How to Style Naturally Curly Hair in Four Easy Steps


I’ve had a long, tumultuous history with my hair. We’ve been through many ups and downs, but I’m happy to report that I finally love my long, naturally curly hair.

How to Style Naturally Curly Hair by Albuquerque Moms Blog

In middle school, I hated my hair. I felt different from my friends, and I didn’t understand how to style it. When I was in seventh grade, I decided to straighten my hair for picture day because I thought smooth, silky hair was important for special occasions. Alas, it rained that day. (All the curly-haired ladies know how this story ends). My hair frizzed up in the rain, leaving me with a straw-like, fuzzy mess. What is middle school without a cringe-worthy photo?

When I finally learned how to style my hair, I realized that it is unique and easy to style. While most women spend precious time blow drying and curling their hair, I can just put some gel into it and let it dry. 

Curly hair is beautiful, but it is important to know how to style it. My steps take 5-10 minutes and make a WORLD of difference. In the photo below, I didn’t follow any of my curly hair rules. I just stepped out of the shower, brushed my hair, and let it air dry.

How to Style Naturally Curly Hair by Albuquerque Moms Blog

Not my best look unless I’m off to a Halloween party dressed as the Wicked Witch of the West. Follow the steps below to get defined, frizz-free curls.

Apply a Lot of Gel

After showering, leave your hair fairly wet. Towel dry it, but only to the point where it is not dripping water all over your back. Brush it out and apply a generous amount of gel. On my long hair, I use about eight quarter-size dollops of gel. I use something with a medium to firm hold (i.e., something that leaves your hair with that stiff, crunchy feeling when it dries). 

Gently Crunch Your Hair 

Next, use gentle crunching motions to activate the curls (grab the hair at the bottom and scrunch upwards). You’ll notice it getting more “curly” as opposed to being weighed down by the water, gel, and brushing. I use a towel to scrunch the hair because it helps to dry it out a bit.

Leave it Alone While it Dries

Now for the most important step. Leave it alone while it dries. You must LEAVE. IT. ALONE. Don’t tousle your hair. Don’t try on five different shirts while your hair gets all mangled and frizzy. Seriously. LEAVE IT ALONE.

When I was in college, I would hop out of the shower and walk to class with wet hair. I would notice that the ends of my hair looked frizzy while the rest look silky and defined. The slight friction from my backpack rubbing on my hair was enough to ruin the beautiful curls! While the hair is drying, you must attempt to leave it undisturbed.

Treat your wet hair like an overtired toddler who didn’t take his nap today: delicately and carefully.

How to Style Naturally Curly Hair by Albuquerque Moms Blog

But seriously, let your hair air dry without touching it for about 30 min to 1 hour. After that, it will start to harden into a “cast.” The curls will be very defined and crunchy to the touch. In the picture above, my hair is completely dry, but it looks wet because of the gel cast.

Shake it Out

Now for the fun part! You get to shake, tousle, and rake your fingers through your hair until that “crunchiness” goes away. I will usually tip my hair upside down and shake it out. I rake my hands near the scalp to try to get a little volume on top. As you break up the gel, the hair will get bigger and softer. The photo below shows the final result. Since the curls dried in that frizz-free “cast,” they will remain defined and pretty.

How to Style Naturally Curly Hair by Albuquerque Moms Blog

Once your hair reaches your desired level of softness, you must once again leave it alone. The more you mess with it, the bigger it will get. 

A Few Bonus Tips

Never, ever brush curly hair when it’s dry. Brushing it will destroy all the beautiful curl definition you created and leave you with frizzy locks. If you have a significant other who likes to run his ringers through your hair, you will have to train him not to do that. Curly hair should be seen and not touched.

If you dislike leaving the house with wet hair, you can use a diffuser to dry your hair. Diffusers attach to the end of a blow dryer and send a more gentle, diffuse flow towards the hair to avoid creating frizz. I always get the best results by air drying. In my opinion, diffusers always create bigger, frizzier hair because they break my cardinal rule of curly hair styling by disturbing the hair while it is drying.

Sometimes people tell me they don’t have “pretty” curls, but often they just haven’t learned how to style their type of hair. I hope these tips help my fellow curly-haired mamas to embrace their curls. Look at the difference a few small steps can make!

How to Style Naturally Curly Hair by Albuquerque Moms Blog
How to Style Naturally Curly Hair by Albuquerque Moms Blog

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how to style naturally curly hair, ABQ Moms