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Got Curl? Pro Tips for Curly-Haired Girls

The best professional and celebrity-stylist tips for curly hair.
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Photography by Jimmy Hamelin

If you have curls, you're not wrong in thinking yours is one of the most challenging hair textures. On the set of Sex and the City 2, Sarah Jessica Parker's ’do took the longest to style, according to lead stylist Frank Barbosa, spokesperson for Schwarzkopf Professional. "I blew out Sarah's hair then put all the curls back in with a hot iron," he explained. For most of us, of course, two hours with a professional on hand each A.M. isn't the norm, so here the pros share their best tips on getting great curls without ’em.

The Cutting Edge
The wrong cut for curly hair can be a disaster -- think pyramid-heads and hockey hair. Kevin Murphy, an Australia-based stylist who does hair exclusively for magazine and advertising photoshoots, puts it simply: "Go to a hairdresser with curly hair. The only people who know about curly hair are people who have got curly hair, so pick the person who has hair most like the hair you want."

Moisture Management
"Really curly hair can get dry very easily," points out Charles Baker Strahan, whose celeb-hair clients include Leighton Meester and Scarlett Johansson. That's because natural sebum has a tough time travelling from the scalp down the curly-hair shaft. Using a brush would help, but when it comes to curls, brushing is a big no-no (use a wide-tooth comb instead, when hair is damp). To compensate, Strahan recommends starting with a hydrating shampoo and conditioner such as Herbal Essences Hydralicious. "Hydrated hair always styles better," he adds. Herbal Essences Hydralicious shampoo/conditioner, $3.99 each at drugstores. John Frieda Frizz-Ease Dream Curls shampoo and conditioner, $10.49 each at drugstores.

If you find that you have to wait two days after shampooing for your curls to look good, could be you're using cleansers too harsh for your hair, says Jessica McGuinty of Jessicurl, a line she developed first for her own mass of corkscrew curls, then in response to growing demand from the community on "Look for sulfate-free products," she advises. Check labels instead for "decyl polyglucose, a very gentle cleanser that doesn't strip hair." For conditioning, she prefers silicone-free formulas, such as Jessicurl Too Shea! Extra Moisturizing Conditioner, which contains aloe vera, shea butter, and jojoba and avocado oils. Jessicurl Too Shea! Extra Moisturizing Conditioner, $17.50 at Schwarzkopf Professional B.C. Bonacure Moisture Kick Spray Conditioner, $16.50, 1-800-463-3081 for salons. Greg May Smooth Operator Leave-In Conditioner, 19.99 at

Style Counsel
Choose your styling product according to your hair type. "Fine curly hair needs styling product with a little less moisture but that sets the curl in," says Murphy. If your hair's on the thin side, try a curl-enhancing mousse -- the texture adds volume. If you have thick curls, you need something a little more emollient, like a cream.

Murphy also says to apply product when hair is still mostly wet, about 60 per cent. Celeb stylist and John Frieda consultant Harry Josh, who works with Amanda Seyfried, agrees, especially when it comes to preventing frizz. In fact, he says keeping wet hair wrapped in a towel can make things worse. "You take it off and the outer layers and hairline, which frizz the most anyway, are already dry and frizzy from being in contact with the towel."

For a defined curl without using a blow dryer, Pantene Consulting Stylist Denis Binet says to comb through a curl cream such as Pro-V Anti-Frizz Crème from root to tip, then "wrap several strands around your finger and tighten the lock. If your hair is very long, pull it up with clips while it dries so that the weight of the water doesn't make the loops fall out." Kevin Murphy Motion Lotion enhances fine curly hair; Kevin Murphy Easy Rider controls frizz and defines curl; $22 each, for salons. John Frieda Frizz Ease Dream Curls Curl Perfector, $10.49 at drugstores. Herbal Essences Totally Twisted Mousse for defined curls, or Tousle Me Softly Spray Gel for looser curls or waves, $3.99 each at drugstores.

Finishing Touches
All styling pros agree: the less you handle your curly hair before it dries, the better. But according to Susan Konkin, curly-hair expert at Delineation Hair & Skin Essentials in Toronto, a fluffy microfibre Hand Dry Hair Glove can improve your touch after you've applied your styling product. "You can work scrunching, twisting and squeezing your curls without adding frizz while the gloves quickly absorb excess water, which cuts down the drying time." Hand Dry Hair Glove, $24.95, at and select beauty supply stores.

And don't discount the value of a professional curling iron to help shape random curls for a polished finish, especially if you've got unruly greys to contend with, advises Josh.

To refresh droopy curls try TRESemmé's new Fresh Start Waterless Foam Shampoo for Dry/Curly to Normal Hair, or Curly Hair Solutions Tweek styling cream, which is designed for use on dry hair. TRESemmé Fresh Start Waterless Foam Shampoo for Dry/Curly to Normal Hair, $6.49 at drugstores. Curly Hair Solutions Tweek, $19.95 at

Photo by Jimmy Hamelin from Montreal Fashion Week Fall 2010; a version of this story appeared in Metro News.