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Aug 20, 2021
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Curling Hard To Curl Hair: A How-To Guide

Let's curl that hair!

Formulate user Alishia wants to know what's up with her curling iron:

Hi team Formulate! I can't get my hair to hold a curl. I don't know what the problem is. Like I know that I don't have the fanciest curling iron ever, but my sister uses the same one and it works fine for her. I've tried her exact routine (we have really similar hair) but my curls are always gone a few hours into the day, while hers remain. So I really want to know if there's a more effective way of curling my hair so that the curls will actually last all day, because it's getting old having to do touch ups in the bathroom at work. I love wearing my hair curled so I really appreciate your help on this one!

Thanks for writing, Alishia! We're glad you reached out. 

First, let's talk about the technique that you're using. According to stylist Ghanima Abdullah, heat tools aren't the most effective way to style curls that will actually last. Instead, she recommends going old-school by using velcro rollers in your hair. Here's what she sent us, including her step-by-step process:

Ghanima Abdulla: One of the common missteps for getting a head full of curls on hard to curl hair is assuming you can just grab a curling iron or flat iron. For hard to curl hair, the resulting curls will be history in a matter of hours, if not minutes.

Velcro rollers are the easiest to use. Expect them to stay in your hair for four to six hours to get the curls you're looking for.

  1. Your hair should be thoroughly dry and straight. So for textured hair, make sure your hair has already been stretched to remove as much of the natural coily texture as possible before you reach for the rollers. 
  2. Choose your rollers based on the size curl you want. The section of hair you roll should never be thicker than the diameter of the roller.
  3. Section off the top of the hair, the sides, back, and crown. Make smaller sections to roll your hair. Remember the diameter rule!
  4. Apply enough setting lotion to make the hair section slightly damp, not wet. If you've never used setting lotion, you can use mousse as an alternative.
  5. Roll from the tips to the scalp. 
  6. When you take the rollers out your hair must be completely dry.
  7. Spritz your hair lightly with hair spray before styling - and let that dry too, before you touch your hair.

So there ya go -- according to an expert, velcro rollers are the best way to create long-lasting curls on hard to curl hair. But just in case you're dead-set on styling with heat tools, we also collected a list of best heat tool curl practices for hard to curl hair from stylist Monica Davis and beauty guru Kryz Uy

  1. Get the right tool. Purchase a curling iron with ceramic barrels so the heat can be distributed more evenly, and you can create curls that are of the same size. Your curling iron must have an adjustable temperature. Usually, an iron that can have a maximum temperature ranging from 300 to 400°F is good to have. If you want a looser curl, choose a larger barrel, and smaller ones for tighter curls. If you desire waves and looser curls, choose barrels that are 1.5 - inches.
  2. Don't curl your hair immediately after a shower. A little bit of natural hair oil won't hurt. It actually helps in holding the curls so I suggest curling your hair a day after your last shower. If having clean hair is a non-negotiable for you, use dry shampoo instead. 
  3. Section your hair. By sectioning your hair, you make the process more organized and you avoid subjecting your hair to repetitive heat. You can use a clip to sort out hair that hasn't been curled yet. 
  4. Before curling, remember to do it from top to bottom. If you start at the bottom, your hair becomes heavier at the bottom part and it pulls down on the hair so your curl won't last long. 
  5. Cut the amount of product. The truth is that the more hair products you apply, the heavier your hair gets. If you have hard-to-curl hair, make sure to apply only those products that are 100% necessary and skip everything you can skip without damaging your hair. One-two products are usually more than enough. 
  6. Apply SOME hairspray on dry hair before curling. This helps you to achieve a tighter and more solid shape. Don't apply texturizing or beach sprays if you apply hairspray.
  7. Don't touch the curls before they cool down to room temperature. Touching and pulling hot curls will destroy the shape. 
  8. Choose the right temp for how damaged your hair is. The right range of temperature will vary on the type of hair you are curling: 180°F to 370°F for fine or damaged hair. 375°F to 395°F for healthy hair with normal thickness. 400°F to 420°F for thick hair.

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Caroline Schmidt
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