How to Find a Great Hairstyle for Naturally Curly Hair

Tori Kelly

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Naturally curly hair means that you have likely suffered through frizzy days and a few bad haircuts. You may have tried to straighten your hair with a flat iron or attempted to go short and wished you hadn't. Curly hair is tricky, but with the right tips, products, and style, any woman can learn to embrace those curls.

There are a few tricks to a great naturally curly hairstyle. You can wear your hair short if you like, or get a few bangs cut in, and you don't have to go to a curl specialist. The secret to all of this lies in getting a great haircut.

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Pick a Good Stylist

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

That's simply not true according to New York City stylist and author, Eva Scrivo. She writes in her book "Eva Scrivo on Beauty" that a good stylist 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.

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Long Trumps Short

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

And yet, there is a point where long hair may be too much weight on your curls. Regular trims can keep your length in the perfect range to find a balance between too much pouf and not enough volume.

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But You Can Go Short

Nazanin Mandi
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Remember when actress Kerri Russell cut off her famously long, curly locks in "Felicity" and the public went ballistic? Turns out Russell was a victim of a really bad haircut (though she did enjoy it).

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. If you want to go shorter, you can. In fact, you will find plenty of inspiration from women who have beautiful short, curly hair.

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About Those Bangs

Yara Shahidi
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The other common misconception with curls is that you can't enjoy bangs. With the exception of super curly hair, almost any woman can wear bangs. While short curly bangs may look a bit dated, Scrivo suggests that you ask your stylist to cut in a few face-framing tendrils for some small layers.

She also advises against what she calls the mall bang look. That's when you straighten your bangs and leave the rest of your hair curly. Yet, with a few tips on how to blow dry bangs, they can look great with your curls.

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Don't Fear the Razor

The razor can strike fear into the hearts of any woman, no matter her hair type. There's something about the way it works on hair that seems unhealthy, so it can be a little nerve-wracking. Yet, Scrivo insists that in the hands of an adept professional, a razor could give you "the best haircut of your life." It is actually quite brilliant at reducing the heaviness of curly hair and can do wonders for bringing down the fluff.

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Layers Are Your Best Friend

Sarah Jessica Parker
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Layers can really make a difference with curly hair. Stylist Nick Arrojo suggests cutting in long layers 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. There's definitely a technique to shaping curly hair.

"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 shape with a little less tension.

Additionally, if you wear your hair curly and let it air dry, Scrivo recommends you inform your stylist so she can keep the layers on top of your head longer. Why? Curly hair air dries tighter than it would if you blow dry it daily using a diffuser. This small adaptation to your lifestyle can make a big impact.

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How to Style Curly Hair

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

Also, remember that all curly hair needs intense moisturizing. Be aware of products that contain alcohol, which can dry out your curls, and deep condition once a week. If you pay attention to these little things, you'll see big improvements and won't be bothered by the extra fuss (or frizz).

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Some Styles Look Better on You

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Women with curly hair can revel in the fact that some hairstyles simply look better with curls than they do on anyone else. Take the romantic updo, for instance. The image that comes to mind with those two words is a pile of curls pulled back and up. Add a few tendrils (without going too far into the 80s), and it's stunning.

The half-up, half-down hairstyle is also very romantic and looks great with curly hair. You can also enjoy big, bouncy curls, though you may still need a large-barreled curling iron to pull it off.

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You Can Go Straight

If you want to have straight hair, you have a few options. You can get a professional blow-out for super straight hair or waves, or you can dry your hair straight and then flat iron it.

Thinking of something a bit more permanent? You could try the controversial Japanese or Brazilian keratin treatments for 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 perm solution. Be sure to research this thoroughly before you try it, though.

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Embrace Those Curls

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Years ago, the New York Times featured a tongue-in-cheek commentary on curly hair entitled, "Making Waves, With No Apology". 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.

The truth is, you should wear your curly hair the way you want to. Perhaps sometimes you straighten it and sometimes you let it go natural, it's a choice you have.

Not all women want straight hair. And 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.

Curly hair really is sexy hair. You can learn to love it and figure out the best cut and style for your locks or you can fight it, wishing that you were born with straight, frizz-free tresses. Yet, think of all the women born with straight hair who want curls! We're often envious of what we don't have, so embrace what you were given and it will look fabulous.