It can be hard to find decent short hairstyles for curly hair. I'm ashamed to admit that as a curly, short-haired person, instead of embracing my curls, I used to straighten them with anything I could get my hands on. Yes, even if it meant using the iron (cringe). However, I'm now much happier embracing my curls and letting my hair do it's own thing, with a little bit of coaxing from some incredible products, of course.
The problem, I think, is that when you have curly hair you consider yourself fairly limited when it comes to trying out different hairstyles. But that couldn't be further from the truth. While there are secrets to styling curly hair, there is also hair inspo. Some of our favorite A-listers with curly and natural hair have opted for a shorter look. We've rounded up our favorites replete with haircare and styling tips from the pros: Melanie Bolton, Trey Gillen, and Anastasia Stylianou.
Not only might this help you see your curls in a different light, but the next time you're at the hairdressers you'll know what to ask for. You'll probably also stop wanting to use the straighteners quite so much.
Keep scrolling for our top 20 celeb-inspired short, curly hairstyles.
Meet the Expert
- Melanie Bolton is a hairstylist and director of education at Flow.
- Trey Gillen is a master hairstylist and color specialist with over 15 years of experience. He is currently the creative director at Sachajuan.
- Anastasia Stylianou is an internationally acclaimed hairstylist and creative director, artistic director of Umberto Giannini. She is the founder of Rehab Styling and is a specialist in curly hair.
Victoria's Secret angel Alanna Arrington looks rockstar-ready with her mussy shagadelic mop. No matter your age, "This is a great haircut for those with some natural texture and also hair that falls flat. The layers are great to remove extra bulk and allow the haircut to last longer than usual," says Gillen. He recommends using Sachajuan Dry Shampoo Mousse ($37) to flip and twist shaggy layers for a flirty effect.
Romance, feminity, beauty—Solange's bob has got it all. She plays up volume and texture to create a literal natural curly-haired aura around her. The effect is ethereal. To reduce frizz and enhance volume and texture, Bolton recommends, "using a dry texture spray on naturally dried or diffused curls. Spray the roots to achieve lift where desired, and separate curls with fingers to enhance texture as the hair is pulled back. Finish with an overall spritz of dry texture spray and/or medium-hold hairspray."
Square or Box Layers
Singer-songwriter Jhene Aiko is a prime example of how layers can work wonders on full textured hair. "It’s a power move and super on-trend to put a square shape in your hair," comments Gillen. Square layers (aka box layers) are perfect for curly or wavy hair as they work to keep tresses from appearing too bulky toward ends while simultaneously adding strength. To achieve Aiko's 'do, Gillen suggests applying Sachajuan's Curl Treatment ($34) in the shower to control and soften strands followed by a generous helping of Shine Serum ($33) when styling to define and moisturize curls.
Half-Up, Half-Down Lob
If you can't decide whether you want to wear hair up or let it hang loose, then why not do both? Nicole Richie's half-up, half-down lob is a low-maintenance look that embraces hair's natural texture. Bolton adds that the key to this style is volume at the root and moisture on the lengths. She recommends using Flow Limitlesslift Volumizing Cleanse ($25) at the scalp paired with 30 Second Treatment ($25) applied from mid-shaft to ends and finishing with texturizing spray.
If anyone can pull off this bold, yet understated look, it's the stunning Jodie-Turner Smith. "This style is perfect for anyone with tight coils" notes Stylianou. To ensure proper upkeep, she underscores the importance of keeping edges well-groomed "since they're like a contour." She recommends Pattern Beauty Edge Control to keep ends in check.
Chignon or French Plait
The beauty of curly hair is that it tends to hold up 'dos much better than straight hair, thanks to its texture. This look worn by Scarlett Johansson is a great example. Re-create a similar style by fixing a chignon or a french plait at the back and then pulling out strands at the front. Finish with texturizing spray. Bolton points out that this updo is even better on second-day hair. She recommends reviving strands with Flow Root Reboot Texture & Root Refresher Spray ($22).
A pixie crop and a fringe for curly hair might seem like a horrific cocktail, and on paper sounds like a frizzy mess, but in reality, this is what it looks like. As to why it works, Bolton says, "Its longer fringe frames the face whimsically while highly textured pixie layers create movement and style, utilizing the natural texture of the hair." She highlights that to make this style work for curly hair, "the cut needs to work with (not against) the natural bend of the hair." Since hydration is a curl's best friend, she suggests incorporating a deep conditioner to your regular haircare regimen.
While Beyoncé's blunt bob is a little straighter than "traditional" curly hair, Bolton explains, "It is a wonderful option for those who prefer to smooth out their curls but still want voluminous shape. Apply a smoothing lotion or cream, such as Flow All Day Tame Smoothing Balm ($22) or Touchable Texture Design Cream ($22) to wet hair and blow-dry smooth, drying the roots completely. Allow the rest of the hair to air dry once slightly damp to create a natural wave and volume. Ends will turn up naturally."
Loose Wave Lob
A loose wave lob, as seen here on Michelle Yeoh, is as flattering as it is practical. Not only do long bobs look great on everyone, but they are also versatile and low-maintenance. "Use your curling iron or flat iron to create the waves and collapse the bulk ones of thick hair. Sachajuan’s intensive hair oil will give shine and moisture to keep this style healthy and gorgeous," adds Gillen.
Yara Shahidi goes full-on curls with her voluminous lob and IMHO, she never looked better. Gillen says, "Round layers on curly hair is wonderful for the carefree curl look. Adding tons of personality to wavy and curly hair, this is an easy haircut to distribute the weight of thick hair evenly." He suggests adding a curtain bang in for good measure, or rather, to frame the face. Sachajuan's Curl Shampoo ($28) and Curl Condition ($33) will keep textured strands looking and feeling their best.
By wearing her lob in loose spirals, Kylie Minogue shows how curls can lend fun and flirtation to a cut that might otherwise feel more serious if worn straight. Bolton notes that the versatile, easy-to-style lob, "is a great choice for curly hair that is transitioning to longer length, the key being to create soft layers in the interior, to enhance volume at the crown and to help accentuate curls around the face."
However you choose to style this look, Bolton underscores the importance of hydrating and protecting hair beforehand to lock in moisture, enhance curls and guard against frizz. She recommends, "Using a leave-in conditioner and a non-sticky thermal protectant will provide the right foundation to proceed with air drying or hot tool styling."
Dramatic Side Part
As curly hair definitely holds styles better, you can totally mix it up by pushing your short curly hair to the side just like Marion Cotillard. A dramatic side part is a quick and easy way to change up your everyday look, not to mention, "It can also support the use of gorgeous hair accessories if that is one of your goals," says Bolton.
To style, she advises using a smoothing cream or lotion on damp hair to create a heavy part and then combing hair to one side. On the parted side, pin hair behind the ear. Finish by applying a medium hold cream-based texture product with a shine serum using fingertips to place product along parted hair and into curls.
Full, Layered Coils
British singer and songwriter Jorja Smith exudes confidence with her head of full, layered coils. This cut is "perfect for those who have 3C/4A curl patterns and really thick hair," says Stylianou. She adds, "My favorite product range for this type of hair is by Pattern Beauty. They have a full range of shampoos, conditioners, curl creams, and edge control. I recommend layering up on the curl cream and gel to really make your curls pop.
To avoid your cut from taking on a round or solid shape, incorporate a few random, scattered layers throughout hair.
Ethiopian-Irish actress Ruth Negga is giving us some serious Betty Boop vibes with her darling head of cropped curls. To ensure curly hair stays moisturized, Bolton says to incorporate a weekly deep conditioning treatment and style with a mix of a medium-hold texture product and shine serum like Flow Touchable Texture Design Cream ($22) and H5 Concentrate Shine Serum ($24). She adds, "Use fingertips to add piecey texture to the desired effect."
Jasmine Sanders exudes old Hollywood glamour with this undulating retro hairstyle. To create definition and shine without frizz, Bolton suggests blow-drying with a smoothing cream or lotion. We're fans of Olaplex No. 6 Bond Smoother Reparative Styling Creme ($28) in case you were wondering.
We just can't get enough of Solange. Here she is again showing off her natural and voluminous mane, only this time with a layered, structured finish. "If you have tight coily hair, and you fancy switching it up a little, I recommend this style," says Stylianou. In order to replicate this look she advises, "You will need to relax your roots slightly, water spray your roots, and apply Devacurl Wave Maker ($14). Don’t be afraid to use enough product, then clip to set into place and leave to dry. Once dry, spray with Got2b Glued Blasting Freeze Hair Spray ($5). For your ends, you can brush out using a soft bristle brush, and an Afro comb. The bigger the better!"
Short, Natural Crop
Lupita Nyong'o's crop is not easy for everyone to pull off but looks incredible on her. Props to her hairstyle, Vernon Francois, who is the ultimate expert in natural hair and will do whatever it takes to keep her strands moisturized (read: steaming from an iron). "This look is the perfect marriage between strength and softness, where curls are allowed to be themselves within a clearly defined and texturized shape," comments Bolton.
Since this curly crop is 100% about moisture, she advises choosing a regimen that provides consistent hydration to the hair and scalp and incorporating deep conditioning on a regular basis. Flow Aquaoasis Hydrating Cleanse ($22) and Conditioner ($25) and 30 Second Treatment ($25) are her top product picks.
Stylianou admits, "I’m obsessed with this '80s little crop," and the truth is, so are we. Naomi Campbell incorporates pops of color which serve to add a playful note while enhancing texture. Stylianou highlights the importance of a great cut and color, which can be harder to find than you think. Her advice? "I recommend visiting DevaCurl salon. They will transform your curls from the condition to the cut and offer a service called ‘Pintura Highlights’ which is a unique color service for curly hair where they freehand paint your hair, highlighting your curls to add more dimension to your individual texture." Umm, we're in.
Updo with Face-Framing Curls
Sometimes formal updos can feel too stuffy, but this take on Rita Ora strikes a nice balance between chic and cool thanks to face-framing curls. "For this look, frizz is not an option," says Bolton. She encourages using a deep conditioning treatment like Flow 30 Second Treatment ($25) to first hydrate hair and then follow with a leave-in conditioner. Zerofriction Detangling Treatment ($21) will get the job done.
This updo is a great option for hair that is a little greasy since it will hold the style in place better than freshly washed tresses. Just keep some dry shampoo and texturizing spray handy.
I mean, where do we even begin? JTS's curly bob with matching bangs is utter perfection. To get her shapely 'do—and avoid the poof-effect—we suggest incorporating long layers. Hydrate and define curls by using a leave-in conditioner after every wash and a deep conditioning treatment at least once per week. Finally, for added gloss, finish with Flow H5 Concentrate Shine Serum ($24).