How Can I Make My Naturally Wavy Hair Curly?

Woman with thick curly auburn hair.

Curl envy is real. I love my naturally wavy hair, but sometimes, I really want my waves to go to the next level — defined curls. Not to mention that my waves turn into a frizzy mess if I encounter even the smallest bit of wind or humidity on my way to work.

I know there’s no way to permanently change my wavy hair into naturally curly hair, but I’ve learned a number of tips and tricks that can help me enjoy curl definition without spending hours at the salon. The following are my top styling tricks, short-term and more long-term, for creating more curl definition, whether I’m headed to work, on a date, or simply feel like freshening up my look for the day.

Can wavy hair be made curly?

Woman with thick wavy brown hair.

The answer to the question above is yes…and no. Being born with naturally wavy hair, as opposed to straight hair, means it’s easier for you to define your curls and make them last. However, it’s not possible to permanently change your hair’s natural curl definition. Your natural curl definition is based on your hormones and genetics. Thanks mom.

Thankfully, there are a number of styling techniques you can practice on a daily basis to create the curl definition you’re seeking. Or, these techniques can be performed whenever you choose. Maybe you feel like rocking your natural waves one day and defined curls the next. Some of these methods can be used for immediate curl gratification while others, when practiced day after day, will lead to more long-term, elastic-looking curls.

Methods for Making Naturally Wavy Hair Curly

Back view of a woman's hair being curled by a hairdresser using a curling iron.

The following are several of the many methods you can take to turn your natural waves into curls. Some require just a few minutes to complete, while others should become part of your daily hair regimen.

Twist and Press

According to Elle, one of the best times to turn your waves into curls is immediately after a shower. The hairstyle experts at Elle suggest foregoing rigorously drying your hair with a towel when you exit the shower and using your towel to curl your hair instead. Using your towel, press your hair and twist it, instead of rubbing the towel back and forth. This method of pressing and twisting helps provide body, preserve curls, and minimize frizz.


The scrunch method of achieving defined curls is similar to the twist and press but with a slightly different motion. The experts at Naturally Curly suggest blotting your hair dry with your towel, then using a t-shirt or microfiber towel and your styling product, squish the styling product into your hair. Continue this motion until your hair is dry and your curls appear more defined. Your hair will probably feel a bit crunchy, so the Naturally Curly experts suggest scrunching your hair until your curls feel softer. This method may sound a little crazy, but you won’t mind when you see your natural-looking curls.

Skip the Hairbrush

This is a method you can practice on a daily basis that will naturally bring your more defined curls back to life. The experts at Elle explain that curly hair is typically more brittle than other hair types. Using a hairbrush day after day can destroy the shape of your natural curls. Ditch your hairbrush and use a wide-tooth comb to untangle your hair while conditioning in the shower. It won’t be long until you see those long lost curls again.

Use a Lighter Curl Cream

A common misconception is that heavy styling oils and gels are required to bring out your curls and keep them in place throughout the day. However, the best products for defining your curls are lighter and milkier than those heavy serums. Opt for a curl cream next time you’re at the beauty store to bring more light and definition into your curls.

Diffuse While Blow Drying

You don’t always have time to let your hair dry on its own. Thankfully, your blow dryer can be used alongside a diffuser to turn your waves into curls. Turn your blow dryer on its lowest setting and blow dry until your hair is partially dry. Then, cup your waves with the diffuser and use the same scrunching method mentioned before to scrunch your hair up toward the roots. This method tends to cause me a bit of frizzing, so I like to use a light curl cream to keep the frizz under control.

Curl and Volumize

One obvious way to achieve more defined curls is by using a classic curling iron. Simply feed your hair into the space between the clam and the rod of the curling iron, leaving your ends outside of the clam. Wrap your hair around the iron, alternating directions to create a more natural-looking curl pattern. The experts at Cosmopolitan suggest using a volumizing spray to provide more bounce after using a curling iron. This two-part process will result in curls that last throughout the day, or even multiple days depending on your hair’s natural hold.

Pin Curling

It’s no secret that using heat to dry or curl your hair on a daily basis can cause damage. That damage can lead to lifeless hair. Supplement those days, or even ditch the heat entirely, by pin curling your hair instead. Pat your hair dry or allow it to dry partially after getting out of the shower.

Then, twist your hair into small buns to enhance any areas where you want your waves turned into curls. Use bobby pins to hold the curls in place, then wait for your hair to dry, and remove the pins to unveil clearly defined curls. Pin curls are amazing, because you can create as many curls as you desire on any given day. They also require very little time and commitment to create.

The Challenges of Curling Wavy Hair

Beautiful woman with dark curly hair pouts at the camera.

All of us with wavy hair know curling it isn’t always easy. In fact, as the experts at Cosmopolitan describe, there are a number of problems only women with wavy hair understand. The following are some of those problems.


Those of us with wavy hair know our friend “frizz” all too well. Even the slightest breeze can turn our carefully styled curls into a frizzy mess, and we haven’t even mentioned humidity. Even the serums we use to define and protect our curls can’t 100-percent prevent the frizz that occurs due to wind, humidity, rain, or sometimes, no reason at all.

Anti-Frizz Creams Don’t Work

You’ve probably tried using anti-frizz creams to prevent the issues listed above. Unfortunately, they typically make wavy hair look greasy without actually combating the frizz. Curling your hair then applying frizz cream can look like an even bigger mess than if you hadn’t curled it at all.

Waves Do What They Want

Some days, it doesn’t matter how much time and energy you spend creating the perfect curl, your wavy hair still decides to do what it wants. Certain sections simply won’t hold a curl on certain days, and it can seem impossible to create the put-together, curly look you’re seeking.

Wavy Hair Can Get Too Big

Curling wavy hair can result in a hairdo that looks gigantic. That thick, wavy hair is sometimes impossible to tame, and you simply have to settle for a natural or straightened look. Wavy hair has a mind of its own.

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