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How to get Beautiful Wavy/Curly Hair (on a Budget)

Updated on July 5, 2011

Have you been battling that wavy and/or curly hair? You are not alone. Many women, and men, suffer from trying to find the right product, the right amount of the product, and the right procedure to tame those unruly locks. And, as many can attest to, the products seem to get more and more expensive with less and less in each tube or bottle. You ask your hair stylist what they like to use, and it may actually be a product that helps or works, but you cannot afford the product to use it on a daily basis!

This is a battle I have fought since I was 13 years old when my hair went from simple, stick straight to twisted and complicated. I straightened my hair everyday in high school because nothing would work to tame my hair! Through trial and a lot of error, I discovered a few products and an exact procedure in my first two years of college, and neither have let me down since. And, to make it even sweeter, I found products that did not break the bank. Below are my favorite products, and my "secrets" on how to keep that wavy to curly hair non-frizzy, non-crusty, and shiny. If you follow the steps (in order) and types of products, I am pretty sure you'll have a better wavy or curly hair experience!!

Wavy/Curly hair does not have to be annoying.  Embrace it!
Wavy/Curly hair does not have to be annoying. Embrace it!

STEPS 1 - 5 = Maximum of 20 - 30 minutes depending on length of shower and blow dry

STEPS 2 - 4 = Maximum of 5 - 15 minutes

Do not let the length of this scare you. Just a lot of tips and details to HELP YOU!

STEP 1: Shampoo and Conditioning

TIP: DO NOT waste your money on expensive shampoos and conditioners. Cheaper brands work just as well, and do not think you need to buy a product made specially for wavy to curly hair. What matters is what you put in your hair AFTER you shower.

Shower as you normally do. No special procedure needed while you shampoo and condition your hair. The only thing you might want to do is leave your conditioner on for a minute or two before rinsing it out. Wavy to curly hair tends to be naturally dry, and can use all the moisture it can get. Conditioners for dry or brittle hair may work better but not a must. Just make sure you use a separate conditioner from shampoo (not those 2 in 1 shampoos) because your hair needs that extra moisture.

Favorite Products: Shampoo - anything works! Conditioner - TRESemmé or Aussie

STEP 2: Prepping Hair for Products

TIP: MYTH - Do not brush out your hair because it splits-up and ruins the wave or curl.

After the shower, dry your hair just enough so it is not dripping down your back with a towel.

Next, brush your hair out and part it where you normally do. Yes, brushing out your hair can be tiresome, but doing so when it is this wet will help prevent breakage and will allow your hair to wave or curl without tangling. Be sure to use a brush with thick, wide-spaced, plastic bristles to also help prevent breakage.

Favorite Products: Vidal Sassoon or Goody

Vidal Sassoon brush
Vidal Sassoon brush

After brushing out and styling your hair, put your hair back into a towel to dry it a little further. A regular towel works just fine, but to help with absorbing excess water, highly absorbent towels work very well. Try to leave your hair up in the towel for an additional 2 - 5 minutes.

Favorite Products: Aquis or Earth Therapeutics' Quick-Dry Hair Towel

Aquis from Britanne Corporation
Aquis from Britanne Corporation
Earth Therapeutics' Quick-Dry Hair Towel
Earth Therapeutics' Quick-Dry Hair Towel

STEP 3: Applying Products

TIP: This step may take a few times to learn how much of each product your hair will need. I will explain what each product is for and give suggestions for application amount.

Remove the towel from your hair. DO NOT brush out your hair at this point. Leave it as it is the moment you take it out of the towel, but be sure to allow your hair to fall correctly according to your part.

FIRST PRODUCT TO APPLY: Mousse- This product works as a leave-in conditioner, but also gives a flexible hold. This will give your wave or curl a nice shine, and do not be afraid to apply a generous amount.

Squirt the mousse into the palm of your hand, lightly squish your hands together, and then apply to your hair by running your fingers from root to tip like a brush or comb. Make sure to not leave any white residue on your hair, it should all absorb and rub into your hair.

Favorite Product: Aussie Catch the Wave Mousse + Leave-in Conditioner (approximately $4 per 6.8 oz. bottle - lasts for a month to a month and a half depending on hair thickness and length.)

Aussie Catch the Wave Mousse + Leave-in Conditioner
Aussie Catch the Wave Mousse + Leave-in Conditioner

SECOND PRODUCT TO APPLY: Gel - This product will be your foundation for holding the wave or curl. Be careful to not apply too much because it can leave your hair crunchy or crusty, and be sure to purchase a gel that is a mild to moderate hold (maximum hold will leave your hair like concrete).

Put about a quarter to a half-dollar size amount in your palm. Rub your hands together to coat both palms with gel. Run it through your hair from root to tip, using your fingers like a comb. Be sure to get all sides including underneath your hair. Then scrunch your hair (flipping your hair upside-down by bending at the waist usually works best) by placing the ends of your hair in your palms, cupping it into your hand, and then pressing it up towards the roots. It is alright to have some extra gel left on your palms as you scrunch.

Favorite Product: Herbal Essences' Totally Twisted Curl Scrunching Gel (approximately $4 per 6 oz. bottle - lasts a month depending on thickness and length of hair). OR Aussie Sun Touched Shine Enhancing Gel (not pictured)

Herbal Essences' Totally Twisted Curl Scrunching Gel
Herbal Essences' Totally Twisted Curl Scrunching Gel

THIRD (and last) PRODUCT TO APPLY: Hair Spray - This product will be your enforcer or closer to keeping your waves or curls bouncy and non-frizzy. You have to be extremely careful on which product you use because anything with too much of a hold will leave your hair sticky and/or hard. Flexible or the lowest amount of hold should be the strongest you purchase.

Flip your hair to one side (if it is long enough), spray your hair from about 5 - 6 inches away while being sure to get on top and underneath, flip to the other side and repeat. Then let your hair fall normally (while keeping your part) and spray making sure to get the back. This may take a few trials to determine how much hair spray is needed, but try not to over saturate to prevent cementing your hair. Lastly, scrunch your hair like you did when you applied the gel.

Favorite Product: Aussie Sprunch Catch the Wave Hair Spray (Aerosol) (approximately $5 per 10 oz. can - lasts a month and a half or longer depending on thickness and length of hair).

Aussie Sprunch Catch the Wave Hair Spray (Aerosol)
Aussie Sprunch Catch the Wave Hair Spray (Aerosol)

STEP 4: Taking Away Gravity (Special Secret)

TIP: The longer you take away gravity, the more wave or curl you will get!

One problem with wavy or curly hair, especially when it is long, is the weight of the hair pulls the wave or curl out. Take that away as it partially dries and your wave or curl will stick around. While your product sets and does its magic, taking the pressure of gravity off will allow the product to set on the natural wave or curl. How do you do that?

SECRET WEAPON: a Hat - Your eyes do not deceive you, yes, a hat. Most hats are made of a non-absorbent or less absorbent material than a towel. By placing your partially wet/towel-dried, product infused hair into a hat for a few minutes or longer will take away most gravity on the hair without the hat absorbing the products.

Bucket hats (or fisherman's hats) are the easiest to get your hair piled into it, but baseball caps and any other hat that can fit your hair in it will do.

Take your hat, place it upside down (opening up towards the ceiling) on your counter, bed, couch, or whatever surface is easiest to reach. Flip your hair upside down by bending at the waist, and have it fall down in front of you. Loosely gather it in one hand (if possible) as if you were going to put a hair-tie around it, and place the ends of your hair into the opening of the hat. Get as much of your hair into the hat, usually causing you to bend more forward. Then take the hat in both hands, and slowly stand up straight while gently placing the hat on your head. DO NOT try to mash or forcefully put the hat all the way onto your head. This will flatten the wave or curl.

How long to leave it in the hat? As long as you want or however much time you have. Air drying is always the best for wavy or curly hair due to its natural tendency to be dry, but not everyone wants to walk around with damp hair. Hence...the next (and optional) step.

NOTE: If you wish to air dry and skip STEP 5, your hair WILL NOT completely dry in the hat. You will have to remove the hat eventually to allow for it to fully dry. Minimum of 10 to 15 minutes in the hat for those who wish to only air dry.

Favorite Product: Gap bucket hat (from 1999...have had it for a while), but obviously, a no-name-brand hat will work just as well!

Gap bucket hat
Gap bucket hat

STEP 5 (optional): Blow Dry

As all you natural wavy or curly-haired might already know, if you blow dry your hair, you MUST use a:


After removing your hair from the hat (minimum of 2 - 3 minutes to allow products to set), you may blow dry your hair with a diffuser attachment on the end. Use the "low" intensity setting on your blow dryer as to not over-heat or blow out any of the wave or curl.

Take away gravity again by bending at the waist and flipping your hair upside down, place ends of hair into diffuser, and bring the blow dryer closer to your head (as if scrunching). You can do this standing by flipping hair to one side. Blow dry until desired (leaving some dampness is best to not over process your hair).

OPTIONAL: You can then place your hair back into the hat until you have to leave or reach your destination to help prevent gravity for just a while longer.


  • If you need a touch-up because it is extra humid outside or you just want to spruce it up after work for heading out for the evening, use a small amount of your MOUSSE or a light spray of the HAIR SPRAY. Do a quick scrunch and you're set!
  • Wavy and curly hair DOES NOT need to be washed everyday (REMEMBER: has a tendency to be dry), and sometimes it is best for your hair to get a day off from the shower. Natural oils in your hair will actually help the wave and curl. However, to get the dirt and/or unwanted excess oil out of your hair from the day before, use a DRY SHAMPOO (follow directions on bottle). Then use your MOUSSE and/or HAIR SPRAY to scrunch it up a little.

Favorite Product: TRESemmé Fresh Start Waterless Foam Shampoo for Dry/Curly to Normal Hair (approximately $4 per 5.7 oz. bottle - lasts for 2 months or more depending on how often used and thickness and length of hair).

TRESemme Fresh Start Waterless Foam Shampoo for Dry/Curly to Normal Hair
TRESemme Fresh Start Waterless Foam Shampoo for Dry/Curly to Normal Hair
After these steps and tips, you can be carefree about your waves or curls!
After these steps and tips, you can be carefree about your waves or curls!


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    • Ahmad Talha profile image


      3 years ago from MULTAN ,PAKISTAN

      great post. I am a medical student and can provide great tips on hair for free

    • Ahmad Talha profile image


      3 years ago from MULTAN ,PAKISTAN

      great post. I am a medical student and can provide great tips on hair for free

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      How do you sleep on your curls and refresh them in the morning?

    • Simone Smith profile image

      Simone Haruko Smith 

      7 years ago from San Francisco

      Nice tips! I should share this with my mom- her hair is NATURALLY curly and all she wants to do is struggle to straighten it! She should see that people want hair like hers just as much as *she* wants hair like *theirs* :D

    • LYMartinez profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Thank you, Robin! And you're hair isn't boring!! Straight hair is beautiful too. :-)

    • Robin profile image

      Robin Edmondson 

      7 years ago from San Francisco

      What a great guide with original photos! I only wish I had a few curls; unfortunately, I have bone straight and boring hair. ;)


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