How to Style Curly Hair: A Comprehensive HandbookView all articles

How to Style Curly Hair: A Comprehensive Handbook

Are you tired of battling with unruly curls that seem to have a mind of their own? Whether you're a veteran of the curly hair community or just beginning to embrace your natural texture, mastering the art of how to style curly hair is essential for maintaining healthy and beautiful locks.

Learning how to style curly hair is key to unlocking the full potential of your gorgeous, natural texture. In this comprehensive guide, I'll delve into the world of styling naturally curly hair, exploring techniques to refresh curls, terms like the LOC method, and expert tips on how to style naturally curly and wavy hair. From defining your curl pattern to selecting the perfect products for your unique needs, consider this your roadmap to achieving soft, defined, frizz-free, and healthy curls.


The Basics of Styling Curly Hair

Learning how to style curly hair can be both an art and a science, requiring patience, various techniques, and the right products to achieve the desired results. To set yourself up for success, it's crucial to master the basics of styling naturally curly hair. These fundamental tips apply to all curl types and lengths - regardless of the exact look you go for.

Start with Damp Hair

Start Styling Curls with Damp Hair

Begin by washing your hair with a sulfate-free shampoo and conditioner to provide a clean and damp canvas for styling. Alternatively, if you're refreshing your curls between washes, use a curl refreshing spray to revive your natural texture.

Detangle When Wet

Use a wide-tooth comb or a detangling brush to carefully detangle your wet curls. Remember, never brush or comb curly hair when it's dry to avoid disrupting the curl pattern and causing frizz.

Dry Right

Let your curls air dry to preserve their natural shape and texture. Try plopping or micro plopping, which involve drying your hair with a cotton t-shirt or a hair towel to encourage curl formation and reduce frizz. If you prefer to use a hairdryer, opt for a diffuser attachment.

Find Your Product Cocktail

Selecting the right mix of styling products is crucial for enhancing and defining your curls. Whether you prefer curl creams, gels, mousses, or oils, look for formulas specifically designed for your hair type and desired level of hold and moisture. I recommend using only Curly Girl Method approved products formulated without silicones, sulfates, or mineral oils.

Apply Products Strategically

Apply Curl Products Strategically

While your hair is still wet, evenly distribute your chosen styling products throughout your curls, making sure to coat each strand from root to tip. To ensure even distribution, make sure to rub your palms together before applying the product to your hair. Use a scrunching motion to encourage curl formation.

Work in Sections

Dividing your hair into manageable sections allows for better product distribution, ensures that each strand is properly coated, and helps to define individual curls more effectively.

Flip It Upside Down

For added volume and lift at the roots, consider styling your curls upside down. This technique helps to defy gravity and promote natural bounce and movement, making it a great approach to styling wavy hair.

Define with Precision

Define Curls with Precision

Use a curl defining brush or try finger coiling (explained below) to enhance the definition of individual curls. This step in your curly hair styling routine can help tame frizz and encourage uniform curl formation throughout your hair.

Hands Off

Once you've applied your styling products, resist the urge to touch your hair while it's drying. Constant manipulation can disrupt the curl pattern and lead to unwanted frizz.

By mastering these fundamental techniques and incorporating them into your curly hair styling routine, you can unlock the full potential of your natural texture. Keep in mind that learning how to style curly hair is an individual process that depends on various factors like your hair type, the climate, and your preferences. That’s why there are many additional techniques and considerations for different types of curls, which I’ll uncover in the following sections.

How to Refresh Curls in the Morning

We've all experienced those mornings when our curls seem to have a mind of their own, appearing lackluster, frizzy, or flat after a night's sleep. Learning how to refresh curly hair after sleeping on it is key to gorgeous next day curls. Here's how to refresh your curly hair after sleeping on it and ensure it looks its best:

  1. Start with Moisture: Begin by spritzing your curls with a curl refreshing spray. Use either water or a mixture of water and a lightweight leave-in conditioner. This step helps to rehydrate your hair and reactivate your natural curl pattern.
  2. Apply Your Styling Products: Follow up with your preferred curl styling product. Be sure to distribute the product evenly throughout your hair, focusing on areas that need extra definition or moisture.
  3. Utilize Your Preferred Styling Techniques: Whether you prefer to scrunch your curls for added volume or use a diffuser attachment to speed up the drying process, tailor your curl refreshing routine to suit your unique needs.
  4. Consider Pineappling for Overnight Maintenance: If you struggle with preserving your curls overnight, consider pineappling—a technique that involves gathering your curls into a loose, high bun on the top of your head before bedtime. This helps to protect your hair from friction and tangling while you sleep, making it easier to refresh your curls in the morning.

Video tutorial: How to Refresh Curls

Learning how to refresh your curls is easier than you might have thought! With the help of a little curl refreshing spray and a styling product combined with the right techniques, your curls will look gorgeous in no time.

Curly Hair Styling Techniques - A Dictionary

When it comes to learning how to style curly or wavy hair, there's no one-size-fits-all approach. In fact, there are countless methods and techniques for manipulating curls and applying products, each with its own unique set of benefits and results. This section serves as your dictionary, decoding the creative names of these techniques and providing insight into their meanings.

Praying Hands Method

This technique involves using flat hands to apply styling products to your hair. By gently gliding your hands over sections of your curls, you can evenly distribute the product without disrupting the curl pattern. This method helps to smooth the hair cuticles, resulting in defined, frizz-free curls.

Raking (and Shaking)

Raking refers to using your fingers to gently comb through your curls, encouraging curl formation and ensuring even product distribution. Additionally, incorporating a gentle shake at the ends of your hair can add extra movement to your curls, enhancing their natural texture.

SOTC (Scrunch Out the Crunch)

SOTC is a term used to describe the process of scrunching out the hard gel cast that forms on your hair as it dries. Once your hair is completely dry, gently scrunch your curls to break the cast and reveal soft, touchable curls underneath. You can use a drop of hair oil to help soften the cast, but be sure to wait until your hair is 100% dry to avoid flattening your curls. Read more about how to use a curl gel here.

LOC Method (Leave-in, Oil, Cream)

The LOC method is a popular technique for styling curly hair. It involves applying three layers of products in a specific order: Leave-in conditioner (or liquid), followed by oil, and finally, cream. The leave-in conditioner provides hydration, the oil seals in moisture, and the cream defines and enhances curl pattern. The LOC method is customizable based on hair type and texture. For instance, for styling wavy hair, a few spritzes of a curl refreshing spray in place of a leave-in conditioner can suffice to avoid your curls falling flat.

Root Clipping

Root clipping is a technique used to add volume to the roots of your hair while it dries. By strategically clipping sections of hair at the roots with hair clips, you can prevent them from falling flat against your scalp and create a more lifted look.

Finger Coiling

After evenly applying your styling product through your hair, finger coiling provides precision and control for enhanced definition. It is a method of shaping individual curl clumps that involves wrapping small sections of hair around your finger and gently pulling downward to encourage curl formation.

Finger Rolling

Finger rolling is similar to finger coiling. It entails taking the end of the section and rolling the curl upwards with the help of two fingers, moving towards your scalp. The tension created during the rolling process tightens the curl, resulting in a smooth and sleek curl formation.


Plopping is a popular technique for drying curly hair to enhance its natural texture while minimizing frizz. It involves wrapping damp hair in a t-shirt or a hair towel to encourage curl formation and reduce drying time. By gently gathering the hair on top of the head and securing it in the fabric, the technique results in more defined and voluminous curls once the hair is dry.


Microplopping, akin to traditional plopping, utilizes a towel to gently squeeze out excess water and product from your hair, but without wrapping it up. Use a hair towel to gently scrunch your hair, lifting sections towards your scalp with a fist-like motion.

Bowl Method

This technique is ideal for individuals with fine, curly hair seeking to create defined curl clumps without weighing down their strands. This is how to do it: Apply curl cream and/or gel generously, then dip your hair into a bowl of warm water a few times, ensuring each section is saturated. Scrunch your curls in between every time you lift your head to encourage curl formation. Remove excess water by gently plopping (or microplopping) with a towel after submersion.

By familiarizing yourself with these techniques for styling curly and wavy hair, you can experiment with different methods to find the ones that work best for your hair type. Whether you're seeking maximum definition, volume, or hydration, there's a technique out there to help you achieve your curly hair goals. Learning how to style curly hair requires some experimentation, but once you find what works best for you, I promise it’s all worth it!

Curly Hair Styling Tutorial - Volume vs. Definition

How to Style Wavy Hair

Styling wavy hair comes with its own set of considerations to ensure your waves look their best without feeling weighed down or losing their natural bounce. Here are some special considerations for how to style wavy hair:

  • Use Fewer Products: Unlike curly hair, wavy hair typically requires fewer styling products to maintain its texture and shape. You can try opting for just one product instead of layering multiple products, as using too much product can weigh down your gentle waves.
  • Choose Lightweight Formulas: When selecting styling products for wavy hair, opt for lightweight formulas that won't overwhelm your delicate waves. Avoid heavy, oil-rich products designed for coils, as they can make your waves appear greasy and flat. Look for mousses, light creams, or volumizing sprays to enhance definition without sacrificing volume when it comes to styling wavy hair.
  • Embrace Your Natural Texture: Sometimes, the best way to style wavy hair is to simply embrace its natural texture. Let your waves air dry without any product for a carefree, beachy look that exudes effortless beauty.

By following these special considerations for how to style wavy hair, you can enhance your natural texture and achieve beautiful, effortless waves that complement your unique look.

How to Style Short, Curly Hair

Similarly to waves, there are some special considerations when it comes to how to style short, curly hair. Whether you're rocking a pixie cut, a bob, or any other short style, here are some special tips to help you embrace and enhance your short curls:

  • Emphasize Volume: Short, curly hair tends to have more volume and bounce, so embrace it! Use volumizing products like mousses or root-lifting sprays to enhance your hair's natural volume and add lift at the roots.
  • Focus on Definition: With shorter hair, defining your curls becomes even more crucial to ensure they don't appear unruly or undefined. Opt for styling products with strong hold and curl-enhancing properties to help define each curl and maintain shape throughout the day.
  • Minimalist Approach: Learning how to style short, curly hair can be very easy. A wash-and-go routine or a simple scrunch of curl cream can be all you need to showcase your curls' beauty and versatility. You can also use accessories like headbands, clips, or scarves to accessorize and elevate your look.
  • Frequent Haircuts: Regular trims are essential for short, curly hair to maintain its shape and prevent unwanted bulk. Short haircuts can quickly lose their structure as curls grow out, leading to a loss of definition. By scheduling regular haircuts every 6-8 weeks, you can keep your short curls looking fresh and well-defined.

That’s all about how to style short, curly hair! By keeping these special considerations in mind and tailoring your styling routine to suit your curls, you can embrace your natural texture with confidence and rock your signature style with ease.

The 10 Best Curl Styling Products

Besides various techniques and methods of styling your curls, finding the right products can make all the difference in achieving bouncy, defined curls that turn heads. Here is a curated selection of top-notch curl styling products designed to nourish, define, and enhance your curls:

  1. Curl Crush™ Defining Gel: This heat-protective curl gel offers medium hold and shine. It moisturizes the hair while forming a protective film to ward off heat damage and frizz-inducing humidity.
  2. Curl Crush™ Defining Cream: This leave-in curl cream defines curls and fights frizz. Its nourishing formula is perfect for hydrating, softening, and defining dry, unruly curls.
  3. Curl Crush™ Defining Mousse: This lightweight mousse works on all curl types to boost volume and add definition, leaving curls bouncy with long-lasting hold.
  4. Curl Crush™ Fine Mist Spray Bottle: An essential tool for refreshing curls between wash days. Fill this curl refreshing spray bottle with water or a leave-in conditioner blend for easy application.
  5. Bamboo Defining Brush: This innovative brush glides through curls easily to distribute styling products, control frizz, and create defined curls. Try it instead of finger coiling or rolling for similar results with less effort. See the tutorial video below for how to use it.
  6. Bamboo Comb: Perfect for use in the shower to detangle wet curls without causing breakage.
  7. Wet Hair Detangler Brush: This brush features soft bristles to prevent tearing or damaging curls while removing knots on wet curls.
  8. Volume Wizard™ Pre-Styling Spray: This volumizing spray nourishes while providing weightless volume, making it ideal for fine curls or waves.
  9. Thermal Shield™ Heat Protectant: Protect your curls from heat damage with this silicone-free spray, whether you're diffusing or using other heat tools for styling curly hair.
  10. Moisture Hero™ Hair Oil: Nourish dry, frizzy, or coarse hair with this 100% naturally-derived hair oil. It also works great as part of the LOC method.

7 Curl Care Tips That Make a Difference

Caring for your curls goes beyond styling; it's about nurturing them from root to tip to ensure they look and feel their best every day. Healthy, hydrated, and strong curls offer the optimal basis for styling naturally curly hair. So if you take good care of your curls, you also save time and effort when styling. Here are some essential curl care tips that can truly make a difference for the health and appearance of your curls:

Start with the Right Wash Routine

Begin by washing your hair with products specifically formulated for curly hair. Consider following the Curly Girl Method, which involves low-poo shampoos or co-washes that are free from harsh sulfates and silicones. Follow up with a silicone-free conditioner for curls to nourish and hydrate your curls without weighing them down.

Condition Strategically

When conditioning your curls, don't rinse out all of the conditioner. Leaving a small amount in your hair helps to keep the moisture and nutrients, leaving your curls extra hydrated and more manageable.

Choose the Right Haircut

Opt for a haircut that respects your natural curl pattern. Consult with a stylist who specializes in curly hair to find the perfect cut that complements your unique texture. Additionally, schedule regular trims to maintain the shape of your haircut and prevent split ends, keeping your curls looking fresh. Believe me, this makes styling your curly hair so much easier!

Protect Your Curl Pattern While Sleeping

Protect your curls while you sleep by using a smooth bamboo pillowcase, which reduces friction and prevents frizz and tangling, making your curl refreshing routine in the morning a breeze.

Consider Hair Porosity

Understand your hair's porosity—its ability to absorb and retain moisture—so you can tailor your hair care routine accordingly. Low-porosity hair may benefit from lightweight products and steam treatments to open up the hair cuticle, while high-porosity hair may require richer products formulated with repairing proteins to help seal in moisture.

Harness the Power of Hair Oils

Incorporate natural hair oils into your routine to provide deep hydration and nourishment to your curls.

Don’t Skip Deep Conditioning

I recommend using a deep conditioning hair mask once a week to give your curls an extra dose of hydration and nourishment. Choose a mask specifically formulated for curly hair to help repair damage, reduce frizz, and enhance curl definition.

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I hope you have found this article about how to style curly hair useful. I highly recommend experimenting with various techniques and products to find what works best for your unique curls. Give one approach more than one chance, as it can take a few times to master a new curly or wavy hair styling technique. It’s also a good idea to look up video tutorials on how to style curly hair or how to refresh curls for more inspiration.

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