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How To Style Curly Hair

Last Updated on March 21, 2022

How To Style Curly Hair

While curly hair is beautiful and will certainly turn heads, anyone with curly hair knows that caring for and styling curls is an immense challenge.

It’s all a bit of trial and error, really.  

Plus with so many options to choose from, from leave-in conditioners to gels, mousses, and creams. To an outsider or even someone new to caring for their curls, it’s no easy feat.

Choosing the right products is like a cocktail for your curls, and the products you choose will be make or break for your curls and don’t worry, you’re not alone.

Now, wait, let me tell you something.

Check out a few of my other guides for my top product recommendations for curly hair; today is all about the technique and method of styling your curls.

Paring the right products for your curls based on your hair porosity and curl type with the right technique will transform curly hair into luscious and bouncy curls.

Stay tuned. You won’t want to miss this!

hair towel

How to Find the Right Curl Products:

The key to luscious curly locks is firstly by choosing the right hair products that will keep your curls hydrated and work with your hair type.

This means you need to work out your hair porosity and curl type.

Working out your hair porosity:

Working out your hair porosity is a big feature in styling curly hair. Your hair porosity is your hair’s ability to absorb and retain moisture and hence your products.

Porosity is determined by how the cuticles lie on your hair follicle; the flatter the cuticle, the harder it is for moisture to move in and out of the hair– this is also known as low porosity hair.

High Porosity Hair:

High porosity hair has a raised cuticle to absorb water and moisture easily, but it can also quickly lose moisture as water passes in and out quite easily.

High porosity hair also takes a lot longer to dry, often taking hours or even a day to dry naturally because of the amount of moisture it soaks up when washing.

This type of hair porosity has trouble retaining moisture, so hair often feels dry. To help with this, you can treat the hair with a diet high in protein or products high in amino acids.

Since high porosity hair is quite dry, it tends to be prone to frizz, tangling, breakage, and split ends.

Low Porosity Hair:

The cuticle lies flat with low porosity hair, making it difficult for water to pass through the cuticle. This can lead to product buildup, which can weigh down your curl pattern.

The structure of low porosity hair doesn’t easily absorb moisture into the hair shaft, making it harder for water to saturate your hair when it is washed; this can also make it harder to process and style.

Products tend to sit on top of low porosity hair, sometimes leaving a white residue of product buildup. Low porosity hair also takes longer to straighten, which can be a pain.

Natural oils struggle to penetrate the hair, so low porosity hair can become quite dry and coarse without a deep conditioning routine.

But it’s not all doom and gloom, low porosity hair is brilliant at retaining moisture, so while it’s difficult to get moisture in the hair strand, your hair holds into it once it’s in there.

Low porosity hair looks and feels hydrated for days after deep conditioning; low porosity hair also tends to be much shinier, silkier, and healthier-looking than other hair types.

How to style curly hair based on porosity:

Those with low porosity curls may require lightweight products and heat treatments to absorb into the cuticle. In contrast, high porosity hair may need butters, oils, and proteins to seal the cuticle and keep them moisturized, hydrated, and healthy.

Check out my full guide of everything you need to know about hair porosity and tips and tricks to working out your hair porosity here.

Once you know your hair porosity, you can purchase products that work for your hair type, and they’re more likely to suit your hair best.

Curl type:

The next step is to work out your curl type; this will help you choose the products based on your curl pattern.

If you have tight coily curls, then going for more hydrating products will be best as this curl type tends to be the driest. If you have quite loose waves, choosing a lightweight product may be best; otherwise, it may leave a greasy residue.

The same goes for if you have quite thick, coarse, and dry curls that are prone to shrinkage, you may need a heavy product to weigh down your curls and to hydrate them.

If you have quite fine hair, then using heavy products may leave a greasy residue on your hair and may lead to product buildup if you have low porosity hair on top of that.

Working out your curl pattern will massively help when styling your curls, as it will allow you to choose your products accordingly.

curly hair styling

Tips And Tricks Before You Style Curly Hair:

While working out your hair porosity and curly hair pattern, there are still a few more tips and tricks to remember.

Invest in good curly hair shampoo and conditioner:

Curly hair isn’t like the rest. There are so many things you need to consider when you wash your hair, and your shampoo and conditioner are one of them.

For starters, your shampoo and conditioner need to be free of sulfates; sulfates can strip natural oils from your scalp and strip the ends of your hair. Since curly hair is already lacking in moisture, this can really dry out your curls and be very damaging for your curls

Using a sulfate-free option can really help prevent frizz and promote the natural curl. But sulfates aren’t the only ingredient you should avoid:

  • – Sulfates
  • – Silicones, anything that ends in ‘cone’ in the ingredient list
  • – Waxes and mineral oil
  • – Drying alcohols
  • – Parabens
  • – Phalates

As long as you’re quite ingredient savvy with your products, this shouldn’t be an issue. Check out the full curly girl method guide to how to care for your curls here.


Sulfate-free shampoo is a brilliant alternative, but it can still be quite a harsh detergent for some curly hair girls. Instead, you can co-wash in between shampoos to cleanse and hydrate hair without drying it out.

It is recommended that you shampoo your hair once a week and then co-wash in between to refresh curls and remove any excess oils from the roots.

Plus, you can only comb your hair and use styling products on soaking wet hair to leave it frizz-free, which can help refresh your curls.

Maintain a good deep condition routine:

When styling curly hair, healthy curls are much more manageable, so it’s best to use a deep conditioner every week or two. This will help combat dry hair and prevent frizz.

Using a hair mask once a week to deep condition your curl locks can really lock in moisture, which is crucial if your hair is particularly dry or damaged.

You can either make your own hair mask or buy a curly-friendly hair mask online or in-store. I’ve selected my top picks in my guide here.

These treatments can penetrate deeply into the cuticle, which helps strengthen the hair strand and restore moisture and luster. You can apply this deep conditioner before your shower and leave it for half an hour, and then wash your hair like usual.

You should also invest in a moisturizer for curly hair too. 

If you have low porosity hair, you can pair this treatment with a steaming treatment or tying your hair on top of your head in a shower cap and using a blow dryer to help open the cuticle.

Use coconut oil:

I would massively recommend using coconut oil in your hair care routine, especially if you have type 3 or 4 curly or coily, frizzy hair.

Raw coconut oil has some serious benefits for your curls; it deeply penetrates and promotes moisture to the strand inside and out.

Coconut oil works by sealing in water in your hair strand, preventing it from evaporating. This means your hair is more hydrated and the moisture barrier restored.

It also helps seal split ends and strengthens hair to prevent breakage. The high vitamins and essential fatty acids penetrate deep into the hair strands to moisturize the hair.

Fatty acids are crucial to the health of your hair. It can help improve the health of your hair from the inside; they are full of nutrients and proteins, which help strengthen the hair strand and even reduce hair loss.

Invest in a silk pillowcase:

You may have heard that using a cotton pillowcase can cause a whirl of frizz; the friction from tossing and turning in your sleep can cause frizzy hair and even damage.

Some pillowcases are quite scratchy in the material, so they pick up a lot of friction while you sleep, and if you’re sleeping with curly hair or have naturally curly hair, it will be a frizzy mess by the morning.

Believe it or not, your pillow sucks out a lot of moisture from your hair which is a no-no for a curly girl as curly hair is naturally very dry as it is.

A satin pillowcase takes up a lot less moisture and, all in all, much better for your hair, so if you forget to tie up your hair or don’t want to, then you can at least use a satin pillowcase to protect your curly hair.

Check out more on how to protect your hair while you sleep here.

Use a microfibre towel:

Many of us have been tackling frizz for years, and for many of us, the cause of frizz is lack of moisture and damage, and your cotton towel may be the top culprit.

Due to the towel’s texture, this can cause crater holes in your hair strands which can cause hair to become very weak and prone to breakage.

Unlike a microfibre towel, your regular cotton towel will absorb more moisture than it needs to, causing your hair to feel very dry.

Rubbing your head with a regular towel can also cause friction which may result in frizz. A microfibre towel is a much better alternative, especially for curly hair.

Check out my full guide as to why here.

styling curly hair

Step By Step To Styling Curly Hair:

Right enough about me rambling about how to care for curly hair, let’s jump into what you’re really here for, how to style your curly hair. So here’s the step-by-step.

Step One: Wash and Condition Your Curls:

This seems the most obvious, but the first thing you’ll want to do is wash your hair. Whether it is your shampoo wash day or whether you’re co-washing, curls are much more manageable when clean.

The first thing you’re going to want to do is massage your scalp under the running water for a couple of minutes; this will help stimulate the scalp and help break down the buildup.

Ensure the temperature is warm and not hot as the heat can damage your hair and strip the hair from moisture.

Then once you’ve massaged for a good minute or two, grab your shampoo or cleansing conditioner and massage it in your hands for 10 seconds and again into your scalp for a further minute.

Rinse and repeat one more time; it’s super important to do two shampoos as this will remove all styling product buildup.

Step Two: Apply Your Leave-In Conditioner:

Once you’ve shampooed, you can either apply a deep conditioner mask and leave it for 30 minutes and rinse or apply your regular conditioner.

For those with low porosity hair, this is where you can use a steamer on your head to help the conditioning products penetrate the cuticle.

You can either detangle your hair while the conditioner is on or once you’ve rinsed it off and applied your leave-in. This can be a leave in curl defining cream or conditioner. 

Any curl defining products are key for curly hair. 

I like to start detangling while the conditioner is on as the conditioner will help detangle your hair and prevent breakage; I will only roughly detangle then continue to detangle after rinsing and applying my leave-in conditioner.

Remember to use a wide-tooth comb or a detangling wet brush since hair is most fragile while wet; this will help ease knots and tangles without tugging or snagging on the hair.

Step Three: Apply Styling Products:

There are two ways you can apply your styling products; it is all about your preference really. The main important factor is that you apply your products to soaking wet hair.

You can either apply your styling products in the shower while your hair is still soaking wet or if you prefer to style straight away after applying the product, you can apply it out the shower.

Before hopping out of the shower, I will apply my leave-in conditioner before applying the rest of my products.

After applying my products, I like to style my curls straight away, so I grab my water spray and styling brush and work in sections.

I work underneath first and work in sections based on my curl pattern. I will drench my hair with the water spray, apply my styling gel (or cream or mousse) and then grab my Denman brush and create tension as I brush it through my curls, twirling as I go along.

Check out my full guide as I explain how I use my Denman Brush here.

After I style each section with my brush, I will scrunch each section upwards, cradling the curl in my hand until I am happy with the curl shape, and I’ll move onto the next section.

This is much easier than applying products in the shower as you can ensure each section is easily covered and each section is soaking wet when styling.

Having the right curly hair tools and products is key for this step!

Once I’ve finished every section, I will flip my head upside down and scrunch my hair upwards using my microfibre towel or cotton t-shirt to remove excess water.

It is best to work in steps. Starting with your leave-in conditioner, then your oil, then your curl defining cream, then your gel– allowing a few mins in between each for them to set. 

Knowing how to apply your styling products, especially knowing how to use curl defining cream is the key to lucious, defined, hydrated, and happy curls. 

Step Four: Plop Or Use A Diffuser:

Once you’ve styled your curls, you can either plop your curls, use a diffuser or leave your curly-haired locks to air dry. I’m going to show you how to do each.

Diffuse your hair:

Using a brilliant way to dry curls if you’re a little bit strapped for time. Remember to use on a low setting and diffuse on low heat; this will prevent frizz.

Before using a diffuser, you should flip your head upside down or to the side; this is a brilliant way to create lift at the roots and create volume.

Gently lower sections of your curls into the diffuser bowl and move the diffuser towards your roots. Use a similar motion to scrunching your curls.

Hold for 30 seconds on each section, continue until your curls are 80-90% dry; this will help retain moisture. But wait until your curls are 100% dry before leaving the house; this will prevent frizz.

Plop your curls:

Plopping your curls is a brilliant method for adding volume and protecting curls as they dry. It is one of my top recommendations for curly-haired girls who have a few hours on their hands.

Grab yourself a t-shirt; I would recommend a long-sleeved, XXL tee as it’ll be easiest to use, especially if you have thick curls.

Once you’ve applied your styling gel, cream, mousse, or whatever you use to keep your curls intact, flip your head over the center of the t-shirt pressing your head down on the curls.

Reach up and grab the bottom of your shirt (with your head still upside down) and lay it over your head so it is touching the nape of your neck and completely covering your curls.

Think of it as creating a protective bag over your curls– turn your head and flip it upside down and wrap the t-shirt or microfibre towel around your head.

While still holding the edges of the shirt, grab the sleeves and twist them to tighten the t-shirt around your head. (See why I recommended using a long-sleeved tee?)

Then wrap the twisted sleeves around your head and tie them in place to keep the shirt from sliding or falling off; if it looks like a wet helmet, then you’ve done it right.

I recommend keeping your curls like this for 10-20 minutes, and then you’ll open the shirt to voluminous, frizz-free curls as the curls begin to dry– it’s pretty cool! 

Air Dry:

The last method is leaving your curls to air dry. This is my least favorite method, but it gets the job done. Personally, I find that the gravity and products weigh down my curls as, unlike plopping, the curls aren’t sitting on top of my head.

Try not to touch your curls while drying, as this will help prevent frizz and ensure curls can follow their natural shape.

Once your curls are dry turn, it upside down and give it a little ruffle; this will help add volume to your hairstyle.

styling curly hair

How To Style Fine Curly Hair:

The best way to style fine curls is to use products that will help add volume. Make sure all your products are lightweight so they won’t weigh down your curls.

I would recommend using a diffuser or plopping your curls rather than leaving it to air dry; this will prevent your curls from losing volume from gravity as your curls will sit on top of your head.

Consider root clipping your curls, which will help add volume and protect the curls while they dry. 


 So there you have it, how to style your curls. It is all a bit of trial and error and working out what works for your curls.

The first thing you need to do is work out your curl type and what works for your curls. Try some of these techniques today!

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