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Curly Hair Haircuts

The Best Hairstyles for Naturally Curly Hair


Brand X Pictures for Getty
Curly Hair Haircuts

Julia Garner

Chelsea Lauren for Getty
Curly Hair Haircuts

Maggie Q

Frazer Harrison // Getty

If you have naturally curly hair, you likely have suffered through frizzy days and lots of bad haircuts. You've probably straightened your hair with a flat iron and you may have tried to go short (and wished you hadn't).

There are a few tricks to a great naturally curly hairstyle. Turns out you can wear your hair short, you can get a few bangs cut in and you don't have to go to a curly hair specialist. The secret lies in getting a great haircut.

Pick a Good Stylist

For years I have advised women with curly hair to find a stylist who specializes in cutting curly hair. A former hairstylist of mine once whispered to me her little secret: that if a stylist has naturally curly hair, she's going to know better than a straight-hair stylist how to cut curly hair.

That's bunk, according to NYC stylist and author, Eva Scrivo. A good stylist, Scrivo writes in her book "Eva Scrivo on Beauty", is going to be adept at cutting all textures and hair types.

"The best way to find a good stylist is to approach someone whose hair you admire and is similar in texture to yours," says Scrivo.

Well, there you have it. I stand corrected.

Long Trumps Short, Usually

Although there are few true "rules" in beauty, curly hair almost universally tends to behave better if it's longer. Longer hair weighs down the curls resulting in less "pouf."

See these Photos of Naturally Curly Hairstyles for inspiration.

However, Yes, You Can Go Short

Remember when actress Kerri Russell cut off her famous long, curly locks and the public went ballistic? Turns out Russell was a victim of a really, really bad haircut. (Judge for yourself).

Curly hair can actually look amazing short, provided you get the right cut. The trick is cutting or razoring in lots of layers and thinning out the hair so it doesn't become a huge fluff ball (although personally I love curly hair gone wild, check out this hairstyle). 

If you want to go shorter, you can. In fact, I have proof. See photos of amazing short, curly hairstyles in my gallery: Short, Curly Hair: Photos of My Favorite Hairstyles.

Bangs? Yeah, So About Those Bangs...

Almost anyone can wear bangs -- except women with super curly hair. Short curly bangs can look outdated, but if you must have some shorter layers, ask your stylist to cut in a few face-framing tendrils, suggests Scrivo.

Whatever you do, do not straighten your bangs leaving the rest of your hair curly. This "mall bang" look (Scrivo's word, love it!) is just wrong, wrong, wrong.

Find out how to properly blow dry bangs in How to Blow Dry Bangs.

Layers are a Curly Girl's Best Friend

Stylist Nick Arrojo suggests aiming for long layers cut in to allow your curls to move. "You want the curls to be full of spring and life," he says.

Because it's so important to "shape" curly hair, stylists often razor or scissor cut curly hair when it's dry. And there's definitely a technique to shaping curly hair, says Scrivo.

"Probably the most common mistake that stylists make with curly hair is pulling on each section too much and stretching it out during the cut, only to find that the shape looks very different from what was intended when the curls bounce back. The 'secret' to creating beautiful and accurate curls is to cut the hair with very little tension. Any experienced and skilled stylist will know this," Scrivo writes in her book.

If your stylist is pulling too much on your hair, simply ask them to please pull less on the curls.

Note: If you wear your hair curly and let it air dry, Scrivo recommends you inform your stylist so he or she can keep the layers on top of the head longer. Why? Curly hair dries tighter than it would if you blow dry it daily using a diffuser or drying it straight.

To Razor or Not to Razor

The razor can strike fear into the hearts of any woman no matter her hair type. There's something about the way the razor works on my hair that reminds me of fingernails on a chalkboard. It simply doesn't feel healthy. Yet Scrivo insists that in the hands of an adept professional, a razor could give you "the best haircut of your life." Turns out the razor is brilliant at reducing heaviness in curly hair.

How to Style Curly Hair

With the right cut, styling curly hair can be easy. If you dry hair, use a diffuser, but the best way to let curly hair dry is to air dry. Simply cup and squeeze curls in the palm of your hand every 15 minutes until hair is dried.

All curly hair needs intense moisturizing. To get the scoop on styling curly hair, see 10 Secrets to Styling Naturally Curly Hair. For the best products for curly hair, don't miss Best Products for Naturally Curly Hair.

Some Styles Look Better on You Than Anyone Else

Ballerina bands look best on women with curly hair. There are some romantic updos that I covet and that look good only on curly hair. After all, when one thinks "romantic updo," the image conjured up in the mind is not a sleek chignon. It is curly hair pulled back and up. Just be careful with the tendrils, which can get too '80s.

The half-up, half-down hairstyle is also very romantic and looks great on curly hair.

So You Want to Go Straight? You Have a Few Options

If you want to have straight hair, you have a few options. You can either get a professional blow-out with super straight hair or waves, you can dry your hair straight and then flat iron it or you can go the more permanent route and try the controversial Japanese and Brazilian (now known as Keratin treatment) hair straightening.

And if you're really daring, a do-it-yourselfer and tight on cash, you can even straighten your own hair at home using -- that's right -- perm solution.

Get the full scoop on hair straightening in these articles:

Curly Hair is Sexy Hair, So Embrace Those Curls

Years ago, the New York Times featured a tongue-in-cheek commentary on curly hair entitled, "In Defense of Curly Hair". In the article, writer Judith Newman explores her love/hate relationship with her naturally curly hair. She loves it because, as she writes, it's a striking part of her identity and (remember, this is tongue-in-cheek) "having curly hair makes me taller, more literary and better in bed." She doesn't always love it because the rest of the world doesn't always agree with her. In a curly-haired girl's world, sometimes it seems everyone's dying to go straight.

I have so many friends with naturally curly hair. Some of them embrace the curl while others straighten their hair in salons using the controversial Brazilian blowout. The truth is, you should wear your curly hair the way you want to. Perhaps sometimes you straighten it, sometimes you let it go curly.

And not all women want straight hair. Not all guys love straight hair. As Newman writes in the Times, she got her hair straightened for a magazine article and her husband hated it.

“If the look they were going for was Bored Suburban Housewife, they succeeded,” he said.

Newman's curls are anything but "suburban."

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