Scripps News Life


What is plopping for curly hair?

What Is Plopping for Curly Hair?
Posted at 4:13 PM, Feb 22, 2024

The products and services mentioned below were selected independent of sales and advertising. However, Simplemost may receive a small commission from the purchase of any products or services through an affiliate link to the retailer's website.

As amazing as it would be to wake up with perfect, luscious-looking curly hair, most of us need to do some amount of styling to achieve dream. While blow-drying natural curls with a diffuser is one option, another is plopping your hair.

If you’ve never tried plopping — or don’t even know what it is — this guide will walk you through all you need to know to get the best curls possible.

What Is Plopping?

Wavy hair

As opposed to traditional air drying, which can cause curls to get weighed down by gravity, the plopping method helps curls stay bouncy and perky by compressing them against the head.

“Curl plopping can be beneficial in terms of hastening the drying process of hair without heat,” says Atiya Jordan Brown, senior scientist at Pantene. “If done correctly, the method can define curl shapes effectively while preventing frizz to develop.”

The technique involves “plopping” sopping wet hair into a microfiber towel or cotton T-shirt that’s laid out on a countertop or bed and wrapping the material around the head. Traditional bath towels, however, are not recommended because they can cause friction and weigh hair down. The fabric in T-shirts and microfiber towels helps reduce friction, which assists the hair cuticle with staying smooth and keeping curls clumped together.

While plopping might look like a person is using the typical towel turban technique, plopping doesn’t “twist” out the hair. Rather, it scrunches the curls on top of the head, allowing them to retain their natural shape and volume.

DevaTwist Anti-Frizz Microfiber Towel Wrap

$31 at Ulta

Andee Hoos, owner of Corruption Hair Studio in Loveland, Colorado, says to keep an eye on your microfiber towel, though. If the towel sticks to other items when being pulled out of the dryer, it’s no longer good because it will also “stick” to hair. For Hoos, T-shirts and tea towels are best.

“I tell my guests, ‘Save your money and use a T-shirt.’ We all have at least one we don’t wear on the regular,” she tells Simplemost.

You also need some kind of level surface like a bed or countertop. Hoos said this is important because the point is getting the top of your head in the center of your towel.

“This movement creates an accordion with the hair, with the ends down first to the top of the head. Without the surface, there is no accordion, and without the accordion, the plop will likely be a flop,” Hoos said.

For Hoos, another problem she sees if clients leaving the plop for too long. She recommends 10-20 minutes, but to feel free to experiment based around that time frame to find your perfect plop.

As for who should plopping, Hoos says it works on several curly type but it can’t make straight hair wavy or curly, and it’s not suitable for coily hair.

What Do You Need To Plop Hair?

If you want to try plopping, there are things you’ll need. Of course, we’ve already explain the need for a microfiber towel or T-shirt, but if you want further definition for your curls, Angel Sostre, hairstylist and lash artist at Creature Studio in Atlanta, recommends a Denman brush.

Denman brush

$22 at Amazon

You can take definition one step further by prepping curls with a special brush. “I usually tend to start the poppling by creating the desired curl pattern with a Denman brush,” Sostre said. “By turning the brush in the same direction as the curl is going, you will achieve a fuller and more defined outcome.”

Sostre also recommends coating hair with a moisturizing cream product, too.

“This will provide a casket on the hair to be created, enclosing the moisture of said product,” she said.

“For my curly babes, I usually recommend anything from the Mizani Product Line, specifically from their True Texture brand,” she said.

Mizani True Textures Curl Cream

$26 at Amazon

As for Brown, she recommends finishing off the look with a spritz of Pantene Nutrient Blends Curl Care Mist with Jojoba Oil to lock in moisture and further define your curls. It can also be used before blow-drying as a heat protector.

Pantene Curl Care Mist

$9 (was $16) at Amazon

If you need to leave the house quickly and can’t wait for your hair to finish air drying, you can use a diffuser to finish the job. Unlike a traditional hair dryer, a diffuser distributes the air around the hair and reduces the amount of heat the strand is exposed to when drying. Ultimately, this helps to reduce frizz.

Conair Hair Dryer with Diffuser

$37 (was $47) at Amazon

How To Plop, Step-By-Step

Plopping is gentle on curls and safe enough to do every time you wash. If you have wavy or curly hair, try this process the next time you wash and style.

    1. Shampoo and condition as usual. If you find normally leaving in a little dab of conditioner helps your curls stay frizz-free, you can keep doing that. Plopping can also be done on days you skip washing, just be sure to thoroughly soak your hair first.
    2. Don’t towel dry. Instead, gently flip your head upside down and rock your hair from side to side to let the excess moisture drop. You still want very damp hair to sound “squishy” when you apply your products.
    3. Apply products like gel, curl cream or leave-in conditioner. Carefully coat strands and then scrunch the curls from the bottom up to help with definition.
    4. Drape your fabric near the edge of your bed or countertop and plop. Aim to place the top of your head in the center. Pull the cloth over the nape of your neck and wrap the ends across the top, near the front of your head. Then pull your head up.
    5. Experiment to find the right amount of time for you. While some experts recommend plopping for as little as 10-15 minutes, others recommend 45 minutes to leaving hair plopped overnight. Play around and see which time length works best for you.

What is plopping for curly hair? originally appeared on