1. Shampoo your hair twice a week, any more than that will dry out your hair. Only wash the scalp because that's where the oils are concentrated while shampoo will dry out the rest of your hair . . . the ends will wash sufficiently with water and shampoo running through them when you rinse. Any shampoo will do - I use Head & Shoulders and Dove.
2. Condition a few times a week and use Cholesterol, a deep conditioner for dry, thick hair made for African-Americans. I never have tangles since I started using this in high school. Only condition the bottom half of your hair with a small amount and let set for a few minutes before rinsing. You can find Cholesterol at the Dollar Store or Wal-Mart. (If your hair is not very dry, this conditioner may make your hair oily. Find something a little less intense but use the same process.)
3. Never comb your hair with a brush; use a wide tooth pick or comb instead. Better yet: use your fingers. And only comb your hair when it's wet; otherwise you'll simply succeed in breaking your hair and making it frizzy.
4. Optional: use a leave-in cream after shower when hair is wet. For example, I currently use Sunsilk Captivating Curls (basically, whatever I can find on sale and seems to work well). Only put on the bottom half of your hair. (See the pattern? Wash the top. Condition the bottom.)
5. Use moose after the leave-in cream. I found that the price tag on the mousse makes no difference. I once tried Paul Mitchell mousse (6.7 oz for $10) and I actually like my Herbal Essences mousse better (6.8 oz for about $3 on sale)! Plus, I go through it so fast that I definitely do not want to spend $10 every time. Use amounts proportionate to the thickness & length of your hair. (My hair is shoulder length currently, and I use about 1.5 handfuls.) Note: gel will work similarly, but will make your hair stiffer and tends to flake.
6. Let your hair air dry. Blow drying will only frizz & dry out your hair. Diffusers can help but I have never been successful with them. (And no - going out with a wet head in winter has never made me sick and I've been doing it for about 15 years now.)
7. For those with super thick hair, please get your hair thinned!!! I wish someone would have told me about this when I was 5. The benefits are endless: my hair is not as poufy; I can wear it down more often; it allows me to cut my hair chin-length and not have to wear it long for the rest of my life; my ponytail isn't 2 inches thick, etc. You can have your hair thinned either via razor or thinning-shears. Both are effective; the razor gives more texture. I've had mine done both ways...sometimes both at the same time if it's feeling especially thick. I usually only have the bottom layer thinned, so there are no short pieces sticking out.
8. Get your hair trimmed at least every 3 months. The ends of curly hair will tend to get dry and frizzy first. Plus, hair will grow in differently and curl differently depending on your season of life, so regular trims will help the difference not to be so severe.
9. A comment about straightening. It is fun to do . . . to switch it up every once in a while. But remember that it is damaging for your hair (the blow drying and the heat from the straightener), especially if you do it often. I only straighten mine a few times a year (mostly because it's such a pain to do and takes forever). Plus, I have this theory that the more you straighten, the more your hair "forgets" what it is like to be curly and will therefore take longer to get back to its natural "bouncy" state.
10. You may be wondering what to do with your hair on the days that you do not shampoo or condition. One option: throw it in a ponytail. Another option: don't be afraid to just wet down your hair - either in the shower or with a squirt bottle filled with water. I find that wetting my hair down will give me a "brand-new slate." Either just "reuse" the mousse from the day before (sometimes there is enough on there to last two days) or add some more product and you're ready to go.
These are the strategies I discovered over the years. Mostly it was trial and error . . . trying to help my curls be as healthy (and easy to care for) as possible. So just find what works best for your hair and perhaps my tips will help along the way.
If you are curious about some of the points I mentioned above, I welcome any questions or comments. And please chime in if you have a strategy of your own to add to the list.
From a girl who is just trying to enjoy the hair God gave her,