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How to Get Curly Hair (Men) | Styling Tips and Tricks

If you’re trying to figure out how to get curly hair as a man, read on. One simple, inexpensive, homemade product will help you make the most of the natural curls and waves that may be hiding in your hair.

How to Get Curly Hair (for Men) in 7 Steps

With the right products and the right persuasion, most men can coax their hair to curl naturally. But it does take a little work. In a nutshell, the steps include:

  1. Keep your hair short and in good condition
  2. Wash your hair but leave it damp
  3. Apply heat protectant
  4. Apply sea salt spray
  5. Blow-dry your hair while scrunching it
  6. Apply product and style your hair
  7. Explore other options

Of course, this is just an overview, so be sure to read the guide until the very end to learn detailed steps and things to consider. Ready to get started? So are we. Let’s dive in.

Step 1: Make Sure Your Hair Is Ready to Curl

If you want your hair to curl up nicely, there are a few things to consider. The first is that long hair is harder to curl. The weight of long hair tends to pull the curls out. Damaged or split ends also weighs down your hair and can pull the curls out, even if your hair is relatively short.

For the best results and the best curls, you’ll want to have freshly trimmed, short (or short-ish) hair in good condition. This will give you the best chance at natural-looking curls, and freshly trimmed hair always looks better, no matter what.

Step 2: Wash Your Hair

The first step in creating a curly style is to start with freshly washed, damp hair. Wash and condition your hair with a good-quality, all-natural shampoo and conditioner. Make sure to choose products (we suggest these ones) that don’t leave residue behind, as this weighs down your hair and makes it harder to curl.

Other things to avoid when choosing a shampoo and conditioner include:

  • Surfactants: Surfactants produce lather in shampoos and other products, but they can irritate eyes and skin (and also be harmful to aquatic life). Look for products that don’t contain sodium laureth sulfate and sodium lauryl sulfate.
  • Preservatives: Preservatives make products shelf-stable and prevent bacterial growth, but they are also linked to many health hazards, including cancers. Compounds to avoid include parabens, quaternium-15, DMDM hydantoin, imidazolidinyl urea, diazolidinyl urea, and polyoxymethylene urea.
  • Emulsifiers: Emulsifiers are mostly found in conditioners. They help soften hair, but they don’t break down well. This makes them dangerous to the environment. It also means that they may coat your hair and prevent it from curling well.

Towel-dry your hair, preferably with a microfiber towel to prevent stress and breakage, but leave it slightly damp for the next steps.

Step 3: Apply a Heat Protectant Product

A high-quality heat protectant product offers dual benefits. First, as the name suggests, it protects your hair from damage caused by hot blow dryers or other styling tools. But it also helps your hair dry more quickly when you’re using a blow dryer. If your hair is exposed to heat for less time, it naturally suffers less damage from that heat.

Step 4: Apply Sea Salt Spray

Sea salt spray is the secret weapon here. It gives your hair great texture and helps it form and hold natural-looking curls.

You can buy commercial sea salt sprays, but they are pricey. Also, because they are primarily marketed toward women, they may be heavily fragranced. Whether you mind that or not, any added chemicals are not good for your hair. It’s actually very easy to make your own sea salt spray at home.

In a clean, empty spray bottle, mix:

  • 1½ cups lukewarm water
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon avocado oil (or melted coconut oil)
  • 4 drops of essential oil for fragrance (if desired. We suggest sandalwood, fir balsam, vetiver, or black pepper)

Make sure to thoroughly shake the bottle every time before you apply it. Whether you’re using our recipe or a commercial product, you should use one hand to lift your hair at the roots and your other hand to spritz the spray right at the roots. Then use both hands to work the spray into your hair.

Step 5: Blow-Dry and Curl Your Hair

For this step, a blow dryer with a diffuser works best. The diffuser disperses the heat and air evenly across your head. This minimizes damage, minimizes frizz, adds volume, and enhances curls. If you don’t have a diffuser attachment, remove the nozzle from the dryer to widen the air stream.

Diffuser attachments are generally not that expensive. Use some of the money you saved by making your own sea salt spray to buy yourself one! As you did when you were applying the sea salt spray, use one hand to lift your hair at the roots and the other one to operate the blow dryer.

Aim the hot air at the roots and use your other hand to simultaneously lift from the roots and also scrunch the hair into curls. This intensifies the texturizing effects of the sea salt spray. You can also add more sea salt spray as your hair gets drier and “crunchier.”

Step 6: Create Individual Curls

If there are areas of your hair that are not curling as you like, or you just want more curls in certain areas, you can make individual curls by wrapping small sections of hair around one finger and aiming the hot blow dryer at the finger to set the curls.

Once you have made and set a finger curl, let it cool completely before you loosen it or style it. Even if it looks tighter than you want it at first, it’s much easier to loosen it later than to retighten it, so just leave the tight little ringlet alone until the next step.

If it’s a large area of hair that did not curl sufficiently the first time around, you can apply even more sea salt spray (it’s a good thing that you made your own!) and repeat the drying/scrunching until it looks the way that you want it to.

Step 6: Finish Styling

You can finish here with a styling product to add even more texture and to hold your newly formed curls in place. What you should use depends on the texture of your hair. Men with thick hair can use a heavier product for firmer hold. Check out our guide on the best setting sprays.

But men with thin or fine hair should use a lightweight product so that the curls don’t get weighed down or flattened. Either way, you want a flexible product (as opposed to stiff) so that your hair looks and feels natural.

Look for products such as pomade, hair wax, or hair cream. The best products can be pricey, but you won’t be using very much at a time, so even a small tin will last a while. Good products are a good investment.

Apply your product of choice with your fingers and distribute it evenly throughout your hair. Use your fingers, a wide-toothed comb, or a pick to style your hair the way you want it. Keep in mind that the less you fuss with your new curls, the more natural they will look.

Step 7: Options

While the above routine will work for most men, those with longer, heavier, or just more stubborn hair might not have as much success as others. Other options to get curly hair include using a small curling iron or wand, getting chemically processed permanent curls, or, for men with long hair, making and sleeping in a tight braid to set curls and waves.

Keep in mind that the perms of today are not the tight spiral perms that your mom may have worn back in the day. Modern perms look much more natural, and they are also much kinder to your hair.

It’s obviously preferable to get your hair to curl naturally, as we described above, but salon perms are a perfectly respectable option if you have heavier hair or prefer to wear it longer.

Things to Consider

For a piece on how to get curly hair men, a guy in a white shirt standing and looking to his right and pointing with both index fingers

Dean Drobot/Shutterstock

Men who want to get curly hair without heat or chemical processing need to know that sea salt spray is one of the easiest ways to encourage natural-looking curls and waves.

  • Short to medium-length hair in good condition curls up best.
  • Make sure that your shampoo and conditioner are not leaving behind residue that weighs down your hair and makes it difficult to curl.
  • You can buy or make sea salt spray. If you choose to buy it, it’s usually with women’s hair care products. When you make your own, you can choose your own fragrance or leave it unscented.
  • A diffuser attachment for your blow dryer keeps your hair healthier and makes better curls.
  • If your hair is too long or heavy to curl nicely and naturally, you still have options.

So, How Do You Get Curly Hair (Men)?

If you want to get curly hair naturally, your bottle of sea salt spray may be your new best friend. Spraying damp hair and then scrunching it as you blow it dry should encourage curls and waves to form naturally.