How To Keep Curls from Falling Flat

Black woman with curly hair and pink shirt
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Ask any natural-haired person—curls can be both a blessing and a curse. When curls are behaving, they can look bouncy, luxurious, Solange-level fierce. But on a bad hair day, they might fall flat. To give your curls definition and hold, you've got to understand what's causing the issue, and how prep, products, and best practices can help you fix it.

Why Your Hair Won't Hold a Curl

If your hair is fine or overprocessed, it's tougher to get curls to hold.

Fine hair works best with wet sets rather than heat styling. You'll usually get a more voluminous look with wet sets, too.

For overprocessed hair, the focus should be on restoring its health and elasticity. Black hair is particularly fragile, so special care is often needed. Put these tips in your pocket:

  • Adopt a consistent regimen of conditioning and deep conditioning.
  • Cut down on thermal styling.
  • Protect hair at night by wearing a silk hair wrap, or using a silk or satin pillowcase.
  • Avoid hair coloring if possible. At the very least, do not color and relax your hair at the same time. 

Once your mane is back in good condition, you'll find that your styles not only look better but last longer, too.

Prep Your Hair to Keep Your Curls From Falling

How you prep before styling will make a big difference in how long your curls last. Buildup is one of the main reasons they don't hold, so it's best to start by cleansing with a detoxing shampoo. You want to curl clean hair—wet or damp for wet sets, and completely dry for heat styling. Avoid heavy or very oily products, as they weigh your hair down and take the life out of your curls. 

Wet sets generally last longer than heat-styled curls as long as you start with the right products: magnetic rollers, flexi rods or Curlformers.

If you don't have time for a wet set, you can use a curling iron, but your tresses need to be completely dry. Any hint of dampness, even at the root, will flatten out your curls.

Whether you wet set or use a curling iron, it's important to only style small sections of hair at a time (about 1/2- to 1-inch thick). Working in larger sections will sabotage the curls' staying power, especially if the climate is humid. If you're in a rush, don't force it; save curling for days when you actually have time.

Curl-Holding Products

When using wet sets, a good setting lotion like Mizani True Textures Curl Enhancing Setting Lotion ($17) or mousse like Jane Carter Solution Wrap & Roll ($11) helps to lock curls in place. Apply to damp hair, and comb through to make sure all strands are fully saturated. 

As for styling with a curling iron, heat-protectant products with firm or strong hold are essential. Try Kenra Professional Thermal Styling Spray 19 ($18). Apply to each individual section as you curl.

After all the curls are in place, lightly mist with hairspray.


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