Curly Hair Myths You Have To Stop Believing

If you're reading this, chances are you have curly hair that you've likely tried to tame for most of your life. But curls don't want to be tamed, they want to be set free in all their bouncy glory, and if you're ready to accept your curls and debunk some serious curly hair myths, you're in the right place.

According to Naturally Curly, around 65 percent of people in the United States have curly hair, and people worldwide are starting to embrace their locks instead of fighting them. Curl expert Rumbie Mutsiwa told Refinery29 that she's seen an uptick in clients at her salon in Australia who are finally taking the steps toward owning their locks. "We're seeing people start to accept themselves for who they are, and this is partly thanks to social media and decentralized media in general, allowing for people to see a representation of themselves online that sparks curiosity in discovering and loving their own curls," Mutsiwa told the outlet. She added that the pandemic also significantly impacted how people perceive their curls. "Downtime has unveiled to many that they have curly hair, not frizzy!" she explains, adding that most people realized that they don't know how to care for their curls.

If you're one of those people, we'll forgive you for believing the countless myths about curly hair. If you're ready to embrace your natural texture, read on as we debunk the most common curly hair myths.

You should steer clear of a hairbrush if you have curly hair

If you have curly hair, chances are you've been told to steer clear of a hairbrush unless you want to look like someone who put their finger into an electric socket. The truth, however, is that you can (and actually should) brush curly hair.

According to Garnier, brushing your hair won't make your curls looser or necessarily lead to excess frizz. This so-called curly hair no-no can help your hair become more moisturized because brushing helps the natural oils your scalp produces to be distributed to your strands, leading to healthier, shinier curls. Brushing also stimulates the scalp, which helps improve blood flow in that area.

Suppose you're already considering wetting your hair to brush it, don't. Curl expert Rumbie Mutsiwa told Refinery29 that you must try to refrain from brushing wet hair. Why? Because wet hair is a little more susceptible to breakage. If brushing your curly hair while it's dry is the equivalent of a nightmare, it's probably because you're not using the right products, Mutsiwa says, adding that brushing should be pain-free without constant snags. Garnier suggests you apply some conditioner before brushing, and this should ensure the experience is painless without any stubborn tangles.

You have to steer clear of sulfates and silicones

You've probably heard this: Sulfates and silicones are the bad guys for curly hair. Wrong! Yes, we know that's a controversial statement, but hear us out. Sulfates and silicones are present in shampoos and conditioners for a reason: Sulfates remove build-up, dirt, and oils, while silicones work to lock in moisture, hair experts told Martha Stewart.

You're not alone if you're confused about why these compounds get such a bad rap. As it turns out, the quality of the sulfates and silicones present in curly hair products is what matters. Hairstylist Trey Gillen explained that all sulfates and silicones aren't created equal.

"Sulfates and silicones exist on many levels of quality and refinement," Gillen explains. "Meaning, high quality and refined sulfates and silicones are acceptable to use in the hair without causing negative effects. Unrefined and low-grade silicones and sulfates are extremely damaging and harmful to the hair." There you have it!

Usually, the best way to know that you're buying a product with quality sulfates and silicones is when it's more expensive. Gillen says that quality sulfates and silicones cost more to produce, which means the products containing them will be more expensive. Your hair type also plays a part, celebrity hairstylist Frederic Fekkai says. People with very coarse, curly hair will benefit more from silicone-containing products than those with limp and fine hair.

Protective hairstyles help prevent breakage

If you've ever opted for braids because you thought they would help protect your curls from breakage, we're sorry to say that you've been deceived. In fact, the damage hair stylists observe in their curly-haired clients is often caused by braids.

Consultant trichologist at the Fulham Scalp & Hair Clinic, Eleanor Richardson, told Glamour that braiding can do way more harm than good. "The most common damage that we end up seeing in the clinic is traction. So that's a pulling force that's been applied, because of a very tight style," she explains, adding that braided hair usually puts a lot of strain on hair follicles. Wearing your hair in braids for prolonged periods of time can even lead to permanent hair loss, HuffPost warns — yikes! Garnier recommends you minimize styles that force your hair to stay in one spot for a prolonged period of time — free curls are happy curls.

If you're a fan of extensions and sewing weave into your hair, you should also be careful, Richardson warns, adding that hair follicles were designed to support the natural growth of your hair, not all the extras you're adding. You simply don't want to put that much pressure on your scalp if you can help it. This doesn't mean that you have to kiss your beloved braids goodbye. Instead, Richardson says to opt for looser styles that don't negatively affect baby hairs or edges and don't put as much strain on your scalp.

There's no need to trim curly hair

If you thought having curly hair meant forgoing regular trims at the salon, we're here to tell you that that's not the case. In fact, neglecting regular trims can lead to long-term damage. And yes, this goes for Afro hair as well.

Speaking to Glamour, Consultant trichologist at the Fulham Scalp & Hair Clinic, Eleanor Richardson, explained that trimming your hair won't stunt growth at all. If you refrain from regular cuts, your hair will try to trim itself — for real. "When you don't trim your hair, [it] starts to wear and tear and literally at the end of it starts to fray open, like a little paintbrush, and it will split further and further up the hair shaft," she told the outlet, adding that the split will eventually progress to your roots, stunting any growth. This is not something you want to deal with.

Global director of texture for Aveda, Renee Kadar, explains that you'll struggle with long-term damage if you don't go for regular trims. A professional hairstylist will know how much to trim to keep your tresses looking amazing. With that said, it can be a real struggle to find hairstylists who can work with Afro and some curly hair types. In this case, Kadar recommends you trim your hair yourself (if you can) and try to get a professional to trim it once or twice a year.

Blow-drying curly hair will cause damage

We know that this statement probably seems pretty accurate, and we were as shocked as you are to find out that blow-drying is not, in fact, the enemy.

According to a 2011 study published in the Annals of Dermatology, blow-drying your hair will cause more damage on the surface than air drying, but that's not where the comparison ends. As it turns out, blow-drying doesn't damage the hair's cortex, which means the damage is minimal. When air drying hair, however, researchers found that the cell membrane complex was damaged. The study concluded that blow-drying hair using continuous motion at a distance of 15 cm causes less damage to the hair than allowing it to air dry. Yes, our minds are blown too.

Daffyd Thomas, the head of education at Ghd, explained this phenomenon in more detail to Harper's Bazaar. "[T]he water causes the hair fiber to swell and become weaker, so it's in our interest to make it dry as quickly as possible, as in that state it's at its strongest." Pro hairstylist Larry King says the secret lies in using "intelligent heat control." This will keep too much damage from occurring. Hair expert Natasha Hickman told Byrdie that the secret lies in prepping your curls for a blow-dry. A leave-in conditioner usually works great. Then dry your hair using low or medium heat. She added that you're also free to use a diffuser if that works for you.

You should wash your hair every day

No one likes dirty hair, but if you have curly hair, you really don't have to scrub it up all that often.

Washing curly hair daily can lead to dry, lifeless tresses, celebrity hair stylist Jonathan Colombini told L'Oréal Paris. He recommends you opt for a weekly wash, and if your hair looks great for longer than that, even better. When you do wash your hair, Colombini recommends you opt for products that cater to your curls. Products that contain ingredients like castor oil and hyaluronic acid can help your curls look shiny and hydrated while maintaining their bounce. Something else you can try is a micellar shampoo, especially if you can go a week or more between washes. These shampoos work great to remove any product build-up but don't strip your hair of its natural oils.

According to LUS Brands, you should also avoid lathering multiple products at a time. This will only force you to wash your hair daily to get rid of build-up, which is a big no-no for most curly hair types because it can disrupt the hair's natural oil production. With that said, not all curly hair types are created equal, and some might find that they need to wash their hair every other day. This is fine; try to avoid the daily scrub if you can.

Curly hair equals naturally dry hair

Curly hair does not have to equal dry hair, and don't you dare believe otherwise. According to LUS Brands, there's a reason why people tend to associate curly hair with dryness, and that's because the texture of curly hair makes it harder for the oils from your scalp to make it down to your tresses. There are simply too many twists and turns for the oils to navigate. Brushing curly hair once it's dry is also usually pretty tricky without the help of a leave-in conditioner and other treatments, which means those natural oils simply have no way of getting to the hair shaft. Hello, dry hair! However, this does not mean that curly hair is always dry. It just means that you need to rethink your products and pay attention to your hair type.

Speaking to L'Oréal Paris, celebrity hair stylist Jonathan Colombini explained that the dryness you experience will largely depend on your hair's porosity and type. Additionally, you should keep in mind that undergoing any chemical hair treatment will also change the characteristics of your hair and can result in dryness. He recommends you opt for a leave-in conditioner to combat stubborn dry tresses. Opt for a weekly hydrating mask if your hair still seems dry after a few weeks.

You can never skip conditioner if you have curly hair

This might seem like a fact instead of a myth, but according to celebrity hairstylist Jonathan Colombini, everyone's curls are different, and therefore skipping conditioner now and then might work great for some. He adds that just because your curly-haired friend swears by leave-in conditioner doesn't mean it will have the same effect for you, and if it leaves your tresses greasy, your curls simply require another approach.

Speaking to L'Oréal Paris, Colombini explained that you need to figure out your hair type before buying a slew of products. If you have thick, curly hair, a leave-in conditioner will usually be your best friend. Still, if your hair leans towards being finer and less voluminous, Colombini suggests you opt for a leave-in spray that helps shape and hydrate curls without weighing them down.

Even though conditioner can save curly hair from frizz and breakage, too much of a good thing can lead to curly hair that is limp, flat, and weak, according to Curl Keeper. Your curl type will help you determine what conditioner you need and how much you need to apply. The best measurement you can use is the tightness of your curls — the tighter, the more conditioner it typically requires. If your curls are on the loose and wavy side, chances are you need a lot less and might even be able to skip conditioner altogether at times.

You should throw away your shampoo and just wash with cold water

When Refinery29 asked curl expert Rumbie Mutsiwa about the most common curly hair myths she's encountered, this one was second on her list. Why? Because it absolutely does not work in the way TikTok would like you to believe.

"Cold washing is like washing your body with lotion... you'll never really get clean," Mutsiwa says, adding that washing with just cold water deprives your hair of the benefits a shampoo provides — and no, conditioner alone won't fulfill those functions. "The trick is to get the right type of shampoo that will cleanse your hair rather than stripping it," she explains, adding that a good sign a shampoo is working for your hair is when it leaves your tresses clean and soft with no lingering oiliness or product residue. What you want is for your shampoo to provide your conditioner with a clean slate, and this is how you get the best results — not by rinsing your hair with cold water.

But the internet says a cold rinse will make my hair shinier! Also not true. "If anything, that cold rinse could spell trouble for strands as it can restrict blood flow to the capillaries that supply your hair with nutrients," trichologist Annabel Kingsley told Harper's Bazaar. Geez. Kingsley says that a good conditioner or detoxifying rinse can close your hair's cuticles and provide that sought-after shine.

Curly hair can't grow long

Yes, we know curly hair tends to appear like it doesn't grow long, but that is not the truth. Curl expert Rumbie Mutsiwa says that you might underestimate how long your tresses are because the length often hides within your curls.

"[W]hen you pull the hair down — you'll get a great reflection of just how long the actual hair length is," Mutsiwa told Refinery29. "This is called shrinkage, and with wavy/curly hair textures to a certain degree, they're able to grow hair down and long." She added that this is not the case for all hair types, hence the myth that curly hair doesn't grow long. For some, especially those who have tight curls and have a hair texture that leans more towards coily and Afro, length might be hard to gain because the hair grows in breadth instead of length. Accepting that you might never be able to reach a certain length can be disappointing, but Mutsiwa says the secret lies in accepting your tresses as they are. You'll spare yourself a lot of stress and heartache.

You should load up on oils if you have curly hair

Yes, curly hair types typically need extra TLC, but you should be careful of overdoing it with all kinds of hair oils. This is because oils actually don't really hydrate your hair (gasp!) but instead work to lock in existing moisture.

Speaking to Glamour, founder of online marketplace Antidote Street, Winnie Awa, explained that moisturizing water-based products are your best bet for hydrating curly hair. Leave-in conditioners are a great example. Then, you can add oil to lock in moisture, but remember that a little can go a long way. "Greasing your scalp can clog up the pores at the follicles, which will lead to poor quality hair growth," Awa explains. If your hair is in urgent need of hydration, consider a steam treatment. "Steam treatments work really well and make your products work really hard. So when it comes to the winter months and you notice your hair drying out, seek out hydrating products/high water content products or steam treatments," trichologist Eleanor Richardson says.

Also, be careful of the types of oils you use on your hair. You might have heard that coconut oil is the holy grail when it comes to hydrating dry curls, but this is not the case. Yes, it can lock in moisture, but if you don't use hydrating products before applying it, the oil will actually suck any remaining moisture from your tresses, making them brittle.

You should wrap your hair in a towel or T-shirt after washing

If the first thing you do after washing your hair consists of tightly wrapping it in a towel or T-shirt, you're doing it wrong, experts say.

Speaking to Allure, hairstylist Miko Branch explained that this almost instinctive habit can do more harm than good. "Aggressively drying your hair with a towel results in frizz and tangled hair," Branch explains. Wrapping your hair in a towel can also open the cuticles and affect the shape and pattern your curls take on after a wash, according to Naturally Curly. In addition to causing tangles and frizz, towel-drying hair can also result in a loss of moisture, curl expert Lorraine Massey told Naturally Curly. "A terry cloth towel will absorb too much moisture, which curly hair needs," she explains. Branch suggests you dab your hair dry using an old T-shirt, drying it just enough so it's no longer super wet and dripping everywhere.

Curl expert Rumbie Mutsiwa, on the other hand, suggests you steer clear of any towel (including micro-fiber towels) and T-shirts. Her tips for drying your curls are pretty simple. "After shampooing (which will fully open your cuticles), squeeze out the excess moisture, and don't plop! Then, apply a suitable leave-in conditioner, then gel, then define and naturally dry," Mutsiwa told Refinery29.

You'll always have to deal with tangles

Yes, curly hair can be a handful, but that doesn't mean you always have to deal with tangles. There are a few ways to prevent them altogether, celebrity hair stylist Jonathan Colombini told L'Oréal Paris.

If tangles are your constant companion, he recommends you try wrapping your hair in a silk scarf or even a bonnet when you sleep. If you hate sleeping with your hair covered, you can always opt for a silk pillowcase. The silk prevents your hair from experiencing friction and, in turn, helps prevent tangles from forming in the first place. Colombini also suggests you pay attention to how you dry your hair — if you love a rough towel-drying session, that might be the culprit behind stubborn tangles. 

For tangles that simply won't budge, Columbini has a secret hack that's sure to change the game. He suggests applying conditioner to unruly, tangled curls while drying. Let the conditioner sit briefly before gently combing your hair with a wide-toothed comb. Leave the conditioner in for about ten minutes, then proceed to rinse out the conditioner and wash your hair as usual.

Apply oil to your curls while they're still wet

This seems like a good idea, right? Wrong! Think about it, oil and water don't mix, so applying expensive oils to your curls while they're still soaked through is simply wasting product, according to Garnier. The water in your hair will repel the oil, and it will never actually absorb into your strands, rendering all your extra effort useless, according to SkinKraft.

Yes, curly hair can definitely benefit from oils, but you should ensure you apply them at the right time. When applied to wet hair, oils might create the appearance of shiny tresses, but you'll soon be left with greasy hair that lacks any glow. Instead, wait until your hair is completely dry and gently work the oil of your choice into it. This will create that glow from within, and you'll reap all the benefits. "Hair oiling protects your hair follicles from damaging surfactants by lining the gaps of your cuticle cells," Abhisikta Hati, the senior product development executive of SkinKraft, says, adding, "Oiling prevents hydral fatigue of your hair strands and reduces the hair damage caused by chemical products." Oils can be a great addition to a curly hair routine, but only if used correctly.

Your hair will become resistant to the products you use over time

Your hair can't get used to products, but its needs can change over time, which is likely how this myth originated.

According to LUS Brands, your hair isn't a living organism, so to speak, which is one of the reasons dealing with damaged tresses can be challenging. Your hair can't evolve and become resistant to certain products. The weather, your diet, the current season, and even stress can influence how products work. According to HuffPost, you should also keep in mind that your hair's needs change when you subject it to certain chemical treatments, and you should change the products you use accordingly.

When your usual products seem to stop working, product build-up is often the culprit. It can lead to drab hair and eventually keep the products you apply from accessing your hair shaft, which results in even more build-up. In these cases, a clarifying wash can help. In short: Your hair's needs will change depending on various factors, so when a certain product is no longer working, take it as a sign that your hair needs something else and figure out what that is.