Everyone wants something a little different than what they get, or so the old adage goes. It’s common for people with naturally wavy hair to want to know how to make wavy hair curlier. Maybe they’re a 2a looking to achieve 2c waves.
Maybe they’re a 2c looking to step into the 3-range with “real” curls. Or maybe they don’t have a specific curl type goal in mind, but they’re just trying to enhance their natural hair pattern as much as they can. Whichever of those might be you, this post is for you!
How To Make Wavy Hair Curlier
To make wavy hair curlier scrunch your hair while in the shower, and then diffuse instead of air dry so that it dries quicker and tighter. Use lightweight products to keep hair light. Make sure your hair has enough protein. Curl enhancers can tighten your pattern, too.
That’s the short answer. The long answer is to follow with 18 specific ways you can make your wavy hair curlier. Before getting into those in detail I want to say that curly hair is not objectively better than wavy hair. However, I fully support people choosing hair that make them feel best.
If that means their hair when they just wash it and brush it, I think that’s great. If they feel best when they straighten or curl their hair, that’s great too. If they fall somewhere in the ‘natural’ haircare range, that’s just as good.
I see none of these or objectively better or worse than the others. I’m writing this post because I know there are many wavies out there who want to tighten their pattern. If that’s what makes you happy, I’m happy to try to help you out.
Okay, now that we’ve established that all hair patterns are good hair patterns – on with the 18 ways, broken into a few categories.
Enhance Your Natural Curl Pattern
A big part of making your hair as wavy or as curly as it can be, is making sure you aren’t weighing down, stretching out or otherwise keeping your hair from being as wavy or as curly as it would otherwise be.
For many wavies, fighting the effects of water on the hair is a huge part of bringing out our waves. Protecting our natural pattern by being very gentle with our hair to avoid crushing our waves, and using the right products to help protect our waves helps too.
Ways to make wavy hair curlier
- Diffuse instead of air dry. If you’re air drying, just the water weight can weigh down your hair. If you diffuse dry instead, this can tighten your wave pattern. For some (myself included) this difference is really significant. I have a post on air drying vs diffusing if you want to see the difference it makes for me. Or a how to diffuse wavy hair tutorial if you need to learn how.
- Plop your hair after a shower. Plopping will hold your hair in it’s natural curl pattern while it’s at its wettest, and help remove some water. Holding your waves/curls in their pattern while they dry can help avoid the water from stretching out your hair. I have a tutorial on plopping.
- Microplop your hair. Between your shower and your hair drying, if you notice that your waves or curls are starting to get elongated, microplop. This will help your waves spring back up, and remove water at the same time. I have a tutorial on microplopping.
- Don’t brush your waves – if you’re brushing your waves, you’re probably flattening them or stretching them out. If you stop brushing them, they will curl up tighter.
- Use lightweight products. Some products (even rinse-out products) have heavier ingredients that can weigh down your hair and elongate or loosen your wave/curl pattern. If you’ve been using heavy products, switching to lighter products may tighten your pattern. See my post on how to tell if your waves are weighed down if this might be an issue for you.
- Mousse or gel. There are some light gels, but most of the time mousse is lighter. Either way, you may find that using a product with hold (gel or mousse) can help you maintain a tighter curl pattern. Products with hold basically lend structure to your hair, helping it support its shape. This is a significant factor in my own hair pattern. If I skip mousse, my hair pattern will be much looser or straighter.
- Consider a cut. If your hair is longer, the weight of the hair itself can weigh you down. Cutting any random haircut may help tighten your curl pattern.
- Consider a dry curl cut. Dry curl cuts are done by curly hair specialists who will cut each individual wave or curl to maximize its shape. Of course, dry curl cuts also have the same benefits as regular haircuts as far as losing the weight of what is cut off.
- Clarify your hair regularly. If you get too much build-up, this can cause your hair to be weighed down, especially at the roots. Want to know more? Check out my clarifying wavy hair blog post.
- Scrunch your hair when it is wet. This can help your waves to form while wet, which will help them to dry more wavy or curly. I’ve compared scrunching hair a little vs a lot, and found that scrunching longer helps my hair.
- Finger coil your waves. If you want to turn your waves into coils, you can do so by finger coiling your hair while it’s wet and allowing them to dry that way.
- Try pin curls. Another way to get coils is to create them with pin curls.
- Use curl activators or enhancers. If you’re looking for a product to make wavy hair curly, curl enhancers or curl activators are what you want. I haven’t tried them so these aren’t personal recommendations. However, products like Aveda Be Curly Curl Enhancer, and AG Re:coil are two that I have heard about from others quite a bit. However, there are plenty of others. Curl activators and enhancers are products designed to help you tighten your curl pattern. Many of them use Magnesium sulfate (aka Epson salt) which breaks some bonds in your hair, and re-bonds them in a tighter fashion. The effects are temporary though, so you’ll need to use the product each wash day to keep the effect.
- Avoid damage. Damaging your hair can damage your hair pattern. Avoiding heat tools, or harsh chemical treatments can help keep your hair healthier and your waves tighter.
- Repair damage. I’ve only heard a little about this, so please do way more research if you want to consider this. However, some claim that Opalex No 3 can repair damaged hair and restore a previous, more curly hair pattern for people who have lost their curls due to damage.
- Check your moisture/protein balance. If your hair is over-moisturized and lacking protein, it will struggle to support itself. Hair that lacks protein is very soft and won’t hold its natural waves or curls very well. After doing a protein treatment, my hair pattern is often tighter.
- Use natural haircare long term. If your goal is to enhance your natural pattern over time, staying natural with your routine and products can help significantly. Many who embrace the curly girl method long-term find that their natural pattern tightens by using natural products and treating their hair gently.
The left photo was June 2018, the middle was May 2019, the right is September 2020. My hair pattern appears to have gotten curlier over time. Part of this is learning how to best care for my hair (like giving it enough protein), and figuring out the right products (switching from gel to mousse, among others).
However, I also believe part of it is simply treating my hair gently long term. In 2018, my hair was nowhere near as shiny as it is now, and it felt rougher and weaker. So, I believe some of the growth in my pattern is simply the result of this process making my hair healthier.
Create what you want!
If you want quick, easy and reliable results and don’t necessarily care about your natural pattern? Or maybe you have done everything you can to avoid weigh down and enhance your natural pattern, but it’s still looser than you prefer? Then don’t worry about what I said above, hop off the ‘natural’ train and do things the easier way.
The instinct for some may be to see this as ‘cheating’ or somehow ‘lesser’. There can be some stigma around it, for some reason. Ask yourself if that really matters to you though, and if so, why? In my opinion, if you want to use heat or chemicals to get a certain hair texture, then there should be no shame in that. If you really want curlier hair, why not just create it?
- Curl your hair. There are tons of curling iron types out there, and different techniques. You can use heat to create the pattern you want, when you want, with far less risk of bad results vs natural. This may seem obvious to some, but it can sometimes feel like this option is unspeakable in the wavy or curly hair community. So, for anyone who may need a reminder, it’s okay to use a curling iron if it makes you happy!
- Perm. Yep, create your curls chemically! Again, not a “natural” option, but natural isn’t for everyone. Similar to curling, this can give you more guaranteed results, with less fuss than natural styling options. And if it’s what you want to do, please do so guilt-free.
I have lots of blog posts discussing various wavy hair care techniques. See the whole Wavy Hair Care Blog Post Directory to see more.