For a long time, the beauty community’s solution to natural hair was to alter its texture with treatments: relaxers, keratin, etc. However, more and more we’re seeing women embrace their natural hair, specifically by forgoing mainstream hair care recommendations and uncovering their own.

Hair care procedures specific to natural hair have long been overlooked by some beauty experts who tend to assign the same suggestions to all hair types. The truth is that natural hair requires a very different process both day-to-day at home and in the salon.

Whether you’re preparing to enter cosmetology or just seeking out some tips for your own natural hair regimen, there are a few things to know to bring out the true beauty of your real, unfiltered, untreated locks.

Determine Curl Type

The hair typing system was developed by stylist Andre Walker, and its main purpose is to separate hair into categories based on curl frequency. There are four main categories of curl level (numbered 1-4), with subcategories to define the exact frequency of that curl level (lettered a-c).

This graphic breaks down the hair typing system:

Most natural hair falls in the Type 3a to Type 4b range. Determining the exact range of your (or your client’s) hair will help you to understand how exactly it will be impacted by heat styling, external conditions (humidity, moisture), and which products are best to bring out its definition.

Get acquainted with the right products

First and foremost, it’s time to go sulfate-free when it comes to shampoo and conditioner. While this is true for most hair types these days — and even treated hair — it’s especially pertinent for natural hair. Investing in a shampoo/conditioner combo that contains argan oil, coconut milk, or avocado oil will moisturize and revitalize — particularly if you’re transitioning to natural hair after regularly having it treated.

Also look into some leave-in conditioners and curl creams to reinvigorate your natural hair between washes.

And speaking of between washes, you may need to decide if co-washing is right for you. If one thing’s for certain, it’s that frequent shampooing is the enemy of beautiful, bouncy curls. However, you may still need to shampoo fairly often if your scalp has a tendency toward producing more oil — and if you’re a fairly active person. This is also true if your strands are on the thinner side.

Though your hair may be voluminous, the individual strands could still be on the thinner side, in which case more frequent washing may be necessary.

If possible, consider keeping shampooing to once or twice a week, and in the meantime, co-wash with a cleansing conditioner between shampoo sessions.

Managing the diffuser

Bye-bye, blow dryer! Helloooo, diffuser!

Get comfortable managing a diffuser, as it will fluff, soften, and defrizz natural hair to get it to unlock its ultimate potential. Diffusers can enhance all curly hair, dispersing heat evenly so it achieves maximum bounce without damaging the cuticle of the hair.

This is another area where knowing your or your client’s hair type (per the chart from earlier) is extremely handy. For starters, a different diffusing technique applies to Type 4 curls. You’ll want to operate on a lower, cooler setting and hold it farther from the hair than you would for Type 3 curls.

There are a lot of nuances to this tool, so learning how to properly operate a diffuser on natural hair is critical.

Of course, there are countless ways to let your hair live its best life. Whether you decide to embrace your stunning natural texture or experiment with the exciting world of treatments, it comes down to this: your hair, your choice, wear it confidently and you’ll always look your best — and a qualified cosmetologist, like those at American Beauty School, will always work with what makes you feel beautiful in that moment.