If you have a head full of wavy or curly hair, you’re probably aware that luscious curls require time and patience—and that they don’t magically occur overnight. But what if they could?
With the curling phenomenon known as hair plopping, they can. Plopping can help you achieve a voluminous curly mane with the help of a trusty t-shirt and a few trusted products.
In this guide, we’ll break down everything you need to know about crafting the perfect curls via plopping, including what plopping is, how to plop hair, and how Living Proof products can help polish your frizz-free curls.
What Is Hair Plopping?
Plopping is a heat-free method of drying and curling your hair—yes, sans heat—which can help your luscious locks retain moisture and keep frizz at bay. With a little practice, hair plopping might just become your favorite drying and curling method that saves you time and creates lively curls in as little as 15 minutes.
To plop your hair, you simply place your freshly washed hair in the center of a t-shirt, microfiber towel, or pillowcase. Then, secure the t-shirt around your head and continue your usual routine. As you rock the plop, the shirt will soak up your hair’s excess moisture and allow your natural curls to dry without the friction of a towel.
So does that mean the towel hanging in your bathroom won’t suffice for plopping? In short, no.
Although twisting your locks into a towel atop your head does dry your hair, it can also stretch your hair follicles, which can flatten your hair’s natural curly shape and promote frizz.
When Should You Plop Your Hair?
Plan to start the hair-plopping process the second you step out of the shower with a freshly washed and conditioned head of hair. That involves gathering the necessary items before your shower, including:
- A t-shirt, microfiber towel, or pillowcase
- A hair tie to keep your makeshift hair wrap in place
- Your favorite hair curling products (like leave-in conditioners, gels, and curling creams)
How to Plop Curly Hair
With the necessary tools waiting on your vanity, you’re halfway to heat-free, frizz-free curls. But if this is your first time plopping your hair, you may need some more detailed instructions on how to do it.
We’ve compiled a few simple steps that’ll help you plop your hair perfectly before you know it.
Step 1: Wash and Condition Hair
The first step of hair plopping begins with your regular shower routine. Other than using a shampoo and conditioner tailored to your curly hair type, there is no tedious or difficult part to this. Enjoy your relaxing, rejuvenating shower, and prepare for easy curls in no time.
We recommend a low-lather curl shampoo that can gently cleanse your hair of oils and styling products without stripping your locks of their natural oils.1 You can follow up with a hydrating curl conditioner that moisturizes and helps define the curls you’ll be plopping soon.
Step 2: Be Gentle with Your Curls
With a freshly washed head of hair, it’s time to plop. As tempting as it may be to wring the water from your strands before you exit the shower, it’s important to leave a sizable amount of moisture in your hair.
Instead of towel drying or squeezing out the water, turn your head upside down so that your hair is hanging above the rug. From there, gently shake your head from side to side to remove some of the excess water and keep your natural curls intact.
Step 3: Use Styling Products
After you’re out of the shower, it’s time to apply a few curl-defining products to your hair. Since you haven’t removed much water, your tresses will still be wet—and that’s okay.
With your toolkit of hair products nearby, you can begin applying each one to your hair. Some of our favorite plopping products include:
- Conditioning Styler – Depending on your curl type, consider using a curl enhancer, curl definer, or curl elongator to give your curls a natural texture of waves, an extra moisture boost, and a shiny finish––without weighing them down.
- Curling gel – Contrary to popular belief, not all hair gels are created equal (or give your hair that crunchy feel). Our Curl Defining Gel helps ward off the negative effects of humidity (goodbye, frizz) and can provide added curl definition.
Step 4: Plop Your Hair With a T-Shirt or Towel
What is hair plopping? At this stage, it’s simply bunching your hair into your t-shirt or towel. The first time, this may be the most challenging step of the process, but with a little persistence, it will feel easy and fuss-free.
To further simplify this step from the beginning, use a long-sleeved t-shirt. The long sleeves give you more fabric to tie the shirt securely around your head. Additionally, lay your shirt out before your shower with the end of the sleeves facing you. (That’s where your hair is going to “plop” into.)
After you’ve applied your hair products, you can plop your hair using the following steps:
- Flip your hair over the t-shirt – Bend over at the waist so that your hair is hanging over the center of the t-shirt or towel.
- Fold the t-shirt over your hair – Take the end of the t-shirt that’s farthest away from you and fold it over your head so that it’s touching the nape of your neck.
- Wrap the sleeves around your head – Grab the sleeves of the shirt and wrap them around your head and tie them securely. If you’re using a pillowcase or microfiber towel, you can secure the ends with a hair tie.
Step 5: Leave Your Hair Plopped for 15–45 Minutes
Once your hair is plopped on top of your head, the hardest part is behind you. All that’s left to do is allow your hair to dry.
We recommend letting it sit for at least 15 minutes so that the curls have the opportunity to begin naturally sculpting themselves. The longer you leave your hair in the t-shirt or towel wrap, the more defined your curls will be.
Benefits of Hair Plopping
Plopping your hair can help you create a head of bouncy, healthy curls – but the advantages of plopping hair don’t end there. Other benefits include:
For some with naturally curly or wavy hair, taming frizz can be an ongoing battle, especially when you’re trying to learn how to smooth hair. Plopping increases your chances of victory against your frizzy mane for a few reasons:
- Plopping uses softer materials to dry your hair – Plopping utilizes smoother fabrics than an everyday towel. A t-shirt or microfiber towel is less likely to rub against your hair shafts and help avoid the unwanted frizz that regular towels can cause.
- Plopping allows your curls to dry naturally – Although blow dryers and curling irons help craft defined curls of various shapes and sizes, consistent heat from those styling tools can lead to split ends and breakage—often resulting in frizz. Thanks to curly hair plopping methods, you have the opportunity to allow your curls to dry naturally without the use of hot styling tools.
Learn more about how to get rid of frizz.
Encouraging Smooth Hair
Surprisingly, frizz and smooth hair go hand in hand. Why?
It’s challenging to have one without disposing of the other. With frizz removed from the equation, you’re more likely to notice defined curls in its place.
You can give partial credit to plopping, thanks to the soft material of the t-shirt or microfiber towel that helps to keep your cuticles laid down (and therefore smooth) as your hair is drying.
Does Plopping Work On All Hair Types?
Aside from providing a heat-free method to dry your wet hair, the main purpose of plopping is to help you create the ultimate natural curls. Unfortunately, plopping hair doesn’t magically transform straight hair into curly hair (although it may lend a few covetable waves). However, someone with a straight hair type can still use a t-shirt or microfiber towel when drying their hair to help reduce frizzy hair.
Take our hair quiz to learn more about your hair type and how to care for it.
How Often Should You Plop Your Hair?
It’s safe to plop your hair after each wash, but the answer to how often you should wash your hair is different for everyone. Generally speaking, people with fine (but curly) hair often wash their hair every day or every other day due to its ability to retain oil more quickly.2
If you find yourself with coarse hair or a tight curl pattern, however, you’ll probably only wash (and plop) your hair once or twice a week so that you don’t strip your hair of its natural oils by overwashing.
If you don’t have time to plop your hair, but still have to manage a frizzy mane, try these hairstyles for frizzy hair before heading out the door.
Living Proof: Your Trusted Source for Curl Products
It’s exciting to find new ways to perfect your natural curls and try different curly hairstyles—and plopping your hair is an easy tactic. With the proper technique and a few choice hair products at your side, you can dry your hair and craft the ultimate curls in one fell swoop.
Enter Living Proof: Your one-stop shop for all of your curl-related needs. From our shampoo and conditioner formulated specifically for curly hair to our conditioning curl definer (and beyond), our hair products online are designed to help your hair retain moisture, stop frizz in its tracks, and curl to its greatest potential.
Shop our collection of hair products for curly hair and find the perfect combination of haircare products that’ll work to help you master your plopping technique and impeccable natural curls.
- Wiley Online Library. A Review of Shampoo Surfactant Technology: Consumer Benefits, Raw Materials and Recent Developments. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/ics.12439
- AAD. Tips for Healthy Hair. https://www.aad.org/public/everyday-care/hair-scalp-care/hair/healthy-hair-tips