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How to How to Dry Curly Hair | 5 Easy Steps to Lovely Locks

Want dreamy, bouncy curls or luscious waves without the frizz or damage? Follow these steps to how to dry curly hair. We’ll explain these steps for all types to achieve frizz-free springy ringlets or soft beachy waves.


How to Dry Curly Hair in 5 Easy Steps

There are two main ways to dry curly hair, either heat styling and air-drying without heat. Both approaches lead to gorgeous, healthy-looking coils if you follow these tricks. 

  1. Detangle and Hydrate Hair While Wet
  2. Remove Excess Moisture
  3. Apply Styling Products
  4. Wrap It Up
  5. Air Dry (Natural) or Use a Diffuser (Heat Styling)

If you’re using quality products and still suffering from frizz and damage, you might not be drying your curls correctly. Curly hair comes in various textures and dries differently than straight strands, so be sure you do what’s best for your locks. Here’s how to achieve beautiful curls with or without heat styling in five simple, detailed steps. 

Step 1: Detangle and Hydrate Hair While Wet

For a piece on how to dry curly hair, and image of wet hair being rung out in a bathtub

Triocean/Shutterstock

The process of successful drying curly hair begins while your hair is still wet. Curly-haired folks require different products and maintenance to make their mane look its best; that starts in the shower. 

How Best to Hydrate Your Hair

Curly locks require more hydration than straight hair, which can get weighed down with heavy creams and conditioners and end up looking limp. For bouncy ringlets and elegant waves, be sure to use a deeply hydrating shampoo and conditioner to lock in moisture, especially if your hair is damaged from coloring, heat styling, or is coarse and unruly. 

Look for products made specifically for wavy, curly, or naturally textured hair and have moisture-rich ingredients like jojoba oil, avocado oil, or shea butter. Those with curly hair should use nourishing hair masks or oil treatments once a month.

Detangling 

To ease the drying process, start detangling your hair while it’s wet by combing through the conditioner with a wide-toothed comb, starting at the ends, and working your way up to the roots. This is because the ends tend to get tangled and are also the most damaged. If you start at the top, you’ll only push the tangles all to the ends of your hair, causing a mess to comb.

Be sure to use a wide-tooth comb and not a brush. Brushing out curls can make hair frizzy and ruin the natural curl pattern, while a wide-tooth comb is gentle for detangling and follows with the natural shape of your curls. The exception is a boar-bristle brush that distributes oils.

Keep in Mind

Any important tip with curly, textured hair is when it comes to washing and combing, less is more. Recommendations for highly textured hair suggest washing it no more than once a week

Excessive washing can cause curly or textured hair to dry out, leading to breakage and damage. If washing once a week makes you cringe, rinse your hair and use conditioner but skip the shampoo.

Step 2: Remove Excess Moisture

Indian gal removing moisture out of her hair while looking to the left in the shower for a piece on how to dry curly hair

Teddclicks/Shutterstock

Once you step out of the shower with a head full of wet hair, any false move or faulty step in the drying process can wreck your perfectly coiled locks look, so pay close attention. 

While your hair is sopping wet, squeeze out excess moisture gently like you’d squeeze a tube of toothpaste in a downward motion. Avoid wringing or twisting your hair, and don’t rub. Rubbing the hair or wringing it out like a soaked rag can cause damage and frizz.

Step 3: Apply Styling Products

Happy Afro-American woman blotting excess moisture from her hair for a piece on how to dry curly hair

Prostock-Studio/Shutterstock

When your hair is still wet, and before you use a towel to dry it off further, apply your favorite hair products made for curly locks. This is an essential step because, unlike straight strands, curly hair needs both moisture and definition. Use a good leave-in conditioner to lock in an extra layer of hydration, then add a styling product that works for your hair texture.

Styling gels have more hold and shaping power if you require good definition and have unruly curls that need some serious taming or are prone to frizz. For looser curls and waves, you may prefer a hair lotion, cream, or mousse with less hold and more flexibility for soft, touchable locks. Finish by applying hair oil on damp or dry hair like argan oil.

Don’t use the same kind of oil you’d use for a deep conditioning treatment; those are meant to be washed out. The oil seals the moisture in and the other styling products. It also tames flyaways, so you can use another few drops once your hair is thoroughly dried.

Step 4: Wrap It Up

To illustrate the proper way to dry curly hair, a woman uses a microfiber towel on her head to dry the wet hair

Maryna Pleshkun/Shutterstock

After removing excess moisture and applying products, use a microfiber towel, not a terry cloth one. Terry cloth towels absorb too much moisture, and the friction of the fabric is harsh on delicate curls and textured hair. Microfiber towels remove just enough water and don’t disturb the curls. 

Plopping

Another popular alternative to towel-drying that works well for curly hair is a technique called “plopping” that utilizes an old tee shirt (or a microfiber towel, if you prefer).

While it might sound more like the latest dance move, plopping is a well-known styling secret amongst curly-haired folks that’s just now trending. Here’ show to plop your curls:

  • Grab an oversized, crew neck tee shirt or microfiber towel
  • Lay it out with the neckline facing away from you
  • “Plop” your curls down in the middle of the shirt, stacked on your head
  • Fold the sleeves and neckline around the base of your head
  • Roll the remaining length of the tee up with your hair in it into a turban
  • Voila! You’re living the #PlopLife

Step 5: Air Dry (Natural) or Use a Diffuser (Heat Styling)

Curly haired woman using a hair diffuser and holding her curls

Cerrotalavan/Shutterstock

So you’ve washed, detangled, added styling products, and wrapped it up in a microfiber towel or tee shirt, now what? The next step depends on your patience and style desires. You could opt to go natural and let your curls air dry or speed up the process and use a diffuser to dry your coils.

Air Drying Curly Hair (Natural)

Air drying is excellent for curly and textured hair because it maximizes the amount of time your hair retains moisture and gives your hair a break from further damage from heat styling. Although air-drying certainly has its benefits, there are right and wrong ways to do it.

For wavy hair: With damp hair, use a gel and lotion to scrunch hair from the ends to mid-length (not the roots). Let dry completely. Add oil or a smoothing balm to tame flyaways. 

For curly hair:

  1. Use a gel or mousse with a stronger hold on wet but not soaking wet hair
  2. Work the products into your hair, twisting and defining individual strands
  3. Allow to dry completely

For highly textured or coarse coils: Follow the steps for curly hair, but be sure you’re using a hydrating leave-in conditioning cream and twist coils into organized two-inch sections all over your head. 

  • Don’t air-dry soaking wet strands (See Steps 2 and 4). Damp hair dries more evenly; air drying soaking wet hair can cause frizz, flyaways, and split ends.
  • Resist the urge to touch your hair as it dries. Messing with your hair makes messy hair!

Using a Diffuser (Heat Styling)

Heat styling gets a bad reputation, but if done right, it’s actually better for your hair in combination with air drying instead of air drying completely. First things first, curly-haired folks must use a diffuser attachment and keep the setting at medium to low.

A diffuser is the hairdryer attachment that looks like a bowl with spikes. Those with wavy hair or loose curls can place their hair onto the diffuser spikes and scrunch up. Folks with medium curls to tight coils should hold the diffuser a few centimeters away from the hair.

These techniques shape your curls and reduce frizz. Your best bet is to combine the two. Air dry as long as you can, then use a diffuser to shape and define when your hair is almost dry. Remember to use a heat protectant spray when heat styling!

Things to Consider

Woman holding her hair and looking up and to the right for a piece on how to dry curly hair

Roman Samborskyi/Shutterstock

When it’s time to dry your curly coils, here are the most important things to consider if you want to ensure healthy, bouncing curls that are damage and frizz-free:

What to Do

  • Wash your hair too often 
  • Use a brush or brush your curls out too regularly 
  • Use a terry cloth towel to remove excess moisture
  • Air dry soaking wet hair

What Not to Do

  • Use deeply hydrating products 
  • Use a wide-tooth comb to detangle
  • Try “plopping” using a microfiber towel or tee shirt 
  • Mix up your drying methods with a combination of diffusing and air drying

So, How Do You Dry Curly Hair?

If you want gorgeous curls from enviable waves to springy coils, the process starts in the shower with deep hydration and detangling. The best way to dry your curls is to use a microfiber towel or tee shirt to soak up excess moisture, add the right products for your hair’s texture, then combine a mix of air drying and using a diffuser. That’s the secret to head-turning curly locks!