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How To Curl Short Hair: A Complete Tutorial

November 10, 2020

1 Min read

Curling hair, in general, can be a challenge, and having short hair doesn’t make it any easier. But just because you have shorter hair doesn’t mean that you can’t get beautiful, curly locks. There are a lot of different techniques for curling short hair that you can learn to up your hair game. Here are some options that involve heat, as well as some that don’t. 

Curling Iron

You can still use a curling iron on short hair; you may just have to adjust the way that you use it. A good rule of thumb is that the smaller the barrel you use, the tighter the curl will be. 

The first step for this technique is to apply a heat protectant because we don’t want to damage your precious mane. Next, use a clip or a hair elastic to get the sections of hair that you are not working on out of the way. 

For the temperature, set the iron to about 400 degrees if you have hair that hasn’t been colored. If you have finer hair or are damage-prone, then you should stay at around 350 degrees. Wrap your section of hair in the curling iron clamp one to two times away from your face. You can set the curl by holding it in your hand after you take it out of the curling iron clamp. 

Continue by curling each section of your hair and alternate the direction that you curl the pieces. Finish off with hairspray to make sure the curls stay in place. Once your hair has cooled down, you can run your fingers through the curls to separate them a little bit for a more relaxed look. 

Curling Wand

Curling your hair with a wand is similar to a curling iron, except there is no clamp. Wands can be great for curls that look like you just spent a day at the beach. For short hair, a one-inch barrel wand or smaller works best. 

The first step is always to apply your heat protectant. Next, section your hair using clips. Hold the wand at a diagonal angle and wrap the hair around the barrel starting at the fatter end. If you want a more natural texture, leave out about one inch of hair at the bottom for straighter ends. Repeat the same process as you would with a curling iron, holding each piece in your hand, and working your way through the sections. Finish with a spritz of hairspray. 

Flat Iron

Curling your hair with a flat iron can be really helpful for people with fine hair that doesn’t like to curl. After applying a heat protectant, section your hair off. Start at the root and create bends in your hair by bending your wrist as you work your way down the hair with the flat iron. If you want it to have less of a spiral shape, you can wrap the hair around the flat iron and ‘ribbon” it. It’s the same technique used for gift wrapping to create curly ribbon pieces. 


If heated hairstyles are not your thing and your hair is at least collar-bone length, then you could try using a headband. For this technique, you’ll want to start with damp hair. Next, take a stretchy headband and place it on top of your hair (like a crown). Take small sections of hair and loop the hair over and under the headband. Keep repeating this process for every section of hair until you’ve worked you way around the headband. 

Once you’re finished with the top layer of hair, tuck in the remaining pieces using the same technique. You’ll want to do this one before you go to sleep so that the hair has time to dry. Make sure there are no loose strands by securing the hair with some bobby pins. In the morning, gently remove the headband and use your fingers to comb through the curls. As always, spray with hairspray to lock the style in place. 

Pin Curls

This curling option also involves letting your hair set overnight. Pin curls are really easy to do and can be done on short hair since you don’t have all that extra length weighing you down. All you need are some bobby pins and a comb. 

First, start with damp hair and separate your hair into small sections. Then, take a section and wrap it around your finger. Slide the hair off your finger and pin it to your scalp with two bobby pins. Secure the pins in an “X” shape to ensure they will stay in place. Keep in mind that the tighter you wrap the hair, the tighter the curl will be. Repeat for each section of your hair. Leave them overnight, and then gently remove the pins and comb through the hair lightly with either fingers or a wide-tooth comb. 

If you prefer bigger, looser waves then you can use this same technique but with larger sections of hair. 

Paper Towels

Yes, paper towels might seem like an odd way to get curly hair, but hey, use what you’ve got. Start by cutting pieces of paper towel into small strips. You can decide what length they should be based on how long your hair is. Take a small section of hair and place the paper towel strip on the hair. Wrap the ends of your hair around the paper towel and wrap it upwards. When you get to the top, carefully tie a knot with the paper towel. Repeat for the rest of your hair using small sections until you have no pieces of hair left.

If you have any remaining loose hair, use a few bobby pins to tuck it in. Leave them overnight and gently remove them in the morning. Comb through hair with your fingers and finish the look with hairspray.

These paper towels are reusable, so set aside the pieces and use them the next time you want curly hair with no heat. 


Braids can be another easy heatless way to get curly hair. You can use whatever kind of braids that you like; just know that the results may vary. Decide if you would like to do french braids, fishtail, or dutch braids for your hair. 

Start with clean hair that is a little bit damp. Make sure it’s free of knots before you try to braid it. Apply some hair oil to reduce frizz, then, divide your hair into sections for braiding. The more braids you do, the curlier your hair will be. 

Take a section, divide it into three strands, cross the left side under the middle, and then do the same thing with the right side. Do this until the very tip of your hair and secure it with an elastic. For short hair, it is important to start as close to the root as you can to achieve the maximum amount of curl.

In Summary

No matter how you attempt to curl your hair, it will take patience and practice to perfect. It may seem like an impossible feat to get curly hair when you have short, straight hair, but it’s totally doable. Watching tutorials online can be really helpful, as well as asking a friend for help. You got this!



The Prose Staff is here to share the best hair tips and tricks to help you achieve all your hair goals with custom hair care, breakthrough innovation and more

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