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Natural curls are back in fashion, but not every woman with natural hair knows how to care for it properly. Of course, every head of hair is different, so if what you’re doing is working for you, then that’s great! However, if your routine feels like it’s missing something, here are a few ideas to fill in the blanks.

A standard head of curly- or kinky-textured hair needs the following steps during each wash day:

A gentle, sulfate-free cleanser

Curls become dry easily and don’t need to be washed often. A gentle shampoo is all you need. Look for one without sulfates to prevent excess dryness.

Rich, slippery conditioner for detangling

Next, you’ll need a conditioner with a lot of “slip” to work out all those tangles and restore the moisture to your hair. Some people like to do this step first, before cleansing their hair, since freshly detangled hair is easier to work with throughout the rest of the routine.

Moisturizing leave-in conditioner

It’s safe to say that pretty much every woman with natural hair needs a great leave-in moisturizer. Your hair needs a strong foundation of moisture to last throughout the day, let alone the week.

To cut costs and time, you can also use your detangling conditioner as a leave-in—many products are designed to accomplish both tasks. Ideally, you want your hair to be moisturized, but not weighed down.

Oil or butter

This step is one that many people skip unknowingly. Simply adding moisture to your hair isn’t quite enough. You also need to “seal” the moisture in by using an oil or butter, like jojoba oil, coconut oil or shea butter. This is especially important on the ends of your hair.

Cream

Next, you’ll want to add a cream on top of the oil. This product should be much thicker than your leave-in. It adds a finishing touch of moisture, fights frizz and holds your hair in place. You can add a little or a lot, depending on your hair type.

If your hair struggles to absorb moisture, you’ll want to apply cream before sealing with an oil rather than after.

Gel or edge control

A lot of people are intimidated by using hair gel because gel is associated with the crunchy, flaky hairstyles of yesteryear. However, it’s the only product that will reliably define your curls and hold the style for days.

Plenty of gels now maintain the softness and flexibility of your hair while offering a firm hold. If you like a super-natural, loose look, try making your own flaxseed gel. For a more polished look, use a strong gel along with an edge control.

A protective style

All of the above products are important, but they’re useless if you don’t protect your hair after wash day. Make sure to wrap your hair or sleep on a satin pillow to avoid losing moisture and definition. For extra protection, braid or twist your hair as it dries or overnight.

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