It’s basically the “bend and snap” for curls.

By Madison Yauger
January 08, 2021
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Anyone who was born with a majestic mane of curls is well aware of post-drying frizz. What you might not know is that the key to defined curls lies between the wet and dry stages of curly hair. The term "plopping" is a curl-enhancement technique that takes advantage of that sweet spot. "Hair plopping is the new term for an old technique of towel-drying wavy or curly hair," says Annie Rush, a senior stylist at the Marie Robinson Salon in New York City. "It's the simplest way of getting the best frizz-free and natural air-dry. The process is easy and can also be applied to straight hair if you want a more lived-in, bohemian texture."

So, what is hair plopping? As the name implies, you plop your hair into a towel or T-shirt, and roll the fabric around your head like a turban. By doing this, your curls are "accordioned" on the top of your head, helping them keep their defined, spiral shape after they dry. And the best part? Plopping requires no heat and shortens drying time, so you're ready in 10 to 20 minutes. If you're ready to give your hair its best plop, here is the effortless three-step routine.    

Credit: Getty Images

1

Wash your hair, then use a wide-tooth comb to detangle freshly conditioned hair in the shower. "After you rinse, twist out the moisture with a towel,” says Rush. “After you release the damp hair, the most fussing you will do is raking over your towel-dried texture with your fingers, adding your favorite product in to lock in the natural wave.”

Rush recommends Virtue Moisture-Defining Whip ($18; sephora.com) or Shu Uemura Kaze Wave Curl and Wave Defining Hair Mousse ($41; sephora.com). “They’re both alcohol-free oil-based foams,” she says. “This will hydrate your curls and give it lightweight bounce without leaving behind any crunch like old-school mousses.”

2

You can use a long-sleeve T-shirt or a towel for this step. If using a T-shirt, lay the shirt down on a counter or bed with the sleeves closest to you. Flip your head over and place all of your hair in the center of the shirt—ends first—and lean in until the crown of your head touches the material. Pull the bottom of the shirt up and over the back of your head until it reaches your neck. Grab the sleeves towards the armpits and twist them, gathering all the excess shirt material. Next, cross the sleeves behind your head and pull them around to your forehead; tie a knot to secure the shirt in place, like a turban. 

If using a towel, lay it horizontally on a counter or bed and follow the same steps, wrapping the ends of the towel around your head and twisting excess material before tucking it under the back of the towel. But beware—“Not all towels are created equal for hair plopping,” warns Rush. “The best one on the market is DevaCurl’s Devatwist Anti-Frizz Microfiber Towel Wrap ($24; ulta.com). It’s lightweight and helps draw out the moisture so the weight of the towel isn’t sitting heavy on your curls while you’re getting ready.”

3

While you can leave the towel on for longer if you have the time, Rush says that the full results of hair plopping should be ready in about 20 minutes. The good part about plopping is that it’s hand-free, so you can finish the rest of your morning routine while waiting. Once you remove the towel, you should be left with perfectly shaped curls—sans the dreaded gel-induced crunch.