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Taking Care of Your Curly, Natural Hair In An Arid Climate

Updated on May 19, 2014

Curly Or Straight

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Humidity Vs. Aridity

I grew up loving all four seasons, but with the summer came the frizz. Humidity did a number on my tresses. Not that I don't love the "Sideshow Bob" look, but I preferred to have my hair pinned back and kept hidden away until winter. In fact, in order to prepare for special occasions I would spend hours at the beauty shop. Even as a young girl I would get all my curls ironed out with the full intention of keeping them out. It was common knowledge that all you needed was a little moisture to wreck a smooth, silky do in no time.

That's why as an adult I moved to an arid climate and thought it would be smooth sailing to keep my hair shiny and flat. Boy was I wrong! The dryness made my hair weak and brittle. It only took a few years for my once voluminous locks to begin to break and split. That's when I realized I'd have to try a different approach.

The tips included here are for desert living mostly, but might work anywhere. Use these easy steps to keep your hair healthy, shiny, and beautiful in the sweltering desert sun.



After You Wash

Steps To Seal In Moisture:

  • Cover strands with a leave-in conditioner; hair milk, moisturizing lotion also good
  • After conditioner apply oil / butter; olive oil, shea butter, etc. will work

Using The Right Tools

Use products that have water as the main ingredient and then natural oils for the rest. Some earth and hair-health conscious souls make their own moisturizing agents with all natural products, including water.
Use products that have water as the main ingredient and then natural oils for the rest. Some earth and hair-health conscious souls make their own moisturizing agents with all natural products, including water.
It's important to use wide-toothed combs and modified brushes. While combs and brushes are great for distributing sebum in straight hair, they can cause breakage for curls.
It's important to use wide-toothed combs and modified brushes. While combs and brushes are great for distributing sebum in straight hair, they can cause breakage for curls.

Washing and Drying

I love shampoo commercials because there's always someone who looks thoroughly pleased with the lathery stuff glooping all over with lots of hydrating water, as if this shampoo is going to completely change their world from here on out. Funny, it never makes me want the shampoo, but jumping in a pool never sounds better.

What's really interesting is that I thought I could wash my hair that way and get great results. The truth is, with curly hair the wash needs to go a little differently for the hair to get through it unscathed.

  1. Pre-shampoo your hair. Wet it thoroughly and slather it with a conditioner. I use a deep conditioner and leave it on for 30 minutes, but this isn't absolutely necessary every time you wash. Just be sure to soak it and condition it.
  2. Detangle gently using your fingers while your hair is wet and with the conditioner in it. If you prefer to use a comb, use a VERY wide-toothed comb. The water and conditioner make a big difference. As you detangle your hair, separate it into sections using twists or loose braids.
  3. Water down your shampoo. This becomes especially important if it isn't natural. Check out Sprout's, Trader Joe's, and beauty supply stores to find paraben and sulfate free shampoos. If you can't find that, water your shampoo down. Use a hair coloring bottle and fill it 1/3 full with shampoo and the rest with water.
  4. Wash your hair by taking down each section one at a time and applying shampoo. Wash it by combing fingers gently through hair ensuring the shampoo / water mixture reaches every strand. Rinse. Retwist / rebraid. Do this for each section.
  5. As you complete a section, apply conditioner and let it sit on the hair until you are completely finish washing. *Keep sections in tact with braids or twists. Rinse.
  6. Use a t-shirt to dry your hair, as this keeps your curls in tact. Using a t-shirt to dry is a practice called "plopping" and there are many videos / tutorials on this. Allow the t-shirt to sit on hair for up to 15 minutes before beginning to style.


The Main Event: Moisturize, Condition

There are companies that make hydrating pre-shampoos, protein rich deep conditioning masques, and conditioners with all natural ingredients. They are specially designed for naturally curly hair.
There are companies that make hydrating pre-shampoos, protein rich deep conditioning masques, and conditioners with all natural ingredients. They are specially designed for naturally curly hair.

Heatless Is Best

Heat damages hair by drying it out and causing split ends..that's the short story. There are ways to prevent this, especially if you have naturally curly hair. You can use your curls to your advantage by using water to curl instead of heat. Try these heatless ways to style your locks and keep it fresh.

  • curlformers
  • flexirods
  • bantu knot outs
  • foam curlers
  • magnetic rollers
  • mesh rollers
  • snap on rollers



Just Say No To Heat!

Dryers, curling irons, flat irons, pressing combs, and other heating devices can really wreak havoc on curly hair.
Dryers, curling irons, flat irons, pressing combs, and other heating devices can really wreak havoc on curly hair.

How Does Heat Protectant Work?

Many use heat protectants when they use hair dryers, curling irons, flat irons, pressing combs, or the like to style their hair. Is it effective? Most research studies say, yes, to an extent the silicones and copolymers are effective in proctecting the hair from the type of damage heat can cause.

Yet, using heat protectant cannot be entirely expected to protect the hair from heat damage in the same way that not applying heat at all can. Still, if you are a style - conscious fashionista who wishes to apply heat to get results, try doing the following to avoid irreversible damage:

  • Use a heat protectant (ethanol based rather than water based is better according to a study done at the University of Manchester School of Chemistry).
  • Keep your heating device below 230°F to decrease the likelihood of damage.
  • Allow for some air drying / t-shirt drying to eliminate the possibility of sizzling hair, which is very unhealthy.

Did You Know?

Your voluminous curls make it so that the natural oil (translate:sebum) that is produced by your body to keep your scalp moisturized and your hair gleaming with a healthy shine doesn't make it very far down the hair shaft.

Protect Your Hair

There are a gajillion styles I can think of right this instant that would be beautiful without applying any heat to your hair at all. They would look great and feel awesome, but the best way to protect your lovely locks is to put them in a style that keeps your ends from fraying and splitting and your strands from overheating.

Avoid using any heat or combs or brushes unless absolutely necessary. Using your fingers you can style your freshly washed hair in many ways that will keep it from damage.

  • Twists - this involves twisting your strands all over your head in order to keep them from needing to be combed or brushed.
  • Braids - it serves the same purpose, except instead of two strands you're using three.
  • Buns - take your hair and draw it all to the center of your head. Wrap it with a soft scrunchy, but not too tight. With the hair left in the middle use bobby pins to pin it to the hair on your head. This protects your ends and gives you a classy look.
  • Foldovers - with your hair in two sections, fold one section over and back repeatedly until you come to the end of your head. Then pin it down. Do the same to the other side. Pull the two sides together into a scrunchy. Pin them into a bun shape.

Ultimate Moisturizer: Water

Most beauty supply stores, or departments within stores, will have spritz bottles you can pick up for a couple of bucks. Use them to spray just a little water to moisturize your hair each day.
Most beauty supply stores, or departments within stores, will have spritz bottles you can pick up for a couple of bucks. Use them to spray just a little water to moisturize your hair each day.

Moisturizing Melee


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Hair Essentials

Summer in the desert can be brutal on hair. Stock up on all sorts of fun, colorful hair accessories to protect your hair and enhance your style.
Summer in the desert can be brutal on hair. Stock up on all sorts of fun, colorful hair accessories to protect your hair and enhance your style.

Stock Up On Protective Hair Gear

You'll need to use gear to keep the heat and dryness from damaging your locks. Try to stock up on different colors and styles of these handy hair accessories:

  • scrunchies
  • headbands
  • berets
  • sun hats
  • umbrellas
  • fedoras
  • scarves
  • head wraps


Daily Hair Care

Each day presents its own life to your hair. Make sure it's ready for anything.

  1. Spritz with a little water. (Too much will make your curls tighter and make it more difficult to know how your style will look when dry)
  2. Avoid combs and brushes, as they tend to break and pull hair.
  3. When the heat is over 100°, pull into a bun and tuck your ends under. You can also braid or twist hair and cover it with a sun hat, beret, or scarf to keep from heat.
  4. Use an umbrella in especially hot, dry weather. This practice serves to protect your hair and scalp from extreme heat.
  5. Wrap your hair in satin / silk at night. This keeps the cotton pillow cases from breaking your hair. Or, use a satin / silk pillow case.

© 2014 Shannon Powell

How Do You Keep Your Hair Healthy In Dry Climates?

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    • WheelerWife profile image

      WheelerWife 3 years ago from Minnesota

      Great tips! I live up North and it can get SUPER dry here in the wintertime that by spring my hair is usually dry and brittle as well. I'll have to try some of these this winter - thanks for sharing :)