Mmmkay, gonna be honest here: If you have curly hair and you’ve never tried (or committed yourself to) plopping, you’ve been missing out on some of the best hair days of your freakin’ life. Really. Plopping curly hair—i.e., using a specific drying technique to enhance your wet curls and cut down on frizz/flyaways while they dry—was not only the key to giving my fine, flat hair major volume, but also making my curls look consistently (!) defined.
And though, yes, plopping can take a little bit of practice at first, I promise you that the end results are worth any potential trial and error. So to help you get started on your plopping journey, I’ve broken down the exact instructions, tips, and—yup—video tutorials you’ll need before starting. Prepare for some really excellent curls.
Plopping is a technique that uses a cotton T-shirt (or pillowcase, or microfiber towel) to dry your wet curls in a self-contained mound on top of your head, helping to increase definition and cut down on frizz. Basically, it’s the curly-approved alternative to twisting a towel around your head.
Why is plopping better than the ol’ twisted-towel situation? Welp, because when you wrap and twist your curls in a towel, they get stretched out (from the twisting) and frizzy (from your rough, nubby towel). Plopping, however, keeps your wet curls compact and scrunched, accordion-style, on the top of your head, so your roots stay volumized, your curls stay clumped, and your hair cuticle stays smooth (thanks to the soft cotton fabric).
Need a quick visual? See below (but don’t worry—keep reading for in-depth steps).
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So, there are a few variations on how you can plop your hair, depending on what you’re using (i.e., a T-shirt, a microfiber towel, or a pillowcase). I’ve tried all three, and I’ve found the easiest method with the best, most consistent results to come from using a T-shirt—specifically, a giant long-sleeved one. So with that in mind, here’s how to plop curly hair:
1. Get yourself a big T-shirt. The unofficial favorite pick of the internet? An XXL long-sleeve cotton T-shirt (I use this Soffe Men’s Shirt for the low, low price of $9. Whattup).
2. Before you hop in the shower, lay your T-shirt upside down—i.e., with the sleeves and neck hole closest to you—on either your bathroom counter, a chair, or on top of your toilet lid (hey, I did this throughout college, and I’m fine).
3. After showering and applying your stylers (specifically the stylers you’d usually use on your sopping-wet hair, like leave-in conditioner or gel), flip your wet hair over and onto the center of the T-shirt, pressing your head down on the curls like an accordion.
4. With your head/hair still upside down, reach up, grab the bottom of the shirt, and lay it over your hair/head (so it’s touching the nape of your neck and completely covering your hair). You’re basically creating a little protective bag around your curls.
5. While holding the edges of the shirt at the nape of your neck, grab at the sleeves near your forehead and twist them together to tighten the “bag” around your head.
6. Wrap the twisted sleeves around your head and tie them in place to keep the shirt from sliding or falling off. If you look like you’re wearing some sort of wet helmet, then congrats—you did it correctly.
Once you flip your head back over, all of your curls will stay perfectly nestled on top of your head like a bunch of compressed Slinkies, allowing them to dry in their natural formation, untouched by gravity, humidity, or the roughness of a towel. Which means by the time you unwrap the shirt, your curls will have already started to dry with better definition and volume, without any of the frizz.
There’s really no right or wrong answer here—some people only plop for 5-10 minutes, some people plop for 15-20, others plop for an hour, and some swear by plopping overnight while they sleep. It all depends on your hair type, length, porosity, and lifestyle, so this is one of those time’s where experimentation is a requirement.
I’ve personally found that plopping my fine, low-porosity curls for 15-20 minutes is the sweet spot for encouraging definition and soaking up just enough excess water. Anything over 20 minutes dries my curls a bit too much, making it hard to add products afterward without risking frizz or messing with my curl pattern. I’ve also tried plopping overnight, and found that—as is a common complaint—my hair stayed way too damp, and eventually made my scalp itchy (dandruff/yeast growth loves damp scalps).
I gotchu. To get you started with zero excuses or hesitations, check out these tutorials, below and get ready to have really freaking awesome curls.
And yes, please feel free to DM me your happiness afterward.