4 Ways To Get Heatless Curls — No Matter Your Hair Type
There's a delicate balance between styling your hair and caring for its health. Sure, you may want to make sure it's coiffed and primed regularly, but with too much styling can come damage. The main styling aggressors toward hair health are hot tools: Hot tools work by breaking down the bonds in your hair so it can be shaped and manipulated in whatever style you choose (be it straight to curly or curly to straight). Do this enough, and you dramatically weaken the hair structure.
This is why many look for heatless ways to style their hair. So for those looking for heatless curls (no matter your hair type), here's the best way to style your hair to amp up some texture:
Well, if you already have curly hair, the term heatless curls literally just means "air dry." "Heatless curls are air-dried curls, either dried into that formation or squeezed with the help of curl-defining product," says Frédéric Fekkai, founder and CEO of FEKKAI Brands. "Squeeze out excess water with a microfiber towel—the fabric helps reduce frizz. Apply a leave-in product that will help to hold the shape of the curl when hair dries. The ingredients in your products are also key for air drying curly hair, you don't want anything that will dry the hair out. Shampoos should be free of sulfates, parabens, and gluten—ingredients that leave hair feeling dry and dehydrated." Find some of our favorite sulfate-free shampoos here.
And as hairstylist Miko Branch, co-founder of hair care brand Miss Jessie's reminds us: "Say it with us, air dry is always the best dry," she says. "Style your hair using nourishing, hydrating products that were made exclusively for your textured curls—whether wavy, coily, or kinky. Make sure to seal your hair, from root to tip, and lock in moisture. Patience is key, so don't fuss over your hair or run your fingers in it while it is drying."
However, if you're working with straight to waves, you may need a little additional help with creating curls. "For straight hair, I suggest using rollers on lightly damp hair with a holding gel and then let air dry," says Fekkai. Or if you already have curls and are looking to edit your specific curl type, you can look for rollers of a different diameter than your normal ringlets.
Rollers, of course, come in many shapes and sizes. Reach for Velcro options to fake a blowout, sponges for bouncy spirals, or flexirods for tighter ringlets.
As Branch notes, "Start with clean, damp hair and apply a setting lotion or a leave-in conditioner. Use spiral hair curlers, dry sponges, or rod rollers, but just make sure they don't tug or damage your hair. Be gentle to your hair when placing pins/clips/clamps, and never pull your hair too tightly. Once your hair is dry, finger brush your hair and finish it off with a texturizing spray."
A classic option to help enhance some wave. "Apply a light hold product to your hair (brushing or combing through to disperse evenly), and you can do several loose braids and let your hair air dry that way. When the braids are taken out, it will give you a nice wavy texture," hairstylist Clay Nielsen previously told us. You can also opt for tighter plaits (as well as more of 'em) if you are looking for a Z-pattern curl.
For your final heatless option, twist your strands into buns. Nielsen mentions you can play with multiple messy knots: "Think one on top and one in the back." It'll give you some body to your hair without going full curl. Branch agrees, adding, "After your hair dries, fluff up the texture. Voilà!"
Hot tools aren't the only way to play around with your texture. You can add a lot of volume and bounce by simply styling hair in such a way that as it dries, you're left with the curls of your dreams. And all it takes is the right styling products and moves.
Alexandra Engler is the beauty director at mindbodygreen and host of the beauty podcast Clean Beauty School. Previously, she's held beauty roles at Harper's Bazaar, Marie Claire, SELF, and Cosmopolitan; her byline has appeared in Esquire, Sports Illustrated, and Allure.com. In her current role, she covers all the latest trends in the clean and natural beauty space, as well as lifestyle topics, such as travel. She received her journalism degree from Marquette University, graduating first in the department. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.