Curly Hair Care: Why I Love Backwards Conditioning

All hair, whether straight or curly is made up of of the same components. However, the shape of hair follicle, which is largely a result of genetics, determines whether hair is straight, wavy or curly. The straighter the hair, the rounder the shape of the follicle. Curly hair has elliptical shaped follicles that bend and turn.  The more elliptical the shape of the hair shaft, the curlier the hair. Most follicles contain sebaceous glands, which are responsible for releasing an oily substance called sebum that lubricates the hair.

Due the bends and curves of curly hair, it’s challenging for sebum to be distributed all the way down the length of the hair. This often results in oily or sticky hair at the scalp and dry ends and hair that appears dull in appearance.

“Routine” Hair Care Methods

Most instructions for hair care go a little something like this:

  1. wash, rinse, repeat
  2. (condition)
  3. style

For straight hair and/or oily hair, this rule of thumb generally works just fine. I too, had followed this method for years and it often led to dry, tangled, matted hair. After reading a book on ayurvedic hair care, I became inspired and decided to experiment and adapt my hair regimen.


As a result the wash, rinse, repeat (condition) routine, might not be the best for curlier hair types as well as for dry and/or damaged hair. To combat this problem there are very effective solutions:

  • Cowashing (washing the hair with only conditioner) more often and shampooing less often.
  • Using gentle sulfate-free shampoos or alternative hair washes
  • Deep conditioning and using nourishing leave-in conditioners
Featured Products:
  1.  Mango & Monoi Leave-In
  2. Cocoa & Swiss Mallow Conditioner
  3. Nettle & Clay Hair Wash
Backwards Washing for Curly Hair

Finally, my favorite method, which involves getting the hair oily before cleansing:

  1. Hot oil treatment
  2. Wash/shampoo hair
  3. Moisturize
  4. Style as usual

I personally find that wrapping my hair in a damp, warm towel, while doing a hot oil treatment enhances the treatment. This way of washing, strengthens the hair, lubricates the strands and leaves the ends of the hair nourished after washing. Since sebum does not travel down the length of very curly hair, this method is great for lubricating your strands.

Hot oil treatments are not just for curly hair, they are highly recommended for damaged and dry hair. If your hair is straight or wavy, this could also work for you, just be very light-handed with the oil. For tips on hot oil treatments, check out an earlier post.

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