Hair Style Tips

Stylists Reveal How To Plop Hair for Beautiful Curls, Every Time

Zoe Weiner

Photo: Getty Images/ F.J. Jimenez
Those with curly hair know this all too well: No matter how bouncy and defined your curls might look when you leave the house, the minute humidity sets in, your curls change. Sure, plenty of products claim to keep curls intact, but the trade-off is often a helmet of crunchy-looking coils. Either way, your curls are prevented from living their best life, which is why according to stylists, if you want natural-looking curls that will last all day, you’ll want to learn how to plop hair.

“Hair plopping is an at-home technique used to dry the hair and achieve defined and natural curls without any hot tools,” says Millie Morales, a celebrity stylist with Garnier. “Instead, you use fabric pieces that you have at home—preferably cotton, like a T-shirt or a towel—and the end result are beautiful natural waves.”

Below, everything you need to know about plopping hair to achieve soft, gorgeous curls every time.

The benefits of plopping hair

Wrapping your hair in cotton protects your curl pattern, and keeping strands heat-free is a big bonus. “Any kind of heat on the hair can be challenging because we are constantly trying to maintain the hair’s natural moisture balance,” Marco Pelusi, celebrity hairstylist, previously told Well+Good. “Hair tends to mimic whatever environment it is in, so if you are heating your hair up with hot tools, it will become hot and dry.” Avoiding heat styling is a great way to avoid damage, which is why hair plopping is a great swap for your go-to curling iron or diffuser.

Can all hair types plop their hair?

Though plopping works best on naturally curly or wavy hair types, it can also help introduce volume into straighter strands, too. “It’s great for people who have straight hair and want to achieve waves, or for those who have a natural wave want it a little tighter,” says Morales. “It’s also great for those who have wavy hair and want that curl to last beautifully—bouncy and with no frizz.” While different hair textures will warrant different results from plopping, the method can help anyone add a little bit of heat-free volume to their final look.

How to plop hair

1. Wash and condition your hair

You’ll want to start the plopping process with clean, wet hair. Stylists suggest avoiding products with alcohol and harsh surfactants, which will dry out your scalp and strands. Instead, look for moisturizing and nourishing ingredients such as coconut oil, avocado oil, and jojoba oil. A curl-friendly duo, like Ouidad Curl Quench Shampoo ($18) and Conditioner ($20), is a great way to go.

2. Detangle your strands

Before drying your hair, you’ll want to do away with any knots and tangles. “Some people do not detangle their hair after washing, and they go straight to this technique thinking it will help them obtain more curls,” says Morales. “On the contrary; the hair dries tangled and frizzy, and you will not get a polished wave.” Use a wide-toothed comb to move through small sections of your hair, starting at the nape of your neck and moving toward your hairline. To reduce friction and help the process go more smoothly, consider applying a leave-in conditioner or hair oil before you start combing.

3. Scrunch

This part is extra-important, because it coaxes your hair into the curled position before you actually plop it. “Some people pull and wrap their hair straight before plopping, but actually you need to crunch the hair a little bit to make sure those waves come out as defined curls,” says Morales. For best results, use a product like Living Proof Curl Definer ($34), which will help hold your curls in place.

4. Plop

Now for the main event. “With a towel, scrunch up your hair to create waves,” says Morales. “Then, with your head upside down, wrap a cotton T-shirt around the hair and secure it on the top of your head.” Because the curls are scrunched up, they’ll be able to maintain their pattern as they dry. Leave the fabric on your head for a few hours, and you and your curls will be ready to go.

For more advice on how to style your particular hair type and texture, check out the video below. 

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