Going natural has been one of the best choices I've ever made. But when I said goodbye to chemical relaxers eight years ago, I wasn't sure what to expect from my hair. I was wary of how my texture might change, what products I'd need to invest in, and how much longer it would take to maintain my hair. All these questions were answered by a lot of trial, error, and money, but I'd never go back to putting any chemical straightener on my coils—not when solutions like curl sponges exist.
Washing, drying, and styling my hair takes triple the time it took to do my hair when it was relaxed, which isn't always ideal when you're rushing to get out the door. Like me, many Black people are reclaiming our roots (literally and figuratively) by embracing our hair textures. This uptick has caused rapid innovation in hair products and tools we use to keep our hair healthy while making our wash days and daily styling routines less time-intensive.
One of those innovations is the curl sponge—which cuts styling time down significantly for those rocking cropped cuts—and makes natural curls pop.
There are many curl sponges available online and in hair stores like Sally's, but there are two Black-owned brands I have come to know. The first is the Curl Sponge designed by Egyptian-born, master barber Youssef the Barber, the owner of Diamond Cuts Barber Studio in South Atlanta. The second is the Dallas-based NuDred sponge, which has been in production since 2004.
Since the introduction of the sponge to the hair market, it took the internet and hair industry by storm. I didn't believe the hype until I saw the sponge in action, and I hope you see the same results. Here, we'll explain exactly what the curl sponge is, how it works, what hair types it's best for, and give a step by step guide to using it yourself on short styles.
What Is a Curl Sponge?
The curl sponge is a unisex sponge-like brush with textured holes that give the hair a finger-curled look in minutes. Finger coiling my hair can take up to a couple hours depending on my hair's length at the time, so that fact that this works in minutes is impressive.
There are several versions of the hair sponge. They come in oval, rectangular, or round shapes with different-sized holes to get the curl size you prefer, plus different sized sponges depending on how large of an area you'd like to work on at once.
Most curl sponges come in a "mini" size. Start with the mini as it gives you better control of a smaller area to master your craft. Once you get used to using your curl sponge, upgrade to the larger size to reduce styling time (a bigger sponge=more holes=more hair twisted at once).
The Benefits of Using a Curl Sponge
Curl sponges have a variety of benefits, especially for those with short hair, a TWA, or have just had the big chop. It makes styling your hair incredibly easy and allows you to get heat-free curls, so your hair stays damage free. Bonus points also include being incredibly inexpensive and are easy to find.
Sponges are also really useful for people with fine hair as they help increase your hair's volume and give the appearance of thicker, fuller hair.
How to Use a Curl Sponge on Short Hair
- First, you'll want to start with detangled moisturized, slightly damp hair. This can mean freshly washed hair, or you can start with a spray bottle with water and conditioner in the morning to wake your curls up. The key here is not to have hair soaking wet, but just enough moisture so that the sponge doesn't snag the hair and cause breakage.
- Follow up by brushing the hair with a wide-bristle brush to take out any of your hair's natural curl definition.
- Now, it's time to put the curl sponge to work. To ensure your curls are going in the same direction, you'll want to go in the same circular direction all over your head gently for one to five minutes or until you have your desired look. Be sure not to press down too harshly, as that might cause the hair to break. We want to keep our hair healthy while reclaiming our time.
- Happy coils, happy life!
Do Sponges Work on All Hair Types?
The hair sponge works best on short, naturally curly and coily hair textures that are at least one inch long. Any shorter and the sponge holes might be too deep for your hair to reach.
How does it work? Well, the sponge is perforated with lots of small holes. Gently rub the sponge (without pressing) in a circular motion on an area of your hair. Each hole will "twist" your hair into a perfect coil. When using the sponge, you'll want to use it on moisturized, detangled, slightly damp hair for easier motion. Though, some vloggers say they have had success using it on dry hair, as well. To each their own!
Some sponges also feature a textured side (without holes) for more customizable looks.
The Final Takeaway
Curl sponges are a super easy-to-use, affordable, and low-maintenance way of styling short, natural hair. I think they're definitely worth checking out if you love the finger-coiled look without the hassle.