This summer, it’s all about embracing your natural hair texture, says hair & beauty editor, Keeks Reid…

After years of chemically straightening and then manually straightening my coils, in the summer of 2020 I finally learned how to work with my natural texture. It took a few false starts and I still don’t always get it perfect, but since then, I’ve really learned how to embrace my hair – and in my experience, summer is the perfect time to start. The weather lends itself to quicker, more laid-back styling, plus the heat and humidity means we often sweat out any attempt at corralling our hair into a straighter texture.

But if you’re someone whose hair straighteners are practically an extension of their arm, it can be nerve-wracking (read, terrifying) to give up your much-loved styling tools or chemicals and go natural. There’s something a little anxiety-inducing about letting the world see you with the hair you were given, a bit like leaving the house without make-up on might. Take Sophie, 32, who disliked her natural hair so much she’d never even let her partner see it. "The first time he saw me with my natural curls was after I gave birth. I was screaming at him not to touch my forehead with a damp cloth as I knew it would make my fringe go curly," she says.

Meanwhile, Amanda, 40, simply feels uncomfortable not styling her hair every day. "It’s got a frizzy texture and I never feel attractive with it not done. I know all the heat styling is making it worse, though, so it’s a vicious cycle."

But there’s benefits to embracing your natural texture. It saves time, it’s gentler on your hair and scalp, and you might discover waves you didn’t know you had, or even suit a more relaxed style. So, how can you make the most of your natural hair this summer, without being fearful of going in the pool in case it gets wet or paying excess luggage fees for all the tools you need to keep it in check? Here’s how you can brave the wave.

Models showing their hair textures
Air care

One benefit that summer brings for any hair texture is the ease of air-drying. It’s also the best way to see what your natural hair is like and, while it can feel daunting, it’s easier than you think.

"I always recommend combing thoroughly first to remove any tangles," says Dionne Smith, Cantu’s natural hair education expert. After scrunching in a leave-in cream or spray, either keep loose or braid hair to help lock in moisture for longer, suggests Dionne. But remember, it’s not a good idea to air-dry in the heat from sopping wet.

"Heat can damage hair," warns Adam Reed, hairstylist and founder of Arkive Headcare. "So be careful not to go out in the hot sun with damp hair. Use a towel to get as much water out as possible and add some product while damp." It’s also a good idea to use a UV filter spray on hair and scalp, such as Charles Worthington Sunshine Protect UV Protection Leave-In Spray, £2.99 (50ml).

Plop ‘til you drop

If you’re ready to truly encourage your curls or texture to take centre stage, try ‘plopping’ on your next hair-wash day. Plopping is a gentle drying technique that keeps moisture intact while helping to reduce frizz and enhance and define curls and waves. Try it post-wash by initially applying a light curl cream or gel onto your wet hair. Lay a T-shirt on your bed, then fold your head forward and ‘plop’ your curls onto the T-shirt. Take the two bottom corners of the T-shirt and wrap them around the nape of your neck.

Take the neckline and pull it over your hair and also into the nape of your neck with the two bottom corners – your hair should be cupped inside the T-shirt. Finally, grab the sleeves and tie in a knot. Dry for 30 minutes to an hour before removing.

Don’t overwash

It can be tempting to wash hair more in the summer, but this may strip it of natural oils. When you straighten, sebum from your scalp lubricates the lengths of your hair, so it’ll often look and feel shinier. However, when hair is curly, oils from your scalp can’t travel the lengths as easily so your hair might feel drier at the tips and greasier at the roots. "On your second and third day, use dry shampoo instead," says Adam. "Focus on your roots and if you have naturally wavy hair, brush in. It’ll give your natural texture a beautifully aerated feel." For coils, Dionne suggests washing every seven to 10 days.

Quench the thirst

Imagine you’ve been stood in the heat for hours without a drop of water – that is how your hair can feel without adequate moisture. When working with natural texture, you need to keep your hair hydrated in order for your texture to pop. As well as regular conditioning and hair masks, if you’ve air-dried, Dionne advises a spritz of a light leave-in conditioner or detangler. Forego using products with a high alcohol content on the lengths, as they can lead to dry strands and frizz.

Go halfway

If going fully natural feels too daunting at first, go slow with a half-up, half-down style. Simply gather some strands from the top and side of your head, and twist up into a half bun or ponytail, securing with a hair tie or clip and leaving the rest of your hair loose and free.

The products to help get you there

Try: AS I AM Naturally, Classic Collection Leave-in Conditioner, £8.99

• Size: 237ml

Apply to clean, wet, detangled hair from root to tip and comb through for hair that looks super shiny and feels extra soft.

Try: Arkive The Good Habit Hybrid Oil, £14

• Size: 50ml

• Vegan

• Cruelty-free

This ultra-light oil, with baobab and jojoba, is perfect for finishing air-dried or blow-dried hair. It’s also for all hair types, from naturally straight to coils. Apply to damp strands and comb through.

Try: Cantu Shea Butter for Natural Hair Deep Treatment Masque, £7.99

• Size: 340g

• Silicone-free

Natural hair looks its best when hydrated – leave this shea, mango and coconut butter-infused mask on damp hair for 30 minutes before rinsing for an extra hit of hydration.

Apply to clean, wet, detangled hair from root to tip and comb through for hair that looks super shiny and feels extra soft.

Try: Tangle Teezer Naturally Curly Detangling Hairbrush in Purple Passion, £13

• Created for 3C-4C hair types

Work your conditioners through your hair snag-free with this detangling brush. The short teeth help reduce frizz, while curls are defined and left looking beautiful.

Try: Bumble and bumble Surf Infusion Spray, £23

• Size: 100ml

A salt spray is great for beginners. Spritz through damp or semi-dry hair, from mids to ends, before scrunching and twisting strands to create or enhance sea-tossed waves.

Try: Twisted Sista Curl Activator Crème, £5.89

• Size: 221ml

Containing coconut, avocado and almond oils, this creme is perfect for those with curly hair who want to add volume, bounce and definition to their locks.

Health & Beauty team members share how they go natural in the summer

Jo Hoare, editor

"Day-to-day, I blow-dry smooth, then curl my natural waves. On holiday, I comb conditioner through my damp hair, add a deep side-parting and clip one section back, for a beach-waves-meets-Hollywood vibe."

Andrea Leebody, associate editor

"I rely on a wave spray when on holiday, such as Bumble and bumble Surf Infusion Spray, £23. This one also has UV filters and oils to nourish my hair. I spritz on, scrunch and done."

Rachel Cramond, account manager

"At home I diffuse, but on holiday I wash out the seawater every evening with a cowash, add some leave-in conditioner and scrunch in a strong-hold gel. It dries while I eat some crisps in the sun. Bliss!"

Ayesha Muttucumaru, associate digital editor

"I dry my wavy hair using a microfibre towel, apply a hair oil and leave loose or pop into a plait to air-dry. It’s a time-saver that spares me a sweaty battle with my hairdryer."

All prices correct on date of publication

Photography: Christoph Klutsch/Blaublut Edition, Kate Powers/Trunk Archive, Nicky Onderwater/Blaublut Edition