Curling already-curly hair
May 28, 2013 6:58 PM   Subscribe

I would really like to be able to style my thin, long, wavy/curly/frizzy hair (close to this) into natural-looking loose curls or waves, like this, but most of the instructions that I've found online have started with straight hair (like this recent NYT article). Can you help?

Blow drying my hair leaves it pretty poofy, even when I use straightening serums, so I'm not sure how to simultaneously get it to not be poofy while encouraging loose curls. Air drying methods (I've tried jumbo magnetic rollers and the headband method) take 4+ hours to dry on my length of hair and seem impractical to sleep in. I got it to look decent after air drying it, curling with a jumbo curling iron, pinning curls to my head to cool, and using some flexible-hold hairspray, but I had to hold it in the curling iron for a really long time (and I had to redo most sections because they were still frizzy) and use a ton of hairspray, which ended up simultaneously frying it and making it look a little crunchy.

It would be nice if the suggested method was relatively quick and involved minimal damage to my hair.
posted by quiet coyote to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (14 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
My hair's thick, but it's similar in texture to yours. The key is patience, when it comes to shiny, loosely waved hair. Because of our naturally frizzy texture, it won't be perfectly smooth right after drying.

I start by heavily conditioning my hair when I wash it and then by running argan oil into it right after washing when I get out of the shower (in between washes I use a showercap). Then I tie it into a chignon with a scrunchy and let it air-dry for a night (I just sleep on it, but your hair will dry more quickly; mine is just super thick). I keep it in a bun (or tied in some pretty way, like a french braid) the day after washing; this lets my hair get all those good natural oils from my scalp, eliminating the frizz. The next day I'll let it down and spray it liberally with a thermal protection spray and straighten it. Yes, you do have to straighten it. This will give your hair the overall smooth, shiny texture that you want.

Then, I'll curl it with a 1 inch curling iron. The key is to angle the curls from your face, as this lets your hair subtly frame your face, which is ultimately more flattering. These curls will be rather well-defined, so to turn them into "waves", just gently run your fingers through them once or twice. As they settle they'll look more like this.

TL;DR You're essentially battling against your natural texture; there's not really a quick way to do it. Your hair naturally already curls in a certain way, so you can't encourage it to curl in an entirely different, unnatural way. If you want loose curls like you described, then you have to start from scratch (on straight hair).
posted by krakus at 7:33 PM on May 28, 2013 [2 favorites]

When blow drying your hair you need to use a diffuser. The air turbulence is causing the frizz. DO NOT BRUSH YOUR HAIR! Only finger comb your hair.
posted by JujuB at 7:34 PM on May 28, 2013

thin, long, wavy/curly/frizzy hair

I have hair like this (though it doesn't look as good as the example you posted) and I would bet everything I own that my hair could not look like the Kate beckinsale pic unless I blew it straight first and started from there with a curling iron. (Or maaaaybe if someone styled it with big curlers and one of those dryers you sit under. But I couldn't do that myself.) I think the hard part would be getting the product right- you need enough to smooth and hold it, but with thin hair it's so easy to put too much and weigh it down. And then once you got it right, at least with my hair, i doubt it would last all that long.

I don't want to discourage you, maybe your hair is actually different enough that you could do this. That's just my impression from decades of testing what my hair can and cannot be persuaded to do.
posted by DestinationUnknown at 7:49 PM on May 28, 2013

In contrast to JujuB, I have similar curls to you (3a/b at naturally curly) and brushing helps get waves for me.

The best way for me to get those waves is to:
1. Wash and condition with Mane and Tail.
2. Apply Jessie's Quick Curl to all of my hair (nickle-size amount).
3. Apply voluminizing mouse to the bottom half of my hair (starting at ears - I use about two egg-sized blobs of mouse).
4. Comb products through.
5. Put in a high ponytail at my crown using a no-marks elastic.
6. Twist ponytail and wrap tightly around ponytail base. Pin with a few bobbypins.
7. Pull a few strands out and wear all day, or sleep in this.
8. When dry, let down and brush. Use a deep side part for the best volume.
9. Apply an anti-frizz cream or oil. Start with just a very little bit and add if you need to. Don't use too much.
10. If necessary, use curling iron to set pieces.

I find that this gives me very pretty, touchable waves and is fairly low-effort, although it takes awhile (like, six hours) for my hair to dry like this. If it's not yet dry when I take it down, I use a diffuser and set the hair carefully in the diffuser with the bowl pointing upward using a low dryer speed. This minimizes frizz and helps maintain curl.

If I use any heating appliances on my hair, I first spray my hair liberally with a heat protection spray.
posted by k8lin at 8:05 PM on May 28, 2013 [2 favorites]

I have wavy, frizzy thick hair (not real formed curls) but I'll share what I do. I wash/condition my hair and then comb out and dry in a bun by twisting it around and around. When I take the bun out, my hair is generally flatter and less frizzy with waves at the bottom. Another thing I've recently tried is Moroccan Oil Intense Curl Cream. I don't know what's in it but it made my hair much more wavy, curly and soft. Just don't touch your hair too much or it turns to frizz.
posted by biscuits at 8:11 PM on May 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

For the style pictured, you'll need to first blow dry or flatiron the hair before curling. You need to eliminate the natural curl or it will just fight with the curl you're trying to put in- and that is obviously a picture of a straighthaired person, and those waves will fall out by the end of the day on her. On a curly, it will stsrt getting bushy by the end of the day- you can't get that kind of smoothness with that kind of style if you're naturally curly.
posted by windykites at 8:19 PM on May 28, 2013

yeah nth that you have to blow dry it straight first and them curl. Curly hair is a ton of work to get to do ANYTHING else and that's just how it is. Sorry.
posted by sweetkid at 8:21 PM on May 28, 2013

Sorry- you can't get that kind of smoothness long-term.
posted by windykites at 8:21 PM on May 28, 2013

See Naturally Curly, as referenced above. It's heavy on natural drying (it's just really, really hard to mechanically dry curly hair and get good curls), but there are techniques that use marginal diffusing. Every minute of mechanical drying, though, is a percentage of smoothness you give up. The slower you dry, the smoother the shaft.

When my hair gets past a certain length (shoulders, generally), I can sleep wet and get good results.

One of the primary things you can do is put in product in the shower on dripping wet hair. It helps hold the ends together so they don't poof. When I'm flush, I use Jessicurl products that have no silicone ingredients, which cause a serious frizz rebound. And I only use shampoo once a week, and only condition other days. See "plopping" or "plunking" on NC or Jessie's website for more information. (I can't say enough about JC's Rockin' Ringlets and Confident Coils.)

My cheapest trick is to run a modest handful of conditioner through my hair after it has been rinsed. Product makes a difference, but the conditioner base makes a big difference.

The other thing is to get a proper curly cut from a Ouidad or Deva-trained stylist. It takes nearly two hours to dry-cut my very thick 3a/3b hair, but my hairdresser only does curls and almost only dry cuts and is pretty meticulous.
posted by Lyn Never at 8:41 PM on May 28, 2013 [3 favorites]

Curly Girl.
posted by IAmBroom at 10:23 PM on May 28, 2013

+1 to k8lin's recommendation of Miss Jessie's Quick Curls
posted by asphericalcow at 11:22 PM on May 28, 2013

Your sentence structure here: Air drying methods (I've tried jumbo magnetic rollers and the headband method) is implying that you do the headband method wet. My hair on NaturallyCurly is probably 2C-3A... if I brush my hair in the morning it goes soft and frizzy and "bent" looking, esp at the ends. I have more, rather than less, hair so doing anything to it wet (headband, rollers, etc) means it pretty much just doesn't dry - ever. However, my hair wants to curl, so the headband method with dry hair actually works pretty great for me. The longer I leave it in the better, but even an hour will do. I also have gone through periods of using a wide-barrel curling iron.
Lush Cynthia Sylvia Stout shampoo made a big difference in how soft/manageable my hair is.

Bear in mind - if I wanted silky smooth beach curls like the NYTimes article, I'd have to get a professional to blow dry + iron it too - and my hair isn't as curly as yours. (looking at the pic again - yeah, my hair never looks like that.)

A good haircut helps A LOT. I've had trouble finding stylists who cut curly hair (lucky Lyn Never!!!), but have found that Japanese/Korean trained stylists do really well - they're trained to cut hair into a shape (they thin my hair really well) and take the weight off the ends (allowing curl). They blow it dry, I go home and re-wash it and end up with ringlets again.
posted by jrobin276 at 2:34 AM on May 29, 2013

Response by poster: I figured it out. Straightening first does NOT work- that sets my hair straight, so it won't hold a curl. I've tried it before and have asked hair stylists, and they agree that it won't stay for long (at least on my hair). Blow-drying with a diffuser just gives me my normal curls, which look fine and are not what I'm looking for. Any air-drying methods (e.g., buns) seem to just fail miserably on me- no idea why. They either don't dry ever or dry poofy.

This is what worked. I towel-dried until my hair was damp with some de-frizz serum, then blew dry with a clamp brush like this. Then I curled with a 1.5" iron by clamping at my head and twisting the rest around the barrel, and holding for a few seconds. I dropped each curl into my palm and clipped it with a styling clip, then let each sit for about 10 minutes. I let all of the curls out and sprayed with flexible-hold hair spray. It's pretty close to what I was hoping for!
posted by quiet coyote at 6:42 AM on June 7, 2013 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Update: The curls held for about 6-8 hours, and then it was just waves. The waves looked really nice on day 2 though!
posted by quiet coyote at 2:37 PM on June 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

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