How to Style Curly Hair for Men: The Disheveled Devil

by Kasey Spickard

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Even less style-savvy guys know this to be true: Curly hair is in. Part of it brings a bit of retro flavor – remember that ‘80s-esque meet me at McDonald’s cut from a couple of years ago? – and the second half involves embracing your hair’s natural curl pattern and knowing how to style curly hair for men.

Here’s how you can get started:

How to Get Curly Hair, If Your Hair’s Naturally on the Straight Side

You don’t have to try the at-home perm kits – especially as the results can be hit or miss, and you’ll be living with it for the next few months. Instead, all you’ll need are a few hair tools and a paste or dry shampoo. Here, we recommend R+Co Badlands Dry Shampoo Paste, although you’re welcome to attempt these steps with a similar product.

How to Style Curly Hair for Men
How to Style Curly Hair for Men

Step 1: Apply Product

Take a nickel to dime-sized amount of the paste or shampoo, work between your hands to warm up the product, and then apply to damp hair (either out of the shower or wet with a spray bottle).

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Step 2: Section & Twist

To get the curls, take small sections of the hair (roughly ¼” to ½” pieces) and simply twist the hair, following the natural curl pattern, until forming a tight coil. Do this working from front to back and rewetting and adding additional product as needed.

How to Style Curly Hair for Men
Photography by Kate Edwards Photography | ModelMoein
How to Style Curly Hair for Men

Step 3: Dry and Loosen

How to Style Curly Hair for Men
Photography by Kate Edwards Photography | ModelMoein
African American man with curly haor

How to Get Curly Hair for Black Men

For Black men, taking advantage of the curly hair trend is a little different. Your hair likely already has natural curls, but curl patterns vary from tight to relatively loose once you start to grow out your hair. In your case, you’ll want to embrace your natural texture, without adding harsh, drying chemicals into the mix that could result in breakage. As you go about this:

Step 1: Focus on Moisture

Think about it through every step of styling your hair. Start with a moisture-rich shampoo and conditioner that will help hydrate your hair. Then, after detangling in and out of the shower, add a hair moisturizer in, down to the roots and scalp, while it’s still wet to keep your locks hydrated.

Step 2: Detangle

For all guys who have natural curls, running a brush through your hair is often the wrong advice. It straightens some things out, leaving you with an uneven texture that you’ve later got to correct. Rather, you want to get out the knots and detangle your hair, and this in itself is a two-step process. Start in the shower with your hands, and after you get out and apply product, address the rest out with a detangling brush.

man with long curly hair in a black suit

Step 3: Up the Texture

On the note of texture, you’ll want a sponge brush in your arsenal: It’s softer, and it won’t straighten out your hair’s natural curl pattern. As such, finish your style with a hydrating holding gel – keep in mind that harsher products could dry out your scalp and leave you with flakes or dandruff – and go over your hair with the sponge brush in a circular motion to work it in and enhance the texture.

How to Style Curly Hair for Men – Short & Long

Not every men’s curly hairstyle has a fade on the sides and medium-length locks on top. Shorter curly hair – a la Justin Timberlake’s *NSync days, sans the over-gelled texture – is making a comeback, while longer, shoulder-length locks are an alternative to all those surfer-straight ‘dos. Whether you’re curling your own hair or you’re blessed with natural waves, enhance the texture with the following styling tips:

man with long curly hair and a goatee

1. In general, the best foundation for how to style curly hair for men is to shampoo it every two to three days. Any more frequently and you risk drying out your hair and dealing with both dandruff and a frizzy texture.

2. When it comes to product, less is ultimately more – assuming you use the right formula. In your case, seek out a hydrating matte gel with a high hold, and apply it from the roots when your hair is still wet. Otherwise, you risk looking like a late ‘90s boyband member.

3. Be strategic when you want volume. Mousse is overkill, in your case. Rather, for extra texture without extra product, apply a hydrating sea salt spray.

man with wavy hair

4. If you’re in the process of growing out your curly hair, get into a maintenance routine with your barber. Specifically request for him to razor off certain pieces, so the curls aren’t growing haphazardly in all directions, and consider asking him to “point cut” the ends. Straight curls end up appearing boxy.

Must-Have Men’s Curly Hair Products

Shampoo and Conditioner

We’re not recommending one specific brand here. Rather, shampoo for men’s curly hair needs to do two major things: One, remove all buildup from products, and two, hydrate your locks to prevent frizz and breakage. The result should offer some volume and a soft feel without stripping away your scalp’s natural oils.

man iwth turtle neck and long curly hair in the front

Conditioner complements this feel, helping keep the frizz to a minimum without weighing your hair down. As a bonus, conditioner works wonders when you’re musing about how to style curly hair for men – it adds a bit of shine while boosting its hydration.

Leave-In Conditioner

In your case, consider this a separate product, as you won’t be washing it in and out. Rather, think of it as an overnight hair treatment that delivers longer-lasting hydration. You won’t want to do this every night obviously – or even once a week – but leave-in conditioner helps build up a defense against humidity and ultimately helps you use less styling product.

man with curly hair in a quiff

A Range of Styling Products

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Whether your curls are loose or tight, dry or oily, you’ll want to have a mix of the following in your arsenal:

  • Styling oil: It’s the lightest of the light on this list, contrary to impressions, that’s basically a hair serum that delivers extra hydration. Moroccan argan oil is one of the more common options out there, and only a relatively small portion is needed to create that soft-yet-shiny look that won’t succumb to frizzing the moment a hint of moisture is in the air.
  • Curling Cream: As the next level up, this product has a bit more body than styling oil, but essentially does the same thing, defining curls and infusing them with a touch more hydration.
  • Gel: Not every formula will do, as you’ve likely found. The perfect gel to sue when you’re stuck on products for how to style curly hair for men is to make sure you avoid stripping it of moisture and then help define its shape. As a tip, avoid anything with alcohol in the ingredients, as this may potentially over-dry your hair and scalp.
man in white t-shirt with red curly hair
  • Pomade: Like gel but with a bit more hold, pomade’s a better choice for guys with short- to medium-length curly hair, especially if you’ve opted for a fade on the sides.
  • Wax: Wax turns up the texture for short- to medium-length curly hair. That said, a little goes a long way, so use it sparingly in conjunction with your other hair products.
  • Sea Salt Spray: Basically, whether your hair runs long or short, this product is the all-around volume booster that enhances its tousled-yet-still-neat look in the process. Here, too, not all formulas are equal, so seek out those made with little to no alcohol.

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