The Bowl Method: How To Do It & Why It Works, From Experts
TikTok is home to many beauty communities, and "curly hair TikTok" is one of them. A quick search in the app, and you'll be met with countless creator-approved ways to style your texture, plus plenty of cult-favorite products to test out. However, not every single tip or trick is right for everyone, which makes it hard to choose what you should and shouldn't add to your own hair routine.
One of the buzziest curly hair styling tips of late: the bowl method. This hack promises to transform your curls from dry and frizzy to sleek and defined, but is it actually worth the effort? Below, find out what this method entails and what experts have to say about it.
What is the bowl method for hair styling?
The viral bowl method (the search has millions of views) includes the following steps:
- Wash: This method requires clean, freshly washed and conditioned hair.
- Bowl: You can comb or brush your hair out (whichever works for your hair type) and then fill a large bowl with water.
- Product: Next, generously apply a leave-in conditioner and a curl cream to your soaking wet hair (yes, skip the towel-dry).
- Dip: Now dip your hair lengths in the water for a second or two.
- Scrunch: Lift your hair out of the bowl to hover above the waterline. Then, scrunch your hair as you usually would to enhance the curls and let the excess water and product drain back into the bowl.
- Repeat: Many people repeat the dip and scrunch three or four times, but that part is up to you. Feel free to experiment with how many dips you do to find your magic number.
- Apply finishing products: Once you're done, you can either leave your hair as is or apply another styling product such as gel (as this user does) or styling foam.
- Plop or diffuse: Some users will "plop" their hair by wrapping it up in a microfiber towel for 15 to 20 minutes and then diffuse their strands. Both of these steps are optional, but they do speed up the drying process compared to air drying.
- Apply hair oil: Some users report a crunchy or sticky texture post-drying from the mousse or gel products they used, which you can eliminate by scrunching some hair oil into your strands after the drying process is complete.
Why does it work?
As you can tell, this isn't exactly the quickest or easiest styling process. That being said, lush, defined, and frizz-free curls are certainly worth the effort. But why does it work so well?
"The bowl method works because it allows the product to be evenly distributed onto the curls and gives the product the chance to absorb," explains celebrity stylist Harry Josh. "Some curly hair can have difficulty absorbing moisture, so by dunking it into the water you are ensuring extra time to give the strands an extra boost of moisture."
As with any styling method, it's not going to work for every single hair type in the same way. "The bowl method tends to work better for looser curl patterns with low porosity that struggles to absorb moisture and product," curl expert Badria Ahmed, founder of curly hair care brand Holy Curls, tells mbg.
She adds, "For high porosity, tighter curl patterns, this method may not be sufficient, as it may need more product to seal moisture in the cuticle." So if you have coils (also known as type 4 hair), you may want to opt for a different method that provides deeper nourishment or be sure to really work the leave-in hydrating products into your strands.
Another helpful option
Now, if you don't have the time or energy to make this method part of your regular routine, you do have another option: "When rinsing out your conditioner, instead of rinsing it out completely, dilute your hair with water little by little until you've got about 5% of the product left in the hair," Ahmed says. You can even cup some water into your palms and scrunch your curls as you rinse, a technique known as the "squish to condish" method.
"This method is similar to the bowl method in that it adds lots of hydration to the hair and evenly distributes the product in the hair while leaving it in the hair to act as a leave-in," Ahmed adds. Some rich treatment products, like the Holy Curls Hair Mask, can even double as your conditioner and leave-in when you opt for this method.
After you dry your curls, be sure to follow up with an oil. "To really crush frizz, you need to be using the right products. If you're in a time crunch, I love the Kerasilk Multi-Benefit Hair Oil, which adds shine, seals in moisture, and protects against heat," Josh notes.
The bowl method is buzzy for a reason—it helps curly strands absorb moisture and receive an even dose of nourishment from leave-in products. While this hack may be best suited for low-porosity, looser curl types, it can be altered to fit most curl patterns. Not sure what category your hair falls into? Start here with our hair type quiz.
Hannah Frye is the Assistant Beauty Editor at mindbodygreen. She has a B.S. in journalism and a minor in women’s, gender, and queer studies from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. Hannah has written across lifestyle sections including health, wellness, sustainability, personal development, and more. She previously interned for Almost 30, a top-rated health and wellness podcast. In her current role, Hannah reports on the latest beauty trends, holistic skincare approaches, must-have makeup products, and inclusivity in the beauty industry. She currently lives in New York City.