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How to get natural curly hair for straight hair
You can’t turn truly straight hair into wavy or curly hair using natural methods. You can use heat tools or perm it, though!
Okay, I confess, this header was a bit of a tease or trick. When doing research for my other post, how to make wavy hair curlier, I saw that variations of how to train straight hair to be naturally curly is searched a lot.
From the last few years hanging out in curly girl method and naturally wavy hair communities, I know there are misconceptions surrounding this. I thought it was worth addressing. Can you train straight hair to be naturally curly?
No. You can’t. The same is true of wavy hair. If your hair is truly just wavy, you can’t just make it curly naturally.
There’s nothing wrong with using a curling iron or perming your hair if you have straight hair and want wavy hair. Or if you have wavy hair and want curly hair. However, if you are interested in natural hair care, please don’t start a natural wavy hair journey with the expectation of your hair becoming wavier or curlier at any point down the line.
I regularly see people on wavy forums who are 2a, asking about getting into the 3-range and expecting it can just be made to happen without heat or chemicals. That isn’t how natural hair care usually works. Is it possible that someone out there had really damaged hair that was 2a and after years of gentle haircare and learning the best products for their hair type, they reached 3a? Sure.
It would be the exception though, not the rule – and that means they had curly hair naturally, and it was just damaged to make it subtly wavy, and then was repaired. My larger point is – you can’t just pick any curl pattern and make it happen with the curly girl method.
In my post about making wavy hair curlier, you’ll see that it’s almost exclusively about avoiding weighing down your pattern. A lot of people care for their hair in ways that weigh it down or damage their pattern.
For those people, if they stop doing the things that weigh their hair down, or begin to be gentler with their hair so that their new growth will be less damaged…their hair can appear to get curlier. It is their natural pattern, though.
Does the curly girl method make straight hair wavy?
If you’ve seen TikToks or youtube videos with captions like “Trying the curly girl method on STRAIGHT hair” that show wavy or curly results? Those people had textured hair already, and it just looked straight because of the way they were treating their hair.
For example, many people with naturally wavy hair will think their hair is straight if they always brush it or comb it. Brushing or combing will commonly destroy the textured pattern in wavy hair because wavy hair tends to be somewhat fragile.
For the same reason, many people with naturally wavy hair need to use gel or mousse to help preserve their pattern or gravity will pull it down as their hair dries or shortly after they start going about their day. So it may seem like someone had straight hair, then stopped brushing their hair, started plopping, diffusing and using gel and suddenly their hair “became” wavy or curly.
However, the waves were always in there, they were just not be treated properly in order to preserve the natural pattern. My own hair has changed its appearance quite a lot since I started the curly girl method. It was largely because my hair was weighed down and brushed out before. I explain my own wavy hair journey a bit more in this post wavy hair before and after the curly girl method.
Another common misconception is that switching to curly girl approved products will make hair wavy or curly, or tighten the curl pattern. I know I have seen posts from people who bought curly girl approved products, clarified their hair, then used the CGM products and were surprised their hair wasn’t any curlier than when they used non-CGM products.
I believe the core misconception is the belief that silicones are very heavy, to the point of weighing down wavy or curly hair and making it look straight? If that is the theory, it is incorrect.
Curly girl approved products won’t make waves appear in naturally straight hair, or won’t tighten your pattern in a single wash even if it is naturally wavy. Silicones are not that heavy to make a really quick and dramatic difference in your results once you get rid of them.
Those who do have naturally wavy hair are far more likely to see a big shift in results if they stop brushing their hair, diffuse their hair instead of air dry, and use gel or mousse. That’s not to say that avoiding silicones can’t help hair over time.
I believe it does for many people. However, the core reason why the curly girl method says to avoid silicones is that they can build up on the hair, and require strong cleansers to remove that build-up. Those cleansers are believed by some people to be harsh on hair, leaving it dry or damaged.
Avoiding silicones reduce the need to use strong cleansing shampoos as often. Meaning, the whole goal is to just be gentler on your hair to let it remain healthy. It has little to do with the weight of silicones. Natural hair routines (like avoiding heat, and using gentle cleansers) may improve hair health over time.
Healthier hair sometimes is better able to support its natural texture, which again may make it look curlier than it used to. With the curly girl method or other natural wavy/curly hair care methods, many people find that their curl pattern does tighten somewhat over time, with a variety of natural methods.
This is done by reducing weigh-down, and taking really good care of your hair to allow it to do what it naturally can do. For some, this may mean that they start out at 2b, and through using products and routines that stop weighing them down, and by making their hair healthy, getting their moisture/protein balance right, they may jump up to a 3a curl.
For others, it won’t happen. It all depends on your natural hair pattern, and there is no guarantee of reaching any particular curl pattern. Any given person can’t just choose what curl pattern they want to reach through natural methods. All this to say if your hair looks straight, but you brush it and don’t use gel?
Well, there’s some chance it may be naturally wavy. In that case, you can try a simple wavy/curly hair routine to see if it changes the look of your hair. If it does, you have naturally wavy hair. If it doesn’t, your hair may just be naturally straight. When hair is truly straight, doing the curly girl method will not make it look wavy.
There are many somewhat deceptive or click-baity youtube videos out there about it. Here is one that shows what happens when the curly girl method is attempted on truly straight hair.
Whatever results people achieve through natural methods depends on their natural hair pattern. This is why myself and another person with very similar looking hair to me could use the same routine but get different results. The curly girl method or other natural forms of hair care do not “create” curls that don’t naturally exist.
I believe the TikTok trend, among other things, have caused confusion about natural hair patterns. Some people thought they had straight hair, but discover with natural hair care routines, they have waves. The routines didn’t “create” those waves though.
To complicate matters a little bit, there are some methods or routines that can create waves or curls in straight hair. These include:
Finger coiling. This will require that you keep your hair in a coil pattern while they dry, but if you can get it to stay, this would create coils in straight hair.
Pin curls. Pinning your hair while wet and letting it dry will hold the pattern.
Braiding while wet, then undoing once dry will create waves.
No heat rollers. These hold your hair in a tight pattern when wet so they’ll dry in a curly pattern.
Products to Make Straight Hair Curly
Curl enhancers or activators. The Aveda Be Curly Curl Enhancer is a popular one. According to this NaturallyCurly article, these products often use ingredients such as magnesium sulfate to break the bonds in your hair, then re-structure them in a tighter fashion, which tightens the natural hair pattern.
While this won’t take straight hair to curly, they can step your pattern up a notch. Many people with wavy hair use these to tighten their patterns. If you have “Type 1” hair, it might be enough to put you in the wavy range. These only last for 1 wash, so you’ll use it after showering, and will need to re-use the next time you wash your hair if you want the effects again.
Perm kits. You can perm your hair to use chemicals to cause curly hair in hair that is naturally straight.
Curling irons. Enough said, right?
Hot rollers. These remind me of my grandma because she had them, but that’s no reason to not use them today. They can make cute curls in straight hair.
Ashlynn Hamilton says
I have straight hair and I’ve been wanting curls for a LONG time but I don’t want to buy products for it or use heat products to curl it naturally I want it instantly
Thank you for this article, was really interesting. Though, I am a bit confused about my hair. I was born as curly, then my hair was a mixe of ringlet curls clumps and waves until I straightened it in middle school. After I stopped the damages and switched to natural few years ago, my hair turned wavy again, but no more ringlets curls as when I was a child. I had more or less definition depending the shampoo days, sometimes the hair almost looked straight. I have several issues like dryness and hyperthyroidism. After I had an haircut and stopped brushing my hair as dry, I got much better definition with some ringlets underneaths. When I started using a diffuser instead of air dry, fat 3a ringlet curls appeared a bit everywhere on my head (except in the back), roots are still straighter though. I wonder if my hair pattern is actually curly or only like that because product and/or diffuser. Last time I tried a product on a strand without diffuser and had a tightened ringlet appeared (like, real spirals even if I separate them) But you said products and diffuser can not turn wavy hair as curly, but in my case, it really did. How is it possible ? Is it my hair who has potential to be curly ?
Emily Evert says
It’s common for diffusing wavy/curly hair to make it dry “more curly” than it usually looks. What I mean by “diffusing doesn’t make straight hair wavy/curly is that if you diffuse and “find” waves or curls, the wave/curl is naturally in there, so the hair was never truly straight to begin with. If someone with truly straight hair were to use a diffuser on their hair, it would still dry straight. Other people may think they have straight hair, use a diffuser and get waves/curls as a result, and it’s because their hair is naturally textured, but is weighed down/flattend out by the weight of water when they air dry.
So in your case, the diffuser took your hair from wavy to curly and that’s because you removed water faster, so your hair wasn’t weighed down as long, and was able to dry in a tighter pattern rather than a weighed-down pattern. Same thing with using products, they didn’t ‘make’ your hair curly, they just assisted your natural pattern. If someone with straight hair used the same products, they wouldn’t get the results that you did. You got the results that you got because of your natural hair pattern. Hope that makes sense. 🙂
Thanks a lot for taking time to answer ! So, if I understands, my hair really are curly (more likely a mixe of waves and ringlet curls in my case), but used to be weighted down by water? What else would you suggest to get the hair not weighted down and keep that definition without a blow drier ? I get nice curls with diffuser but even on soft air it turns my hair very dry and frizzy, and I m scared that doing that every shampoo (although one shampoo per weeks) would ends up to damage my hair…
Few days ago I made a test and re watered only one strand, shampooed, added conditioner and then a leave in, combed wet and scrunched, the strand dried in a nice and very defined ringlet curl; it actually dried ! I had to scrunch to help evacuate entirely all the leave in though, no grease. The problem is when I do the exact same thing on an actual shampoo day I feel that my hair doesn’t dry at all the the product stays in it, or perhaps I am just impatient, I think I will get a try next time. Sorry for the novel. I before only was brushing my hair on dry and got only barely wavy with slight more definition underneath, I never thought I could get my hair so curly, because it was not damaged. Do you think brushing hair on dry can break curls at this point ?
Emily Evert says
Yes, I think your hair was looser-textured due to being wet longer when you air dry. I think the only way to keep it from getting weighed down by water is to dry it faster, by diffusing. Brushing your hair after it’s dry can definitely make curls break up. I have a blog post on here titled why you shouldn’t brush wavy hair, that shows a before an after of my hair when I brush it. It gets really poofy/puffy if I brush it as well as straighter.
Regarding holding your hairs shape, have you tried gel or mousse? Leave-in conditioner doesn’t do a whole lot to help maintain shape, leave-in conditioner is more to keep your hair feeling soft. Gel or mousse are designed to help hold shape. If you check the ‘blog post directory’ tab in my top menu bar, I’d recommend the link titled “do I have to use gel?” and “why you shouldn’t brush wavy hair” as they have photos showing how the appearance of my hair changes when I brush and when I use gel vs don’t.
I’m a little confused by the reference to aveda be curly curl enhancer. I don’t see magnesium sulfate on the ingredient list nor do I understand how a leave in styling product will destroy and reform bonds. The wheat protein shrinks when it dries therefore helping enhance curl. Please explain if you can… i am legitimately curious about the science behind this one.
Emily Evert says
Thanks for pointing this out! When I went to re-read that portion of this blog post, I found it to be pretty poorly worded, I totally get why you were confused.
I referenced the aveda be curly product because it’s the only curl enhancer I have personally used. Then I referenced magnesium sulfate because it’s a common curl activating ingredient, and it’s one that I had managed to find some information on to gain a basic understanding of how curl enhancers work. You’re right that the aveda one doesn’t use magnesium sulfate, though. I could be wrong, but I think the way that most curl enhancers (salt-based or not) work is by causing a re-bonding process in our hair, and it’s that rebounding process that causes salt to be drying to our hair, so I Would think that if other activators don’t use salt but still rebond our hair that it would still risk being as drying as salt-based activators. I don’t know for sure though. I wish it were easier to find more science-based information about hair care and hair products.
I edited a portion of this post to try to make it more clear. I also added a link to the article I had read about how magnesium sulfate works to tighten our curl pattern but how it can lead to dryness.