From Margot Robbie to Phoebe Waller-Bridge, here's how to curl your short hair like a star.

Updated January 7, 2020.

If there’s one universal truth we all know, it’s that figuring out how to curl you hair is hard. And curling short hair? Even harder.

It’s annoying and your arms ache and you burn your fingerprints off, all for C+ curls that go limp far too quickly. But when you get it right, it’s worth it because a perfectly imperfect, textured head of curls/waves is universally accepted as ‘cool girl hair’.

On Monday, arguably some of the coolest women in Hollywood walked the 2020 Golden Globes red carpet wearing this enduring hair trend. Think: Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Margot Robbie, Michelle Williams, Rachel Bilson, Lucy Boynton, Naomi Watts Kate McKinnon, and Rachel Brosnahan.

golden globes 2020 hair
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel's Rachel Brosnahan looks as marvelous as always. Image: Getty.
golden globes 2020 hair
Naomi Watts' short hair is a classic bend. Image: Getty.
golden globes 2020 hair
Lucy Boynton's hair is how we'd like ours to look when we wake up each morning. Image: Getty.
golden globes 2020 hair
Rachel Bilson is a pioneer of 'cool girl hair'. Image: Getty.
golden globes 2020 hair
The woman of the night (and always), Phoebe Waller-Bridge. Image: Getty.
This Margot Robbie style is the epitome of Aussie beach hair. Image: Getty.
More great short curly hair inspo from Michelle Williams. Image: Getty.
golden globes 2020 hair
We love these tousled yet structured curls on Kate McKinnon. Image: Getty.

But still, the question remains... how to curl short hair. Literally. How do you physically do it?

Allow us to direct you to this brilliant guide we prepared earlier below. You're welcome.


One woman who knows the struggle of curling short hair is Mia Freedman. So much so, the Mamamia co-founder asked her Instagram followers for help with curling her short hair.

They delivered.

Thankfully, celebs like Bec Judd, Phoebe Burgess and Antonia Kidman*, as well as beauty editors and regular folks, came with the best tips for mastering a textured, wavy lob. From which curling wand is best to the nifty tricks that make a difference, here's what you need to know.


*Technically, Antonia Kidman offered "no advice, only sympathy." Thank you, Antonia.

Curling wands vs. curling with a hair straightener.

The debate around whether it's better to curl your hair with a straightener or a curling wand will wage on long after we're all gone. It comes down to personal preference (it was a 50/50 split in the comments on Mia's post) and the style of curl you want (straightener for beachy waves, wand for more classic waves), but both require practice. No one wakes up one day and masters the perfect chic wave on the first go. No, you work at it.

Something Bec Judd, Phoebe Burgess and former Cosmopolitan beauty director Alexis Teasdale all pointed out is the size of your curling wand matters when you have short hair, so opt for a thinner barrel or wand you can actually wrap your hair around a few times.

Oh, and if you're using a curling wand, for God's sake please use a heat protecting glove. Most tools come with one. Don't be a martyr.

Best curling wands for short hair.

Keen to try a curling wand? Here are five great curling wands for short hair.

Remington Keratin and Argan Oil Nourish Curler, $39.99.

Remington Keratin and Argan Oil Nourish Curler
Image: Priceline.

BabylissPRO Ceramic Black Conical Wand - 25-13mm, $84.95.

BabylissPRO Ceramic Black Conical Wand - 25-13mm
Image: Hairhouse Warehouse.

HALO The Marilyn Curl Stick, $139.95.

HALO The Marilyn Curl Stick
Image: Hairhouse Warehouse.

MUK Curl Stick V2.0, $159.95.

MUK Curl Stick V2.0
Image: Hairhouse Warehouse.

ghd Curve 2.0 Creative Curl Wand, $245.

ghd Curve 2.0 Creative Curl Wand
Image: ghd.

Other hair curling tools.

You can also try some other curling tools, however each has their own pros and cons. For example, tools like the ghd Oracle, Dyson AirWrap and Rusk MiraCurl Salon Professional Automatic Curler do all the hard work for you by using air or a motor to curl the hair, but it takes practice to master how to use them.

Then, there's a tool like the Mermade Hair Waver, which is affordable and can create Kim K-style mermaid waves, but you're limited to that one style.

Best hair products for curling hair.

If you thought all you needed to curl your hair was a... curling wand, you're mistaken.

No, you need a multitude of hair styling products. You actually only need two - one to prep the hair before you curl and one to help set it after.

Prepping your hair with a texturising product like the Oribe Dry Texturising Spray, KEVIN.MURPHY Full.Again Thickening Lotion, Redken No. 5 Dry Shampoo Paste, KLORANE Gentle Dry Shampoo, Schwarzkopf Extra Care Push Up Volume Powder or Kristen Ess Dry Finish Working Texture Spray will give your hair the grit it needs to hold a curl. Work this into your roots and through the lengths, and spray each section of hair before curling.

After you've finished with your curls (more on that in a bit), lock them in with a nice spritz of a product that will hold your waves without making them crunchy, like the L'Oreal Paris Elnett Satin Normal Strength Hairspray, KEVIN.MURPHY Anti.Gravity.Spray or ELEVEN Give Me Hold Strong Hairspray.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Rebecca Judd (@becjudd) on



View this post on Instagram


A post shared by PHOEBE BURGESS (@mrsphoebeburgess) on


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Lucy Hale (@lucyhale) on



View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Jenna Dewan (@jennadewan) on


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Julie Holbrook | Ogden Utah (@headrushdesigns) on



View this post on Instagram


A post shared by LAS VEGAS COLOR QUEEN (@lezlieronaydesigns) on


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Edwards And Co. (@_edwardsandco) on


How to curl short hair.

Here are five extra tips for how to master the art of curling short hair.

1. Never, ever curl freshly washed hair. (Or don't expect it to hold well if you do.)

Look, you can curl freshly washed hair, but the curls will likely fall out before you've left the house.

That's why using a tong or a straightener to curl your hair is a great second-day-old style to get you through until you next wash it. You can create faux grit by using a texturising powder or, as mentioned above, a dry shampoo sprayed throughout the lengths of your hair to give it some structure.

2. Create tighter curls than the ones you want.

As many of the women who commented on Mia's post can attest to, the tighter the curls, the longer they'll last.

That means curling shorter sections of hair at a time, and if you're using a curling wand, winding the hair more tightly around it (always away from the face, not towards it). Be sure to hold the hair around the hot tool for at least five to 10 seconds, too. Yes, you'll look like an 80s beauty queen, but don't worry because the curls won't stay like that for long.

3. Don't curl your hair all the way to the end.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Mia Freedman (@miafreedman) on


When I interviewed Trinny Woodall for the You Beauty podcast, she said she never curls the ends of her hair because it looks "daggy". Phoebe Burgess agreed, saying the "secret to a cool girl wave is definitely leaving ends straight."

So, start your curls just above ear height and leave one to two inches straight at the bottom for a chic, modern look.

You can listen to Trinny's full interview on her favourite skincare, makeup and hair products on the You Beauty podcast below. Post continues after audio.

4. Please, don't touch your curls until they're cool.

This is VERY important, hence the caps.

It'll take a touch more time, but making sure your curls have completely cooled down and set before touching them is the key to a long-lasting style. We're talking hair science now, but essentially, your hot tool breaks the hair bonds (at a temperature that won't cause permanent damage) and when the hair cools down, it re-sets those bonds into their new shape.

For maximum hold, you can gently hold the shape of each curl in your hand before moving on to the next section of hair or pin them up. Or, simply resist the urge to touch or run your fingers through your curls until the very end.

5. How to brush your curls out.

The final and most satisfying step is to brush your curls out. This is how stylists turn tight ringlets into silky waves.

Once your curls have cooled and set, this is best done with fingers or a wide tooth comb. Don't be afraid to tip your head back and really get your fingers in there to massage your hair at the roots for more volume.

And that, dear friends, is how to curl short hair. Good luck!

Feature image: Getty.

Do you have any tips for curling short hair? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below!