These days, more people are embracing their natural hair texture in all its wavy, curly, coily, or kinky glory. And it doesn't look like that is changing anytime soon. While it's important to keep your strands healthy in order for them to look their best, the right haircut is also helpful in that pursuit.
It can be hard out here for our curly kinfolk, as there are many variables to consider when you're getting a cut: Will it match the shape of your face? Will it complement your curl pattern? Bangs or no bangs? And then there's the question of maintenance. How much work do you really want to do when it comes time to style all that glorious hair?
Relax, we'll do some of the thinking for you. We looked to a few of of our favorite curly-haired celebs and asked some hairstylists to give a little guidance for those looking to achieve some of the coolest curly haircuts around. Bookmark this page for the next time you plan to make a visit to your stylist's chair. And while you're at it, be sure to check out the best curly hair-care products so you can keep your coils looking and feeling their best.
Bouyant Wand Curls
If Gabrielle Union's going to do anything, it's deliver some serious curl inspiration. 'This cut is great because it is layered, leaving the curls light and airy', says hairstylist Chuck Amos, adding, 'the layers stack up on each other and blend in with the bang, and the ends of the curls are left loose, giving the overall look some flair.' He notes this cut is best for type 3A to 3C curls because the size and lightness of those curls work best with this layered side part cut. At the salon, tell your hairdresser to cut the curls dry to avoid shrinkage especially the bangs.
We're simply mesmerized by the sheer volume and symmetry of Viola Davis's 'fro here. According to Amos, 'This haircut is absolutely perfect for type 4A to 4C curls. It is the texture of these curls that keep the Afro stacked and in its regal shape, without dropping or splitting at the top.' His tip? Have your hairdresser cut your hair tapered at the neck, widening at the ears, and up to its highest point in the middle of the forehead.
Long, Kinky-Curly Layers
Kerry Washington has always been a natural beauty and so has her hair. Case in point: these curls, honey. They cascade past her shoulders and the shorter layers around her face add a beautiful softness to the look. We needed answers for her secret weapon to keeping this hair full and lush, so we went to Takisha Sturdivant-Drew, who has been Washington's hairstylist for over a decade. 'When it came to the hairstyle, I felt like she needed volume and texture', she said of the actor's kinky curls. 'The layers opened up her face and added movement to her hair.'
Fringe and 'Fro
The bangs soften and frame the face while drawing attention to the eyes. In order to slay this look like Yara Shahidi, take notes from hairstylist Csar DeLeon Ramirez, who has worked with the Grown-ish star. 'I really can't emphasize enough the importance of getting a regular trim every six to eight weeks', he says. 'Especially if you have a very specific cut with a very specific shape that you want to maintain and keep fresh.'
Sure, it looks like a lob, but as anyone with coils knows, if you straighten out her hair, it would likely reach way past her armpits. Ah, the magic of shrinkage.
'Ari's style is a wash-and-go', says hairstylist Cheryl T. Bergamy. 'Using a great conditioner and curl cream is key to this.' She suggests the L'Oral Professionnel Serie Expert Absolut Repair Gold Quinoa + Protein Shampoo and Conditioner, followed by a leave-in conditioner. 'These products together add the right amount of moisture needed to curly coily hair, not to mention amazing shine.'
Art Deco Waves
Take this flapper-inspired look for a spin and modernize it with feathery, voluminous curls. 'This haircut builds volume at the sides and helps make fine hair look thicker', says hairstylist Michael Dueas who notes it works best on natural type 2C curls, though clearly, with the magic of a blow-dryer, you can create this effect if your curl pattern is a bit tighter. To maintain the look, 'keep the ends of your curls blunt and give very slight horizontal graduation to the cut. This will create a more rounded perimeter and prevent a severe triangular shape.'
Please direct your attention to how full Melina Matsoukas's curls are. That's thanks to this lob with slight layers, which allows the curls to stack nicely on top of each other. To get the look, Amos says to ask your hairstylist to cut your hair slightly damp so you can get that sharpness closer to your neck. Then, have them start to layer it and cut the curls at an angle near the outer edges. He says, 'This will allow your curls to stack beautifully on top of each other, leaving a layered look around the outer edges, without losing its length and style.'
Loose Curly Pixie
Forget everything you've heard about short curly hairstyles. Halle Berry's tough-but-soft crop works on nearly any texture and isn't as high-maintenance as you'd think. Ask your stylist for a graduated pixie style. 'You don't want a precision cut', says hairstylist and owner of Blushing Finch, Morgan Willhite. 'It should be longer on top to show off the texture and choppiness.' Let it dry naturally and use a frizz-control product to give the top separation and shine.
Jasmine Sanders aka Golden Barbie's mid-length layers help showcase the natural volume of her hair. This is low-maintenance style gives finer hair the illusion of more weight, says hairstylist Tippi Shorter. Styling-wise, she suggests using a leave-in conditioner on 'freshly-cleansed wet hair with a detangling brush like the Wet Brush Pro Flex Dry.'
Short Tapered Cut
We weren't kidding when we said Ari Lennox serves natural hair inspo galore. Her tapered cut here beautifully shows off her texture, says Shorter. A perk of her tighter curl pattern is that it accentuates volume. To maintain this length, Shorter suggests getting a trim every three months. As for styling a cut like this, she says using a gel is best. 'Smooth through small sections at a time and use a paddle brush to distribute the product, then dry naturally.'
Sculpted Pixie Cut
This fierce style comes in so many variations, but the shape in which Taraji P. Henson is wearing it is what sets it apart. 'The short tapered cut allows easy styling for curls', says Shorter. 'This is great for anyone going for the big chop not wanting to go too short by keeping length on top.' She adds that it works best on curls and coils to achieve this height and volume (as opposed to waves which would just lay flat).
Emilia Clarke may have played a woman who dances with dragons on television, but nothing is more fire than always serving a good hairstyle. This cut is slightly tousled and volume-building, which suits her texture, notes Dueas. This adds fullness and movement to her hair without it looking like one length. Ask your hairstylist to add a slight graduation to the ends to keep the haircut round, not square. 'A square haircut will emphasize weight and round will remove it', he says.
To style, use a one-inch curling iron and a flexible hairspray. 'I would recommend using Amika Fluxus Touchable Hairspray or Aloxxi Working Spray.' Finish the look with R+Co Two-Way Mirror Smoothing Oil.
Short Corkscrew Curls
They say you can't have everything, but actor Julia Garner has an impressive list of credits and fantastically tight curls. This cropped cut is slightly longer on the top, which will help play up the volume in your curls. To style, Dueas notes to prep damp hair with IGK Rich Kid Coconut Oil Ary-Dry Styling Cream and Aloxxi Bombshell Volumizing Grip Styler. Rough dry with your hands to get maximum volume. Once dry, use a half-inch curling iron and wrap the hair one revolution around the barrel. Then, lightly pull curls apart with your fingers and spritz on hairspray.
Actor Sydelle Noel literally crushes her opponents in the Netflix original series Glow, but in real life, she's taking no prisoners with this arresting coif. Smaller curls begin at the top then gradually gets longer towards the bottom. 'Coily to kinky hair will work best [for this haircut] because it showcases the round shape', says Leigh Hardges, hairstylist at Maxine Salon in Chicago. If this was done on wavy or straight hair you wouldn't see the shape so clearly.'
Styling tip: use Nairobi Wrapp-It Shine Foaming Lotion with flexi-rods or a twist set to give the hair its maximum length without losing the texture. 'After releasing the set, I would fluff at the roots using an afro pick and finish with a light oil like Krastase Elixir Ultime Oil Serum.'
No, this isn't the same Afro your auntie rocked back in the day. Solange Knowles's is an update on the iconic '70s style. 'It's a refreshing silhouette', says Lorraine Massey, founder of CurlyWorld. This works better on tight textures than loose curls because you need the volume to get the fullness. 'This is a modern, precision Afro', says Willhite. 'It's a teardrop shape: round at the top and tapered at the ears to hug the jawline and give it more shape.'
To keep this Afro looking its best, make sure it's properly hydrated with a leave-in conditioner so that it has a healthy sheen. We like the Shea Moisture Jamaican Black Castor Oil Strengthen & Restore Leave-In Conditioner.
Emmy Rossum's long, curly hair is her signature. 'The way this haircut is layered, she won't get a buildup of weight at the bottom as her hair grows I call that Christmas tree hair', says Hardges. This cut suits wavy to curly hair types best as it best showcases the length and layering techniques. To recreate the look, Hardges notes to use a curling wand on your mid-shafts to ends and spraying with Krastase Laque Extreme Hairspray.
Long Collapsed Layers
Look closely and you'll see that model Solange van Doorn has long bangs framing her face. These collapsed layers help reduce the weight of her overall hair (which may be beneficial as the heavier the hair, the more it can expand and become very round or triangular based on the curl pattern). Shorter says to use a curl enhancer for cuts that build volume. Then, twirl your hair in large sections around your finger, she instructs. Finish by diffusing and scrunching your hair with a blow-dryer like the Bio Ionic Power Diva Pro Styler Dryer.
We can't travel back in time, but we can totally enjoy classic '80s hairstyles by bringing back some of the decade's most iconic cuts. Zendaya's side-parted long textured waves are giving us visions of Shelia E. 'I would start with damp hair and generously work through the Paul Mitchell Foaming Pommade', says Hardges. 'Then flip your head over and diffuse until it's 75 percent dry.'
You know that lioness vibe you try to achieve? The one that looks as if you didn't try at all, but you really tried it all? Actor AnnaLynne McCord has mastered this fierce style. 'AnnaLynne's natural curls and the volume created by her sweeping layers around her face bring attention to her eyes', states Sarah Potempa, stylist and inventor of the Beachwaver who has worked with stars like Camila Cabello and Alicia Keys.
'People often think using a razor is a total no-no with curly hair', says Willhite. 'But when you want to achieve a piecey, shaggy look like this which is fuller towards the roots and wispier at the ends a razor is the best strategy.' One word of warning: A razor can make for extra frizz if your hair is super textured, so the technique tends to be reserved for looser curls, as seen here on Rihanna. Use a serum or pomade, like the Kinky-Curly Gloss Pomade, when hair is damp and let it dry naturally don't touch it.
Long, Wavy Layers
Because of the length and layers, people with naturally wavy or loose curls like Kate Hudson can pull off this look well, says Willhite. The cut enhances the hair's natural softness. If you like this stretched out look, you'll want to keep the layers below the chin so curls don't get too bouncy. A light spray gel, like the Tresemm Flawless Curls Curl Defining Spray Gel, adds texture without weighing strands down.
Taylor Swift has gone through many hair variations but who can forget the long curls back from her original Fearless days? 'This haircut has blended layers to give the curls some movement', says Potempa. 'It's perfect for someone who has a natural wave pattern that may be slightly uneven. Sometimes, cutting a long blended bang allows for the natural wave to come to life.' If your waves are falling flat, use a curling iron to give it an extra bit of oomph.
Modern Elongated Afro
Not too long and not too short Skai Jackson's modern elongated Afro is just right. Hardges says that coily to kinky hair textures are best for this cut. At the salon, 'Explain that you want a strong shape and that you plan to wear it in its natural texture', she says. To style, 'I would recommend shingling the hair. Define the curls section by section using the Ecoco Eco Natural Conditioning Curl Activator with Aloe Vera and Panthenol.'
Tight Curls and Steep Layers
Don't be afraid to go big with your curls, like Beyonc often does. 'Getting it big with a diffuser is what's fun about [this look]', says Willhite. Ask for long and wispy (not blunt) layers using a slide-cutting technique. 'If you put too many layers at the top, it will get too curly you want it to be softer around the face', she says. Use a hydrating product like a leave-in conditioner, and when hair is dry, go over random pieces with a curling iron to give your curls extra definition.
Bringing a whole new definition to the term 'go big or go home' is This is Us star Susan Kelechi Watson. The angled shape avoids flatness at the roots and blooms out on the sides. 'The negative space between the end of the haircut and shoulders creates a very beautiful bob', says Potempa. 'As you move and turn, you can see your shoulders and clavicle, which is a beautiful look, especially for a red carpet moment or formal event.'
She recommends applying an oil to your strands to boost shine. 'You can also use a diffuser to add more volume, or create small twists when the hair is damp, which will create a more polished wave and consistent pattern.'
We're always here for a playful, messy bob. What we like most is although this is a blunt cut, Orange Is the New Black star Selenis Leyva's ends look really healthy, preserving her wave and body. 'This is a beautiful chin-length bob with top layers to lighten it up', says Potempa. 'The blunt cut creates a statement and gives your curls something to naturally fall on. I also love the heavy side part, which was cut bluntly to match the other side.'
Model Arizona Muse has wonderfully wavy hair. 'This haircut is good for [waves] because you can create a wedge shape with a simple one length cut and allows for the showcasing of natural volume', says hairstylist Pekela Riley. More perks of this cut: 'She has a very loose wave, so she's not experiencing tremendous shrinkage. It balances out the fullness around the bottom of the shape. This look showcases her waves in an easy, chic fashion, without it having to look overly done.'
Sometimes a little frizz is a good thing. It works for Tamera Mowry-Housley along with the slight side part that helps to separate curls, creating a fuller and more polished look. 'This works because she has very copious defined curls', says Riley. 'It's a cut that can be easily maintained and forgiving in-between cuts. It's also easy for her to style manually she can finger coil and go.' This haircut typically works best on type 3 hair because it has a super defined curl and a natural buoyancy that will allow it to achieve the layered look.
Sandra Oh's curly shag was pretty much the envy of everyone when she first stepped out with it. 'This haircut is great for looser curls and waves', says veteran hairstylist Kim Kimble. 'It gives the hair style rather than a bunch of curly hair on top of your head. The shape helps frame the face nicely.' You'll be able to recreate this trendy shag look most easily on looser curl textures.
We always knew mermaid hair was possible, but this is beyond. Supermodel Joan Smalls is serving major almost-waist-length layered ringlets that fittingly frame her face. Can you imagine how epic a hair flip Boomerang would be? 'This long layered haircut is great for those with loose curls and waves who want movement without sacrificing length', says Riley. To get the look, her technique would be to vertically piece sections of hair all around the head, elevating 45 degrees to the desired length, and cutting layers with a pair of shears.
Can't decide between a pixie and a 'fro? Why not try both? Combine the two with a layered cut like Solange Knowles's. Since it's such a short length, it can be a major change for anyone with medium-length or long hair. To make sure you and your hairstylist are on the same page, share an image (like this one) with them before your session starts, Bergamy recommends.
Besides singing, Kelly Rowland has another talent: constantly serving up bomb hair looks. Her haircut here works for most curl textures (from type 1A to 4C), says Kimble. The various layers throughout her long hair keep things interesting. She adds, 'Be sure your hairstylist cuts it on the longer side because it will shrink up a lot.' The key is to keep all the layers long.
We already know that Amandla Stenberg shows versatility in their acting work, and the same rings true for their ever-changing haircuts. Their coiled pixie here is definitely one to remember. If you're aiming for this length, 'Be sure to book with a stylist who specializes in cutting curly hair. This cut can end up too short if not careful', Hardges advises.
To get the curls perfectly formed, use flexi-rods with Nairobi Wrapp-It Shine Foam Lotion and set under a hooded dryer. She adds, 'Once dry, separate your hair carefully using Oribe Gold Lust Nourishing Hair Oil.'
Alanna Arrington's curly hair looks super light and defined here. 'The blunt cut above the shoulders allows for the curls to fall perfectly around her face', Hardges says of the model. What hair type does this cut work for? 'Wavy to curly textures so you can best see the shape of the cut and the fringe', she says.
To style, Hardges notes to 'shingle (define each curl, section by section, using a product of choice) her curls. I would use Paul Mitchell's Foaming Pomade.' Then, use single prong clips at the scalp to keep the volume as your hair dries naturally.
Layered Cut Twist-Out
Teyonah Parris's layered twist-out, as Bergamy calls it, looks effortlessly polished. Natural, heatless (or heat-minimal) styles like this are amazing for highly-textured strands, especially for 3C to 4C hair. 'By using less heat to manipulate the hair, you don't have to worry about losing your curl pattern, making it easier to achieve an amazing haircut', she says.
As for styling, Bergamy recommends applying your favorite leave-in conditioner with the L'Oral Professionnel Tecni Art Transformer Texture Gel To Foam. Then, style with a diffuser and a blow-dryer or hooded dryer. 'If you are leaving the twists overnight, make sure to use a silk bonnet to protect your hair and style while you sleep.'
A lion's mane haircut like the one Serena Williams has here is absolute goals. 'It works really well for volume and complements the curls because of the shape', says Kimble, who notes this haircut is layered on top and long on the bottom. It's most fitting for type 3A to 4C hair. Just keep in mind: 'Don't make the layers too short or else it will look like a mullet.'
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