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How to Curl Short Hair With or Without Heat

How to Curl Short Hair With or Without Heat

If you’re currently rocking a short-haired look but want to spice it up with some curls, you may be wondering the best way to go about this. After all, short hair isn’t the easiest to curl, and there’s a good chance you’re confused about where to start. Thankfully, there are many methods you can use to curl your short hair and get the style of your dreams.

In this article, we will be discussing the best ways, both heated and heatless, to effectively curl your short hair. You’ll also learn some pro tips on how to keep your curls looking good all day and will get some style ideas for your short curls.

Your Guide to Curling Short Hair

There are many different methods out there that you can follow to transform your short style into a head full of curls. Below, we’ve listed the most popular and simple ones, in addition to giving you a full step-by-step guide.

Method One: Using a Curling Iron

One of the most common methods for curling any hair type, a curling iron can be perfect for your short hair, as long as you know how to use it right. When selecting a curling iron, we recommend one with a smaller barrel, .75 of an inch is usually best, to get the most out of your curls.

Keep in mind that the smaller the barrel you use, the tighter your curls will be and that larger barrels will give you wavier hair.

  1. To start curling your hair, make sure your locks are clean and dry. Prepare your hair with a heat protectant and brush through your hair to ensure there are no knots or tangles in it.
  2. Heat up your curling iron to your desired temperature – 400 degrees Fahrenheit is recommended for thicker or coarser hair types, with 350 degrees Fahrenheit being a better option for anyone with thinner, finer, or color-treated hair.
  3. As your curling iron heats up, make small sections out of your hair. It may be helpful to clip up the top section of your hair and begin the curling process on the bottom layer. You can use designated sectioning clips to do this.
  4. Once your curling iron is heated, separate out a small piece of your hair. Feed it into the barrel of your curling iron, starting at the root and clamping down. Turn the curling iron around in your hand and wrap the rest of the hair strand around it.
  5. Hold the curling iron in place for 30 seconds if you have especially thick or coarse hair, or between 10 and 15 seconds if you have finer hair. Once the time is up, gently unclamp the curling iron and slide it down to remove the hair from it.
  6. Catch the curl in your free hand as it comes off the curling iron barrel. Hold it there momentarily as it cools a little bit, and then gently lay it down before moving onto the next section of hair.
  7. Completely curl the bottom layer of your hair like this and then move onto the top layer. Make sure to take smaller strands of hair out of each section to build volume with the curls. You should also try to alternate the direction that you curl for a more natural look.
  8. After you have curled all of your hair, gently shake it out at the roots. You can then apply your favorite hairspray or finishing spray to set the curls.

Method Two: Using a Flat Iron

Using a flat iron to curl your short hair may have a little bit more of a learning curve than using a curling iron, but it is possible to do. This method is great if you don’t have a curling iron at your disposal or you want to achieve a wavier curl.

For best results, we recommend a flat iron with a width of 0.5 of an inch to 1.25 inches.

  1. To begin, make sure your hair is clean and dry before spraying a heat protectant all over your hair.
  2. Comb out any knots or tangles in your locks to ensure that the hair is smooth before sectioning out your hair. Again, it is a good idea to separate and clip up the top layer of your hair and start curling from the bottom layer.
  3. Once your flat iron is heated up, take a small strand of hair and clamp it between the flat iron close to the root. Move the flat iron down your hair, rocking it from side to side as you go in order to create a curly-wavy appearance. Alternatively, you can twist the hair around the flat iron as you bring it down your hair.
  4. Release the flat iron as you get to the bottom of the hair strand and then move onto the next piece of hair.
  5. Continue like this, alternating the direction you turn the flat iron in to create a more natural appearance. Once the bottom layer is done, unclip the top layer and work your way through it in the same fashion.
  6. As soon as all your hair is curled, shake it lightly from the roots to fluff it out and create a naturally voluminous look. You can then set the curls with your favorite hairspray or finishing spray.

Method Three: Heatless With a Headband

This method works the best for short hair that is at least touching your shoulders. It is a heatless method, meaning that it is a good idea for anyone who wants to avoid heat styling or doesn’t have heat styling tools readily on hand.

For this method to work, you will need an elastic headband that fits on your head but isn’t too snug.

  1. Starting with damp hair (you can wash your hair or spray it with water to achieve this), brush out your locks until they are smooth with no signs of tangles.
  2. Place the headband over the top of your hair so it loops around from the front of your hairline and the back part lands around the bottom of your skull.
  3. Starting from one side of your head, take a small section of your hair and separate it out. Loop the hair section over the headband and then pull it underneath the headband, effectively wrapping the hair around the elastic.
  4. Move onto the next piece of hair, combining any leftover hair from the first loop into the next strand, and then repeating the loop over and pull under process.
  5. Keep repeating this action until all of your hair has been looped around the headband.
  6. To help hold your hair in place, apply a few bobby pins around your head to make sure that the hair stays put on the headband.
  7. Once your hair is fastened, spray it lightly with hairspray, and then wait a few hours for your hair to dry. You may also choose to do this before bed and allow your hair to dry out overnight.
  8. When it comes time to remove the headband, carefully take out any bobby pins in your hair.
  9. From there, remove the headband by gently pulling it back from the front of your head towards the back of your hair, allowing your locks to fall away from the headband.
  10. Shake out your hair and fluff the roots of your locks to give your hair a more natural tousled appearance.

If the curls are too tight for you, gently rake your fingers through them and separate them until they resemble loose curly waves. After your curls are styled to your liking, you can then add a little more hairspray to set them in place.

This video can help you further understand this process.

Method Four: Heatless Pin Curls

Heatless pin curls are a great way to create tighter curls and more volume in your short hair without ever touching a curling wand.

To use this method, you will need a good amount of bobby pins and a little bit of patience.

  1. Start with damp hair and comb through your locks, removing any knots or tangles. Separate your hair out into small sections. It may be helpful to clip the hair you aren’t working on out of your way for easier styling.
  2. Take a small strand of hair and wrap it around your finger. The tighter you wrap it, the tighter the curl will be; for larger wavier curls, use larger sections of hair. Push the wrapped hair strand off of your finger and onto your scalp, holding it in place with two bobby pins crossed in an ‘x’ shape.
  3. Repeat this process over your entire head and then allow your hair to dry for several hours or overnight.
  4. Once your hair is dry, carefully take out the bobby pins and let your curls down. From there, you can shake them out from the roots, fluff them up lightly with your hands, or use your fingers to comb through them, depending on your desired style. Optionally, you can follow up with a hairspray to hold your curls in place.

Pro Tips for Styling Your Curls

woman with short curls hair

These pro tips can help you achieve the best-looking natural curls with your short hair, no matter what.

Curl in Multiple Directions

When using your curling iron or flat iron, you should make an effort to curl the hair in alternating directions. This will stop it from looking too uniform, will add extra volume to the hair, and will leave you with more natural-looking short curls.

Invest in Products

There are a number of different hair styling products that can help you achieve perfect curls. Hairspray is a great option to hold the curls in place once you’ve styled them, but you can also add a couple of products before styling your hair to help the curls set in place and make the final result appear healthier.

Use mousse or a texturizing spray on your hair before curling your hair. These products will work best when you are creating heatless curls, but they can also be extra helpful when using a curling or flat iron. You may also opt for a leave-in conditioner with heat protection properties to get the best of both worlds.

Don’t Be Afraid to Style

As you let your curls down, especially heatless curls, there is a possibility that they won’t look exactly how you imagined. This is caused by curl clumps sticking together or by creating curls that may be too tight for your liking.

In cases like this, don’t be afraid to style your hair. Shake out your hair from the roots or flip your hair upside down and give it a tousle to add more volume. Gently finger comb your curls or run a brush through your hair to create more wavy curls. Add in some smoothing serum to tame any frizz and add shine to your hair.

Experiment with different methods of styling the curls to find out what looks best for you.

Try a Silk Scarf

If you are a fan of heatless curls and often leave your hair to dry overnight, you may want to invest in a silk scarf. Wrapping a silk scarf over your hair while you sleep can help prevent frizz and keep your hair in place with more ease, leading to smoother, sleeker curls in the morning.

Start With Small Curls

For curls that will last you a few days, it is a good idea to start with smaller curls. As you sleep on smaller curls, they will generally unravel to create larger, more wavy curls. This means that you can rock a tight curly style one day and have another day or two or wavier curls without any extra effort.

Remember to Avoid Water

Once you have a full head of curls, remember to avoid getting them wet again or dowsing them with water, as this will put your hair right back in its natural state.

You can preserve your curls for a couple of days by using dry shampoo to soak up any grease or dirt, reviving your style and giving your curls another day in the sun.

Achieve the Short Curly Hair of Your Dreams

woman with short curly hair

While some may think that curling short hair is impossible, our guide proves that it’s not only possible but that it can be easy to do when you’re armed with some knowledge and the proper tools. Any of the methods we talked about above can help you get started with curling your short hair and achieving the short curly locks that you’ve always dreamed of.