How To Get Stubborn Hair To Hold A Curl

Sometimes our hair seems to have a mind of its own and forgets who’s in charge. For many of us, the biggest hair battle we face is trying to get our hair to hold a curl that lasts longer than an hour (let alone 20 minutes!). But, before you ditch your curling iron, try these expert tips to make your curls last all day.

The Heavier the Hair, the Harder to Curl

There are a few reasons why your hair won’t hold its curls. One explanation: It's too heavy. “This can happen with long, straight, thick hair that is bluntly cut,” says Nicholas Penna, Jr., owner and lead stylist at SalonCapri in Newton and Dedham, MA. His fix? Try adding subtle layers to lighten the heaviness. Another reason could be that you’re due for a trim. Hair is less likely to hold a curl when it’s damaged and has split ends. That’s why regular trims are a must. Overly conditioned hair or hair that lacks moisture can also be difficult to curl, and it can be especially tough after certain chemical treatments.

Don’t Overload Your Hair With Product

Your hair texture could also be the source of your problems. Fine hair doesn’t hold curls very well because it has a slippery texture. “This hair texture is very sensitive to products and the amount you use,” says Angela Kalinowski, hairstylist at Warren Tricomi Salon in Los Angeles. “Too much product can weigh it down, and not enough product can create flyaways.” 

Dirty Hair Holds Curls Better

Healthy medium to thick hair holds curls the best because it has an even balance of protein and moisture that’s perfect for styling. What’s more, “second day” hair, or hair that was washed and blown out the previous day, is ideal. “It’s easier to style hair the next day once the hair’s natural oils and texture have had time to equilibrate,” says Penna. 

Prep With Volumizing Products

Maintaining your curls is all in the preparation. Start by using a lightweight volumizing shampoo and conditioner. Kalinowski loves using VoCé Lift It Volumizing Shampoo ($23) and Conditioner ($25). If you have thicker hair, use a volumizing mousse to help lighten up your hair and hold the curl.

Always Protect Your Locks

Next, spray your hair with a heat-activated hairspray and let it sit for about a minute before you curl it. Penna recommends L'Oreal Professionnel Texture Expert Infinium 3 Strong Hold Working Spray ($24) or Kérastase Double Force Controle Ultime ($38). Then, curl your hair in small sections and clip each one up to let it set. “This will allow the cuticle to cool and close while it's in the curl shape, making it last a lot longer once you take the clips out,” adds Penna.

Pick The Right Curling Tool

As for the best tool to use, Penna says that almost any ceramic curling iron will work for thick hair—it’s thinner hair that is a bit trickier. “Overnight sponge curlers or hot rollers will produce a better curling outcome than a typical regular curler."

  • Jessica
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    Best I have ever used is the Karmin

  • Ria
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    Not everyone can do every kind of hair styling. Some people's hair will be curly in nature. Curly hair suits them better. Some others hair will be straight and that style suits them.

  • Emma
    Posted on

    Ew. I hate my fine hair.

  • Alie Barker
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    since my hair will not curl at all this article was good advice

  • Jamie
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    Haley, Curling works best when you straighten your hair in it's natural state. You might find with your straightened hair that it is almost too slippery to hold a curl. I would suggest using a rolling brush to blow dry your hair straight and curling from there- if you find the curl isn't holding, try the hair spray trick from the article :)

  • onehairld
    Posted on

    This is a perfect article for me. Having such straight hair, holding a curl is always a problem when styling my hair. Thank you for posting this hair styling article!

  • Haley
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    My hair is thin and naturally very curly (small ringlets) what is the best way for me to go about curling my hair (into bigger curls)? Should I be straightening it first or blowdrying then curling?