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What is the Best Way to Style Curly Hair?

By J. Beam
Updated May 21, 2024
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Curly hair can be a blessing or a curse, depending on how a person looks at it. Many people find it unruly and difficult to style, especially on humid days, but those with stick-straight hair often wish they had curls. For those who are blessed, or cursed, with curly hair, the best way to style it begins with a great haircut and ends by following the path of least resistance.

Because curly hair can range from mildly wavy to very tight and frizzy, it's important to recognize what the hair does naturally and what it won’t do. Hair with a lot of curl, regardless of the texture, is often naturally dry, so a person with curls should keep the hair moisturized with a good conditioner. Similarly, he or she should use styling products that don’t dry out the hair, such as products with alcohol.

Since the foundation of any good hairstyle is the cut, people with curly hair need to find a hair stylist who is comfortable cutting and styling it. People who wear their hair long will typically find that the weight of the hair will pull it downward, causing the curls to be slightly looser than they would be short. Long hair should have some layers cut into it to reduce the bulk, however. When curly hair is cut short, the cuts should be made with the natural curl rather than against it. Individuals may want to consider looking for a stylist who is good with a razor, which may provide a better cut.

One advantage that people with curly hair have over those with straight hair is that the cut marks from scissors tend to not show. What might look like a choppy hair cut on someone with straight hair will not appear the same on someone with curls. Rather than having the hair cut with short layers, it often looks better to “slide cut” longer layers. A good stylist can often recommend a hairstyle for each client's hair type and face shape.

With a good cut, curly hair is best styled by allowing it to do what it does naturally. People with this hair type should use styling products that moisturize and reduce frizz and allow the hair to air dry. Blow drying the hair tends to make it bulkier or bushier than necessary. People who have difficulty shaping and air drying a curly hairstyle may find more success using heat styling options.

If a blow dryer must be used, individuals may find that using a diffuser with the hair dryer provides better results. Sold separately, a diffuser fits on the end of the hair dryer and spreads the air out to dry the hair with minimal frizz. People who want to use a flat iron to straighten the hair should make sure to use a heat-protecting product first. After the hair has been straightened, a moisturizing, frizz-reducing serum or polishing gloss should be used to lock in the finished style.

People should also try to vary their style periodically each week to include at least one or two days of no heat styling. This will give the hair a chance to rest and reduce heat damage and unnecessary drying. Individuals who feel they must chemically straighten their hair should enlist the services of a professional and make sure to avoid other chemical processes, such as coloring, immediately before or after the straightening.

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Discussion Comments

By anon334291 — On May 11, 2013

Not only do I agree with both anon24643 and anon25404, as well as anon 15527 about not using a razor to cut or even trim naturally curly hair, but I don't think that a razor cut is good for any type of hair, whether it be curly, straight, or wavy!

By anon324748 — On Mar 12, 2013

I have extremely curly hair that I love keeping long, not just simply because I like it that way, but because I can wear it in various way to suit my moods, or depending on what I'm doing at the tine. I wear several hats, if one gets the drift.

I've begun using a shampoo with no sodium laurel sulphate(s) in them, and it's been better for my hair and scalp on the long run, although I must use both rinse-out and leave-in conditioners in it. Using an extremely wide-toothed Conair shower comb after shampooing also helps a great deal.

In my humble opinion, people should not be so hung up on the supposed "lets and shoulds" about how certain types of hair should or shouldn't be worn. In my younger days, I used to get hassled with, "Well, I don't like long curly hair" or, "You should have it short because it's curly", or "Oh! You have beautiful hair! It's not meant for having long!", or, "You should get your hair cut short" or, "cut it all off and get a little Afro."

That, of course was a long time ago, and the hassling stopped long ago, due to the fact that I've never been above pointedly telling such obnoxious people where to go or where to get off, or what I think of them for their nosiness. It's crude, but it works!

By anon241796 — On Jan 20, 2012

I have a haircut with feathered layers, so when the ends looks frizzy, it's a disaster. What works for me, is prior to heat styling to use the Shielo Antioxidant Leave in Protectant Spray, which truly works to blow-dry the ends smooth instead of puffy/frizzy. I've tried dozens of "heat-tamer" products, and none of them works anywhere near as well as this Shielo product.

By anon239984 — On Jan 11, 2012

My hairdresser started selling Shielo's Antioxidant Leave in Protectant spray a year ago and I decided to try it, although I was hesitant. I couldn't imagine that one product would actually do all that this one claimed to. I tried it for a week with no other styling products, and since that week I have been a believer! This product is amazing.

I have super thick curly hair that I blow dry straight and flat iron. The Shielo Antioxidant spray leaves it feeling amazing. My hair is shiny, silky, soft and not damaged at all. I will not ever stop using this product. I have tried various styling products for years and have never had such amazing results. It really does do everything it claims.

It's also nice to only have to use one styling product as opposed to the two, three and sometimes even four that I was previously using.

By anon190103 — On Jun 25, 2011

I have moderately curly hair (between curly and wavy) and the biggest advantage to me is that I can cut it myself and you can't see how terrible at it I am. My kids have straight hair, and I used to cut it when they were little, but once they got older they put up a screaming fit until I let them go to someone who knew what they were doing.

Straight hair is also harder to carry off, I think, unless you have very delicate features. I just wish I could get mine not to stick out in the odd stupid places it does.

By anon157889 — On Mar 04, 2011

I am 12 years of age and I have an amazing mane of curly hair, however. I'm having trouble finding the right style any help? Oh. and to the 13 year old who asked bout their haircut: Ask for layers and a long slicked bob. It is really smart and the easiest cut to have to style your hair. Hope I helped.

By anon155773 — On Feb 24, 2011

Avoid using heat in your hair too much. I used to straighten my hair because my hair is so curly. other people compliment it but I'm just so tired and bored with it.

I used to straighten my hair but i used this serum thing which makes it so smooth when i straighten it so my hair isn't damaged at all because of the serum. but you can use things like special hair straightening shampoo followed by a hair straightening conditioner and then finally some serum which will smooth it all out. trust me -- I've tried it and it works!

By anon138585 — On Jan 01, 2011

I have curly hair and i hate it. i want it to be straight. could anyone please tell me a way except using heat? Thanks for helping. --Phil

By anon138184 — On Dec 30, 2010

I am 13 and until now I let my mom cut my hair. All she would do is cut it straight across. I am getting older now and I would like to have layers but I don't know what to ask my stylist to do. help me?

By anon135124 — On Dec 17, 2010

i definitely have super curly hair! i used to straighten it all the time and now its really damaged! so I'm really trying to take care or it now! I used to do the front so much that it's not even curly anymore. i miss my old hair and i want to know how to get it with nice curls again, because i hate it now it's like half curly and half straight! it just looks bad!

By anon124928 — On Nov 07, 2010

I have uber curly hair and I hate it. I've always wanted curly hair, no matter what. Earlier today, my Mom made me put in this oil stuff and it just made my hair more frizzy then before. (I straighten my hair a lot but it doesn't work) I hate it. When I was younger I would cry about it. Anyway, I really want scene hair, but I don't think my hair would work with the cut.

By anon37398 — On Jul 19, 2009

One of the best hair cuts I ever got was with a razor, and my hair is extremely curly. Although, now that I've grown out my hair, I wouldn't want my stylist to come at me with a razor. It's something I think should be left for short hair.

By anon25404 — On Jan 28, 2009

I would say 100 percent of the time do not use a razor on curly hair. It will ruin it and never be the same... so get a good stylist. You can also tell if the stylist is good if she has curly hair! PS it is all in the cut.

By anon24643 — On Jan 15, 2009

Razors are so bad for curly hair! Never go to a stylist who tries to do that. I have super curly hair and I think that it looks good with a barrette on the side. If you have blonde or black hair you should go for a silver one, but if you have golden or brown hair go with a gold one. My personal fav. is the flower gold barrette

By anon15527 — On Jul 14, 2008

using a razor on naturally curly hair can have horrible results. i would not recommend allowing anyone to razor curly hair.

By mexicana — On Mar 31, 2008

It's funny how people with straight hair always want curly hair. The stylist does make a big difference - a stylist can cut your hair in a way that is extremely flattering or in one that makes it frizzy and unmanageable.

Make sure that you don't use products that will dry out your hair, as this can cause problems later on. Try to find styling products that do not contain alcohol.

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