Style Curly Hair

While some people go to great lengths for curly hair with curling irons, curlers, and perms, many with naturally curly hair find themselves cursing their locks. Curly hair can be difficult to style – it tends to be unruly in the morning, and in humid climates it is prone to frizz. However, with the right haircut, care, and styling techniques, you can create smooth, gorgeous curls. Striking the right balance of these elements can take a bit of experimentation and patience, but soon you'll find it's easy to take advantage of your hair's natural beauty.


Caring for Curly Hair

  1. Use the right shampoo and conditioner. Curly hair can be prone to getting dry and frizzy, so it's important to choose products that don't cause damage. Using moisturizing, sulfate-free shampoo and conditioner.
    • Avoid silicone, which can prevent moisture from penetrating your hair.
    • Some shampoos and conditioners are specially formulated for curly hair. It's not necessary to use one of these, but it's worth giving them a try to see if they help define your curls.
    • Leave-in conditioner is a good option for curly hair, since it helps the curls stay smooth and moisturized throughout the day. Otherwise, try not rinsing out your conditioner completely, leaving just a bit in.
    • Don't overdo the amount: 1-2 quarters worth of shampoo and conditioner should be adequate.[1]
  2. Consider shampooing with conditioner. Shampoo strips your hair of its natural oils, which are necessary for curls to appear vital and frizz-free. Conditioner is less harsh, yet also has a certain amount of cleansing action. Try washing with a conditioner regularly (however often you need), and using shampoo just once a week.[2]
  3. Use cold water for your last rinse of your hair. Here's the secret to taming your frizz: use the coldest water you can stand when you wash your hair. Hot water is hard on the hair shaft, while cold water causes the shaft to close, making curls look sleek and shiny when the hair is dry.
    • If you can't bear the idea of taking a cold shower, try washing your hair in the sink instead of running the cold water over your entire body. When you're in the shower, use a shower cap to protect your curls from the warmer water.
  4. Dry your hair with a clean T-shirt, not a towel. It will make it less frizzy, and won't damage your hair like towels.[1] Afterwards, put your head upside down and shake it, letting the curls take their natural shape.
    • Microfiber towels are also gentler on curls and may be more absorbent than a T-shirt.
  5. Use a curl-enhancing product. Experiment to find what works for you: an inexpensive anti-frizz serum may be adequate, or you might want to splurge on a more expensive curl-styling cream that moisturizes and adds definition. After washing, add a bit of product to wet hair and work through with a wide-toothed comb, working from the ends to the roots (this prevents breakage).[1][3]
    • Top that off with a curl-defining gel; you can rake, scrunch, or smooth it in. Make sure each curl gets a little of product from root to tip. When you're finished, use your fingers to scrunch the curls to give them extra definition.
  6. Let your hair air dry. The healthiest way to dry curls is to let them dry on their own time. Don't wring out or rub your hair; this causes hair to become rough and frizzy.
    • Avoid using a hair dryer unless it's a special occasion. Air drying is the better for daily care, since it doesn't damage your hair.
    • Curly hair can often take a very long time to dry, since it's so thick and dense. If you don't have the patience for air drying, use a hair dryer with a diffuser on the coolest setting.
  7. Dry with a diffuser if you're in a hurry. The diffuser attachment spread out the heat so that it doesn't flow in a direct stream on one part of your hair. Work your way around your head with the diffuser, using its prongs to lift and dry your curls around the scalp, down the back and sides, and down to the tips. When you're drying the ends of your hair, position the diffuser upside down underneath the hair and gently push your curls up to add volume. Continue until your hair is slightly moist, rather than completely dry.[4]
    • Using a hotter setting on your dryer will result in shinier curls.
    • If you'd rather have waves instead of tight curls, don't push your curls up with the diffuser; point it straight at them instead.
  8. Finish with a touch of product for hold. Use a medium-hold spray to keep your look in place throughout the day. Stay away from spray with alcohol, though, as it dries out your hair.
    • Alternatively, put a little serum or wax on your curls to create definition.[4]
  9. Avoid brushing your curls, wet or dry. Wet brushing causes your hair to break off and adds unnecessary stress to the hair follicle. A wide-toothed comb is easier and you can also use it to distribute conditioner evenly while you're still in the shower. Avoid brushing curly hair when dry because it will make your hair poof and frizz.
  10. Keep curls fresh throughout the day. If you notice your curls starting to fall or frizz, wet your hair a bit and apply whatever product you like to use (curl cream, gel, mousse, or another product). Scrunch your hair up a bit to make your curls look as fresh as they did in the morning.
  11. Wear a rope-twist bun. This bun is a variation on the classic, showcasing your hair's naturally beautiful texture. It's perfect for styling when you don't have much time: all you need is an elastic and a few bobby pins.
    • Starting with dry hair, pull all your hair to one side and divide into two equal sections (keeping them to the one side).
    • Twist each section starting from the roots and working all the way to the tips. You should twist both sections in the same direction.
    • Working in the opposite direction to the twists, wrap the two sections together from root to tip. In other words, if you twisted each section clockwise (to the right), your "rope" will be formed by wrapping the pieces together in a counterclockwise motion (to the left).
    • Secure the end of the wrap with an elastic. An elastic that is close to your hair color will be less visible in the final bun.
    • Coil the rope-braid around into a bun at the base of your head, slightly to one side, and secure with bobby pins.[5]
  12. Create a rolled headband style for fast elegance. This look has a romantic grace and looks more complicated than it is. The only styling tools you need are an elastic headband that fits around your head and a few bobby pins.
    • Pass the headband over your hair so that it fits around your head, passing just under the occipital bone, which curves in at the back of your head.
    • Tuck your hair into the band in 1-2 inch (2.5-5 cm) sections, starting from behind your ears. After passing a section through, you'll then re-tuck it so that it gradually forms a roll. Work your way towards the back of your head, until all the hair is tucked.
    • Secure the roll with a few bobby pins if needed.
    • The band will be exposed at the top of your head.[6]
  13. Wear a curly pompadour. This updo gets your curls noticed effortlessly and is fancy enough for dressy occasions.
    • Gather your hair at the top of your head, using a comb to smooth the sides and back.
    • Fasten it in place using an elastic band.
    • Bring the ponytail forward and tuck the ends under, then use a few bobby pins to keep your curls in place.
    • Pin some strands around the ponytail elastic to hide it from view.
  14. Celebrate loose curls with a half-crown braid. When you want to wear your hair down, this is an excellent way to get a little style with minimal effort.
    • Braid a 1-2 inch (2.5-5 cm) section of hair starting from above your left ear. Angle the braid to wrap back around your head and secure with a small, clear elastic.
    • Repeat with a strand from above the right ear.
    • Wrap the left braid back and around, towards the right ear. Secure with a few bobby pins.
    • Repeat with the right braid, crossing it over the first braid and tucking the end underneath it. Secure with bobby pins.[7]

Getting the Right Haircut

  1. Find a hairdresser that understands curly hair. Curly hair can be notoriously difficult to cut, and hairdressers need to understand the needs of different kinds of curls in order to give you a great cut. The good news is that proper cutting is half the battle in styling curly hair. With the right cut, you may find you suddenly love your curls.
    • Ask a friend with curly hair to recommend someone. Or, if you see someone who looks fabulous in their curls, don't be afraid to ask where they get their hair cut – chances are, they'll be flattered!
    • Try doing an Internet search of salons or individual hairdressers in your area that specialize in curly hair. Read reviews and check prices.
  2. Go to your haircut with freshly-washed curls. It's important for the stylist to see your hair in its fluffiest, curliest state: this helps them best assess what kind of cut you need.
    • Wash your hair that morning or the night before, and let it air dry.
    • Avoid using oils or silicone products.[8]
  3. Cut your hair before coloring. Although the salon process usually goes in reverse (first color, then cut), it's important for curly hair to get cut first so that you have the overall shape.[9]
  4. Cut curls dry. Every curl has its own shape and weight, and this is evident only when your hair is dry. The hairdresser needs to see the character of each curl to understand how to cut individual pieces for the overall desired effect. Often a curl-by-curl cut is the best way to go.[10]
  5. Get the right layers. If you want long curly hair, ask your stylist to add long layers, which prevent it from getting too heavy at the end.[11] Make sure, though, that they are long enough to have some weight. Short layers without adequate weight will bounce up and out, creating a big look.[12]
  6. Color gently. Curly hair tends to be more fragile than straight, and the caustic chemicals in hair dye can wreak havoc on it, compromising curl structure and resulting in lots of frizz. If you want to color your hair, choose a gentler color and proceed gradually.[13]
    • For example, instead of going from dark brown to platinum blonde, consider adding in some highlights to start.
  7. Have the stylist dry your hair curly. You'll need to see your hair curly in order to assess the success of the cut, so you should have it dried with a diffuser, or better yet, sit under a hooded dryer. Resist the urge to have them blow it out straight.


  • For extra moisturizing, apply coconut oil in your hair from roots to tips. Using a wide-toothed comb, remove all the tangles. Wash your hair with a mild shampoo after 2 hours. Overnight oiling is also fine.
  • Do not wash your hair everyday, only wash it when you need to.
  • If you live in a particularly humid area, try to find an anti-humidity hair product that works well for you. Most of them should have the consistency of watered-down gel.
  • Allow hair to dry natural, apply anti-frizz serum and don't fluff or touch until dry.
  • Wear a bun hairstyle overnight so that you will have a beautiful curly hair when you wake up!
  • Use a moisturising deep conditioner to keep your curls soft and shiny!
  • Keep your hair in a pineapple shaped bun at night to preserve curls and avoid frizz.
  • For extra volume at the roots, move the blow-dryer in a small circular motion while hair is cupped in the diffuser at the scalp.
  • Use a curling iron to help define the curls. If there are spots where the curls look a little loose or unkempt, use a large-barreled curling iron to make them look more curly.
  • Plait a braid overnight when you wake up add some hair mask of if you're in a hurry add some water and don't comb.
  • Sleep on a satin pillow, which doesn't tend to frizz or flatten curls the way cotton or poly-cotton blends do.[1]

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Sources and Citations