Frizz. Breakage. A lack of volume. It can be tricky to keep thin curly hair looking its best.
Help is at hand! With proper care, you can ensure that fine curly or wavy hair looks and feels thick, healthy, and luscious.
“Curly hair has an uneven shape with dips and lifts,” explains Norris Ogario, founder and creative director of hair care company Ogario London. “At its highest points, it can be prone to breakage and moisture loss.”
Thin curly hair also has a less dense growth pattern that’s easily weighed down by heavy amounts of product.
Ogario says that ensuring your curly hair has enough moisture without overloading is top priority. So, how do you do that?
If you find that your baby-fine hair is hard to care for, you aren’t alone.
“Thin curly hair can be difficult to manage, as it often has fewer cell layers in the cuticle,” explains trichologist Stephen Garfit. “Fewer hair cells in the cuticle layer reduces the hair’s ability to retain moisture, leaving it dry and unmanageable.”
The use of thermal styling devices like hair straighteners also increases cuticle damage, Garfit adds.
Try these 10 tips:
- Don’t vigorously towel dry. Blot dry gently with a towel instead.
- Don’t overload your hair with a lot of product at once — little and often works best.
- Leave the curls to dry naturally. If using a hairdryer, use an ionic dryer on a low heat setting with a diffuser.
- Steer clear of heavy styling products.
- Choose lightweight detangling conditioners.
- Comb and brush through very gently to avoid breakage.
- Pre-poo — apply conditioner to the hair while dry before shampooing.
- Focus on the ends and mid-lengths and avoid the root area when applying conditioner.
- Choose a silk or satin pillow to reduce friction overnight.
- Get a good haircut at a salon that specializes in curly hair.
It can be tempting to give your hair a good scrubbing to ensure it’s squeaky clean, but Ogario says that this technique should be avoided, particularly with thin curly hair.
“If you overstimulate the scalp by scrubbing it too vigorously, it may produce too much sebum,” he says. “This is problematic because the oil attracts dirt from the atmosphere, clogging up the follicles and impacting healthy hair growth.”
Instead, opt for a firm but gentle circular massage technique with no rubbing or scrubbing.
How often should you wash thin curly hair?
As for how often you should wash thin curly hair, Garfit says to do it every day. If you can’t commit to a daily shampoo, he says you should definitely wash your hair if it feels dirty or itchy.
Meanwhile, Ogario advises two to three times a week.
Ingredients to look for or avoid
As for ingredients, some say shampoos containing sulfates and parabens can be damaging.
“There is much debate about this online,” says Garfit. “I don’t disagree with some of the comments, [but] in some instances the replacement chemicals are no better than the sulfates.”
The savvy solution may be trial and error.
Whatever shampoo you choose, Ogario says that a gentle approach is always best when it comes to fine curly hair.
Try Cantu Sulfate-Free Cleansing Cream Shampoo.
Thin curly hair needs extra nourishment. Ogario advises looking out for deep conditioning hair treatments that contain emollients like:
These are all great for smoothing frizz and improving curl definition.
Using a conditioning mask once a week can help to maintain curl definition, add moisture, and make the hair easier to style.
Garfit advises using a pre-shampoo conditioning treatment such as Elasticiser by Philip Kingsley.
“This will fill the hair with moisture, and once the hair is full of moisture the humidity in the air will not be able to pass into the hair and cause the hair to frizz,” he says.
You can also try Vitamins Keratin Hair Mask Deep Conditioner.
Conditioning is an essential step in thin curly hair management, helping to lock in moisture and prevent frizz.
Apply conditioner to the ends and mid-lengths of the hair. Avoid the roots.
“Work the product up in the palm of your hands before you apply. This step is vital, as it will help to get an even spread of conditioner,” Ogario says.
As for ingredients, “I formulate my natural conditioners with pro-vitamin B5. That’s because it’s one of the few ingredients proven to penetrate the outer layer of your hair,” says Ogario.
Pro-vitamin B5 adds moisture and plumps out the cuticle, he adds. That means that your hair feels and looks fuller with more body and volume.
You can try Ogario’s own formulation, Ogario London Restore & Shine Masque.
Knotty hair can be a challenge, and vigorously working out knots can do more harm than good. To manage tangles, Ogario advises the following:
- Wrap your hair in a microfiber towel for a few minutes.
- Gently squeeze the hair with the towel to soak up any excess water. Your hair should be damp but not dripping wet.
- Use products that can help you detangle the hair, like the Restore and Shine Hair Masque mentioned above. Feed it into the ends of your hair to detangle and soften.
- Take sections of hair and gently hold them at the mid-lengths so you don’t put any tension on the roots.
- Use a wide-tooth comb or afro pick to tease out any tangles at the ends of the hair.
Try GranNaturals Wooden Comb & Afro Pick.
The secret to adding volume and texture to baby-fine curly hair or fine wavy hair isn’t weighing it down with product.
“After shampooing and conditioning, make sure the hair is squeezed with a towel, not rubbed,” says Gary Sunderland, a hairdresser and hair educator at House Of Curls. “Allow as much of the hair to dry to a semi-damp state before applying your favorite product.”
Too much water in the hair will dilute and weigh down the natural curl and texture, Sunderland notes.
Ogario advises the following for adding texture and volume:
- Focus on adding volume at the roots when styling thin curly hair.
- Ditch the brush and use your fingers to gently lift the roots as you dry the hair.
- Use short blasts of heat as you gently lift the roots. Turn your head upside down for extra lift and volume.
- Switch the hairdryer off when the hair is around 80 percent dry and leave the hair to dry naturally.
- Use a diffuser when using a hairdryer or let your hair air dry.
“Layering your products gives the hair a chance to absorb them without overloading it,” says Ogario. “A diffuser disperses the air and prevents the heat from roughing up the cuticle. It reduces frizz and keeps your curls intact.”
Try Nition Ceramic Hairdryer with Diffuser.
When it comes to cuts, Ogario says mid-length and shorter styles are usually a good option.
“When it comes to cutting hair, the shape and balance of your curls are vital,” he explains. “Balance means maximizing the haircut to get weight in the right places. This leaves the hair as full and thick as possible.”
If in doubt, arrange a thorough consultation with your stylist.
“Don’t just talk to your stylist about the length. Ask them where they would recommend more weight or texture in the hair or what changes they can make to give you more movement,” Ogario advises.
Sunderland says, “A fine woven internal layering pattern adds volume and texture, providing added support.”
Good news: Thin curly hair can be just as versatile as other hair types, whether you want an upstyle or are opting to leave it down.
Whatever style you opt for, Sunderland suggests working with your hair.
“It’s important that the hairdresser works with your natural curl pattern and face shape and also considers the density before advising you on the correct style,” he says.
Thinning is a common problem for baby-fine hair. And Ogario believes a holistic approach is best. He advises a three-pronged approach for healthy hair growth:
- Eat nutritious foods high in vitamins and minerals for hair growth and a healthy scalp.
- Take good care of your scalp. Keep the scalp clean and free of buildup.
- Drink water. Stay hydrated to promote hair growth.
“Your hair is made up of the same protein as your skin: keratin,” Ogario says. “A balanced diet of fruit, vegetables, whole grains, and proteins is not only food for healthy skin, but it shows in your hair too.”
If scalp show-through is a problem, Sunderland suggests using camouflage products that can add texture and density to the hair and disguise visible scalp.
Toppik Hair Building Fibres and DermMatch Scalp Concealer are his personal recommendations.
With the right care and styling, you can add moisture, volume, and texture to thin curly hair. Ogario says that approach and application are essential to managing thin curly hair.
“The approach is all about how you handle your hair and being gentle with it, especially when wet. This is the difference between flat, lank curls and fabulous, full-bodied curls,” he says.
Victoria Stokes is a writer from the United Kingdom. When she’s not writing about her favorite topics, personal development, and well-being, she usually has her nose stuck in a good book. Victoria lists coffee, cocktails, and the color pink among some of her favorite things. Find her on Instagram.