How To: Smooth Curls On Natural Hair

The Info—Stylist: Yesenia Guinea of Ketér Salon in Berkeley / Photography: Hart & Sol WestMichelle Govang / Venue: The Box SF / Flowers: Green Snapdragon Floral Design / Dress: Little Borrowed Dress / Jewelry: BrideBlu Vintage + Handmade Jewelry

Despite being the easiest hair tutorial of the bunch, I think this one might be my favorite. You see, the whole staff (out of pure coincidence) has curly (or curly-ish, even more complicated) hair, but most of us only sort of half know what to do with it (and that might be a generous estimate). So we brought Chloe on as a model (she’s normally a photographer and an APW sponsor) somewhat selfishly. She has beautiful naturally curly hair, so we thought, you know, maybe we could learn a thing or two.

The thing is, I came prepared to write down copious notes and master complicated hair techniques, since that’s usually what happens when weddings and other formal events meet curly hair (don’t believe me? Because I will show you my prom pictures). But instead our awesome APW stylist busted out just two products (not one styling tool needed here) and made magic. Which is exactly how it should be done.

The only tip we have for you here is to be aware of your hair’s texture when applying your product. If you have naturally thicker or coarser hair, you can mix Herbal Essences Touchably Smooth Smoothing Serum with your Anti-Frizz Crème for added smoothness and frizz fighting. But if your hair is finer, stick with just one (for finer hair, Yesenia says go with the Anti-Frizz Crème because it has a conditioning formula that will leave your hair smooth without adding too much shine).

Seriously. Those were the tips. We’re not kidding when we say we’re all Lazy Girl all the time, up in these parts.

Have questions about how to modify this hairstyle, or which products would be best for your hair? We’ll do our best to answer them in the comments, but you can always direct your questions at @PGBeauty for their expert advice (or if you’re not on Twitter, post your questions on their Facebook page for more info).

Download a PDF of the shopping list for this look here.

**This post was sponsored by P&G Beauty. Thanks P&G for helping make the APW mission possible!**

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  • ElisabethJoanne

    You did take lots of good notes! Thank you!

    Thank you especially for a style/process that does not involve heat. I rarely use shampoo because of how it damages my hair, let alone heat. I’d rather not wake up on my first morning as a married woman with dry, dry damaged, frizzy hair.

  • Anne

    So, to start this off, should you let your conditioned hair air dry without any product in it? Or diffuse?

    • Maddie

      For this tutorial, I think Chloe had actually styled her hair before showing up. So she had conditioned her hair, let it dry a bit, and put product in it before Yesenia even touched it.

      I think for curly hair, especially with a look like this, you can get away with doing your regular routine first. So if that means you normally mousse and diffuse or something to get your curls where they need to be, that’s cool.

  • mary

    I love your site so much… but it’s “taut,” not “taught” when you pull something tightly, though you certainly are teaching us a beautiful way to style curly hair!

    • Maddie

      Thanks for the catch. :) Can I get away with pretending that I went all Shakespeare/Snoop Dogg(or is it Snoop Lion now?) and decided that taut and tight should really combine and be be taught? :)

      • Ambi

        Yep, you can! Considering that this is a tutorial, I think that using “taught” is hilariously appropriate – sometimes made up words can get a point across even better than real words. :) And I love the mental image of teaching your hair how to behave!

  • Chloe is so so insanely beautiful. Can she give us a ‘smize-ing’ tutorial?!

  • April

    Gorgeous! LOVE THIS!!! Thank you soooo much. After a disastrous trial with a wedding hair “specialist” who flat ironed and blow-dried my hair into a lifeless mane, I ended up choosing a new stylist and proudly wore my naturally curly hair curly for my wedding day. It was awesome!

    And I’ll add that aside from finding the right combo of styling products that work for your hair type and texture, it’s worth it to schedule regular visits to a stylist that is skilled at working with natural curls (both cutting and styling). That makes all the difference in the world. And only wash once a week!!!

  • Erin

    This is awesome! Does it work with looser natural curls as well?

    • Maddie

      I’ve tried something similar on looser natural curls, and I think it could totally work, but you’ll have to make a judgment call about how tight you keep the curls when you’re done. From personal experience, I find that brushing them out with your fingers a little bit looks best if your natural look is a little looser.

      • Erin

        Thanks! I’m definitely going to try this sometime.

  • Ana

    Another awesome one. Would love to get a tutorial about how to do some sort of natural (but polished) look like this with curly-ish/wavy-ish/fine-ish/frizzy-ish hair (which, as you mentioned, feels so darn complicated!)

    • Leila

      Yes to this! I straighten my hair for work because I honestly can’t find a way to rely on my naturally wavy/curly hair. 1) I’ve never found a way to not have frizzy Einstein (not hating on Einstein….his hair was awesome in a mad scientist way) hair when I air dry it. And so I have more success w/ a diffuser but my hair will range between limp and shapeless, frizzy, or gorgeous curls.

    • Kestrel

      Oh, so true. I’ve got that “somewhere between straight and curly, always frizzy, but only occasionally actually makes nice waves” type hair.

      It seems like the advice for everyone contradicts. If you’ve got curly hair, you only comb when wet. If you’ve got straight hair, you only comb when dry. If you’ve got curly hair you shouldn’t use harsh shampoos. If you’ve got straight hair, you’ve got to use shampoo or you’ll look like a grease-ball. If you’ve got straight hair, you cut when wet. If you’ve got curly hair, you cut when dry. There are curly hair products and there are straight hair products. I’ve never seen any ‘wavy’ products unless they’re being sold to create waves in people with straight hair.

      What on earth do you do with “in the middle” hair!?

      • Liz

        I have “in the middle” hair that on occasion (when the moon is in the second house and the humidity is just right) forms gorgeous curls naturally. I’ve found that following a “curly” hair regimen (no sulfates, no silicone, heat only rarely) increases the number of good curly days I get substantially.

        This was not a next-day result though, I’ve had to wait until all the damaged hair grew out and start by treating new healthy hair better. Also – oil. Moroccan Oil smells amazing, is idiot-proof, and costs as much as a week’s worth of groceries, but I find just the right amount of grapeseed oil (on damp hair, through the ends at first, then working up) is a FAR cheaper alternative that defines my curls better.

        I am excited to add twisting to the mix to see if I can get better-defined curls!

      • Paranoid Libra

        I brush my wavy hair just before a shower. Showering at night and air dry as I sleep seems to help have some better wave definition minus the frizz. No idea why, but it works for me. I was every other day give or take a few days depending on its current state. Usually pony tails or buns happen on the off wash day. I just want my hair healthy and not to look like a hobo.

      • My stupidly thick wavy hair seems to respond to a wide-tooth comb after being wet down in the shower (not washed daily) and then clipped half-up with a GIANT barette. The wide teeth detangle without ripping my hair out and create nice waves. I often still have damp hair at the end of the day, because I get annoyed with it in my way and just twist it up and clip it. I also use sodium lauryl sulfate-free shampoo which has made my hair nicer to work with, and henna every few months with makes it soft and shiny (and costs all of $2 for 100g)

        Caveat: I’m a low/no maintenence hair person, and am ok with going to work with damp hair. I own heat tools but use them once a year.

      • Colleen

        My hair is half curly/half straight. The tippy top layer is board straight, the middle layer is wavy and the bottom layer is super curly. Like someone previously said, I treat my hair like it’s all curly and that seems to help.

        I went “no poo” (no shampoo/conditioner) a few months ago, which has helped with the frizzy factor. Also, for whatever reason, the straight part of my hair is more willing to curl now that I’ve stopped shampooing it. The only “product” I use on my hair anymore is a little bit of leave-in conditioner once or twice a week.

      • Kess

        Yeah, unfortunately I’ve tried the no poo (baking soda, etc.) but it doesn’t work because the water’s too hard in my area. I’m currently using sulfate free shampoo and silicone free conditioner, but that doesn’t seem to produce decent results either. I’m really kind to my hair in general (I never put heat on it and I’ve dyed it once – and that was the kind that washed out after 2 months) but it just continues to be unruly, although not using the standard ‘straight hair’ shampoo means it’s not quite as tangly.

        As I was recently told that I better ‘do something’ with my hair before I actually try to interview for jobs (I’m a student) as it’s ‘unprofessional’. Granted my hair does kind of resemble Ke$ha, but I just don’t know how to make it look professional or even decent. Even a bun just doesn’t work.

        • Alexandra

          My general solution for wanting my hair to look good is just take a shower, and while the hair is damp I scrunch in Herbal Essence’s curling mousse. And then ignore it. It might not be the world’s most professional look, but I’ve never had a complaint about it, except for possibly my father.

          I’m just too lazy to do this on a daily basis.

          • Erin

            This is similar to what I do. I also sleep on it wet – the lack of gravity makes it curl better, and if it sticks up at all I can usually just wet it down.

            The thing I’ve learned about curls though is that you are the most picky viewer – I can think my hair is stringy and frizzy, and yet get compliments on it. People are really forgiving of wavy and curly!

        • Amy March

          I’m generally on team your hair as it grows naturally out of your head is always, as a rule, professional. That being said, it doesn’t sound like you like your hair much? So in case you are waiting to internet permission- get thee to a curly hair salon! Or to a beauty school- Aveda schools have done good by me.

      • meg

        So, that line about in the middle hair was totally me (my hair is dead in the middle). So tutorials where I model are always good for that. Though, um, for the record, I just get a good haircut, wash (not too much) and dry. I swear one day I’ll get better at it. But.

  • afrome

    This is great. Surprising, because usually I am advised to use only a quarter sized amount of serum for my whole head of (very thick) hair. So am I to understand that in this scenario, one should use a small drop for every small section of curls? And, for hair that goes curly in the humidity, and pretty straight in dry weather (wavy hair), does the same system work?
    Finally, just wondering why you guys always use herbal essence products? are they truly superior, or do you have a contract with them?

  • Contessa

    Any insight into how you take those curls out without snarling your hair? I remember many post-proms trying to undue the pasted curls and *I* have straight hair!

    • Maddie

      I was always told to use a TON of conditioner on wet hair to get curls out (this is when I was a cheerleader and they made us put our hair in awful sponge rollers so that we could wear curly pony tails directly on top of our heads. HOT.) So rather than try and force them out, you just get in the shower and keep applying conditioner until they work their way out, then rinse the conditioner like you would normally.

      This is not a professional opinion though. This is more like “tricks I learned in middle school.”

      • meg

        Maddie was a cheerleader! Hee. Just wanted to point that out (news to me, though oddly not surprising news).

  • I want to see the prom pictures! I’ll show you mine if you show me yours…

    • And Maddie’s cheerleading pony tail!

  • kat

    Am I the only one who thinks her hair looked way more awesome before?

    • Maddie

      Chloe has AMAZING natural curls that we often choose to leave just as they are (you’ll get a chance to see that in future tutorials), but for this one we wanted to show you guys an option for when you want to wear curls and still be able to put something on your head (like a veil or a flower crown, or anything else that requires the top to lay flat).

      But if you ask me, I think they both look awesome. But maybe that’s just because Chloe is such hot stuff.

      • Ambi

        Chloe IS hot stuff – that is actually what I was scrolling down to post! And I do love the before, but I understand that if the before is your everyday hair, you may want something different (my everyday hair is stick straight, so I like to curl it for special occassions. My friends with curly hair straighten theirs. The grass is always greener . . . ).

        Anyway, are we/can we also get a tutorial on Chloe’s amazing minimal makeup look? That photo where her hair is half done – that is also an amazingly beautiful makeup shot, too. Her winged liner, her luminous skin that still shows off her freckles, the not-quite-nude lip color . . . just gorgeous!

        • Maddie

          Tomorrow. :)

    • Marbella

      I think it’s really pretty after, but it’s so beautiful au naturale! Rocking the curls!

      • meg

        Later (this year, not this series) you’ll get a tutorial on keeping her hair natural. A girl wants *options* y’all.

        • Ambi

          Years ago, my little cousin asked my elderly-and-fabulous grandmother, as only a child can, in the middle of a large dinner party, “Nana, why do you have SO MUCH makeup? Do you have to wear all that stuff just to look pretty?” And she smiled and very sweetly drawled, “No, darlin’, I don’t have to wear any of that stuff, but a lady enjoys having options.”

  • Justine

    Fellow curly girls… this is great, and in addition to this, maybe some of you would be interested in checking out “Curly Girl: The handbook” by Lorranie Massey for generally improving the look of your lovely curly hair.

    basically: No shampoos with detergents, condition, condition, condition, and air dry or diffuse wet curly hair without touching it after intial styling until it’s dry….

    I’m a recent addition to the “curly girl” book fanclub, and my hair is already looking way better than it did before.

    Just a thought.

  • looks so beautiful and natural :D

  • Rachel

    Um, the hair style featured is obviously gorgeous, but how does Yesenia do her own hair?! I’m sort of in love with it!

    • Lauren

      Yes! This! This! This! This is just what I was wondering and the closest thing I’ve seen to my hair. I might be taking that picture with me the next time I get a haircut.

  • Melissa

    I love how you did this, it’s so easy to follow! Have you tried argan oil to smooth? I think I can do this with pro naturals moroccan argan oil, I helps smooth my hair so I think it can help make curls like that without frizz.

  • Hi everyone! I tried this hairstyle today and I have a couple of questions about it! My hair is a bit more tightly curled than Chloe’s and some of the pieces didn’t stay twisted, especially at the roots. Any tips on how to keep them from unraveling and becoming tiny poofs? My other question is about finishing the style. Chloe’s curls look a little softer, like they loosened up a bit. Is this a result of pulling the curls loose when it’s dry? I’m nervous about doing that because I’m relatively certain that my hair will just frizz right on up! Thanks for any tips you ladies have! I’m looking forward to playing with this supercute style some more to get it just right for my hair!

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  • Korrena

    Thank you so much for showing a mixed-race, curly-haired woman like me! The only hair how-tos I ever see for women with my texture of hair are all about straightening. Black and brown girls style their hair too! Thanks for remembering us!

  • Jacky

    Gorgeous , thanks

  • simply superb hair style, :-)

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