Plopping Curly Hair: The Ultimate How-To Guide

Welcome to the ultimate guide for plopping curly hair! This is where you’ll learn how to plop your hair, the pros and cons of doing so, and more.

If you have curly hair, you know the dilemma: your hair can look stunning wet and, two hours later, have dried and frizzed into a crazy mane. Or, it could start the day perfectly curly, only to fall into a triangle from the weight of gravity by the end of the evening.

I am one such curly girl (well, curly woman), and I love my curls. They are my defining feature, and I can’t stand straightening them for the sake of a little control.

Still, I’ve spent way too much time trying different methods for controlling frizz and maintaining the beauty of my natural curls throughout the day. I’ve tried dozens of hair products, from shampoo to conditioner and gel. I’ve tried cold-water rinsing in the shower (and hated every second of it). I’ve tried hair dryers with diffusers on them, hair dryers that spin my hair in circles around an attached brush. And my curls have always remained, well, headstrong. Thanks to all my experimenting, I’ve become a bit of a skeptic when I hear about innovative ways to care for my curly hair.

Then, a friend of mine mentioned she tried “plopping” for her naturally curly hair. Even though the name made me raise an eyebrow, her hair looked great. So, I thought I’d give this plopping idea a try.

What on Earth is Plopping?

A lot of the unpredictability with our curly hair comes from its reaction to gravity, friction, and heat. Unfortunately, both of those forces are involved in drying our hair most of the time. That’s where plopping helps.

“Plopping,” which is also sometimes called “plunking,” is a method of drying curly hair without heat. Instead of breaking your hair and roughing up your delicate curls in the traditional towel spiral on top of your head, you use a cotton t-shirt to catch your hair in a bunch and allow the hair to air dry. Plopping fights gravity’s pull on your hair as it dries, and it protects your hair from damage.

There is a method to getting your hair into a t-shirt, and I followed the ones I saw on Buzzfeed to see how well plopping would work for my hair.

Here’s how it went for me, step by step.

How to Plop Curly Hair: A Hands-On Test

I followed the steps I saw in the Buzzfeed article about curly hair plopping, which I highly recommend you check out as well. Here’s how my first attempt at went, complete with a summary of instructions and how they worked for me.

  1. Gather supplies. I’ve been on a products strike lately, but for purposes of finding out how to plop my hair, I went with a curl-enhancing spray. I also set out my wide-toothed comb. Then, I grabbed a long-sleeved t-shirt and an extra towel.

    I skipped ahead in the instructions and found out that I needed to..

  2. Put the shirt on a large, flat surface at about waist height. So, I laid the towel on my bathroom counter, then spread the t-shirt flat on top of the towel with the bottom hem closest to my body.
  3. Wash and condition as usual. Of course, to get started I washed and conditioned my hair. When I got out of the shower, instead of my normal routine of squeezing the excess water from my hair and wrapping my hair in a towel, I used a second, spare t-shirt to gently squeeze the water from my hair.
  4. Use a wide-toothed comb to get the tangles out of wet hair, and add your products. The instructions said to add the product first, then comb out my hair. Well, I know better than to do anything to my hair before combing it. Once my hair starts to dry, all combing is futile. So, I combed my hair, added my curl spray and combed my hair again for good measure.
  5. Flip your hair upside down, then ease it onto the middle of the t-shirt. The key here is to get all your hair in one place. This protects your hair from damage. A tip: Make sure you gather the sides of your hair toward the middle of your head (gently, of course) as you do this step. It’ll save you hassle later when you flip your head right-side up. I ended up having to tuck the sides of my hair in later.
  6. Roll the bottom hem of the t-shirt toward your forehead. Then, draw the corners toward the nape of your neck. Tie the corners together, if you can. Picture yourself rolling up a bandana, then tying it underneath your hair. So far, so good. I tied my hair into the knot the first time, but I fixed the issue and kept going.
  7. Grab the neckline of the shirt and draw it down toward the knot you just tied, wrapping the shirt around your pile of hair as you go. When you’re done, the arms of the shirt should be at your shoulders. For me, this was the most-confusing step because I couldn’t see what I was doing.
  8. Stand upright, and pull the arms of the shirt toward your forehead. Tie the arms in a knot, then wrap any excess fabric into the knot. I fell off the rails a little bit here. Thanks to the long sleeves on my shirt, I had a lot of extra fabric in my hands. So, I looped the arms around my head and tied a knot at the back as well, then tucked the fabric in wherever I could.
  9. Once your hair is dry, untie the shirt and check out your curls! The article said people wait between 30 minutes and two hours, while others sleep with the shirt on their heads. I was under a time constraint, so I waited an hour and a half before removing the shirt. My hair was still a bit damp, but it dried pretty quickly after I removed the t-shirt.

The Hair-Plopping Results

So what happened when I learned how to plop curly hair? My hair looked AMAZING! My curls went all the way to the root, and even after I slept on them that night, they looked great. The next morning, I went for a run wearing a hat, and only the front curls stretched out (darned ponytail). The back curls, which usually become a frizzy mass after a long run, maintained their shape and didn’t frizz at all.

The only drawback I can see to plopping curly hair is the time commitment. I don’t mind walking outside with wet hair, but walking outside with a t-shirt tied around my head is a no-go for me. I also don’t feel terribly attractive wearing a t-shirt like a hat, so I personally don’t want to have, say, my partner over while I’m plopping. (If you have no such hangups, go for it!)

The Pros and Cons of Plopping

Pros

  • No heat needed
  • Curls have volume, even at the root
  • Less Frizz
  • Low-maintenance (you can sleep on it!)

Cons

  • Long drying time needed
  • Unattractive with a shirt on your head

If you have the time to dedicate to your curly hair, however, I absolutely recommend you learn how to plop your hair.

As for me, this skeptic is sold. Plopping truly is a great way to care for curly hair and keep great curls!

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