Finally, hair has some fun.

Maggie Gyllenhaal


As per many a ringleted, wavy, curly girl’s request, I present to you a (kind of) definitive guide on how to style natural curls. (Motto for today: “Don’t be surly, just get curly!”)

As the owner of such curls, these are the Ways and Prodz that have worked best for me over the years. (Mind you, when my hair is very blonde, as it is now (this photo is a year old), natural curls don’t even exist in my hair – they are just a stringy, frizzy, dry mess of straggle. So I fake it with a curling tong until my hair is healthy and brown and bouncy again.)

Off we go!

When washing and conditioning…


Buy shampoo and conditioner that will cater to your curls. Not your colour, or your volume, but your curls. Curls generally go troppo for moisture, but don’t love weight, which is a bit of an odd pairing, and why most curl-specific shampoos and conditioners will have lovely but very lightweight nourishing oils or ingredients in them, so your curls are moisturised, but not heavy and lank.  I love Redken Fresh Curls shampoo and conditioner, Davines (pronounced dav-in-nay) Lovely Curl enhancing shampoo and conditioner and my curly girlyfriend swears by the Herbal Essences Totally Twisted range.

Also, consider NOT applying conditioner to the scalp, just from about two inches down. This should help keep any hair-stick-to-head-ness away.  And please use a hair mask or treatment once a week. Keeping your hair in tip bloody top condition is crucial for non-stringy, non-ratty, non-limp curls. Regular trims to get rid of split ends that ruin the look and ‘spiral’ of your curls are also very, very wise. (Especially if one is dyed blonde.)

There is, of course, also the issue of frizz, which can make a happy curly girl morph into a terrified or terrifying beast indeed, and while frizz products aren’t specifically created for curl obedience, they can certainly help. I must mention Living Proof (buy from Mecca) here, who have a magical, patented formula in their shampoo and conditioner, that does incredimazing things for curl behaviour and frizz walloping.

Fun thing to try! Drying your hair with a cotton t-shirt (those soft, v-neck ones from American Apparel work for me) instead of a towel. And gently pat dry, instead of tousling.


When your hair is still wet…

Comb through a conditioning balm, whip or mousse, treatment or cream after gently towel (or t-shirt) drying your hair.) This can be a regular one, or a specific curl boosting one. I don’t find a huge amount of difference personally, and prefer to get my curls happening/styled more once my hair is dry.

This will soften the curls and nourish them and make them much more likely to behave. I choose creams over oils or silicone serums, because I feel they’re generally lighter, and mean I won’t have heavy, flat hair within 24 hours. But! That’s because I have fine hair – your hair might looooove oils and anti-frizz serums, depending on its natural texture and groovy individual idiosyncrasies.

One friend uses straight out coconut oil on her curls, and another monoi oil from the Body Shop. Both seem deliriously happy with these choices, so good for them.

Controversially, I don’t use a diffuser for my curls. I dry off loosely on low heat using my fingers to scrunch and shape – but that’s because I prefer a more relaxed curl if I am going natural. Or, if we’re being honest, because I usually just tong in some curls even if I am pretending to go natural.

If you do use your diffuser on curly hair, use a low heat, low-air setting, and “cup” the diffuser up under the bottom of the hair, to encourage curling. Blasting your wet hair with a high-air, high-heat hair dryer, and using a brush will not do your curls many favours at all. Probably not even one, in fact. It will just make it big, boofy and enthuse naughty fly-aways.


Try: Pantene Hydrating Curls mousse (which is SO far off giving 80’s crunchy mousse curls, I assure you), Garnier Fructis Nutri-repair smoothing cream, ghd obedience cream, Davines Momo Moisturising Curl Enhancing Serum or evo Liquid Rollers. (Oh look! Here’s a video how-to those rascals made on how to best use it. Diffuser cupping included.)

Once your hair is dry…

What you use here depends on your curl, and the weight and thickness of your hair. I have fine, curly hair, which reacts in a very uncouth fashion indeed if I use a curl balm or styling gel that is too heavy for it, so tend to stick to lightweight curl and texture sprays and mists instead. I very strenuously recommend Living Proof’s No Frizz Wave Curl Styling Spray (I used it before walking around outside on a misty morning and the curls actually got silkier and better) and also a product that isn’t actually intended for curls, but which I discovered is brilliant for it, and that is evo’s icon welder, which is designed as athermal protector spray, and which I sprayed in all over before tonging in curls… before realising that the spray had made quite lovely curls already, thank you very much. (A lot of sea salt sprays give great curl, too.) The Joico Curl Activator spray is great too, actually.


Zoe with long curls

But! My absolute best curl styling prod is Redken Wool Shake 08. It’s not terrific for longevity, as it’s pretty, uh, clumpy, for want of a better word (well, it IS called wool shake) and means quite a lot of business, but I find when I spray it on freshly-washed, boofy, fluffy hair – JUST FROM THE MID-LENGTHS TO THE ENDS – my goodness golly me do I get some sensational, cool and textured curls. But with just the right amount of grit, so that it’s much more like cool, modern filmclip hair, as opposed to Year Ten formal hair. Just, try it.  Please. I’ve included a photo from when I had long hair last year after using it so you can see the curl type.

For those who can handle, or want, or need thicker, heavier prodz, try scrunching KMS curl-up balm, Kerastase Nurtitive Oleo Curl Defintion Cream or Bumble and bumble Curl Conscious Calming Crème.

(You’ll notice no gels have been mentioned. This is not an accident.)

Fun thing to try! Start light! Start light. You can always add more, but you cannot reverse too much prod. And DO NOT put prod into hands, then put hands directly onto top of head. Start applying at mid-lengths, please. Many thanks.


And the next day…

Depending on how well your hair responds to the prodz you use, your hair might still be in great shape and need nothing, or it might be a bit flat and limp. Sadly, first day curls are usually the best* when you’re going natural**.

I recommend flipping your hair upside down, and spraying a rejuvenating prod lightly over, such as Redken Fresh Curls curl boost or KMS bounce back spray, and then low-heat, low-air blow drying some life back in. A touch of dry shampoo at the roots wouldn’t hurt, either. Otherwise, just embrace the flatness, spray in some sea salt spray all over for more grit, add some black eye liner and go a bit fashiony and cool. Kate Moss would want it that way.

*Unless you are doing mousse, blow-dry, heat protector spray and curling tong all over, curls. THEN they are good the next day. Better, in fact. But this is an article about natural curls so I must stop talking about fake curls.

**Natural with a shittonne of products, that is.

I think that’s it. But if you’re a curly dame, why not share some of your best tricks and prodz below? (We’re all a bit sick of you being so secretive, to be honest.) Give it up! For the love of ringlets, give it up.

Check out our gallery of some curly-haired celebs here:

Zoe is an author, columnist and porridge fan. She was beauty director of Cosmopolitan, Harper’s BAZAAR and PRIMPED and then collated all the best tips and tricks from her time in these roles for the beauty bible, Amazing Face. She is currently the dating columnist for Cosmopolitan magazine, although her best advice in this arena can probably be found in the dating and relationship guide, Textbook Romance , which she co-wrote with Hamish Blake. Zoe has published three novels, Air Kisses, Playing The Field and The Younger Man, and she rates them among the best novels ever written in the history of the written word. Find more info on her here, or supervise on her daily procrastination here and here.

Please understand that Zoë cannot respond to ALL your questions – but never fear, there are readers that are bound to know the answers, so don’t be afraid to ask – and answer!

Do you have curly hair? If your hair is straight, do you ever curl it?