How to Curl Hair

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A normal curling iron isn’t going to do the trick when you’re going to competition! Here’s some tips on doing curls.

1. Make sure that hair is oily. It’s gross, but don’t wash your hair for two days before you’re getting it curled. When you take a shower, just remember not to use shampoo (rinsing with water is OK). The natural oil that you’ll develop will help hold the curls.

2. Find curlers. The foam curlers work well (they look like this). Usually the largest size (pink) work best. If you have thick hair, you’ll need to buy several packs (about 50 curlers total or more). If you have thinner hair, you may only need 20.

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3. Find moose and hairspray. I’ve found that Suave products work well for most. Do not get the “flexible hold” products because they usually don’t work that well for this. Get the strongest and stiffest hold possible. It will take some experimentation to see which product works for you. Make sure that you get aerosol hairspray–it spreads out the hairspray evenly and makes sure that it doesn’t all land in one spot (and it doesn’t make your fingers so tired!).
4. Start curling! Caution: be careful not to use too much or too little product. Curling should be done the afternoon before competition. The earlier the better, because you’ll have more time for it to dry. Steps for curling:
Step 1: Tie hair in ponytail. Make sure that it’s perfect because after the curlers go in, you can’t fix it! If you have curly/wavy hair, it helps if you straighten it beforehand.
*Note*: Shorter hair is easier to curl. If you have really long hair down to your butt, it will take forever to curl and might even be impossible.
Step 2: Make sure hair is dry.
Step 3: Now the curling begins. You’ll probably be doing someone else’s hair–so make sure steps 1 and 2 are cleared for her. Take a section at the top of her ponytail. I usually flatten the hair with my fingers and it looks about half a centimeter thick. Now, wet the entire portion of hair with moose. Use enough to get it slightly damp–do not overuse or else it will not dry. Now spray hairspray from the top of the section to the bottom, and back up. Again, make sure you do not use too much or too little. It will take some trial and error for you to realize the exact amount you should use. Hair should look wet.
Step 4: Get a curler and open it (some people like detaching the plastic rectangle so that it doesn’t get in the way–it’s all up to your own preference). Place the end of the hair portion onto the center of the curler. Now begin wrapping the hair around either way. Tuck in the end neatly, or else it will not turn out. The hair should be as tight as possible, so that the foam is squished in and the curler sort of looks like an hourglass. Keep rolling until you reach the top of her ponytail and can’t roll anymore. Now close the curler using the plastic rectangle. Give an extra shot of hairspray onto it. The hair should be in the middle of the curler.
Step 5: Keep curling by repeating step 4 with several other strands. It is easiest to work from top to bottom. Be patient and careful when you do it, and pack all of the rollers tight. If the person has thick hair, the curling process may take around three hours, so be patient. When it is all done, the person should have a mountain of curlers to sleep in!
Some tips on curling:
Do it early. Curling takes a long time. If you start in the evening before competition, you may not finish until midnight. Plan accordingly so that everyone can get sleep.
Make sure that there’s air flowing. Breathing hairspray is bad for you. Make sure the room is ventilated.
Take small portions of hair. This gives you more curls (which generally looks better) and makes it easier to dry (though it will take longer to curl).
Teach everyone how to curl. This speeds up the process, so that there’s not just five people curling 30 other team members! It could help to have curling partners who curl one another’s hair.
Take advantage of the time. Teams usually curl their hair together and take it as a bonding time. Have a curling party! Do a team talk, watch a movie, or find another activity to do.
Blow-dry hair for at least ten minutes. It takes a long time for everything to dry, and sometimes it won’t dry on its own. It needs to be completely dry to look nice.
Do not walk in the rain. If you must go outside, wear a hood or use a bandanna to wrap over your curlers. Your goal is to get our hair dry by morning–rain won’t help!
After the curlers are in, wear a shower cap when you shower. This will keep the curls dry.
Tips for unrolling hair:
Make sure hair is completely dry. Feel the hair in the curlers. It should feel crisp.
Get it done early before competition. This gives you time to fix bad curls.
Be careful. Unrolling isn’t necessarily the reverse process of rolling. Open the curler. Slowly unroll it (it might be a little hard to do because the hair is sticking to the roller). Now, when there is enough room, swirl the curler in a circular motion in the direction of the curl to get the curl out. Do not pull, or else you will straighten the hair. Be very careful when getting the ends out.
Learn! Do not be disappointed if your first curls do not turn out right. Try something else next time, maybe more/less hair product or take less hair.
Fix. Some areas will need fixing. Use a very small curling iron (like this or something around 1/2″) to redo the curls. Remember to hairspray them when you are done.
After the curls are out:
Contain the hair in a bandanna. Wrap all the curls into a bandanna. This will keep the curls tight so that they don’t go limp and droopy.
Don’t get the curls wet.
Gel the rest of your hair. Gel all those loose strands in the back and your bangs to get a clean look.
Try to avoid doing anything that will mess up your curls. Don’t jump around a lot–your curls may droop even with a bandanna. Try not to touch the curls.
After the performance:
Slowly remove your hair tie. This will be hard and might hurt because your hair is hard from all the hairspray. Just be patient. If you can’t get it out, you might want to wet your hair in the shower first.
Wet your hair in the shower. Just let the water run over your curls, and eventually, all the hairspray will wash away. Now wash away everything with shampoo! Doesn’t that feel wonderful?
I hope these tips will help. Feel free to comment if you have questions.


  1. lyndi brown

    Thanks a ton for this advice. One year for state,we didn’t have hairpieces and were all expected to have our hair in curlers by ourselves. My Mom and I had no clue what we were doing and when we took the curlers out at state, my hair was completely flat!!! Nightmare, I know, but now I know what to do next time.

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