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Products, Tools & Techniques for Styling Men’s Curly Hair

Example of styling products for men with curly hair

We wrote this (very) comprehensive guide to styling products, tools & techniques for men with curly hair to achieve one thing: demystify styling products. Our goal is to give you the knowledge to go out & equip yourself with the right tools to create some absolutely fantastic curly hairstyles.

Styling Products for Men With Curly Hair

Ah, styling products. Use the right one, and you’re hit with a ping of joy as the mirror reflects back a 10/10 hairstyle. The wrong one? Well.. that’s why this is the first section.

Gel

Gel is a product best known for creating perfectly defined waves, curls, and coils. It can also help lock in moisture from conditioners and creams. A classic in man’s quest for great hair, this product usually creates a cast on wet hair that you can scrunch out once your hair is completely dry.

Best for: type 2 (wavy), type 3 (curly), fine or short/medium length (under 6 inches hair. Before applying additional styling products, it can also be used as a base layer in all hair types. Here are some tips for applying gel and pairing it with other products.

Applying gel to wavy hair

  1. Start with wet hair. This allows the product to distribute evenly.
  2. Apply gel with a scrunching technique. This will help encourage more volume and definition and prevent your hair from falling flat.
  3. Once your hair is dry, scrunch again to break the cast.

Tip: If your waves need extra moisture, apply a small amount of leave-in conditioner before applying your gel.

Applying gel to curly hair

  1. Start with wet hair.
  2. Apply a leave-in conditioner for added moisture.
  3. Raking the gel through your hair using your fingers.
  4. Shake or scrunch your hair to encourage curl shapes to form.

 

Applying gel to coily hair

  1. Start with wet hair.
  2. Styling cream or oils can be applied before gel.
  3. Apply your gel using praying hands, gliding your hair between your hands to coat the strands.
 

If gel is the styling product that most “gels” with you (sorry, not sorry), then check out our Formula F=kx Defining Gel. It’s a lightweight gel that adds definition to type 2 and 3 waves and curls. 

Cream

Curl cream is a styling product designed to create softly defined curls. This product can be used like a gel or a mousse but will not leave behind the crunchy texture that gel and Mousse often do.

Cream is often used for type 3 (curly) or type 4 (coily), thick or long hair. 

Here are some tips for applying curl cream and pairing it with other products:

Applying cream to wavy hair

  1. Choose a lightweight cream that will add moisture and fight frizz.
  2. Apply a pea-size amount of cream to wet hair, raking it through and then scrunching.

 

Applying cream to curly hair

  1. Rake curl cream through wet hair, distributing evenly.
  2. After raking the product, scrunch curls to encourage definition.

 

Applying cream to coily hair

  1. Rake curl cream through wet hair using your fingers.
  2. Optionally, use a serum or oil before or after applying curl cream.
  3. You can also apply a gel after applying curl cream for added definition.

If styling cream is best for your hair, check out our Formula F=kx Styling Cream. It’s ideal for dense/thick, tight curls, including types 3 and 4.

Mousse

Mousse is another curl-defining styling product. This lightweight product can give your curls a bouncy, frizz-free style. Though not typically thought of as a styling product for men with curly hair, Mousse can be a great asset for men looking to add volume to their curls. Mousse is often paired with a base layer of curl cream or a leave-in conditioner. 

Best for: Men looking to add volume to their curls. 

Here are some tips for applying Mousse and pairing it with other products.

Applying Mousse to wavy hair

Mousse can be applied on its own to wavy hair to encourage voluminous, tousled waves.

  1. Scrunch Mousse into wet hair, or rake a small amount and then scrunch.
  2. Allow hair to dry and then scrunch out any remaining crunch.

 

Applying Mousse to curly hair

  1. Start by applying a leave-in conditioner or curl cream if your hair needs extra moisture.
  2. Rake the Mousse through your wet hair, and then scrunch out excess product and water.
  3. Allow hair to dry and then scrunch out any remaining crunch.

 

Tip: For denser curls, it is also common to pair Mousse with gel or curl cream (or both) for added definition. Be sure to apply Mousse last to promote volume.

Applying Mousse to coily hair

  1. Apply a leave-in conditioner to wet hair.
  2. Optionally, apply a serum to lock in the moisture from the leave-in.
  3. Apply Mousse to the hair in sections, brushing it through with your fingers or a brush to encourage definition.
  4. Allow hair to air dry or diffuse with a hairdryer.

Pomade

Pomade is a heavier styling product meant for straight hair or secondary curl operations. Well-known as a men’s styling product, pomades can be paired as a secondary application with gel.

To use pomade with gel:

● apply your gel as described above.

● Allow your hair to dry and form the crunch created by the gel.

● Add a small amount of pomade and hair oil to your hands and mix together.

● Use the pomade/oil mixture to scrunch out the crunch from the gel, and fluff and shape the curls.

Using pomade after applying gel can help to lock in the moisture and definition provided by other styling products. Although it is a heavier product, it can enhance and maintain a shape and volume, even on fine curls that might otherwise become limp throughout the day.

Paste

Paste is another type of styling product that is also best for secondary operations. It’s best as a finishing touch to arrange and shape any unruly curls and to keep all your curls in their place.

  1. Apply a small amount of paste between fingers.
  2. Shape and tease curls to the desired style.

Leave-In Conditioner

Leave-in conditioner is a moisturizing styling product most often used after washing and conditioning your hair. It is most often used following your regular conditioning routine in the shower and as one of the first products in a styling routine to provide a moisturizing foundation.

Leave-in conditioner is an excellent moisturizing product for any curl type, though often seen in thick, coily hair or drier type 3 curls. It’s not recommended for fine hair as it could weigh down the hair creating a flat, dead curl look.  

Apply leave-in conditioner by gently raking it through your hair. Optionally, you can comb your hair with a wide-tooth comb to distribute the product evenly and remove all tangles.

Serum/Hair Oils

A serum or hair oil is a product that contains varying types of natural oils designed to nourish your hair. Oils also seal the hair cuticle, locking in moisture from conditioning products.

Hair serums containing thicker oils, such as coconut oil, are best applied to type 3 and 4 hair. Lighter oils such as jojoba oil can be applied to type 2 and 3 hair.

Serums containing tea tree oil will have a clarifying effect, removing buildup from your scalp. Serums containing peppermint oil will stimulate the scalp, promoting hair growth.

Tools of The Trade

Styling tools designed with curly hair in mind make styling curls effortless. These tools gently encourage curls to form their defined shape and lift your hair to promote volume. They are also designed to reduce frizz, avoid breakage, and prevent heat damage.

Combs and Brushes

The screwdriver of curl styling for men? A high-quality brush or comb. Keep reading to determine the best screwdriver for your curls. 

Wide-tooth comb

A wide-tooth comb is a basic tool that anyone with curly hair should own. Because of its shape and the distance between its teeth, it is designed to gently detangle curls without causing the damage or breakage you might experience with a brush or smaller comb.

Because it is so gentle on your strands, it can even be used in the shower to detangle your strands while they are wet and to evenly distribute conditioning products from root to end.

Best for standard everyday styling. If you don’t know where to start, start here. 

Pick

A pick is another basic tool that’s a must for type 3 & type 4 hair. The flat surface & long teeth allow the pick to get into the roots and create volume. This is also a great way to help break up any casts left from styling products.

The pick should be used on already dry hair so as to not cause breakage. You want to bring the teeth down near the roots before using an upward pulling motion to achieve the fluff effect.

Best for type 3 or 4 hair. Also great for guys with naturally flat hair looking to add volume. 

Paddle brush

A paddle detangling brush is another good option for gently detangling curls. The wide surface area will allow you to detangle your hair more quickly when you’re in a rush. The flexible and evenly distanced bristles will be gentle on your strands.

Although it is gentle, you should still brush your hair with care and caution to avoid breakage. Don’t tug or pull on your hair or force tangles to come out of your hair. Work slowly and gently on tangled sections, and opt for a wide-tooth comb or your hands, where necessary.

Best for longer curls that tend to tangle and clump up. 

Rattail comb

A rattail comb features tightly spaced bristles on one end and a pick on the other end. This is a valuable tool for styling damp hair, though it should not be used to detangle soaking wet curls.

Comb through small, detangled sections to help curls form, or use the pick side of the comb to create a well-defined part.

Best for men looking to add a sleek part line to their hair. 

Denman brush

A Denman brush is a holy grail styling tool for creating defined curl rings. Use this brush on small sections of your hair to evenly distribute styling products, such as gels or creams, and encourage ultra-defined curls!

To create defined curl rings, slowly twirl the brush as you comb from the root to the tip. Styling products should already be applied to the hair before starting. It’ll take a little practice to get the motion just right for your hair. However, once you have, you’ll be rocking some seriously slick curls.  

Heat styling

Heat styling tools can be useful for helping your hair absorb moisture and achieve volume. However, to protect your curls, consider the following guidelines:

● Avoid using the hottest setting when possible

● Use a heat protectant spray if high heat is necessary 

● Don’t apply heat to your hair every day

Hairdryer with diffuser

A hairdryer with a diffuser attachment is another styling essential for curly hair. The diffuser distributes the air from the hairdryer, allowing it to slowly and gently dry your curls while still maintaining its natural shape.

To achieve defined and voluminous curls with a diffuser attachment:

  1. Start with the blow dryer off.
  2. Flip your curls upside down.
  3. Add a section of your curls to the diffuser and lift it to your scalp.
  4. Turn on the blow dryer.
  5. Hold it on the section for about 10-20 seconds.
  6. Turn off the blow dryer.
  7. Move to a new section of hair.
  8. Repeat until your curls are 90% dry. Allow them to air dry the rest of the way.

 

Tip: to avoid heat damage, use the cool or warm setting, and don’t use the hottest setting.

Hair steamer

Hair steamers are a styling tool that allows you to apply warm steam to your hair. This can allow your hair to absorb moisture from conditioning products, increasing your hair’s elasticity and preventing your strands from becoming brittle or hay-like. Try pairing a hair steamer with one of your favorite deep conditioning treatments to maximize the moisture your hair absorbs.

Thermal cap

Another tool that can help deep conditioning treatments achieve their maximum effect is a thermal cap. This is a bonnet that you can heat in the microwave and wear while deep conditioning. Most thermal caps contain materials or substances that help hold the heat for longer periods.

If you think your deep conditioning treatments aren’t achieving their best results, try pairing the treatment with a thermal cap.

Tip: Tools like hair steamers and thermal caps can be especially beneficial for low-porosity hair with difficulty absorbing moisture. These tools will help open up your hair’s cuticle to let the moisture into the strand.

Protective Tools

Protecting your curls from unnecessary damage is an often overlooked key to loving how you look in the mirror. Keep reading to find out some easy ways to protect your mane. 

Microfiber towels

Curly hair can be fragile, and drying your curls with a regular bath towel can cause frizz and breakage due to the rough material. Instead, try using a microfiber towel. This gentle material will absorb the moisture from your hair without disrupting your curl pattern.

Alternatively, soft cotton t-shirts can be used instead of a microfiber towel to gently dry your curls.

Microfiber towels or soft t-shirts can also be used for plopping. This is a method of drying curly hair that allows the curls to form their natural pattern. Here’s how:

  1. Lay down the microfiber towel on a countertop, your bed, or the floor.
  2. Flip your hair upside down, and gently lay your curls onto the center of the towel.
  3. Pull the back flap of the towel over the back of your head, and gather the rest of the towel at the back of your head.
  4. Tie the fabric together to secure the towel in place and keep all of your curls gathered on top of your head.
  5. Allow your curls to dry inside of the towel.

Satin bonnet, scarf, or pillowcase

Curly hair tends to be more dry and brittle than other hair types, so it is good to avoid washing it every day. So, how do you protect your hair while you sleep? Cotton sheets can be rough enough to cause frizz in your sleep and can even dry out your curls. Satin bonnets or scarves can be worn while you sleep to protect your curls. This soft material will not cause frizz or absorb moisture from your hair.

Satin scarfs can also be used with the pineapple method for longer hair. In this method, you will use the scarf to pull your curls on top of your head. This preserves both your curl’s volume and definition so that little styling is needed to refresh your curls the next morning.

Satin/silk pillowcase

If you prefer to sleep with your hair down, switching to a satin or silk pillowcase is also a great option. This soft material will protect not only your curls but also your skin. It’s a win-win!

Shower cap

A shower cap is a great basic tool to have on hand to use in-between hair washing days in the shower. Shower caps are also useful to wear while doing a longer deep conditioning session or hair mask, keeping your hair contained so that you can multi-task while your hair is being treated.

Other Useful Tools

 No good categorization, but still useful for a guy with curly hair? It’s below. 

Spray bottle

Spray bottles are another basic curly hair essential to have on hand for styling.

Here’s how a spray bottle can be helpful in refreshing your hair on day 2 or 3 after wash day:

  1. Dampen your hair using the spray bottle. You can either dampen your whole head or just the sections needing restyling.
  2. The water added to your hair will reactivate the previously applied product.
  3. If your hair needs extra product, such as gel or a leave-in conditioner, dilute it with water first and apply it in small amounts to avoid limp curls with too much product.
 

In addition to refreshing your curls, spray bottles can also be useful in styling extra-thick curls. If you have to style your curls in sections, the other sections may dry out during the process. Use a spray bottle to ensure you are styling soaking wet hair, which produces the best results.

Hair shears

Sometimes, your curls may need a slight trim at home. If so, be sure to invest in quality hair shears. Shears made specifically for cutting hair are sharper to produce a clean cut and avoid damaging your ends.

Never use regular scissors to trim split ends, as this type of scissors could just make your ends worse, and they could cause damage to travel up your strands.

Alligator hair clips

Alligator clips are an excellent tool for sectioning off thick hair while styling. Additionally, alligator clips can lift styled curls off of your scalp while they air dry. This promotes volume starting at the root of your hair, producing a more ideal overall hair shape. 

Styling Techniques 

While many great curly products and tools are available, actually styling your curls can be a real struggle. Whether you have naturally kinky and wavy curls, the bane of most men’s existence is getting the mane tamed and looking good. Below, we’ve compiled a list of styling techniques to help make it happen. 

Product Distribution

The first step in styling curly hair is adequately distributing the right amount of styling product through your hair. 

Raking

The simplest way to distribute styling products is by raking them through your hair. To use this method: 

  1. Add the styling product, such as cream, gel, or leave-in conditioner, into your hands. 
  2. Rake it through your hair using your fingers or a wide-tooth comb. 

The raking method of styling can also double as a gentle detangling method. However, raking may not work for every hair type, and it also may prevent your curls from properly clumping together. 

Praying Hands  

The Praying Hands method is a popular way to achieve plump, full, and defined curls. Here’s how to use this method: 

  1. Start by detangling your hair. 
  2. Add the styling product to your hands and rub your hands together to distribute the product in your hands. 
  3. With soaking wet hair, run your hair in between your flattened ‘praying’ hands to apply the product. 
  4. Gently scrunch your hair to remove the excess water and product. 

Palm rolling or Shingling 

Styling creams are great for palm-rolling or shingling. Product distribution methods that stretch out coils and clump them for greater texture definition and elongation. 

Palm rolling is an ideal technique for producing locs. Here’s how: 

  1. Separate your freshly washed and moisturized hair into sections, pinning away the sections not being styled. 
  2. Starting with one section, detangle the section and apply styling cream or other products to the section. 
  3. Separate a curl and roll it in your palms. This will distribute the product and create a single loc. 
  4. Repeat until the entire section is complete, and then continue onto the remaining sections until each curl has been individually styled into loc-like strands. Dampen your hair with a spray bottle as needed throughout the process. 

Shingling is a method in which you separate and style each curl for maximum definition. Here’s how: 

  1. Separate your freshly washed and moisturized hair into sections, pinning away the sections not being styled. 
  2. Starting with one section, detangle the section and apply styling cream to the section. 
  3. Separate a curl, running it through your fingers to distribute the product evenly and to smooth and define the curls. 
  4. Repeat until the entire section is complete, and then continue onto the remaining sections until all of your curls have been individually styled. Dampen your hair with a spray bottle as needed throughout the process. 

Curl Volume and Definition

Distributing your styling products evenly is the first step to well-styled curls. Still, there are additional styling techniques that can perfect your look. 

Tease 

Teasing your hair is a classic way to add volume to curly hair. Here’s how: 

  1. Using a fine comb, backcomb at the roots of your hair. (If you’re gentle, this won’t damage your hair, and it will give you that volume and lift exactly where you need it) 
  2. Once you’ve finished backcombing, you can lay your finished curls over the top.

Tip: The easiest way to tease without causing damage to your hair is to only comb downwards (not up and down). This method causes fewer tangles and damage while adding volume by bunching your strands close to your scalp. 

Scrunch

Scrunching is an essential technique in multiple steps throughout the curly styling process. First, you can use scrunching to expel excess water from your hair once you’ve applied styling product to wet hair. Here’s a technique to scrunch wet hair that will produce plump, defined curls. 

  1. Apply your styling products to wet, detangled hair. 
  2. Put a section of hair into your hands and gently lift it to your scalp. 
  3. Squeeze your hair like a lemon, squeezing the same section of hair 8-10 times before releasing. 
  4. Repeat in sections until all excess water has been removed. 

To emphasize curl texture, you can also scrunch a hydrating styling product into your dry hair. For example, scrunch out the crunch from your gel using hair oil or pomade to add shine, tame frizz, and lock in moisture. But keep your hands from touching your curls afterward, or you run the risk of having a halo full of frizz. 

Plopping

Plopping is a hair drying method that soaks up moisture without creating frizz, significantly reducing your drying time. Here’s how: 

  1. Start with freshly washed hair.
  2. Thoroughly saturate your hair with moisturizer and styler.
  3. Lay a microfiber towel or soft t-shirt with sleeves on a flat surface.
  4. Flip your head forward, so your hair is in the center of the towel or t-shirt.
  5. Take the flap of fabric behind your head and flip it up over your neck.
  6. Tie the long sleeves of the shirt (or the extra fabric of your microfiber towel) behind your head in a knot. If you have additional material or used a long-sleeved shirt, wrap the extra length of the sleeves around to the front and tie the ends in a knot. This will make your turban more secure.

If you have fine hair or looser waves, plopping can create lift at the roots since your hair is drying on top of your head rather than being weighed down. It can also enhance your curl pattern by scrunching up the curls while they dry.

Diffuse 

Diffusing is a popular hair drying method that both speeds up the drying process and creates voluminous curls. To use this technique, you’ll need a hair dryer with a diffuser attachment. Here’s how to diffuse your curls: 

  1. Add styling product to your hair using one of the methods above and scrunch out excess water. 
  2. Using a hair dryer with a diffuser attachment on a cool or warm temperature and low setting, gently pile your curls onto the diffuser. 
  3. Lift the diffuser to your scalp and hold for 10-15 seconds. 
  4. Repeat in sections until your hair is 90% dry. 
  5. Allow your hair to air-dry the rest of the way. 

Tip: to avoid frizz or heat damage, avoid using high heat or high airflow setting on your hair dryer. Diffusing slowly and gently will produce defined and voluminous curls with minimal frizz. 

Protect and Preserve Your Curls 

Pineapple Scrunch

The pineapple method consists of creating a loose, high ponytail on top of your head (i.e., a loose bun). The style arranges the hair in a way that mitigates frizz, flattened curls, and knots when sleeping. 

Here’s how: 

  1. Flip your head over and gather your hair together on top of your head.
  2. Secure your hair loosely with an ouchless elastic band or scrunchie. (Note: it is important that the band or scrunchie isn’t tight)
  3. Put on a satin bonnet or scarf for additional protection.

Since your hair is arranged on top of your head, the sides and back of your hair are the only parts that will touch the pillow while you sleep. Whether you’re using a scrunchie, ouchless elastic band, or another type of ponytail holder, the item should have enough elasticity to be looped once around your hair and prevent dents and creases from forming in your hair while you sleep.

  • Once you perfect these styling techniques and find the ones that work best for you, you’ll be able to keep your hair in great shape and create the curls you desire without all the hassle. 
 

These styling tips should keep your hair in fine form and give you the curls you desire without the hassle.

Posted in: Complete Guide To Curly Hair

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