If your hair isn’t naturally curly, there’s a good chance you have to put some time and effort to secure the defined, bouncy curls of your dreams. After all that effort, there’s nothing more frustrating than watching them slowly unravel and deflate over the course of the day. Even those who are naturally curly can struggle with keeping the curls springy and defined, not just a range of different textures and curl patterns. But this doesn’t have to be the case!
Regardless of your hair type, getting lasting curls or beach waves can be a relatively common issue for anyone who’s attempted the style before. There can be a lot of different elements working against you: humidity, your level of daily activity, the products you choose, and even your nighttime routine can all mean the difference between lively curls and seriously limp locks. Read below to learn our best hair tips and product suggestions for keeping your curls looking beautiful for as long as possible.
A good hairstyle always starts in the shower: choose the right products (and cleansing frequency) to ensure your hair is as prepared as it can be before you start curling.
A simple way to boost the look and life of your curls is to use a curl shampoo. Designed specifically for curly or wavy hair, this will provide the essential moisture, elasticity, and volume that your strands need to keep your curls locked in and looking their best. Similarly, use other curly hair products like special conditioners, hair masks and finishing creams to create the perfect routine and foundation for your hair. Those with naturally curly hair sometimes co-wash or try the no-poo method, so try out a few different routines to see what works best for you. If you’re noticing that your strands are particularly dry or damaged, that will probably make it harder for your hair to hold defined, silky curls. Read our blog post on how to strengthen your hair to give yourself a strong foundation for curly looks.
Even though it's important to use the right curl-boosting products when washing your hair, you should actually try to curl your hair on non-wash days. Curls generally need a little bit of “grit” to stay put, and the natural oils present in second or third-day hair are great for keeping your curls in place. Try to style your hair on a non-wash day, and spray some dry shampoo on your roots as needed to absorb excess oil while also boosting volume. But if you do have to wash your hair on curl-styling day, there are products that can help keep your curls in place. Applying a curling mousse to towel-dried hair helps curls maintain their bounce and structure, and can also be used as a touch-up product on day-two curls.
photo by @melanieguille_
Once your shower routine is complete, follow by gently drying your hair with a microfiber towel that cuts down on friction and potential damage. Now we’re ready to start styling — whether you choose to use a curling iron or styling wand, the basic preparations and products are essentially the same.
Haircare rule number one: always use a heat protectant! Before heat styling, apply a heat shield for hair to minimize the effects of your blow dryer and styling tools. Heat protectant products also help keep your hair looking healthy and shiny, which makes curling even easier. And when you’re choosing a heat setting for styling, try to start on a lower temperature and see if that works with your hair first.
Both curling irons and wands (and even flat irons) will give you curls, but they offer slightly different final looks. Whichever product you choose, take note of the barrel size — the smaller the barrel, the tighter the curl, which usually means curls that last longer than their looser counterparts. You can still use a bigger barrel if less-defined curls are your desired look, but you’ll probably just need to be a little more careful with added extra hairspray and care to make sure they’re kept in place. If you’re worried that your strands are too short to be properly curled, be sure to read our blog post on how to curl short hair to style confidently.
Aside from curling irons and wands, hot rollers are the classic way to curl your hair. As someone with relatively thin and fine hair, I’ve found that mastering hot rollers helps to keep curls in place for way longer than when I use my curling iron. But as a word of caution, they can be a little tricky to master, and practice makes perfect: I’d recommend trying them out a little bit before any big event you have coming up to ensure you don’t have to frantically re-do your hair. Once you have your rollers set, let them sit for at least 10 minutes to lock in your style.
As someone with long hair that tends to fall flat quickly, one of my favorite tips to preserve the life of your curls is to clip them in place and let them cool down to secure your style. After each individual curl, take a hair clip or bobby pin (preferably a clip that won’t crimp your hair and affect your style) and roll the curl up into your scalp to pin it in place. After letting them sit until they’re cool to the touch — about 20 minutes or so — gently let them down and finish with your preferred styling products.
As someone who was semi-traumatized by childhood hairstyles that can be best defined as “American Girl doll ringlets,” my usual instinct after curling is to immediately brush out and loosen tight curls. But to keep them looking their best, start by spraying your hair with a brushable hairspray and gently brush your curls out less than your final desired look. Since your curls will fall and settle a little during the day, it’s better to give yourself some wiggle room with the tightness of your curls to help them last longer.
After using the brushable hairspray, spritz on some texturizing spray to give your hair extra hold, definition, and volume. If you’re noticing that these products aren’t quite enough to keep your curls in place, lightly spray on a strong hairspray for additional support and a more firm hold. And because every look can benefit from some extra silkiness and shine, run a light hair oil gently through your curls to keep them hydrated and shiny without adding any additional weight.
Your curl care routine doesn’t stop once you’ve put away the hairspray! If you want them to last for a few days, you’ll need to adjust your bedtime hair routine. Before you go to sleep, pull your curls onto the top of your head in a loose bun — this will help you avoid waking up with a tangle of tresses. Additionally, getting a silk or satin pillowcase is great for letting your hair glide smoothly over the surface, which means less breakage or dull-looking curls. When you wake up the next morning, revive your hair with a curl revitalizing spray, which will help to control frizz, add definition, and boost volume. And if you have any additional tips to make curls last that have worked for you, let us know in the comments!
By Lauren Hannel, staff contributor
cover photo by Nesrin Danan @blackprints