fifteen to thirty minutes, with or without heat.
As for your daily conditioner, pour it on!
“Leave some conditioner in the hair when you’re rinsing it out, so you’re relying more on the moisture than the styling aids for curl definition,” Harbinger says. “It’s a combination of both, but leaning more towards keeping extra moisture in the hair before adding your stylers.”
Habit #4: Switch Styling Products
As the weather changes in a new season, you’ll want to consider a slight change in styling products as well.
“Choose a styler that has more frizz-prevention benefits, which means stylers with extra moisture for the summer,” Harbinger says. “Use a creamier styler or a gel that doesn’t have plastic resins that will harden the curl.”
Stylists emphasize that different curl types respond to moisture differently. The more dehydrated your texture, the more moisture you’ll need. Test different amounts and ad-just accordingly.
“Keep in mind, if you have oil or silicone in the product and there’s humidity, you’re des-tined to have a frizzy day because oil and water don’t mix,” adds Torch.
Habit #5: Pull Up or Cover Up
Every curly girl knows that even the slightest touch of your tresses can leave you flustered in frizz. But the stifling heat creates an even bigger challenge because it almost begs you to tug at your curls and get them out of the way to cool off. The thicker and tighter the curl, the harder it is for air to reach your scalp. One solution is to lift the hair completely off the neck. If you have enough length, opt for a simple ponytail.
“People with tight curly hair can often get through the winter without having to wear a hat, but when summertime comes we have an issue,” Torch says. “When you put your hair in a ponytail, first make fantastic curls, then flip the head upside down so the hair is gathered at the top of the head, and keep the ponytail loose.”
But there’s only one way to absolutely protect your textured tresses from sun damage, curl-centric stylists say.
“The best protection from the sun is no sun on the hair,” Harbinger says.
But if you must, “either put on a hat or slick it back with a leave-in treatment,” Christo adds.
Photo courtesy of NaturallyCurly