Girl wondering how to get her hair to hold a curl

How to get your hair to hold a curl

For girls with straight hair, the allure of curls brings on envy. But every time you curl your hair, it never holds. How do you get your hair to hold a curl?

To get your hair to hold a curl right after a shower, you’ll want to avoid using conditioner and opt for mousse, then apply heat protection and the right drying technique. Unwashed hair can get you even better results, as you can add texture to it using dry shampoo.

If you have had trouble locking curls into your luscious locks, it’s time to get that sassy, sexy, and beautiful bounce of curls in your hair. And, I’m going to teach you how to make it last. Whether you’re working with fully natural hair or extensions, keep reading to get those long-lasting curls you want!

How to prep your hair to hold a curl when it’s freshly washed

Got a hot date tonight and want to really make an impression? Your hair will speak volumes for you when you have it curled and wild. Of course, you’ll want to look and smell your best, so a shower is in order. But that’s where you always fall into trouble every time getting the curl to stay in your hair. Here’s what to do to hold a curl fresh from the shower.

Basically, you’ll want to:

  • Not use conditioner
  • Use mousse
  • Protect
  • Use the right drying technique
  • Use lots of hairspray

▪  Skip conditioner in the shower

Believe it or not, your best curls will all begin while you’re still in the shower. When you skip the conditioner in the shower. Your straight hair won’t hold curls if it’s too slippery. Your hair needs texture and grit to lock a curl into a secure place and according to a 2015 study, using conditioner, will decrease friction and minimize frizz not allowing your hair to hold curls.

▪ Prep your hair with mousse

The trick to curls is mousse. You want to apply a lot of it, and generally, when you have a big wad of it in your hands, that’s perfect. It should resemble a baseball or even a bit bigger than that for long hair. Massage it into your damp hair.

The magic of mousse stems from the fact that it has alcohol in it, and according to research short-chain alcohols have a higher water absorption rate, so if the mousse you’re using contains ethanol, SD alcohol, SD alcohol 40, denatured alcohol, Propanol, Propyl alcohol, or Isopropyl alcohol your hair is going to take better hold. That texture is essential to keeping your curls. A thickening mousse is ideal. You’ll want to work it in from top to bottom.

▪ Don’t skip on hair protection

No matter how you ever style your hair, you never ever EVER should use heat styling without some type of hair protection. A 2011 study, confirmed that if you don’t protect your hair, you’ll damage. And considering you’ll be using mousse which has alcohol in it on your hair for curls, you desperately need a heat protection spray. Make sure you apply it after the mousse.

▪ Don’t go with the hairdryer all the way in

Now, for those curls. I recommend forgetting everything you normally do to your hair and grabbing a diffuser to attach to your blow dryer. You can also flip it around with your hands. In fact, get wild with it and tousle it as you dry it. This will encourage it to get wavy and curly.

▪ Add hair spray to your dry hair for extra texture

Ok, now it’s dry. And there are curls! Yay! Once every bit of it is dry, most of your hair in sections that are one to two inches in size with hairspray. Work from the underside to the top, this method is even backed by science. Then you can wrap them with a curling iron or wand. Which is better? You should check out my post on that to find out!

You don’t have to use a curling wand, but I do recommend it. If you don’t have one, you can still achieve the look. Texture is what makes curls so spray and scrunch!

Pro tip: Don’t use firm-hold hairspray. These types tend to leave hair crunchy. Like Justin Timberlake’s famous ramen-noodle-style hair in the 90s. Not a good look. Eek. Go with light to medium hold to avoid looking crispy.

How to prep your hair to hold a curl when it’s unwashed

Ok, so let’s say you may have washed your hair yesterday, and there’s no sense in washing it again. So how do you get your hair to hold a curl when it’s dry and straight?

You’ll basically do the same things but in short:

  • Don’t wash your hair
  • Use drying shampoo
  • Use hairspray and heat protection
  • Pre-heat your curling wand

Let’s break all this down, shall we?

▪ Skip washing your hair to get even better results

If you want curls for your weekend fun, keep from washing your hair for 2 to 3 days, depending on how greasy it gets. Curls hold great in dirty hair thanks to the natural oils on your scalp and the texture. This means they’ll last longer, and you won’t need mousse to do it!

▪ Add texture to your hair using dry shampoo

I know you’re wondering what to do about keeping from looking like an oil slick in that time, so use dry shampoo just on the roots. That will help the oil situation while adding volume to your hair. Just sprinkle it on at the roots, let it sit, and then comb it down from the top of your head down to the ends.

▪ Heat protectant and hair spray are a must

Hairspray is a curly girl’s best friend. You’ll want to spray that on from beginning to end to add rough texture. Again, you do not want a firm hold hairspray because of the crunchiness. But you should also avoid holding any hairspray too close. You’ll wind up crispy with that. Simply mist it lightly, let it dry, and then you can add heat.

The actual curling process

Get ready, Betty, because you’re going to get those curls you want and make them last. See? You CAN have your cake and eat it too. Or, in this case, curls, but I don’t think you want to eat those. You will, however, look good enough to eat. So here’s how we do it! Keep reading!

▪ Preheat your styling tool

Again, I recommend you take a look at my post about curling wands if you don’t already own one. You really should have one in your arsenal.

With any heat styling tool you’re using, 300 °F is the ideal temperature to handle curls. Except if you have hair extensions, then you’ll want to go lower at 250 °F because they’re more fragile. If you’re browsing the selection of curling wands and irons, choose the ones with tourmaline or ceramic because they do less damage. They cost more, yes, but they’re worth it to care for your hair. They heat better too, so you don’t have to keep going over the same area and inflicting more damage.

Oh, and if your hair is colored or processed in any way, please lower the heat from 300 °F too. You don’t want to add more damage than what has already been done. The hotter the temperature, the better the curls will be. Again, heat protection spray is a must. Don’t use any heat styling tools without it!

▪ The right barrel size is what matters

Now let’s talk barrel size. This is a critical factor when getting your curls. You may have heard the rumor that a bigger barrel will give you super-sexy supermodel curls. You can do this with a smaller barrel, though. Sizes like 1-inch or 1.5-inch tend to work best. They add more definition, plus, get this! They make curls last longer. The larger the barrel, the looser the curls and the faster they fall out.

Also, if you’re wondering what’s up with curling wands versus curling irons, the iron is great for tight curls, while curling wands give you more options to customize. It may just be your technique too. Let’s get into technique and what you could be doing that is undoing your curls!

▪ Start curling from the top

Are you curling your hair from the bottom to the top? If so, stop! The bottom of your hair is getting the most of that heat. So when the bottom gets most of the heat, the curls stay tightest at the bottom. But that only serves to weigh down the hair at your scalp. And when that happens, you get curls that come undone. This is essential if you use a curling iron that has a clamp on it.

Tapering curling wands also need this technique. So what you’ll want to do is start at the top and go down. You can use the bottom of the barrel to wrap the hair to get the most out of the shape and keep your curls big and full.

▪ Keep your hair on your curling wand a little longer

When curling your hair, there is a golden rule if you want those curls to last…

Leave it on 30 seconds per strand.

Burn this into your brain while avoiding burning yourself. Hair irons should be held to this standard always. You want to keep consistent. If not, you’re not heating hair enough, and it won’t lock in the curls. Then you wind up with a frizzy mess of weird curls that look fake.

▪ Use clips

I love clips. These things are great for every styling need you have. For extra hold, put the silver clips in to set your curls. Simply wrap your curl and pin it up at the top of your head. Leave it there for a few minutes. Then unpin it, and you’ll have great structure and tons more volume. Hair should also be divided into nice sections before curling. Don’t just wing it! That’s where you come out with sloppy hair that looks like a little kid did it.

If you want to look like you just came from the salon or you were born this way, you should divide and conquer those sections. This way, you get curls with perfect structure that last.

▪ Don’t brush your curls

Keep that brush away! It will pull your curls out and ruin all your hard work. Instead, use a wide-tooth comb. You can also use your fingers to separate them without wrecking them.

Another cool trick is to flip your head after curling and shake out your curls from the root. I love this because you get mega-volume, and they look so natural and sexy. And you can’t forget that hairspray. Spray it on before you separate out those curls, so they stay.

▪ Avoid touching your hair

Once you have a head full of sassy and sensual curls, it’s hard to keep from touching them. It’s like seeing a unicorn! But if you keep running your fingers through your hair, you’re going to undo those curls just as brushing would. The more you touch them, the more you wreck them, so don’t touch! Lock them in with that hairspray and then leave them be.


Whether you wash your hair or let it stay a little dirty, curling it is very possible even if you have stubbornly straight hair. The key in both instances is the texture. You have to remove that slippery feeling and hairspray and mousse both add that grit you need. The other thing to think about is how you apply those products. Hairspray is essential from start to finish. If your hair is crunchy, you’re doing it wrong though.

Heat styling tools are your BFF here, but you should make sure you’re using the right ones and the right amount of heat. Big barrels will cost you curls too quickly and not dialing up enough heat won’t lock curls in.

The direction you’re curling in may also be a factor. If you’re starting at the bottom, try starting from the top instead to see how they stick around. Sometimes the wrong technique is to blame for getting those sultry curls.

With all these tips, you should find yourself with the kind of bed-head sexy curls you’ve been dreaming of. When you get them, remember to keep your hands off, and you’ll find they will retain bounce and volume all day and night!


My name is Hajer and welcome to my site. This is my little haven, my outlet, where I can express myself, and show you everything I've learned about makeup, skincare, hair tips, and so much more, as well as the different beauty mistakes I've made so that you can avoid them.

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