A Celebrity Hairstylist and Curl Expert Overhauled My Routine—Here's What Changed

Woman with curly hair

(Image credit: @ivycoco23)

I spent years battling with my natural hair texture. If you have thick, coarse, curly strands, you might relate. When I finally decided to embrace my curls, though, they needed a lot of TLC before I could truly feel confident wearing them out and about. My strands weren't in great shape after years of such intense heat styling, and I don't think I fully realized that the journey wouldn't end with just quitting the flat iron.

It was then a climb to find the right products that actually work for my hair. Many shampoos are too drying for my coarse curls, while some (like co-washes) don't clean my thick hair enough. It truly became about finding the right balance. My hair also needs a ton of moisture—and I mean a ton. Otherwise, it becomes flat and dull and doesn't curl right.

While my current haircare routine wasn't too bad, I thought it would be a good idea to get a curl expert and celebrity stylist involved for an overhaul. After all, I have the privilege of being able to seek advice (for all of us!) from an incredibly talented roster of stylists—so why not! I asked celebrity stylist, Redken ambassador, and curl expert Leysa Carrillo (who has the most amazing curls I've ever seen, BTW) for some advice on my routine. If you have 3C curls, consider this your new bible.

The Best Washday Advice for 3C Curls

Everyone's hair is different, so these are, of course, suggestions, but Carrillo had some solid advice for us about starting with a clean canvas. "For 3C curls, the best washday routine involves products that provide intense hydration and definition, but before all of that, I make sure the canvas is extremely tame when I have new clients," she says. "I love to detox the hair or use a deep cleanser like Redken's Hair Cleansing Cream." I'll admit I never used to use a clarifying shampoo, because they would dry out my hair, but heeding Carrillo's advice, I've found a few solid favorites that I'll list below. If you're confused (like I was) about how often you should use a clarifying shampoo, Carrillo also suggests using a clarifying shampoo every other week. It does also, however, depend on your lifestyle and climate. If you find your hair starting to feel heavy, greasy, or like it isn't retaining moisture, take it as your sign it's time to do a detox and use a clarifying shampoo.

Carrillo also advises doing a thorough cleanse with hot water. She explains, "I make sure that I use extremely hot water so the cuticle opens up and absorbs all the products that I'm going to start adding to the hair. Before shampooing, I also use a hydrating conditioner like Redken's Acidic Bonding Curls Conditioner ($33) to easily detangle before my shampoo. It's all about how you prep the hair. Once that's done, I always a use deep conditioner for moisture and repair at the end and style it with gel to define curls and reduce frizz."

While I've never used conditioner to detangle my hair before shampooing, I'm definitely going to be adding that as a step in my washday routine now. Doing this, clarifying more than I was, and committing to deep conditioning are the major tweaks that Carrillo suggested for my own personal routine. Now that I know how often I should be doing the above things, I think it will be easier to commit to doing them.

I've listed a few other washday essentials below that both Carrillo and I recommend.

The Best Styling Advice for 3C Curls

First, there are a few key ingredients Carrillo loves for 3C curls, and she offers up her best advice when it comes to styling products. "I love using aloe vera to hydrate and soothe the scalp," she shares. "I also use jojoba oil to provide moisture and enhance shine without weighing any curls down. It's best to keep it simple since too many products can lead to buildup and weigh down the curls. A basic routine with the best technique can give you the best results."

Honestly, this was my mistake. I was doing the absolute most with my routine after getting out of the shower because my hair is so dry, but Carrillo set me straight. Now that I know a simple routine is best, I'll stick to a solid leave-in and, maybe, a gel if I'm going out.

Carrillo also shares her favorite types of styling products for 3C curls. "I use curl cream, gels, and mousse to hold curls in place and reduce any frizz. Each has their own purpose: Gel for structure, mousse for lightweight hold, and I love using Redken's Root Lifter Volumizing Foam Spray ($27)."

If you like to blow-dry your curls a bit, Carrillo also loves the Dyson Supersonic Hair Dryer with the diffuser for curls because it provides fast drying with minimal heat damage. Take a look at some of the best 3C styling products below.

Shawna Hudson
Associate Beauty Editor

Shawna Hudson has worked in editorial for over six years, with experience covering entertainment, fashion, culture, celebrities, and her favorite topic of all, beauty. She graduated from California State University, Fullerton, with a degree in journalism and has written for other publications such as Bustle, The Zoe Report, Byrdie, Elite Daily, Mane Addicts, and more. She is currently an associate beauty editor at Who What Wear and hopes to continue feeding her (completely out-of-control) beauty obsession as long as she can. Stay up to date on her latest finds on Instagram @shawnasimonee.