Throughout most of life, the top complaint I’ve had about my hair has been “My hair is so poofy!”. My boyfriend has straight hair, but when his hair reaches a certain length it gets poofy for a week or so until it gets just long enough to lay flat. He’s always called it ‘fluffy’ instead of poofy. Whichever word you prefer, this post is for you if you want to know how to make your wavy hair less poofy or fluffy.
How To Make Your Wavy Hair Less Poofy
Making wavy hair less poofy is all about letting your waves stay defined in “curl clumps”. Use gel or mousse to define your clumps, and avoid using a brush or comb to keep it from getting poofy.
That’s the quick and easy answer. When I was new, I needed a lot more information so let’s dig a lot deeper!
4 photos showing my hair from least defined (far left) to most defined (far right).
What is wavy hair definition?
Terms and phrases like ‘definition’ or ‘defined waves’ ‘defined curls’ and so on were confusing concepts to me when I first started learning about textured hair care. Blog posts and forums often talked about curl definition or geting better definition in hair – and I couldn’t understand what they were actually saying.
I can’t be the only one who doesn’t grasp this right away. So, let’s start with explaining what hair definition means for textured hair. When you think about using a curling iron to create curls in straight hair, you create a single curl by wrapping probably hundreds of hairs around the curling iron, to create a single curl.
You don’t curl each individual hair on your head separately, right? When you looked at freshly heat-curled hair, you can see each individual curl well enough to count them if you wanted to. If you could look at freshly heat-styled hair and count 12 curls, effortlessly, that would be because those curls are well defined.
They don’t mesh together, you can see them all individually. That’s the general idea of curl definition. Natural hair is always going to be somewhat less defined than heat-created curls because they are natural and therefore less ‘perfectly shaped’. Also, seeing individual curls is harder on dark hair than light hair.
So if you can’t easily point to or count your waves or curls if your hair is dark, that doesn’t necessarily mean you have poor definition, it might just be harder to see. If you could theoretically reach out and pinch/grasp each wave one at a time, they’re well defined.
My wet curl clumps ^
I use that explanation of grouping hundreds of hair around the curling iron to explain how natural curls work, too. In naturally textured hair, lots of individual hairs with the same curl pattern will group together to form one wave or one curl. In the curly hair community these are called curl clumps.
When showering or shortly after, you may notice that your hair will form curl clumps naturally. Many people with wavy or curly hair will do the “squish to condish” movement while in the shower to help their curl clumps form well.
From there, working to help preserve that pattern as they dry and beyond is the key to not letting your hair get poofy.
This is what my hair looks like if I don’t use products.
What Causes Poofy Hair?
Poofy hair is the result of curl clumps being separated. Back before I knew my hair was wavy, it would look a lot straighter, but a lot more poofy. This was because my waves weren’t well defined. In other words, they weren’t being held together well.
This is why the two main answers to making your waves less poofy are gel and not brushing your hair. You want a product like gel or mousse to help hold your waves together. You want to avoid brushing or combing your hair to avoid breaking your waves apart.
Summer 2021 update – I recently got a devacut. It didn’t go well. This is what my new haircut looks like when styled and then brushed out! I wrote about my wavy hair devacut experience if you’re curious to know more.
How To Make Wavy Hair Not Poofy
- Use gel or mousse. Make sure you’re using enough to cover your hair well. It may take trial and error to figure out which products work best for you, and how much to use.
- Don’t brush or comb your hair after getting out of the shower. Once your hair is well-clumped in the shower, try to preserve those clumps by not brushing or combing them.
- Try not to touch your hair too much. Running your fingers through your hair can work similar to a comb and break up your curl clumps. Even lightly touching your hair in other ways can potentially cause your waves to break up some. The less you touch your hair, the better.
- Hydrate your hair. If your hair is dry, it might ‘poof’ more than well-moisturized and hydrated hair. Working to find products and routines that keep your hair moisturized can help.
- Haircut matters. Because waves need to clump together, getting your hair cut with a razor can disrupt your ability to get well-defined waves.
How To Fix Poofy Straight Hair
If your straight hair is really poofy, it’s probably naturally wavy but you’re brushing out your waves! Truly straight hair just doesn’t get poofy. Wavy hair requires delicate treatment to avoid being flattened, so it’s common for people with naturally wavy hair to believe their hair is straight.
Many people grow up thinking their hair is straight, and treating it like straight hair. If you’ve never used styling products, and have always brushed your hair, especially if you brush it after your shower? Then you may have wavy hair that you’ve been brushing out, making it poofy. That was me for the first 26 years of my life or so!
If you think you have straight poofy hair, I’d encourage you to try treating your hair like it is wavy/curly and see what results you get. While wavy hair is between straight and curly, it tends to behave best when treated more like wavy hair than straight hair. A great starting point is my blog post How To Test If Your Hair Is Wavy. You may also be interested in my post signs that straight hair is actually wavy.
Some people with wavy hair find that their hair only gets poofy at the end of wash day or day 2, etc. If this is your situation, here is advice specific to keeping your hair from getting poofy after wash day.
How To Keep Wavy Hair From Getting Poofy After Wash Day
- Find a refresh routine that works well for your hair. If you figure out a good refresh routine, you can regain some definition (and get rid of some poof) on day 2+. I have to posts on refreshing, one for refreshing with water, another for refreshing with mousse.
- Make sure you are sleeping on wavy hair in a way that isn’t damaging your natural texture more than necessary.
- Consider making a change with your gel or mousse. Maybe you need to switch to another brand, or maybe you need to use more product. I am primarily a mousse girl myself. If I don’t use enough mousse on wash day, then day #2 will lose definition a lot worse than if I use enough mousse from the get-go.
- Consider your moisture-protein balance. This is perhaps the most likely answer if your hair used to last multiple days past wash day, but now is falling apart quickly. You may be lacking enough protein for your hair to hold itself up.
If you struggle with poofy hair after wash day, check out my post how to get naturally wavy hair to last longer.
Consider Embracing Your Poofy Hair A Bit!
While I aim to manage my poofy hair to some degree, I also try to let go of my perfectionism to some degree. At some point, I realized that I actually quite like volume in my hair. It’s not possible to have ‘perfectly’ defined hair and lots of volume at the same time.
Embracing volume means embracing a bit of ‘poof’, or accepting a bit less definition. If you want really defined hair, it won’t have as much volume, and if you want a lot of volume, it won’t have quite as much definition. It’s a balance.
Once I started to let go of my fear of poofy hair, I started to realize I genuinely like my hair some days when it is somewhat poofy. It helps when I focus on seeing it as volume and not poof. Since that realization, I’ve found myself sometimes enjoying day 2 or day 3 hair more than day 1, because while it’s less defined, my curl clumps get more voluminous, and my hair overall has a lot of volume.
I love the volume, even when it means giving up a bit of definition. If you love volume as well, check out my 13 methods to get more volume with naturally wavy hair post.
Here are some examples of some day-2 and day-3 hair that I liked even though they were less defined. Are these poofy, of are they good volume days? I see them as high volume days now. In the past, I would have seen it as poof. Perspective makes a big difference. Which is silly because I like what I see when I see it as volume.
Sometimes it makes sense to pause and ask yourself if you’re just being really critical of your hair, or if you really, truly dislike it. I also think part of having wavy or curly hair means accepting that you can’t control it entirely. Wavy hair seems to have a mind of its own sometimes.
So, my goal is to be intentional with trying to style my hair the way I want to, without expecting ‘perfect’ results. I want to leave space to accept my hair even if I can’t always control exactly how it looks.