Can Curling Sponges Damage Your Hair?

can curling sponges damage your hair?


The natural hair movement has instilled confidence in people with afro hair. We have become liberated, displaying our coils and curls. Consequently, a range of new hair styling techniques have emerged to meet the growing demand for innovative ways to define our curls. One such technique is the curling sponge. Simple, quick and easy to use, the curling sponge can define our curls in minutes, adding that extra panache to hair styles.

However, behind the science of the innovative creation of the curling sponge lay some uncomfortable facts which can result in hair breakage, hair thinning, hair loss, hair matting and dryness. 


How Does a Curling Sponge Work?

The holes or ridges on the curling sponge gather sections of hair into coils, curls and twists when the sponge is rubbed on your hair in circular motions. Sponges with small holes or ridges work best on short hair, helping to create more defined curls. Sponges with large holes or ridges produce larger loose curls for long hair.

How Do I Use a Curling Sponge?

The technique employed to get the best curls from a curling sponge is to:

(1) Wet your hair. Curling sponges work best when used on damp hair. If you use a curling sponge on dry hair it could lead to hair snapping and breakage.

(2) Apply a generous amount of lotion/curling moisturiser. Adding moisturiser to damp hair will help to counteract the drying effect curling sponges have on you hair as well as adding a protective layer to the hair shaft whilst enhancing the definition and shine of the curl/coil/twist produced.

(3) Rub the sponge on your hair tips in a circular motion to create the coil/curl/twist.

Do Curling Sponges Make Your Hair Dry?

The Curling Sponge is a soft, porous material. Because curling sponges are porous, they will absorb the moisture and water in your hair. Consequently, if the curling sponge is used repetitively over a long period of time, it can have a drying effect on your hair. Afro hair types are typically naturally dry because the curl and coil causes hair cuticles to be slightly raised (click here to find out more about why afro hair is dry), therefore using a curling sponge can exacerbate a cycle of dryness.

curling sponges can make hair dry

 Do Curling Sponges Damage Your Hair? 

Curling sponges are usually made up with polyester fibers and contain polyurethane (an abrasive material). By using a tool which contains the aforementioned materials, in a circular motion, rubbing the hair, especially when wet or damp (at the hair’s most sensitive) can have a damaging effect on the hair shaft, causing weathering. Weathering typically happens if you have been using curling sponges for a prolonged period of time. Weathering occurs when trauma or frequent injury is inflicted on the hair shaft through hair styling techniques which involve rubbing the hair strands together against rough objects, such as curling sponge. The damage caused can result in hair loss, breakage or thinning.

damaged cuticle and hair shaft because of weathering

The hair shaft is protected by cuticles, which look like fish scales in appearance, under a microscope. Hair cuticles on afro hair types are naturally slightly raised because of the curl/coil, so rubbing the hair shaft whilst using a curling sponge will raise the hair cuticles even further, causing some of them to break, become fractured or jagged, also known as ‘weathered’. Once the hair cuticles is sufficiently ‘weathered’ the softer parts of the hair shaft are no longer protected, becoming vulnerable to damage and prone to thinning and breakage if the curling sponge is continuously used. Damaged cuticles result in hair breaking, the hair shaft losing its structure, becoming frizzy, matted or forming single or double knots along the hair shaft, known as Trichonodosis. Trichonodosis occurs when hair becomes scratched by the curling brush, causing the cuticles to become fractured and the consequential splintering of the hair shaft which then forms knots.

weathered hair caused by using a curling brush leads to split ends, breakage and knotting

Curling Sponges Can Make Hair Electrostatic

Static electricity is created when two unlikely objects are rubbed against each other. A curling sponge is a foreign object for hair, and when rubbed together in a continuum, the process causes electrons to be transferred between the sponge and hair. The swapping of electrons between the sponge and hair causes a positive charge to build up on your hair. The positive charge of electrons on your hair causes the hair cuticles to become positively charged and raised. Raised cuticles make the hair shaft prone to breakage, causes hair frizz and makes hair feel ‘rough’. 

How To Treat Hair Damaged by Curling Sponges

If you are a frequent user of a curling sponge and you are experiencing hair breakage, hair thinning, small knots on hair strands, frizzy or matted, we recommend:

1) Discontinued use of the curling sponge. This is advisable to prevent further and possibly permanent damage to your hair.

2) Trimming your hair. Using a curling sponge can cause split ends. Split ends make the ends of your hair fragile and more prone to breakage. Split ends can result in endless breakage as the split travels up the hair shaft, so, snipping off split ends is a precaution against hair loss as well as improving the overall health of your hair.

3) Conditioning your hair. A good conditioner will help to restore the health of your hair by flattening hair cuticles which improve hair strength whilst also sealing moisture into the hair shaft. Click here to find out why it is so important to condition afro textured hair.

4) Avoiding putting natural oils onto your hair and scalp. Oils such as black seed oil, jojoba oil, argon oil, alma oil, neem oil and Jamaican castor oil contain a range of nutrients and fatty acids which revitalize and restore dry, under-nourished or rough hair. Although oils such as Black Seed, Jojoba, Argon, Alma, Castor and Neem moisturise hair, enhancing bounce and shine, if they are not rinsed out after 20 to 30 minutes, they can have adverse side effects on the hair shafts. Click here to learn more.

5) Gently massaging your scalp. A scalp massage helps to stimulate the flow of blood around the scalp. When blood circulates around the scalp, it passes vital nutrients to the hair bulb to create hair, helping to restore hair growth. 

For men with afro textured hair suffering from hair loss as a consequence of hair styling techniques, click here to learn more about how to prevent further hair loss. Women who are suffering from hair loss as a result of hair styling techniques should click here for more tips to prevent further hair loss. Men and women with afro textured hair who want to regrow their hair after experiencing hair loss should click here.

Treatment for Damaged Afro Textured Hair

Hair weathered from regular use of a curling sponge can be treated by frequent shampooing by a gentle shampoo, ProTress Essential Scalp Therapy Energising Shampoo, which will help to restore hair, making it thicker and stronger, whilst providing much needed hydration, click here to find out how. When shampooing damaged hair, massaging should be avoided and hair should be washed by gently stroking.

regular shampooing can help to repair hair damaged by a curling brush

ProTress Essential Scalp Therapy Energising Shampoo has been developed with the necessary ingredients to thicken and repair afro hair because it contains Rosemary and Nettle. Rosemary thickens hair because it improves the circulation of blood (microcirculation) around the scalp, which facilitates the transference of nutrients and oxygen to the hair bulb, which is necessary to create hair, restoring hair which was broken by weathering. Nettle cleanses and heals the scalp, calming inflammation caused by the constant pulling of the hair due to the circular motion of the curling sponge on the hair and scalp, to find out how it works click here. To read our reviews, click here.

Regular conditioning can also repair hair damaged by curling sponges because a good conditioner will flatten hair cuticles which have been fractured or broken by weathering. To find out why conditioning afro hair is extremely important, click here.


hair breakage caused by weathering because of use of curling sponge

hair loss caused by curling sponge restored with treatment

YHVH, Foreigners will not drink the new wine for which I have laboured, without my permission.

association of registered trichologists


  • Very informative

  • Very informative

  • Useful information. Now I know what’s going on.


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