(Hair)

9 Beauty Writers Share Their Step-By-Step Curl Routines

Plus the products they swear by for a good hair day.

@oliviahancock_
curly hair routine steps

Free-spirited, yet particular. Wild. Irreverent. Impossibly cool. Aloof at first, but so relatable once you get to know her: Curly hair, personified. The (seriously welcome) advent of come-as-you-are, or as you want to be, beauty is best evidenced by the collective ditching of everyday affairs with hot styling tools in favor of less uniform, but far more interesting, natural textures. But with the blessing of curls comes great responsibility and even greater curly routine steps, as necessitated by the variable nature of wearing your natural hair.

To air dry or diffuse? Styling cream, oil, or gel? How many washes per week? Mastering a head of type 2, 3, and 4 hair takes patience, trial-and-error, and an individualized line-up of curated products that best play up hair’s personality. The extra effort, though, is entirely worth it — once a regimen is in place, loving on one’s curls brings about beautifully idiosyncratic results, loose waves and taut coils offering a can’t-look-away kind of charisma that’s difficult to duplicate.

Fortunately — as with embracing any and all texture — sharing learned hairstyling knowledge is a hallmark of the modern beauty landscape, meaning that the legwork of others is available to help take the guesswork out of the perfect hair day.

Ahead, nine women spill the secrets behind their aspirational waves, curls, and coils, plus the products they swear by to keep their hair looking exceptional from day to night.

We at TZR only include products that have been independently selected by our editors. We may receive a portion of sales if you purchase a product through a link in this article.

Type 2 Hair:

Hallie Gould, Editorial Director, Byrdie

Hair Type

I vacillate between a 2B and 2C.

Favorite Shower Products

I live by Olaplex and K18 — my hair is super breakage-prone and they are the only products that have really helped. I shampoo and condition with Olaplex products and every few washes will forgo the conditioner to apply K18's mask.

Favorite Styling Products

I've used Shu Uemura's Essence Absolue protective oil for almost a decade. It's light enough that it won't weigh my curls down but potent enough to smooth, protect, and add some shine. Other than that, I religiously use Pattern's Mist Spray Bottle to reset my curls with water and nothing else. The mist is so fine it doesn't drench the hair but allows it to easily spring back up into place.

Curl Routine

Shower, brush with a Tangle Teezer, apply Shu Uemura Essence Absolue from mid-length to ends, and scrunch.

Curl Love

I love how versatile my hair is — it can be super curly depending on the weather and the way I style it, as well as easy to manipulate if I want looser waves or a straight style.

Shu Uemura
Essence Absolue Nourishing Protective Hair Oil
$69
“I've used Shu Uemura's Essence Absolue protective oil for almost a decade,” says Gould. “It's light enough that it won't weigh my curls down but potent enough to smooth, protect, and add some shine.”

Deanna Pai, Beauty Writer

Courtesy Deanna Pai

Hair Type

2B.

Favorite Shower Products

I've been using Fekkai Apple Cider Vinegar Detox Clarifying Shampoo and Conditioner, which I like because they both soothe my scalp and leave my waves clean and defined, but not stripped.

Favorite Styling Products

I generally stick with Ouai Wave Spray, which I douse all over and then scrunch in with my hands. I have a few different wave and curl patterns, so doing this evens them out.

Curl Routine

My curl routine is pretty straightforward: I shampoo and condition my hair daily (sorry in advance), and then I apply a wave spray and air dry. Occasionally, I'll touch up any frizzy areas around the crown with a finishing cream.

Curl Love

I love the volume they give me, even (and maybe especially) when they're frizzy. I lost my hair a few years ago when I was sick, and that experience helped me appreciate and embrace my curls after years of straightening them into submission. That's why I have a pretty hands-off approach to my hair now; it's a live-and-let-live situation.

Maria Del Russo, Writer

Hair Type

I'm 2C.

Favorite Shower Products

I really just stick to lightweight moisturizing products in the shower. At the moment, I'm using Klorane Ultra-Gentle Shampoo and Conditioner with Oat Milk. Anything too hydrating or too curl-focused weighs my hair down, so simple is best. I cleanse, and then I apply the conditioner at the ends and use a wide-tooth comb to brush the product through the rest of my hair.

Favorite Styling Products

It depends on how lazy I'm feeling! When I do my full routine, I use a lot of Bumble and Bumble — the brand's lightweight curl cream, curl reactivator, and volumizing mousse are mainstays for me. I also utilize Hairstory Hair Oil for shine. When I'm feeling super lazy, though, I'll just work a little It's a 10 Miracle Leave-In Product into my strands and finish it off with that Hairstory oil again and then leave it to air dry. To be honest, that's mostly what I do in the summer, when the humidity is high enough to give my hair body on its own.

Curl Routine

1. After the shower, I blot my hair with a microfiber towel. I don't wrap my hair — I literally scrunch it with the towel to help encourage the curl pattern.

2. Next, I spray it down with Bumble's Prep-a-Porter and comb that through.

3. I then emulsify a quarter-sized dollop of Bumble's Curl Cream Light into my hands. I scrunch it into my strands from the bottom, making sure all of my hair is saturated.

4. I apply a dollop of Bumble's Thickening Full Form Soft Mousse to the crown of my head and scrunch. If the curls need a little help, I'll twist a few strands around my face to help define them.

5. Next, I diffuse my hair until it's about 80% dry. I like to flip my hair over and hit the roots to give it volume, and then focus on the crown, too. When it's mostly dry, I scrunch in a little Hairstory Oil for shine and then let it finish drying.

6. At night, I pile my hair on top of my head and secure it with a large silk scrunchie to keep the shape. In the morning, if the curls are feeling a little flat, I spritz my hair with Bumble's Curl Reactivator and a little bit of water until it's damp, and then re-scrunch my waves.

Curl Love

They have attitude! I love how wild and unwieldy they are. I love that I never really know how they're going to turn out. But I also love the confidence they give me. They're the perfect cherry on top of any look, and they make me feel incredibly powerful and sexy.

Bumble and bumble
Light Defining Curl Cream
$32
“I emulsify a quarter-sized dollop of Bumble's Curl Cream Light into my hands,” says Del Russo. “I then scrunch it into my strands from the bottom, making sure all of my hair is saturated.”

Type 3 Hair:

Thatiana Diaz, Editor

Hair Type

My curl type is 3B.

Favorite Shower Products

I have quite a few! Olaplex No. 3 Hair Repair Perfector two times a month; PATTERN Clarifying Shampoo whenever my hair starts to feel product-heavy; Ceremonia Champú de Yucca & Witch Hazel is my go-to shampoo; Briogeo Don't Despair, Repair! Super Moisture Conditioner is my go-to conditioner; and Bread Beauty Supply Hair Mask Creamy Deep Conditioner.

Favorite Styling Products

My styling only changes if I feel humidity will come into play and I want a stronger hold — that's when I'll start my routine with the Ceremonia Pequi Curl Activator followed by Oribe Curl Gelée. On days in which I want a bit more natural, "big hair" look, I will go simple with Rizos Curls Curl Defining Cream. Whenever I feel like my curls are in need of TLC and I don't have any formal plans, I'll do Olaplex Nº.6 Bond Smoother all-over apart from the roots and the Olaplex No.7 Bonding Oil on my ends.

Curl Routine

When it comes to leave-in creams and curl creams, I like to spread them on my hands and with my fingers, rake the product through a few inches off the roots down to my ends. With any remaining product on my hands, I will scrunch from the ends to create more definition. For those days I decide to use gel, I will scrunch the gel through different sections of my hair, being mindful to scrunch at the mid-way point of my strands (not ends) so as to not weigh my curls down. I prefer to air dry my curls and go back in with a tiny bit of hair oil (Ceremonia Oil Mist con Aloe Vera) to fluff my hair and separate any curls if there's any bunching. If I don't have time, I will diffuse my curls with the Dyson Supersonic and diffuser attachment.

Curl Love

What I love most about my curls is how much they've become symbolic of my choices. After a lifetime of straightening my hair to assimilate, in wearing my curls now more than ever, it's all rooted in a choice I now make for myself. How I choose to style them, where I choose to wear them, whether or not I want to straighten them or not, there's now a decision that has me proud of what I was once ashamed to wear because it was deemed as "pelo malo (bad hair)," "unprofessional," among other negative identifiers. My hair — whether straightened or naturally curly — is fully representative of me and not what's expected of me — and my curly hair is a nice reminder of that.

Olivia Hancock, Editor, Byrdie

Hair Type

I have a mixture of 3B and 3C curls.

Favorite Shower Products

I’m in love with Pattern Beauty. I use the brand’s Treatment Mask, Clarifying Shampoo, and Medium Conditioner.

Favorite Styling Products

Right now, my styling routine consists of Madam by Madam C.j. Walker Split End Smoothing Hair Serum, Kinky-Curly’s Knot Today, and Kinky-Curly’s Curling Custard. I like using Bronner Brothers Tropical Roots Daily Curl Hydrator and The Doux’s Mousse Def Texture Foam to refresh my hair.

Curl Routine

I typically wash my hair once a week. First, I’ll rinse my hair and apply my deep conditioner of choice and let it sit on my hair for the recommended time. After that, I’ll hop in the shower and dive into the rest of my wash-day routine. I like to section my hair into four parts and start working the shampoo through my scalp and strands. I’ll follow up with a conditioner before getting out of the shower. For styling, I’ll begin with a hair serum focused on repairing damage and split ends. Then, I’ll apply a leave-in conditioner and scrunch gel in my curls. I’ll tie my hair up in a cotton t-shirt and let it dry. On the days between my next wash day, I refresh my hair using a leave-in conditioner spray, mousse, or light gel.

Curl Love

The versatility of Black hair is beautiful. I can wear my curls full and fluffy one day and then rock a sleek bun the next day. I also love that my curls reflect the journey I’ve been on with my hair. In middle school, I decided to embrace my curls. However, I had no clue how to care for them and was dealing with heat damage. At 22, I now understand how to style my hair and the products that work best. As a result, my curls look and feel healthier.

Michella Oré, Associate Producer, Vogue

Hair Type

I have two different textures of curls, the bottom half is looser (3A) while the top half, especially around my crown, is tighter (3B).

Favorite Shower Products

My go-to products are a detangling shampoo and a hydrating conditioner (with a ultra-hydrating mask thrown in). A brand I constantly return to is Oribe — their Run Through shampoo gently cleanses while softening my curls pre-conditioner so that I can comb through any tangles and knots. One of my favorite hair masks is the Moisture & Control Deep Treatment which always leaves my curls silky smooth and defined.

Favorite Styling Products

More often than not, I'm always adding a leave-in treatment (SACHAJUAN is a great one) and oil, like Leonor Greyl's Huile de Leonor Greyl to my hair as it dries to make sure I lock in hydration and definition with added sun protection.

Curl Routine

My curl routine is pretty simple: I shampoo then follow up with a generous layer of conditioner, letting it sit for five to 10 minutes before I rinse out. Then I wrap my hair in a towel for a few minutes to soak up excess water and follow up with my leave-in. When my hair is almost dry I'll lightly apply an oil. Because of my different curl textures, I've found that finger-twisting my hair leaves it looking flat in the back so I removed that from my routine to leave a little room for frizz to blossom so I can get the desired volume.

Curl Love

I love the versatility of my curls! I can wear them out, wrapped in a scarf, high up in a puff, or slicked back in a low bun. They require some patience and technique when styling but I always get a buzz when I feel them bouncing in the wind.

Type 4 Hair:

Tembe Denton-Hurst, Beauty & Culture Writer

Hair Type

4A.

Favorite Shower Products

I use Sienna Naturals H.A.P.I. Shampoo, followed up with the K18 hair mask.

Favorite Styling Products

The Doux Mousse Def Texture Foam and The Doux Big Poppa Define Gel.

Curl Routine

I wash my hair about once a week, usually on Wednesdays. I start with the Sienna Naturals shampoo and wash it twice. I love this stuff because it's really hydrating and gets really soapy, which I love. It makes me feel like my hair is getting really clean. I also detangle during this step because I use K18, which isn't like your normal conditioner. This shampoo is hydrating enough to detangle my curls without ripping them. I use Tangleteezer's The Ultimate Detangler and work in sections.

Then I towel dry and apply the K18 hair mask in sections. I'm obsessed with K18. It really works. After I use it, my curls are super soft and bouncy and hydrated. I colored my hair last year and I was concerned that it would be dry and straw-like but with K18 it's even softer than it was before I processed it. While my hair is still wet, I apply lots of mousse and gel to set my curl pattern. Then I put it in two buns to dry. But sometimes, when I'm feeling lazy, I'll just let it air dry post-K18 and let it do its thing. It looks good that way, too.

Curl Love

Their versatility! I love that I can play with and manipulate my curl pattern to my liking and have so much optionality when it comes to styles.

L’Oreal Thompson Payton, Writer & Editor

Hair Type

4C.

Favorite Shower Products

Lately I've been using Ouidad's Coil Infusion line — the shampoo and deep conditioner.

Favorite Styling Products

I almost always do a twist-out after washing my hair and my go-to styling products are SheaMoisture's leave-in conditioner, Ouidad's Coil Infusion Defining Gel and Styling + Shaping Gel Cream.

Curl Routine

After shampooing my hair twice, I use a deep conditioner and cover my hair with a plastic shower cap and heated bonnet that I microwave for two and a half minutes. Then I keep the bonnet on for about 30 to 45 minutes. Afterward, I rinse it out, dry it off with a microfiber towel and start styling. It usually takes about two or three hours once all is said and done. I keep my hair in twists for three days or so and then take the twists out.

Curl Love

I didn't embrace my natural hair texture until fairly recently, so in a way, it's like reclaiming my power and my heritage. I love that my curls are like a crown — it makes me feel beautiful and confident, like the embodiment of #BlackGirlMagic.

Tiffany Dodson, Beauty Commerce Editor

Hair Type

My hair primarily consists of 4A curls.

Favorite Shower Products

As a beauty editor, my products of choice are constantly changing, but right now, I love using the CurlyWorld Sham-Free Hair & Scalp Cleanser along with Briogeo's Don't Despair, Repair! Deep Conditioning Mask, or Miss Jessie's Super Sweetback Treatment. I also love detangling mid-shower with the Pattern Beauty Shower Brush.

Favorite Styling Products

Just like my in-shower hair picks, my go-to styling products are frequently in flux, but I'm a long-time fan of Miss Jessie's Pillow Soft Curls and Ouidad's Curl Quencher Moisturizing Styling Gel. Once I find products that work for my curl type I'm pretty loyal to them, so I don't shift too much based on my hair look, but more so rotate through my mental list of tried-and-true favorites

Curl Routine

Depending on whether or not I'm washing my hair, I'll start with a quick shampoo with warm water, then apply either a regular or deep conditioner. I typically brush that through with my Pattern tool, and let the conditioner sit in my hair for around 10 minutes or so before rinsing it out with cool water. Next, while my hair is damp but not soaking wet, I like to flip my head over and do a light shake to open up my curls, then typically apply leave-in conditioner followed by my styling products of choice. Occasionally I'll finish off with an oil (but not always) and let my hair air dry.

Curl Love

I love that they're uniquely mine! I've gone through many ups and downs trying to figure out my natural hair, but ultimately I'm proud to wear them just as they are.