If you’ve ever spent any time during the summer in NYC or another sticky city, you know full well how muggy weather can make your hair frizz up—especially if your strands are naturally curly. But before trying to fix frizzy hair, it’s worth understanding exactly what it is and what causes it first.
“Frizz is generally caused by a raised cuticle layer,” says Windle London co-founder Neil Moodie. When the cuticle is raised, moisture from the air is able to enter the hair shaft and cause it to swell. “The hair looks dry and frizzy when the cuticle isn't lying flat. When the cuticle is flat, hair looks smoother.”
Meet the Expert
As for those with curly hair? They naturally have frizz. “Curly hair is drier than straight hair because the natural oils produced by our scalp can’t travel as easily down the hair shaft like on straight hair,” explains Moodie. Curly hair can also look frizzy if the hairs haven’t been bonded together to create a defined curl.”
So what’s a curly-haired or humid weather–bound person to do? Ahead, top hair experts share the best ways to smooth your strands and fix frizzy hair for good.
Use Shampoo That Works For Your Hair—If Any at All
Shampoos that contain sulfates can strip the hair of its natural oils, which are necessary for fighting frizz. Instead, opt for a sulfate-free formula, which is gentler on the hair and the scalp, and only wash with shampoo when your hair really needs it. Olaplex's No. 4 Bond Maintenance Shampoo is specifically designed for those with damage and is, of course, free of sulfates. If you have curly hair, consider skipping traditional shampoos and sticking with a cleansing conditioner full of moisturizing ingredients instead.
"Dry hair needs moisture, so conditioners and weekly treatments are the best and easiest way to hydrate hair quickly," says stylist Mark Townsend. "Daily conditioning is very important because it hydrates hair and smooths the cuticle, hiding dryness and split ends."
Townsend recommends Collective Labs Fortifying Conditioner, "because it hydrates and softens the hair without weighing it down, so it’s perfect for daily use."
Try a Leave-In Conditioner
For happy, frizz-free hair, Ramirez Tran Salon hairstylist Erin McKay says her number one tip is moisture. She suggests leave-in conditioners, oils, and creams to coat the hair's shaft so it's less able to soak up the humidity in the air. “Apply to wet hair a few inches away from your roots through your ends,” McKay says. The keyword here is "wet." Mistry explains, “The more the hair dries without product to hold it together, the more it separates, and that separation turns into frizz.”
We love Christophe Robin's lightweight, leave-in mist. Not only is it silicone-free, it's formulated to hydrate and detangle hair without weighing it down. It’s also free of parabens, silicones, oxidants, and phthalates, so it's great for those with sensitive skin.
Opt for a More Intensive Treatment
"I tell my clients to use Rita Hazan Weekly Remedy Treatment because it adds tons of moisture to hair that is dry and has been damaged from color and heat styling and it seals the cuticle making it feel soft and leaving it frizz free," Townsend says. "For extremely dry hair I like to use K18 Leave-In Molecular Repair Hair Mask ($75) every 2-3 weeks for a deep protein and moisture treatment."
Use Cold Water
"There are so many ways to help keep moisture in the hair, like using cold water to rinse out conditioner," Townsend says. "I know it sounds painful especially in winter months but it does make a big difference because the cold water seals the cuticle and reduces moisture loss."
Detangle in the Shower
“With naturally curly hair, the first rule is never to brush the hair when it’s dry, apart from before shampooing,” Moodie. Instead, detangle your curls while washing with conditioner, Dhiran Mistry, a stylist at David Mallett in NYC, suggests. Combing in the shower rather than once your hair is dry will ensure your curls maintain their pattern.
Skip the Cotton Hair Towel
Rubbing hair dry with a towel (especially the fluffy cotton kind) only roughs up the cuticle, which makes it more prone to the frizzies once it dries. "Cotton absorbs moisture and leaves the hair cuticle wide open," Townsend explains. "Instead, opt for a microfiber towel and switch the pillowcase you sleep on to satin or sateen, they don’t strip moisture from the hair and lower friction that happens when you move around while sleeping which leads to much less frizz in the morning." Townsend opts for the Collective Labs Microfiber Hair Towel ($15).
Thoroughly Dry Your Hair When Blow Drying
Styling your hair with heat is a great way to seal the cuticle. When using a blow-dryer, make sure you dry it completely. Drybar founder Alli Webb tells Byrdie, “If your hair is prone to frizz, chances are you probably aren’t getting it 100 percent dry when blow-drying. Even the slightest trace of moisture will cause hair with texture or wave to frizz.”
Smooth the Cuticle With a Blow-Dryer
“The way we style our hair is a big factor for frizz control,” shares Moodie. “When blow-drying hair, whether it's straight or drying it from curly to straight, always remember to blow the air of the dryer down the hair shaft, away from the roots to the ends, following the brush with the dryer. If you blow the hair upward toward the roots, this will cause the cuticle to raise.”
Swap Hairspray With an Anti-Frizz Oil
While it can be tempting to use a hairspray to smooth frizzies and flyaways, most formulas contain a high level of alcohol, which will dry out the hair and further cause frizz. When finishing your style, lock in the moisture with a smoothing oil or hydrating cream (Moodie suggests W&M Invisible Day & Night Cream). Work a bit of the product into to the palms of your hands, and gently smooth down stray strands.
Try a Supplement
"To grow healthy and moisturized hair, I tell my clients to take the Collective Labs Revitalizing+ Supplements ($85) which contain Ultra Omega 3 and hyaluronic acid which adds tons of moisture to the hair and skin (scalp is skin)," Townsend says.
Embrace Frizz and Flyaways
“Sometimes in a moist climate, we can't avoid frizz,” shares Webb. “So I always tell people to work with it, not against it. Opt for waves with texture so when frizz does creep in, no one will even notice.” And who says frizz can't be cool and beautiful, too? Your hair's natural texture is unique to you—and your frizz is a part of that.
D'Souza P, Rathi SK. Shampoo and Conditioners: What a Dermatologist Should Know?. Indian J Dermatol. 2015;60(3):248-254. doi:10.4103/0019-5154.156355