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How to Fix Your Dry, Damaged, and Undefined Curls: 5 Essential Tips

Are you a woman with damaged curls scrolling online, spotting those gorgeous bouncy curls, and thinking about what to do to fix your dry and undefined curls to look like that?

You may be a bit overwhelmed with the prospect of trying to fix your damaged curls. Curly hair often leads to dry and frizzy that lacks definition.

But it isn’t impossible to transform your frizzy curly hair into a healthy, shiny, bouncy head of curls.

With the proper information and care, it is possible to restore moisture and bring out the curl pattern and this article will give you the information you need to fix your curls and wear them with confidence. 

What Causes Dry and Undefined Curls?

causes of dry and undefined curls

First off, we need to discuss the question that’s been bouncing around inside your head. “Why?” Unfortunately, the answer can differ from person to person.

Your hair has been through its own unique journey. However, there are five common factors that contribute to dry, undefined curly hair:

  1. Too much buildup
  2. Dehydration of the body and hair
  3. Lack of regular protein treatments
  4. Heat damage
  5. Dead/split ends 

How to Fix Your Damaged Curls

Below, you will see how you can eliminate all five of these factors so that you can improve the health and appearance of your curly hair. 

1. Bust the Buildup

clarify hair to fix dry and undefined curls

Buildup, product or otherwise, is curly hair’s worst enemy. It weighs your hair down, disrupts your curl pattern, and creates a barrier so that moisture cannot soak into your hair.

Your curls will begin to look frizzy, stringy, and undefined. The curls will be difficult to manage, and it will seem that they just aren’t responding to any of the care you are giving them.

If the buildup is severe, it can even cause irritation of the scalp, and in extreme cases, hair loss. Follow the tips below to prevent and get rid of buildup. 

Clarify Your Curls

To remove the buildup from your curls, use a clarifying shampoo or a natural alternative. Clarifying shampoos often contain sulfates, so I would not suggest using it more than once a month.

There are also clarifying shampoos that contain charcoal or apple cider vinegar, and these can be a bit less drying. 

One great way to clarify your curls without a sulfate shampoo is by using an apple cider vinegar rinse. You simply mix ⅓ cup of apple cider vinegar with 1 cup of water, and apply it to wet, freshly shampooed hair. You can let it sit for a few minutes, and then rinse it out with cool water and Condition afterward. 

Soften Water Supply

Many people don’t realize how much hard water can affect their hair. Hard water contains minerals that build up on the hair, causing it to be brittle, dry, and weighed down.

If you are doing everything right, and still feel like your hair is not cooperating, it could be because of hard water. 

Fortunately, it is easy to fix this problem. Hard water shower filters are readily available online and at some home improvement stores.

They are relatively inexpensive and can attach right to your shower head. I personally have one, and it makes such a difference!

Eliminate Products That Cause Buildup

There are many products that cause pesky buildup on the hair and weigh down your curls. Conditioners and styling products that contain silicones can be very smoothing.

However, they coat the hair with a plastic-like substance that can build up on your curls and cause dryness and a lack of definition. Also, heavy hairsprays can cause quite a bit of buildup. 

If you get rid of your heavy hairspray, and minimize the use of products that contain silicones, you will notice that your hair is able to soak in more moisture and hold its curl.

Some curly girls cut out all silicones from their hair care routine, while others simply minimize their use. If you still occasionally use products that contain silicones, be sure to clarify your hair regularly. 

By busting through the buildup, and avoiding adding any more, you will increase your curly hair’s ability to soak up moisture and hold those gorgeous, defined curls!

2. Hydrate Your Hair and Yourself

hydrate hair to fix dry and undefined curls

Hydration is key to fixing dry, undefined curls. Curls especially need lots of moisture, because they tend to be drier than straight hair.

The curlier the hair, the drier it tends to be because it takes longer for the natural oils from your scalp to reach the mid-lengths and ends of the hair.

We all know that dry hair results in frizzy, undefined curls. In order to fix your curls, you need to hydrate your hair and yourself. 

There are two aspects to keeping your hair hydrated: applying moisture onto your hair, and supplying your body with enough hydration to grow healthy, moisturized hair. Here is how you can do both of those things: 

Hydrate Your Curly Frizzy Hair

Your frizzy curls need moisture. This is especially true if you live in a dry climate, or if you tend to have dry skin and hair.

People with dry curly hair need to moisturize their hair every day, while others simply need to moisturize after shampooing.

Pay attention to how your hair feels so that you can decide when it needs an extra boost of hydration. 

You can hydrate your hair by conditioning it every time you shampoo. Also, use a sulfate-free shampoo to avoid drying your hair out. It’s also a good idea to regularly apply a deep conditioning mask.

When you condition your hair, either with a regular conditioner or with a mask, leave it on your hair for at least 5 minutes and rinse it out with cool water. The cool water will seal the moisture into your hair. 

Hydrate Yourself

If you want to fix your dry, undefined curls, you need to make sure that you are not only hydrating your hair but also hydrating yourself.

Your hair grows from your blood supply, just like your skin and nails, so anything that you put into your body will affect it.

I often tell my clients that if they want hydrated hair that grows quicker, they need to start from the inside out. We should take in 2.7-3.7 liters of fluids every day. If you are very active or live in a dry climate, you may need even more.

If this seems overwhelming, just be assured that once you start drinking more water, it will get easier and easier. Soon enough you will be like me, hauling around a gallon of water everywhere you go!

(Amazon carries time-marked water bottles that have goals on the side based on how much water you should drink by a certain time of the day. I have one and I find it very helpful.) 

3. Add an Extra Boost of Protein

protien treatment to fix dry and undefined curls

Moisture is not the end all be all when it comes to curls. Oftentimes, curly girls will keep adding moisture treatments to their hair and wonder why their hair is still undefined.

In fact, continuing to add moisture to the hair without balancing it with protein can create stringy, weighed-down curls that lack definition.

Protein is essential for maintaining the health and appearance of curly hair because it repairs the bonds in the hair, which thereby defines the curls. 

The most effective type of protein that you can use on your hair is keratin. Keratin is the protein that naturally occurs in our hair, skin, and nails, so our hair easily absorbs it.

Most beauty professionals will agree that keratin protein treatments are the most effective protein treatment for hair. 

How to Add Extra Boost of Protein to Your Curls

First off, you need to use a high-quality protein treatment. As stated above, I recommend using a keratin protein treatment.

Many salons offer keratin protein treatment services, but doing your own treatment can save time and money.

Purchase a professional keratin protein treatment from a salon or a professional beauty supply like Ulta (Keratin protein treatments are not the same as keratin smoothing treatments, which straighten the hair). 

I suggest applying your keratin protein treatment every week or two. Sometimes keratin treatments can be a bit drying, so if you notice that your hair is becoming dry and brittle, take a break from the protein and apply a moisture treatment.

If you notice that after doing a few moisture treatments your hair is weighed down and undefined, balance it with a protein treatment. 

If you pay attention to how your hair looks and feels, you will be able to intuitively balance your use of moisture and protein treatments to cater to your specific needs. This balance of protein and moisture will give your curls everything they need to be hydrated and defined.  

4. Eliminate Heat Damage

avoid heat tools to fix dry and undefined curls

Heat damage is one of the worst things for curly hair. Unfortunately, many of us with curly hair grew up with the idea that we needed to straighten our hair to look “professional” or “elegant” for special events.

All this did was damage our curls, because instead of caring for our curls and wearing them proudly, we used damaging hot irons to straighten them out. 

Excess heat can cause damage to anyone’s hair, but it is especially damaging to curly hair because curly hair typically requires more heat in order to be straightened or curled.

This leads to excessive heat damage. Over-straightening can relax your curl pattern and make your hair dry, frizzy, and undefined. 

How to Eliminate Heat Damage

If you want to fix your dry and undefined curls, it is essential that you stop damaging them with excess heat. Below are two ways to eliminate heat damage.

Minimize Your Use of Hot Tools

The only true way to rid your hair of heat damage is to not apply heat to it in the first place. If you have a habit of straightening and curling your hair, you should consider breaking this habit, and either throwing out your straightener or using it once every few months.

Also, to dry your hair, consider air-drying or diffusing. Blow-drying without a diffuser will only ruffle the cuticle, or outside layer of your hair, and make your curls frizzy, dry, and undefined. If you don’t have time to let your hair air-dry, diffuse your hair on low heat and low speed. 

Use Heat Protectant

If you still want to straighten or curl your hair once in a while, don’t forget to add plenty of heat protectants.

Even if you are just diffusing your hair on low heat, you should still apply a curl cream and/or gel to your hair beforehand that will serve as a barrier between the warm air and your hair. 

If you are planning on using any hot irons, put heat protectant on your hair before you blow-dry it, and again before you straighten or curl it.

Usually, a cream-textured heat protectant is good to use prior to blow-drying, and a spray heat protectant can be used on each section of hair before straightening or curling it.

Also, always deeply condition your hair when you are ready to go back to your natural curls. This will help your curls recover. 

By eliminating and protecting against heat damage, you can repair your dry, undefined curls while embracing your natural hair texture!

5. Cut-off Dead Ends

cutting split ends to fix dry and undefined curls

It’s amazing how cutting off those dead split ends can transform your frizzy, dry, undefined, weighed-down curls!

As a hairstylist, it is truly my pet peeve to see people holding onto length even though it is wreaking havoc on the health and appearance of their hair. The truth is, split ends are dead weight. It’s time to let go. 

Split ends come in many forms, from forked-looking ends to ends that are split in multiple places, to a strand of hair that has a single tiny knot near the end. No matter the case, the entire split end has to be removed, or else the hair will continue splitting.

So, if you want to remove your dead ends to fix your curls, there’s no such thing as cutting off just a little bit of the dead ends. They all have to go. 

This can be frustrating if you are trying to grow out your hair, but in the long run, it will help your hair retain its length because the ends won’t constantly be breaking off. 

When to Cut off Your Dead Ends

There are a couple of signs to look out for that indicate that you need a trim. 

1. You See the Split Ends:

The most obvious sign that you need a trim is simply seeing split ends. As stated above, split ends can come in a variety of different forms.

You may see actual splitting, little knots, or even little white bulbs at the ends of your hair. Also, if you see that your hair as a whole thins out drastically at the ends, this is most likely due to split ends. 

2. You Feel the Split Ends:

Another sign that you need a trim is that your ends feel rough, frizzy, and tangled all the time. As the split ends get worse, it will be harder and harder to detangle them.

You may find yourself combing through the same section of hair repeatedly without ever being able to detangle your ends.

If your comb or brush keeps getting stuck at your ends, it is a sign that you need a trim. 

Cutting off split ends is a crucial step in fixing your dry, undefined curls. By getting rid of this dead weight, your curls will be able to absorb more moisture, look more defined, and have more volume.

Also, you won’t be wasting valuable products on hair that won’t even absorb it!

Key Things to Remember:

Fixing your dry, undefined curls will take patience and persistence, but it is well worth the effort. Following the suggestions below, you will be able to transform your curls and boost your confidence!

  • Buildup from products or hard water can make it difficult for hair to absorb moisture. Use a water softener, and avoid heavy products that contain silicones. 
  • Drink plenty of water and condition your hair often to combat dryness. 
  • Apply regular protein treatments in order to build your hair’s strength and define the curls. 
  • Minimize the use of hot tools, and use a heat protectant when using a hot tool or blow-dryer. Air-dry or diffuse your hair for the best results.  
  • Get regular trims to cut off dead, split ends.