How to sleep with curly hair without damaging your precious texture
Even hair needs beauty rest
By Delaney Loane
Digital Beauty Editor / November 08 2021
Ever seen a character in a movie wake up with perfect hair despite the fact they obviously haven’t made any effort/applied any product/swapped out their pillowcases? Exactly; it’s unrealistic.
Because as we beauty buffs know, the way our hair looks during the day often depends on how we treat it during the night. And as anyone with textured hair also knows, said texture will usually either be flattened or frizzy (neither of which are ideal) come morning if you don’t set it up for success.
Now, of course, the wavy/curly/coily spectrum is a wide one, and your specific curl type does influence what’s best for your hair, but there are still some overall strategies that will help keep curls in their best condition.
And luckily, you’ve come to the right place to learn some of ‘em… Here’s how to give your curls the best chance at a bouncy, hydrated and healthy future while you sleep...
Sleep on silky materials
Silk pillowcases like the Slip Queen Size Pillowcase ($95 at Sephora) are great across the board, but if anything, they’re particularly important and beneficial if your hair is curly. Long story short, curls need moisture more than any other hair type (as natural oils often struggle to reach the ends of textured tresses), so silk (which is moisture-wicking and hence more hydration-protecting than cotton) is no doubt a superior choice. Of course, silk cases are also gentler on hair in general, as hair slides over it rather than snagging and tangling your precious curls; basically, it's good news all around.
Sleep in silky materials too
Why just sleep on silk when you can sleep in silk too? If you’re A) too attached to your cotton pillowcase to let it go or B) would prefer to sleep with your curls contained, then there’s no better idea than a silk wrap. Also referred to as bonnets, these hair accessories are not only incredibly chic (and available in an array of silky-soft colours, shapes and prints) but they also help to keep hair secure while you sleep, protecting your curls’ shape and hydration levels. One of our faves? The Silke London Hair Wrap ($76.80 at Ry) in this pretty purple shade.
Give your hair the 'night cream' treatment
Just the way you slather your skin in richer, more hydrating creams before bed, it's smart to follow that same strategy for your curls. Moisture is curly hair’s best friend, so loading up on it in the form of a leave-in conditioner that boosts shine and softness (while also enhancing hair health and elasticity) is a dynamite idea. The Marc Anthony Strictly Curls Leave-In Conditioner ($18.99 at Beauty Connections), for example, is loaded with nourishing shea butter and avocado oil; hello hydration.
Go for styles that suit your hair type
While straight hair types are advised to sleep with hair out, the goal with curls is to avoid tangles but keep texture intact, so styling your hair before bed is actually best. A few ideas to try? A protective ‘pineapple’ (hair gathered at the top of your head with a silk scrunchie – try Slick Hair Co.'s Vegan Silk Scrunchies, $24.99 at Oz Hair & Beauty – tied around it, or something even more secure to stabilise the structure of your curls throughout the night such as twists or braids (secured with bobby pins or tiny elastics).
Try pre-sleep plopping
Going to sleep with wet hair isn’t always recommended, but in the case of curly hair, sometimes you want to wash it right before bed to ensure your curls are as bouncy and fresh as possible the next morning. This is where the ‘plopping technique’ comes in handy – the idea is to add product (like a hydrating, defining curl gel) to freshly washed hair, flip it forward onto a cotton T-shirt, then secure it (by folding the flap of the fabric behind your neck and securing it by knotting the shirt’s sleeves). It’ll allow your texture to form in peace, and you’ll wake up with dry (in a literal sense; not a thirsty one) and defined curls.
Consider 'curl-friendly' sleeping positions
We know sleep position isn't always something you can completely control; 'tossing and turning' is a cliche for a reason. But for the record, sleeping on your stomach is definitely preferable re: curl care. Why, you ask? Because not only does the weight of your head on top of your curls (experienced when on your back or side) tend to crush them, but it can also leave them matted or messy, as extra tangles and knots can be created as your head moves side to side during the night. And we'll do just about anything for our hair, after all...