How To Curl Your Hair Like A Professional Stylist

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Written by Sophie Mara

Updated: March 3, 2024

If you thought curly hairstyles were out of reach just because your locks are on the shorter side, think again. From bobs to shoulder-length tresses, there are plenty of ways to add bounce and volume to your look.

To prove that’s true and to make your curly hair dreams a reality, we’ve compiled a list of genuinely achievable ways to curl your short hair. We’ve even included step-by-step instructions so you get flawless curls that last.

Curl Your Hair With A Straightener (For Tousled Beachy Curls)

Curling Iron
image via @haru.com.np

In case you haven’t heard, curling your hair with a straightener is one of the quickest and simplest methods out there. It works perfectly on shorter cuts, especially when you want to achieve a modern, tousled look.

It’s worth noting that a regular straightener will work just fine, however, it may be worth investing in a mini straightener if your hair is particularly fine, or you simply find the smaller plates easier to navigate with your short hair.

How To Curl Short Hair With A Straightener

Straightened Hair
image viva @miawagnersalon
  • Apply a heat protectant all over the hair and make sure it’s tangle free.
  • Starting at the front, with a one to two-inch section of hair, place the straightener at the root and on a diagonal.
  • Clamp down and immediately begin to twist the straightener away from you. The hair should be moving gently through the plates, creating a ribboning effect (as in how you might curl ribbon for gift wrapping!). Each pass should last no longer than eight seconds.
  • Work your way around your hair repeating the process, and be sure to alternate as you go. Curl one section of hair forward and the next one back, this will prevent them from falling into each other and creating one big curl.
  • Stop curling roughly an inch before the end for a modern tousled look or curl to the tip of each section for a ringlet effect.

Use A Curling Iron (For Defined Curls)

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image via @lilyengland

Another great heat tool to have at your disposal? A heated curling iron. Now, whilst some might prefer a curling wand (which will work too) we recommend curling irons for one simple reason: they have a clamp.

While it’s relatively easy to keep your hand away from the scolding hot barrel with long hair, it’s not so simple with shorter tresses and we’re betting you’ve accidentally burned your hand on more than one occasion. The clamp on curling tongs doesn’t eliminate the risk, but it does mean that once you’ve wrapped the hair and let go of the lever, you can move your hand away and let the curl safely develop.

Remember, whether you choose a curling wand or a curling iron, it’s all about finding the right barrel size for your hair type and the curls you want to create. Thinner barrels will create tighter more defined curls and work great for finer hair, whilst larger barrels will produce bigger, bouncier curls and can accommodate thicker locks. 

How To Curl Short Hair With A Curling Iron

Curly Hair
image via @heatherhwiggins
  • Once again, remove any tangles and ensure to treat your hair with a heat protectant before getting started.
  • Next, take your first section of hair from the front ready to curl. The size will depend on how big of a curl you want but we recommend no smaller than one inch, and no wider than two. Always make sure the section is thick enough that it won’t fall out of the clamp.
  • Hold your curling iron in front of the hair on a diagonal (tip facing down) and push the lever so the clamp releases upwards.
  • Alternating between curling towards and away from your face as you go, begin wrapping the hair from the bottom of the barrel working towards the tip. Hold in place for no longer than 5-10 seconds or you risk damaging your hair. 
  • Once all of the hair has been curled, allow it to cool. Then, use your fingertips or a wide-tooth comb to gently add volume and tease out the curls so they’re not too perfect. 

Activate Your Natural Curls (For Natural, Nourished Curls)

Mousse
image via @percyandreed

If you’re lucky enough to have naturally curly hair but have never quite mastered them, now is the time. Equally, if you’ve always suspected your wavy hair might be more curly with the addition of a little product, we can help you learn how to scrunch short curly hair in a few simple steps. All it takes is a little mousse, maybe a little gel, and sometimes a little bit of both.

How To Activate Your Natural Curls 

Natural Curls
image via @wavynatasilo
  • Start by washing your hair with a nourishing shampoo and conditioner that promotes shine, moisture, and volume.
  • Next, fresh from the shower, go ahead and secure your wet hair in a microfibre towel. Don’t flip the hair over to do this as you may disturb your natural curl pattern.
  • With your hair still pretty much dripping wet, use either your hands or the towel to begin scrunching the hair in an upward motion from the tips towards your roots. Do this in sections if it makes it easier just be sure to get all of your hair involved.
  • Next, use a wide-tooth comb to gently detangle your locks and define the curls, don’t worry if they don’t look quite as curly at this stage: we’re going in for round two.
  • Now, using one golf ball sized amount of mousse at a time, scrunch the product into your hair to define the curls.
  • Repeat this process with a hair gel for extra definition.
  • Some will be done at this point but others may need one more round of mousse to really seal the curls, you’ll get to know by repeating the process over time which works best for you.
  • Lastly, allow the curls to air dry for a natural bouncy finish.

Use Heated Rollers

Heated Rollers
image via @ella_bella_hair

The next time you want a polished look with tons of volume through your short locks, opt for heated rollers because they work every time. The best part is you can put them in and then finish getting ready whilst they do their thing.

They also guarantee a style that will stay put for hours on end. As your hair both heats up and cools on the rollers, they have every opportunity to set in place, unlike other heat-created styles that often drop out much more quickly.

How To Curl Short Hair With Heated Rollers

  • We’ll remind you just one last time—start every heat style with a high-quality heat protectant.
  • Brush out the hair and begin sectioning off pieces that fit the size of each of your rollers.
  • Always make sure the hair is tangle free before you wrap it around the roller, this will prevent bumps and creates a much smoother curl.
  • Brush each section of hair upwards and hold it taught, position the rollers behind the hair at the ends then roll it backward in a controlled way towards your scalp for a secure curl.
  • Use different sized rollers for different sections of your hair to create a more dynamic and natural looking finish, just make sure you use the same size on the same section of hair on either side .
  • Always wait until the rollers have completely cooled before taking them out, otherwise the curls will usually drop out within the hour.
  • Brush your curls out with a wide-tooth comb. This will create definition without compromising your curls.
  • Lastly, a couple of pumps of hair oil will also add tons of shine, giving you lustrous-looking, red-carpet-worthy curls every single time.

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