Sarah Potempa knows a thing or two about curling hair. She's the creator of The Beachwaver, a celebrity stylist, and lead stylist at the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show multiple times. (Her Angel wave expertise is legit.) So, who better to reveal the tricks for holding a curl? Here's how Potempa achieves bouncy curls for the runway, the red carpet, and real life.
Meet The Expert
Sarah Potempa is a celebrity hairstylist and the creator of The Beachwaver. Her work has been seen on individuals like Lea Michele, Hailee Steinfeld, and Margot Robbie and has been the lead stylist at the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show.
Use a Properly Heated Tool
First things first: Is it true that thin or naturally straight hair won't hold a curl as well as other hair types? Not so, says Potempa. "Now, with modern technology, any hair type should be able to hold a curl!"
Curling irons come in a variety of materials including ceramic, tourmaline, gold, and titanium. Ceramic and tourmaline irons are the most popular; they have even heat distribution, control frizz, and do less damage to your hair than other options.
Potempa says, "Look for a quality tool that has components like an adjustable digital temperature and ceramic rods or plates. The Beachwaver has custom extra-long heaters that extend the entire length of the barrel to ensure even heat distribution throughout the hair.
"It's important to be educated on the right heat setting for your hair. For example, if you have thick hair, you'll want to use a higher heat setting than someone with thin or fine hair. Adjusting the heat setting to your hair type will ensure that your curls hold!"
Speaking of a proper heat setting, Potempa says digital is the way to go. "If you use tools with an analog (dial) heat setting, you don't know what temperature you're using on your hair, and the heat may not be evenly distributed throughout the iron. If the heat is inconsistent, then the curl won't last."
Prepping before you curl is also instrumental to your style lasting all day. A heavy shampoo and conditioner will weigh freshly washed hair down. If your hair isn't extremely dry, wash with a light moisture shampoo and conditioner like Nexxus Hydra-Light Weightless Moisture Shampoo ($9) and Conditioner ($20) for a great start to take on the curls.
For even better results, curl your hair on the second or third day after shampooing. Dirty hair can hold a curl better than squeaky clean hair, and it'll save you a lot of prep time, too. If your hair feels greasy, start with a dry shampoo.
Potempa says, "Use a mousse and heat protectant before you blow-dry in order to give the hair more hold."
Prepping with a setting spray is also great for locking in your curls. Many of them offer heat protection, too. Matrix Biolage Thermal Active Setting Spray ($17) helps curls go the distance.
Clips are your styling friend, both pre- and post-curl. "If you need extra hold, you can set the curls with silver clips. You just wrap the curl and pin it on top of the head to let it set for a few minutes. When you unpin the curls, they will have even more structure and volume. It's also important to remember that the tools you use along with the curling iron matter! Divide your hair into clean, even sections before you curl. This will ensure that every curl has structure and looks great," Potempa explains.
Barrel Size Matters
"Switch to a smaller barrel size if you want to make the curls last longer. For example, if you are using a one-inch barrel and your curls are falling, then try using a smaller iron. Curling smaller sections of hair will also give you tighter curls and more hold," she says.
Try Hot Rollers
If your hair is fine, limp, or otherwise refuses to hold a curl, hot rollers may be a better option than a curling iron. You'll likely want to practice setting your hair in hot rollers before any big event to make sure you've got the technique down. Let the rollers sit in your hair for a minimum of 10 minutes—even longer if you have extra time.
It's tempting to want to run your fingers through your hair immediately or brush out your curls as soon as you've finished, but Potempa says this is the reason your curls fall quickly. Instead, she suggests spraying a hairbrush with hair spray once the curls have cooled and then passing them through with a brush.
Soft, touchable curls might be ideal, but if you have trouble getting curls to hold and you want them to last all day, you probably need to opt for a hairspray with a firm hold. The staying power will be worth it.