Curly hairstyles are flattering on almost everyone. They frame the face, give body to flat hair, and look super chic.
That said, achieving that look requires very different routines depending on whether you have naturally straight hair, wavy hair, or curly hair.
While straight and wavy textures always need some persuasion to get curly, even naturally curly hair can get buried under years of chemical and heat damage and become just as stubborn.
That’s why we gathered these pro tips that will help you get healthy, bouncy curls no matter what texture your hair is.
Here’s how to get curly hair without compromising your hair’s health!
The Science Behind Natural Curly Hair
The key to understanding how to make any hair type more curly is to know how hair curls in the first place. There are two reasons why some hair is textured while others aren’t as much:
Hair is made of a protein called keratin, which is the building block of nails and the outer layer of the skin. Disulfide bonds are strong bonds that hold protein particles together. Those help shape the keratin into more complex structures.
How Do Disulfide Bonds Affect Hair Types?
Naturally curly locks have more disulfide bonds than natural waves or straight hair. They’re what gives the hair its curl pattern and its strength, preventing damage and creating more body.
Having a curly hair perm (like those popular in the 80s) involves breaking the hair’s natural disulfide bonds and creating new ones using perming chemicals. While it’s fallen out of favor, it’s still a valid method to get tight curls if you have naturally straight or wavy hair.
Hair Follicle Shape
Hair follicles are the living part of the hair that produces keratin, which makes up each hair strand.
How Does Hair Follicle Shape Affect Hair Types?
People with straight hair have follicles that are shaped like a circle, which makes the strand less likely to bend one way or another.
As the hair gets more texture, the follicle shape gets more oval or teardrop-shaped, which makes the hair like a ribbon that gets coiled as it grows.
You can “cheat” this shape by twisting your hair into a curl while it’s still wet, although this tends to work better if your hair already has a natural texture.
How to Get Curly Hair if You Have Naturally Straight Hair
Having pin-straight hair can get a little boring after a while, especially if you have fine hair that tends to go flat once it dries.
These tips can help you achieve gorgeous heatless curls or protect your hair if you want to use heat-styling tools:
For Wash Days:
- Start off with a good shampoo and conditioner to keep your hair moisturized and ready for the next steps.
- Avoid conditioners with silicone (also known as dimethicone) in their ingredient list, as they tend to coat the hair and prevent moisture from reaching the hair strand.
- Use texturizing hair products like sea salt sprays and curl activators. You might find you have loose waves instead of stick-straight hair.
- If you want to use a curling iron, make sure you use a heat protectant before you style your hair. This prevents heat damage and allows the curls to stick around for longer.
- Try one of the following heatless curling methods if you want to avoid using styling tools:
- After freshly washing your hair, comb it out to avoid tangles.
- On slightly damp hair, apply a curl-activator or even an old-timey setting lotion. This step should make the heatless curls last longer.
- Divide your hair into small sections about the width of two fingers.
- Wrap each section around itself into a curl and use bobby pins to secure it.
- Use a satin scarf or a hair bonnet to protect your pin curls while you’re sleeping.
- The next day, take out the bobby pins starting from the back of your head to the front to avoid tangling the pin curls and creating frizz.
- Use a wide-toothed comb to style the pin curls.
Rag Curls (AKA T-Shirt Curls)
- Before you begin, use any thrifted or old cotton T-shirt to cut into small strips, each about an inch wide and 5 inches long. For looser curls, use a 2-inch wide strip.
- Repeat the first three steps for pin curls.
- Instead of wrapping the hair around itself, wrap it around the middle of the “rag” from ends to roots.
- Tie the two ends of the rag as close to your scalp as possible to secure the curls.
- The following day, take out the rag curls and tousle them using a sea salt spray for natural-looking curls. It should also help give the style more body and hold.
How to Get Curly Hair if You Have Naturally Wavy Hair
Wavy hair has a lot in common with both straight and curly hair types. Some people live their lives thinking they have frizzy straight hair when their hair has a natural wavy texture that needs help popping.
If you have wavy hair, follow these care and styling tips to tame frizz and bring out your beautiful curls:
For Wash Days:
- If you have dry hair, use sulfate-free, silicone-free shampoos and conditioners, as they’re less likely to strip your hair from its natural oils. Wash your hair only once or twice weekly.
- On wet hair, finger comb your hair or use a wide-tooth comb to detangle, then use a texturizing sea salt spray or curl cream to enhance your natural curl pattern.
- Use a leave-in conditioner to keep your hair moisturized.
- Air dry or diffuse your hair on cold instead of blow-drying to achieve more defined curls.
- If you want tighter curls, use a technique like finger coiling or twist-outs.
- On wet hair, apply a curl activator.
- Section off your hair and twist each section around your finger from root to tip in the natural direction of your curl pattern. Repeat until done.
- Diffuse or air dry your hair.
- Start with slightly damp hair.
- Apply curl cream and twist two sections of hair around each other.
- Once your hair is completely dry, unwrap each twist out using a little hair oil on your fingers to avoid frizz.
How to Get More Defined Curls if You Have Naturally Curly Hair
The curly hair lifestyle can be quite demanding. Since having natural curls usually means having dry, coarse hair, it can be difficult to have perfect, frizz-free, luscious curls.
Whether you have 3A or 4C curls, follow these tips to get the naturally glorious curls you deserve:
For Wash Days:
- Apply a hot oil treatment on your scalp for one hour before each wash day. Use argan oil, coconut oil, avocado oil, or any other nourishing oils you like.
- Wash your hair once a week or every 10 days to prevent drying it out. Use a sulfate-free shampoo and work it in your hair well to get the oil, dirt, and bacteria out of your scalp.
- Use a silicone-free conditioner with all-natural ingredients to tame frizz and feed your natural curls.
- Detangle your hair by finger-combing it or using a wide-toothed comb, then scrunch your soaking wet hair to remove the excess water.
- Use a microfiber towel or an old, soft cotton T-shirt in the same scrunching motion to dry your hair. These prevent frizz because they create less friction than regular terry cloth towels.
- Use a curl cream and a curl-friendly hair gel as styling products to both define and hold your natural curls in place.
- To reduce frizz, air dry your hair or use a diffuser if you’re in a pinch and need to blow dry it. Always use cold air and never use the regular blow-drying nozzle if you want to have defined, shiny curls.
- Every other wash day, use a clarifying shampoo to remove product build-up. Then, apply a deep-conditioning mask on your hair just shy of your scalp. This keeps the hair elastic and rewards you with bouncy curls.
- Sometimes due to heat or chemical damage, certain strands refuse to curl. Spray them with water, wrap them around your finger, and then secure them with bobby pins. After they air dry, take them out and style them as usual.
- If you notice your ends are less curly than the rest of your hair, consider getting a layered haircut to remove all the split ends, freshen up your curls, and give them more bounce.
To Wrap Up
If you want to have curly hair that turns heads, you have these valuable styling tips to turn all hair types into a gorgeous, fierce, curly mane!
Moisturizing your hair, using the right shampoo and conditioner combo, and handling the hair correctly when it’s still wet can make all the difference in taming frizz and achieving defined curls.