Maybe you’re in the mood to switch things up and need some styling tips. Or, maybe you've been rocking short hair for years and still haven’t mastered the perfect curling technique. Perhaps you’ve just had a dramatic chop and you’re still figuring out how to style your new look.
Learning how to curl short hair takes some practice. But with a little experimenting and the right products, tools, and techniques, it’s totally doable. In fact, there are several different ways to curl short hair with or without heat.
Below, you’ll find our favorite ways to get perfect curls on short hair, plus everything you need to know about prepping short hair to make curling as easy and effortless as possible.
How to Prep Short Hair for Curling
Prepping short hair before curling is every bit as important as the curling technique itself. It’s the secret to preventing damage and having long-lasting, bouncy curls that aren’t stiff or sticky. Here’s what you need to know!
- Start with Freshly Washed Hair: Clean hair typically looks fuller, thicker, and bouncier, which is especially important when you have short hair. Be sure to choose a cleansing routine that nourishes the hair without weighing it down, like our Wash & Go Combo, which includes the Honey Infused Hair Wash and Conditioner.
- Add Workable Hold with a Hair Primer: Prepping short hair for styling with our Propolis Infused Polishing Primer will give it some grip and texture, making it easier to curl. It will also provide a workable hold for longer-lasting curls that aren’t stiff or sticky.
- Protect with a Heat Protectant: Short hair tends to appear less damaged thanks to regular trims, but you should still protect it from heat if you’ll be using a hair dryer or heat tool. To prevent heat damage and protect your hair from UV rays, spritz with Propolis Infused Heat Protecting Spray and comb through to ensure that it’s evenly distributed.
- Dry Completely Before Heat Styling: Always ensure that your hair is completely dry before curling it with any heat tool. To add lift and texture, rough dry your hair with a hair dryer. Or, allow your hair to air dry for less risk of damage.
Tips for Curling Short Hair
- Work in Sections: Even with short hair, curling with a heat tool is often easier if you work in sections. If your hair is longer than your ears, divide it in half and clip the top section out of the way with a claw clip. Begin curling the bottom section first, saving the crown and face-framing pieces for last.
- Wear a Heat Protectant Glove: Anytime you’ll be using a heat tool, wear a heat protectant glove on the hand that you’ll be using to wrap your hair around the tool. When you’re curling shorter sections of hair, chances are higher that you’ll burn your fingers!
- Preheat Your Styling Tool: You’ll get the best results if you preheat your styling tool before you start curling. However, you should use the lowest effective heat setting to reduce damage to your hair. In general, fine or thin hair can get away with a lower heat setting and thicker hair will require a higher one. Do some experimenting to see what works for your hair.
How to Curl Short Hair with a Curling Wand
If your hair can make at least one full wrap around the barrel, it’s long enough to curl with a curling wand. It’s a great way to add some style and texture to short hair anytime you want to change up your look.
A curling wand with a 1-inch barrel, like Gisou’s Curling Tool, is the most versatile for creating a variety of looks. Hold the curling wand in the hand that’s on the opposite side from the piece you wish to curl with the narrow end of the barrel pointing down, using your free hand to wrap 1-inch pieces evenly around the barrel.
Working with the bottom section first, wrap a 1-inch piece of hair around the barrel, starting close to the root and moving from the wider end of the barrel toward the narrow end. Alternating the direction of each curl will create a more natural look, while curling in the same direction is ideal for retro styles. If you like a more textured look, try leaving the ends out.
When you get to the top section, take extra care to twist the hair in the direction you want it to curl for the finished style. For extra lift at the crown, hold the barrel horizontally and get as close to the root as possible.
Once the hair is completely curled, allow it to cool, then use your fingers or a brush to separate and style your curls. Or, use a brush to create a more relaxed effect. Set your style with a light mist of Texturizing Wave Spray.
How to Curl Short Hair with a Curling Iron
You absolutely can curl short hair with a curling iron with a few simple adjustments to your technique. Keep in mind that the smaller your curling iron barrel is, the tighter your curls will be. A ½ to ¾ inch barrel will produce tighter ringlets, while a 1-inch barrel is better for looser curls and waves.
Starting with the bottom section and working from the front to the back, lightly clamp a 1-inch piece of hair in the curling iron close to the root. Slide the curling iron to the end of your hair and allow the clamp to close fully. Twist the section away from your face and hold for 8-10 seconds.
As you release each curl, catch it in the palm of your hand and allow it to cool for a few seconds before releasing completely. This will help to set the curl. Repeat this process for the entire bottom section, alternating the directions for a natural look.
When curling the crown and face-framing pieces, think about how you want the hair to lay for the finished style. You can hold the barrel horizontally and curl right to the root for extra lift, curl the face-framing pieces toward or away from your face, or create a soft flip by sliding the barrel down the section and twisting your wrist slightly at the end.
Once your entire head is curled, allow your hair to cool completely, then shake out and separate the curls with your fingers. Or, if you prefer, you can use a brush for a more relaxed look. Finish with a light spritz of Propolis Infused Texturizing Wave Spray to set your style.
How to Curl Short Hair with a Flat Iron
Learning how to curl hair with a flat iron takes a little practice, but this technique can be especially helpful if your hair is very fine and doesn’t like to hold a curl. A flat iron that’s ½ to 1-inch wide will work best for short hair. For short pixie cuts stick to a narrower width.
Starting with the bottom section, clamp a 1-inch piece of hair in the flat iron as close to the root as possible. Gently slide the flat iron down your hair, twisting your wrist outwards as you go to create the curl. Work your way through the entire bottom section using the same process.
When curling the crown and face-framing pieces, find your part first. Then use your flat iron to manipulate your curls in the direction you want them to lay for the finished style. Pull the hair straight up from the root for extra lift at the crown.
Allow your hair to cool completely, then use your fingers to shake out and separate the curls. Mist with Texturizing Wave Spray and scrunch to enhance the curls.
How to Curl Short Hair Without Heat
Using heat on your hair every day can be damaging. Here are three ways to curl short hair without heat for those days when you just want to give your hair a break.
Pin curls are a great option for curly, short hairstyles without heat. All you need is a comb and some bobby pins. Start with damp hair that has been prepped with Propolis Infused Polishing Primer to provide workable hold and reduce frizz.
Beginning with the bottom section first, take a 1-inch piece of hair and wrap it around your finger. Slide it carefully off your finger and pin it close to the scalp with two bobby pins in an “X” shape. Repeat for your entire head and leave the pins in overnight.
Keep in mind that the tighter you wrap, the tighter your curls will be. The size of each pin curl will also affect the size of your curls. If you want very tight curls, experiment with ½-¾ inch pieces. For a looser curl, use larger sections of hair.
When you’re ready to remove the pins, be gentle and avoid tugging. Comb through and style your curls with a wide-tooth comb or just use your fingers. A spritz of Texturizing Wave Spray will help to enhance your curls and keep flyaways under control.
For this technique, you’ll need hair that’s at least collarbone length. Start by spritzing your damp hair with Texturizing Wave Spray. Place a stretchy headband on the top of your head like a crown. Starting with the top layer of hair, loop small sections of hair over and under the headband, working your way around the entire top layer.
Use the same technique to wrap the bottom layer, securing it with bobby pins if needed. Allow your hair to dry completely before gently removing the headband. The longer you leave your hair wrapped in the headband, the more defined your curls will be. Ruffle the curls with your fingers and set them in place with a spritz of Texturizing Wave Spray.
Braiding is another easy way to curl short hair for holiday and special occasion hairstyles. Experiment with French braids, Dutch braids, regular braids, and even fishtail braids to produce different effects.
You’ll want to start with damp hair that’s been detangled. Spritz with Texturizing Wave Spray, then apply a drop or two of Honey Infused Hair Oil to prevent frizz. Braid as desired, securing each braid with a small hair elastic.
The tighter and smaller the braids, the more defined your curls will be. For looser waves, create one large braid. Or divide the hair into equal sections and create multiple braids for a more defined curl. For short hair, it’s important to start the braids as close to the root as possible.
Allow your hair to dry completely before removing the braids. The longer you leave the braids in, the more defined your curls will be and the longer they will last. Be careful not to tug on the hair when you take out your braids, then style with your fingers and finish with Texturizing Wave Spray for extra hold.
No matter which technique you choose, curling short hair is an easy way to change up your look. It will take some practice and experimenting to get just the look you want, but it’s totally doable. And trying new styles is half the fun!