Poolsides, beaches, fresh fruit, warm sunshine—we could go on and on about all the joy summer brings. When kicking back, you may be tempted to let your hair go with the breeze. However, this season is actually time to kick your hair care into high gear.
Summer comes with many environmental changes that can take your curls from luscious to sweaty, brittle or downright beat. To retake control and turn down the heat, this guide will share the top curly hair tips for summer, from must-have products to sun protection.
Your Top Summer Hair Foes—and How to Combat Them
The outdoors may seem more inviting in the summertime… but trust us when we say there are some serious hair foes out there. The transition from spring to summer can bring scorching heat, damaging UV rays, salty water and more.
In general, this creates the following issues for natural curls and coils:
- UV damage
- Low volume
- Scalp irritation or inflammation
To keep juicy curls that shine under the sun, you’ll need to study the enemy. Let’s break down the main elements that could hurt curly hair in summer—and how to beat them.
Foe #1: Humidity
More moisture in the air equals better for your hair, right? Unfortunately, that’s not the case.
Summer usually comes with higher humidity, or a greater amount of moisture in the air. For natural hair (which can often be dry coming out of winter), this spells trouble. When absorbed, humidity can wreak havoc in two ways:1
- For low porosity hair, the moisture from humidity will naturally weigh down curls from the outside.
- For high porosity hair, the moisture from humidity will be absorbed. This actually lifts the hair cuticle and makes the hydrogen bonds in your hair reject further water molecules, creating more dryness or unwanted frizz.
Whether you have fine curls or tight coils, the answer to humidity is moisture—and lots of it. The more moisture in your hair, the less likely it will react to moisture from the air. You can boost the moisture in your curly summer hair routine with:
- Leave-in conditioner – This wash-and-go product is the perfect choice for all curly hair types in the summer, soaking into your hair as it dries. To prevent any greasy textures or limp curls, choose a lightweight leave-in conditioner such as PATTERN’s Leave-In Conditioner, that’s packed with natural moisturizers like Aloe Vera, Shea Butter and Avocado Oil.
- Hair masks – Hit reset every week on moisture with a rich hair mask, such as PATTERN’s Transition Mask or Treatment Mask. These apply-and-rinse treatments give an instant boost of nourishment to curls, softening and moisturizing them when wet. Look for a mask with natural ingredients like rice water and glycerin that is known to soothe damaged or distressed curls.
- Hair mist – A hydrating mist delivers on-the-go moisture to stop humidity in its tracks. When in the humid heat, spritz a mixture with hydrating ingredients like aloe vera and coconut oil, such as our Hydrating Mist, thoroughly in your curls. A quick session with a hair steamer can also revitalize dry or lifeless curls.
Foe #2: Heat
It’s feeling hot, hot, hot—and your curls and scalp feel it, too. In the summer, curly hair can get sabotaged by hot temperatures and sweat.
The outdoor heat may not directly dry out or damage your hair (you can thank humidity for that). However, sweating in the summer, especially with tight braids or cornrows, can be a recipe for scalp disasters. Perspiration creates extra moisture on the scalp, which can irritate and even clog hair follicles by mixing with product buildup and bacteria. Down the line, this can lead to scalp issues like clogged hair follicles and dandruff.2
Another issue with the heat? It often “inspires” your scalp to produce sebum or natural oils, weighing down your curls.3 Luckily, you can prevent the heat from bringing down your juicy coils by cleansing, protecting and nourishing your scalp.
Consider any of these scalp treatments under the summer heat:
- Hydrating shampoo – Filled with nourishing ingredients like aloe vera and honey, our Hydration Shampoo is gentle enough to use at will and preserves your hair’s natural moisture.
- Co-washing – If shampoo leaves your scalp irritated in the summer, then it may be time to try co-washing, or washing with a lightweight product, such as PATTERN’s Lightweight Conditioner. This can prevent aggravating any current irritation from heat or dryness from humidity.
- Scalp treatments – Get to the root of the problem with a scalp treatment. Physical scalp exfoliators (like sugar scrubs) can remove product buildup well, but avoid using them more than twice per week. Try to balance clarifying ingredients (like apple cider vinegar) with more soothing ingredients (like aloe vera and argan oil) to keep your scalp healthy.
Foe #3: UV Rays
Who doesn’t love sunshine in the summer? When you’re outdoors, stay carefree by protecting your hair from the sun’s UV rays.
Ultraviolet light (UV) is a major factor in aging skin, creating wrinkles, dark spots and other signs of photodamage. UV rays are similarly absorbed by hair, denaturing the vital proteins in your follicles. Eventually, overexposure can cause:4
- Rough or dull textures
- Weak tensile strength
- Split ends
- Faded color
So, how do you block the sun without staying indoors? Use an SPF spray for hair, just like you would for your skin. Remember to apply generously to your entire scalp and hair, repeating before the product’s SPF strength fades. You can also always opt for a chic hair wrap or hat to stop the sunshine in its tracks.
Foe #4: Salty or Chlorinated Water
Swimming outdoors is one of summer’s greatest joys. However, your hair may enjoy it slightly less than the rest of you. Salty oceans and chlorinated pools pose a challenge to healthy curls—but not a challenge that can’t be met.
Oceans and pools aren’t like your typical shower. The high salt content of the ocean will directly draw moisture out from your hair, while chemicals like chlorine will leave curls dry and brittle. Protect your curls before hitting the water with these tips:
- Wash beforehand – Before entering a pool or the ocean, wet your hair with fresh water. This prevents your hair from absorbing as much chlorine or salt water, since dry hair is more porous and can absorb more chemicals.
- Apply a protective treatment – A protective treatment, like a leave-in conditioner or hair oil, acts like a barrier, keeping pool or ocean water from drawing out moisture from your hair. In particular, applying coconut oil can minimize any dryness or damage from chlorinated pools.5
- Wear a swim cap – Create a physical barrier between your hair and the water with a swim cap. Protect your edges by choosing a swim cap made from silicone, as they are less likely to pull or tug on the hair.
- Wash afterwards – After swimming, you’ll want to get rid of residue or chemicals and replenish hair moisture. Rinse your hair thoroughly with fresh water to remove any chlorine or salt water, cleanse with a hydrating shampoo and apply a nourishing conditioner.
How Should I Change My Summer Curly Hair Routine?
It can be tough to switch up your curl care routine, especially if it led you strongly through the winter months. But just like the seasons, every hair routine must change with time.
All hair types have their preferred tools and products. Dense 4c coils may need twice-weekly hair masks, while fine 3a curls may need to shampoo more often. However, let’s make it simple. Most natural curls and coils will benefit from these changes in their summer hair care routine:
- More moisture – As stated above, summer is the time to load up on your most nourishing ingredients. Whether you need a weekly conditioner treatment or a more hydrating shampoo, don’t be afraid to bump up the shea butter hair products or coconut oil content.
- UV protection – Protect your hair from the sun all summer with a spray-on SPF mist or your favorite headwrap. Make sure that you consistently reapply any SPF product before its blocking powers run low.
- Detangling tools – With all the sweat and movement, summer often comes with more snarls. Keep your hair fresh with a nourishing detangler, such as our Detangling Nectar, and our Wide-Tooth Comb (or even your fingers).
- Anti-heat hairstyles – There’s no “wrong” way to style your hair in the summer, but there may be less sweaty or frizzy ways. For waves and loose curls, consider a lightweight styling gel to lock in moisture while preserving your curl pattern. For tight coils, lather on a styling cream to beat the heat. Protective styles, like cornrows or faux locs, can also prevent breakage in the summer (as long as you cleanse thoroughly after).
- Hot tool avoidance – In general, hot tools are a no-go for healthy hair. Regular exposure to high heats can denature the proteins in your hair. If you do use a diffuser to set your curls, make sure to use a heat protectant, like PATTERN’s Heat Protectant Spray, beforehand.
Say Hello to Summer with PATTERN
For curly-haired folks, the summer months can bring equal amounts of joy and stress. That's why it's so important to enter the season with a hair care plan, filled with plenty of nourishing ingredients, protective styles and gentle care—and we’re ready to put that plan in bouncy motion.
At PATTERN, we believe that natural ingredients are the key to healthy, beautiful curls. That's why we use plant-based ingredients like aloe vera and shea butter in our products that are known to prevent damage and create glossy, luscious locks—all without toxins or harsh chemicals.
With PATTERN, some SPF and a little bit of TLC, your curls can keep looking and feeling amazing all season long.
- The Zoe Report. How To Care For Natural Hair In The Summer, According To Stylists. https://www.thezoereport.com/beauty/natural-hair-care-summer-guide
- Refinery29. 4 Common Scalp Conditions Affecting Women With Afro Hair & How To Treat Them. https://www.refinery29.com/en-gb/how-to-treat-scalp-conditions-afro-hair
- Vogue India. 4 ways high temperatures and humidity are affecting your scalp and hair. https://www.vogue.in/beauty/content/4-ways-high-temperatures-and-humidity-are-affecting-your-scalp-and-hair
- International Journal of Cosmetic Science. Effect of hyaluronan tetrasaccharides on epidermal differentiation in normal human epidermal keratinocytes. https://doi.org/10.1111/ics.12105
- NIH. Effect of mineral oil, sunflower oil, and coconut oil on prevention of hair damage. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12715094/