9 Simple Hacks to Make Straight Hair Hold a Curl
While I don't suffer from frizz and rainy days don't drive me to tears, I'm still frequently frustrated by my straight hair. It may have a reputation of being one of the easiest textures to manage, but styling is another test entirely. And that's a test I rarely pass. My arduous attempts to add glossy curls to my look always end with the same result: limp, flat locks.
Determined to master my own mane, I reached out to Herbal Essences celebrity stylist Charles Baker Strahan. Turns out, I've been blaming my strands when I'm the one with the terrible technique!
"Naturally straight hair textures can be more difficult to curl," he explained, "but usually the challenges are created in the approach to actually getting the hair to curl." Everything from how I wash my hair to where in my home I use hot tools makes a difference. If your curls unravel, too, read on! Strahan shared nine ways to ensure styling success.
Clarify Your Coif
"When you know you are going to go for a style that is a lot different from your natural hair texture, you want to make sure that you set yourself up with the proper base, which starts in the shower," explained Strahan. He suggested using a clarifying shampoo and lightweight conditioner like Herbal Essences Naked Clean and Refresh Shampoo ($6) and Conditioner ($5).
Using a purifying shampoo before styling is a must, as it removes buildup that can weigh down and straighten out curls. While fine-haired gals might typically skip conditioner, you shouldn't before using hot tools.
"Ensuring that the hair is properly and lightly conditioned is important because the heat you are going to use to create the curl can adversely affect the hair," Strahan said. Healthy, conditioned hair also creates a more effective base for other styling products.
Detangle Before Drying
Most people brush their mane after they get out of the shower, but that simple step is hindering your hair. Think about it — detangling stretches out the strands.
"This is only going to make your hair straighter," Strahan warned. He recommends combing out knots after conditioning your wet hair, then only using fingers to gently "brush" once you're done bathing. This guarantees you'll keep your hair's natural body and movement.
Keep Your Cool
This seems so obvious once explained, but it's something you might never have thought of: your hair is like fabric. I'm sure you've hung a wrinkled blouse up in your bathroom as you shower in hopes of steaming out the creases. But just like it can iron out those crinkles, steam heat can smooth out your strands.
"Heat changes the shape of hair and coolness sets it in," Strahan said. "It’s best to style your curls in a cool, dry room."
Prep and Prime
I never use styling products other than hair spray, as I worry about making my fine strands look oily, but this is yet another mistake. "Because you are asking your hair to do something that isn't what it naturally does, you need to give it support," insisted Strahan, who recommended a lightweight texturizing mousse like Herbal Essences Naked Volumizing Souffle ($7).
Putting a wet styling product like this one into your damp mane gives it a "memory,” making it hold styles more readily. I witnessed Strahan use this mousse on his own hair over 15 consecutive times and it remained soft, touchable, and decidedly uncrunchy and clean-looking, soothing my oily-strand fears.
Ditch the Dryer
I tend to air-dry my hair, as using a blow dryer makes it look even straighter. Strahan fully supports skipping hot tools precurl, which encourages your mane's natural movement and texture to do its thing. Try using a microfiber towel to absorb extra moisture and speed up the drying process, or attach a basket diffuser to your blow dryer if you can't resist ditching this step.
Support Your Strands
If your strands are stubbornly straight, it's absolutely imperative that you spritz each section with hair spray before curling it. "This gives hair extra support in holding that shape," remarked Strahan.
Roll With It
Though you may see them as a retro product, hot rollers could be your secret weapon to achieving a curl in your hair. They seem difficult to navigate at first, but just select the roller that corresponds to the coil size you crave. Once you've put them in your hair, leave them in until they're cool to the touch.
"The more gradual cooling of a hot roller allows hair to really form to that curl texture to hold it," Strahan explained. If you're insistent on using your iron or wand, go for it, but Strahan advises you use roller clips or pins to hold the ringlet in place as it cools. Doing so will ensure it sets in the desired shape instead of stretches out.
After your curls have cooled and set, you can separate them with your fingers for a more casual look or brush them to create retro Hollywood waves, but proceed with caution.
"Remember that the less manipulation to the hair, the longer the curl will hold," reminded Strahan. Once you've created the style you want, secure it with a few spritzes of hair spray.
Extend Your Style
If you want to rock your curls into the next day, keep dry shampoo on hand. The dirt that will accumulate overnight could weigh down and straighten out your hair. This is especially true when you use hot tools when styling, because they smooth the cuticle, enabling the acceleration of oil down the strand. Dry shampoo will soak up any grease and grime while adding a bit of hold.
Strahan suggests carefully detangling your hair with a brush to break up leftover hair spray, spraying on the dry shampoo, and rubbing it in. Finish by combing through the product to get rid of any extra dirt.