I almost always “damp style” my wavy hair. I didn’t start out doing that, though. When I first discovered the curly girl method, I used wet styling for several months. I didn’t know I was ‘wet styling’ I just thought that was how everyone did it and that it was just the normal way to style wavy or curly hair.
I actually tried damp styling on a whim of my own, I wasn’t aware that it was even a styling choice when I did it. It gave me results I liked better though, so I stuck with it.
Then later, I came to find out that lots of other people did the same thing. When I first found a wavy community, I noticed that a LOT of wavy-haired people did it. I also learned that there was a term for it – damp styling!
What Is Wet Styling?
Wet styling is when you apply styling products to wet hair. For example, adding a leave-in conditioner, curl cream and a gel to hair while still in the shower or immediately after stepping out of the shower.
What Is Damp Styling?
Damp styling is when you apply styling products to your hair after it is partially dry. One day to damp style would be to shower, then wrap your hair in a microfiber towel for 15 minutes before adding gel.
Does Wet Styling Or Damp Styling Work Better For Wavy Hair?
If you prefer big volume, you are likely to prefer damp styling. If you prefer defined, frizz-free waves, you’re likely to prefer wet styling.
For me? I feel that damp styling works best. I love big volume and volume at my roots, and I am not particularly bothered by low to moderate level of frizz. I have exclusively damp-styled for about two years now. However, for the sake of this blog post I decided to run a little experiment so I could do a photo comparison.
I used the same shampoo, conditioner and mousse on two different wash days. Each day I did the same methods (styling upside down, applying product upside down, plopping, then diffusing upright). I kept everything as similar as I could, other than wet styling instead of damp styling.
These were about a week apart, I just happened to wear the same shirt and didn’t realize it until I was going to make the collage. Anyway, here are my results. The left is damp styling, the right is wet styling.
Damp styling helped my waves to start higher on my head, but left me with more frizz. Wet styling gave me big clumps that were a bit looser (beachy waves?), and left my straighter side flatter than when I damp style.
Benefits Of Wet Styling
If you style your hair while it’s wet, you’ll likely experience less frizz. Hair tends to create bigger curl clumps when very wet, so you may get bigger curl clumps when wet styling.
If getting perfectly defined waves is your goal, wet styling is the way to go. Also, some hair products work best when mixed with water. Some products will cover all of your hair better and with less product if mixed with water.
For examples, thicker styling products like custards or thick gels often work best when mixed with a bit of water and that usually means applying them to very wet hair.
Downsides Of Damp Styling
Applying products while hair is wet may result in less volume and flatter roots. Sometimes applying products to very wet hair can cause the products to drip out of the hair. It may be harder to determine if I you have good product coverage when applying to wet hair.
Benefits Of Damp Styling
If your hair is easily weighed down by water, damp styling can result in more volume. It can be easier to feel where you already have product (and if you have good product coverage) when applying to damp hair instead of wet hair.
Applying products when your hair is damp and not full-on wet means you preserve your hair pattern that exists when your hair is damp, vs wet. When my hair is wet, it has less volume in general, but is particularly low volume near my roots because the water is weighing my hair down.
If I apply products then, it will preserve that wet shape. If I apply products after my hair is dried a bit, and gained a bit more volume, it will preserve that style instead. I also find it easier to determine where I have applied my product if my hair is damp and not wet.
Potential Downsides Of Damp Styling
Applying stylers after your hair has started to dry a bit will likely result in having more frizz than if you applied while your hair was wet and more sleek. Damp styling can result in smaller/skinnier curl clumps and less defined waves.
Curl clumps tend to hold together best when really wet, so applying stylers after your hair is partially dry may result in skinner curl clumps and provide less definition.
How Does Wet or Damp Styling Impact The Drying Process?
My hair takes longer to dry if I wet style my hair. Styling products often help hold moisture in your hair, so if you apply them as soon as you are out of the shower, they’ll try to hold all the water in and take longer to dry. Where if you damp style, your hair will have quickly lost some of that initial water already, so it will have less to hold onto, and will dry faster.
How Does Wet or Damp Styling Impact Plopping?
If you like to plop your hair, this may have an impact on whether you prefer wet or damp styling. I find it difficult to wet style and then plop because my hair products will be partially absorbed by my plopping t-shirt. This can cause my hair to not get a good cast in the areas where the t-shirt was snug against my hair.
However, you may be able to adjust to just applying a bit more product so that some can be absorbed by your t-shirt or microfiber towel, and still have enough left in your hair to create the style you desire. Whether you have product in your hair or not when you plop is likely to impact how long you want to plop for as well.
No idea what plopping is? Check out my post how to plop wavy hair to make sense of what this weird terminology means!
Do Products Make a Difference in Wet or Damp Styling?
What products you use can definitely impact whether you should wet or damp style. Some products really only work if mixed with water and applied wet. Common examples of products that are best used to wet style include custards, jellies and curl activators like AG recoil or uncle funky’s daughter curl activator.
If you have wavy hair and want to use a small amount of a product but get even coverage, you’ll probably want to choose wet styling. For example, some wavies say they can use a pea-sized amount of some leave-in products but only if they mix it with water. If they use more than a very small amount, they’ll be weighed down, but if they use just a little bit, it works well.
However, to get a tiny amount of product to spread across a lot of hair, you have to mix it with a lot of water. So in those scenarios, you’d need to damp style.
What About Dry Styling?
I am a big fan of experimenting with your hair and figuring out what works for you. There are a lot of variation among different hair types and people find different techniques to work for them. I personally have never heard of people doing dry styling. That isn’t to say that it wouldn’t make for a good experiment, though!
Something I have heard of is wash now, style later. This means washing your hair and letting it dry without products but then styling it at a later time. However, I’ve always heard of people dampening their hair before styling it.
Do you prefer wet styling or damp styling? Leave me a comment sharing which works better for you and why.