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How To Style Curly Hair: Wet Styling vs Damp Styling

How To Style Curly Hair: Wet Styling vs Damp Styling

Knowing how to style curly hair isn’t something that comes naturally to everyone, but that’s exactly what we’re here for! One of the most exciting things about styling curly hair is finding the perfect techniques to suit your lifestyle, and your look. Beyond just finding the best products to use, it’s also important to know how and when to use them. Timing is key, afterall. Whether you’re looking to tame a few frizzy strands, or allow your curls to take on a new level of volume, finding the right styling methods is an important step in your hair care journey. 

So - wet styling, damp styling… which one will steal your heart? The truth is - that completely depends on your curl type, and the look that you want your curls to dry into. Adding creams or gels to soaking wet hair will result in a totally different look than if you wait until it’s had some time to chill after the shower. 

curly hair woman with dogs

The Difference Between Wet And Dry Styling

Though both wet and dry styling can help you get magical results, there are some important differences in the way that your curls will reach their final form. 

Wet styling is more likely to lead to defined, frizz-free curls. Curls will clump into bigger sections, which can help curls stay in place. Think big, smooth curls that maintain their shape throughout the day. Since you’re locking your hair into place when it’s wet, you’re reducing the possibility of frizziness, and giving your hair structure. For people with coily hair, wet styling is often considered the best option to get fabulous curls that don’t get too puffy. When coily hair gets wet, the curls loosen and become softer and easier to guide in the right direction. It can take longer for a wet styling routine to dry since, well… your hair is soaking wet. Some people like to use a diffusing hair dryer attachment on days when they’re in a time pinch. 

Let’s say you love your curls a little looser, and to have a bit more of a voluminous, beachy look. In that case, damp styling may be a better contender for you. Since adding product after hair is partially dried causes curls to separate in a less defined manner, it adds layers of unique texture. Damp styling can be especially great for those who have wavy hair, and who love that sexy-I-just-rolled-out-of-bed look. 

One of the other advantages of damp styling is that many people find it’s easier for them to know what sections of their hair have product, and which sections don’t. If you’re trying damp styling for the first time, air drying your hair or using a microfiber hair towel is a great way to help your curls dry while maintaining its shape. You’ll want to wait until your hair is about 80% dry, and use your hands to help the product evenly coat your locks. Damp styling will give less of a hold to your curls than wet styling, and can give it more diva volume (think: Chaka Khan circa 1975).

Certain products will be better suited to soaking wet hair, so it’s always a good idea to check the instructions. Remember that before that cream, gel or conditioner got into your hands, it was optimized for a certain technique. They know exactly what they’re talking about when they make recommendations for you. 

The Perfect Combination of Products And Care

Many people choose to use a combination of products to style their hair. Often this includes a leave-in conditioner and some sort of styling cream or gel. The goal is to moisturize your hair, and then use a product to lock it into place. 

Certain techniques can be used during the drying process to help your styling products nurture your curls, like plopping. Plopping is the process of drying your hair with a microfiber towel or cotton T-shirt in order to prevent frizz and optimize definition. Once you’ve added product, flip your hair over, and use the shirt or towel to bunch your curls closer to your head. By wrapping up your curls in a sweet little protective hat while it dries, you’re allowing them to dry untouched by the tension that comes from the classic hair-towel-wrap-method. 

It’s also important to know what not to do, like sleeping with wet hair. Though some people like the look of hair after sleeping with it in braids or other hairstyles, sleeping with wet hair actually puts you at-risk of getting a fungal infection on your scalp. Yes, fungus in your hair! Not exactly the rockstar look that most of us are going for. Instead, try allowing your hair to dry (at least partially), and using a bonnet or the pineapple updo hair method to protect curls. 

No matter what, the key to your hair maintaining its shape after it's dried is not fussing with it. I know I know, it can be hard. Especially since curls are so fun to touch! By letting your hair dry without getting too handsy with it, you give it the chance to lock itself into place with the products you’ve used. 

If you often find that your hair is uneven or feels crisp, it’s possible that you may be using a tad too much product. We know here that with Royal Locks products, a little goes a long way. Even a nickel sized amount can be enough to give your entire head of hair the little extra boost that you’re looking for. Great news for anyone who is looking to have a hair care routine that can be adapted for a busy morning. 

How to Style Curly Hair In A Way That Works For You 

curly hair woman with glasses and laptop

One of the greatest aspects of both wet and damp styling is that it causes no damage to your hair. Plus, it can save you time that you would rather spend chasing your kids around the house. By styling your hair before it dries, you reduce the need for heat-styling tools and aggressive brushing or combing. In fact, using products on wet or damp hair can give your hair the perfect amount of moisture and improve the health of your gorgeous curls overall. 

The easiest way to decide whether you want to style your curls when they’re wet or damp? Base it off of when you love your curl patterns the most! If you look in the mirror after a steamy shower and love the look of your frizz-free curls then, wet styling may work better for you. If you prefer the look of your curls when they’ve had some time to dry, then damp styling is probably a better bet. 

As always, the best way to figure out your styling methods is to have some fun experimenting. You may even find that you like to mix it up sometimes, based on how your curls land after they dry. 

Well, now we’ve got that covered. Looking to learn more about how to style curly hair, your curls, and the curly community? Check out some of our other blogs to learn everything you’ve ever wanted to know. 

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