Damaged Curly Hair

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Some women with naturally curly hair grew up fighting with their curls -- chemically straightening them, ironing them, blow-drying them and cursing them -- only to discover that curly hair has become fashionable and desirable, even spawning a whole industry of products made especially for those curls. While curly hair may appear thick, it can actually be thin, fragile and easily damaged, so it requires special care, treatment and protection.

Why Your Curls Are Dry

Hair is composed of a protein called keratin, and each strand is made up of layers including the medulla, the cortex, and the cuticle, which is the outer layer of overlapping cells that protects the cortex. Simple day-to-day living can damage the cuticles and turn your precious curls dry and frizzy. Exposure to the elements, including wind and sun, take their toll. Swimming in chlorinated water harms all hair, including curly locks. Shampooing too often can diminish natural oil. Dry hair can also be a sign of a medical problem or nutritional deficiency. Bleaching and coloring your hair over time damages hair structure. And, of course, there are the worst perpetrators of curly hair abuse: heated devices like hair dryers and flatirons.

Pick the Right Stuff

Hair, like your fingernails, is pretty much dead, therefore, products that promise to nourish your hair aren't exactly honest, as they can’t really feed dead things. However, home remedies and commercial products can restore the shine and bounce to dried-out and damaged curls. Coconut oil and olive oil can penetrate the hair shaft, while most conditioners work on the outside to coat the hair, smooth damaged cuticles, soften hair and cut down on static. Look for shampoos and conditioners recommended for repairing dry and damaged hair, and try once-weekly masks while you are showering. Shampoo lines made especially for curly hair generally feature restoring products. Alternating product types will help you to avoid buildup.

Home Remedies

An old-fashioned remedy that helps to restore your hair is beer. While you’re in the shower, pour a bottle of flat, warm beer over your hair, let it set while you clean your body, then rinse with cool water. Beer works best on dark hair; it may darken blonde or gray hair. Heat 3 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil in a microwave, apply it to wet hair, place a shower cap over your head, leave it on for 15 minutes, and then wash the oil out with a moisturizing shampoo. Vinegar also conditions dry hair. Mix 1/2 cup of vinegar with 2 cups of water and apply after you shampoo. Leave the mixture on for several minutes, then rinse.

Preserve and Protect

Give your hair a rest from heated tools. Skip shampooing for several days -- use a dry shampoo, if needed. Avoid brushing your hair, and handle it as little as possible. Get your hair trimmed regularly -- trimming off the dry, damaged, split ends helps restore bounce. Cover your hair with hats outdoors, picking a chic winter hat for chilly days or a sun hat for the beach. Curls can turn to frizz overnight, so protect them while you’re sleeping with a satin or mesh hair cover or wrap your hair with a silk scarf. Cover your pillow with a silk or satin pillowcase to reduce the friction that pulls curls apart. If curls start to flatten, don’t reach for a curling iron; just wet your hair and allow it to air-dry to bring back the curls. If you’re pressed for time, pour a quarter-sized amount of leave-in conditioner into your hands and scrunch it into your hair.