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I’ve you’ve never plopped your curly hair before, or you're not sure how to plop hair, you’re about to have a freakin’ transcendent experience. I’m not kidding. Plopping is a drying technique that enhances and preserves wet curls while minimizing frizz/flyaways as they dry, and it can be one of the easiest and biggest game-changing hacks for types 2c to 3b hair (got looser 2b or tighter 3c hair? Don’t worry—there’s plopping modifications for you here too).
And no, I'm not overselling this. Like, when I started plopping my 2c/3a hair, my fine, thin curls were suddenly drying with major volume, definition, and consistency. Truly magical. The only caveat? Plopping can take a bit of practice and experimenting first (think: a few weeks of trial and error), but I promise the results are worth the annoyance. So to help you get started on how to plop hair, I've broken down the exact instructions, tips, and—yup—video tutorials you'll need for your hair type. Prepare for some really excellent curls.
What is curly hair plopping?
Plopping is a technique that uses a cotton T-shirt (or pillowcase, or microfiber towel) to dry your wet curls in a self-contained mound on top of your head, helping to increase definition and cut down on frizz. Basically, it's the curly-approved alternative to twisting a towel around your head.
Why is plopping better than the ol' twisted-towel situation? Welp, because when you wrap and twist your curls in a towel, they get stretched out (from the twisting) and frizzy (from your rough, nubby towel). Plopping, however, keeps your wet curls compact and scrunched, accordion-style, on the top of your head, so your roots stay volumized, your curls stay clumped, and your hair cuticle stays smooth (thanks to the soft cotton fabric). Here's a brief visual:
Does plopping work on all hair types?
No, plopping won't give you curls if you don't already have curls (or a tight wave pattern). If you have wavy, almost-curly hair (think: type 2c), plopping can help your waves clump together better and look more defined, so it's definitely worth trying out to see how your hair responds. And if it plopping doesn't work for your waves, don't worry—there's a modification option below.
Similarly, plopping also doesn't work well on super-tight coils or type-4 hair, since it tends to trap in moisture and extend the drying process, along with running a high risk of creating tangles and fairy knots by requiring your hair to be scrunched and flipped. That's not to say it's impossible for certain 3c or 4a hair types to get good plopping results, but in general, plopping seems to work best on 2c, 3a, and 3b hair types.
Which brings us to...
How to plop hair
So, there are a few variations on how you can plop your hair, depending on what your hair type is and what you're using (i.e., a T-shirt, a microfiber towel, or a pillowcase). I've tried all three, and I've found the easiest method with the best, most consistent results to come from using a T-shirt—specifically, a giant long-sleeved one.
So with that in mind, here's how to plop curly hair (keep scrolling for how to plop wavier hair and curlier hair, though you can always start with this original plopping method first, since it often works surprisingly well):
How to plop with a T-shirt (my fav)
1. Get yourself a big T-shirt. The unofficial favorite pick of the internet? An XXL long-sleeve cotton T-shirt (I use this Soffe Men’s Shirt for the low, low price of $10. Whattup).
2. Before you hop in the shower, lay your T-shirt upside down—i.e., with the sleeves and neck hole closest to you—on either your bathroom counter, a chair, or on top of your toilet lid (hey, I did this throughout college, and I'm fine).
3. After showering and applying your stylers (specifically the stylers you'd usually use on your sopping-wet hair, like leave-in conditioner or gel), flip your wet hair over and onto the center of the T-shirt, pressing your head down on the curls like an accordion.
4. With your head/hair still upside down, grab the end of the shirt furthest from your head and fold it over your hair/head (so it’s touching the nape of your neck and completely covering your hair). Think of it like creating a little folded bag around your curls.
5. While holding the edges of the shirt at the nape of your neck, grab at the sleeves near your forehead and twist them together to tighten the "bag" around your head.
6. Wrap the twisted sleeves around your head and tie them in place to keep the shirt from sliding or falling off. If you look like you're wearing some sort of wet helmet, then congrats—you did it correctly.
Once you flip your head back over, all of your curls will stay perfectly nestled on top of your head like a bunch of compressed Slinkies, allowing them to dry in their natural formation, untouched by gravity, humidity, or the roughness of a towel. Which means by the time you unwrap the shirt, your curls will have already started to dry with better definition and volume, without any of the frizz.
How to plop wavy hair (or fine hair)
A common plopping complaint is that fine hair—especially fine, wavy hair—is left looking squashed, flattened, and chaotic. If you've tried your best with the original method and you know it's not working for you, try the slinky method.
This tutorial from FitKat Style shows a plopping modification for fine hair, waves, or loose curls. Essentially, you just blot your hair with an open hand (and T-shirt) to help create and define your waves without any of the weird crimping, creasing, or bending that can come from plopping. It's super easy, and all you need is your normal T-shirt or microfiber towel.
How to plop tighter curls (3b/3c)
Okay, this one sounds wild, but certain curl types—especially tighter curl types—have had awesome results from this modification. Net plopping involves plopping your hair with fishnet stockings (!) before diffusing your hair. Why can this work? Because it keeps your curls from getting smushed like with regular plopping, and it also creates more airflow within your hair while diffusing.
Note: Net plopping won't completely dry your hair (especially your roots), but it'll help encourage major curl definition early in the process, which can be especially helpful for low-density, fine curls. The method was originally inspired by content creator Penny Tovar, who used a wig cap, but was then popularized by HiF3licia, who experimented with fishnets instead.
Out of all the plopping methods, this one is definitely experimental—but still worth trying!—and tends to work best if you stretch the fishnets out first (literally stick 'em on your legs to really widen the net).
How long do you plop your hair?
There's really no right or wrong answer here—some people only plop for 5-10 minutes, some people plop for 15-20, others plop for an hour, and some swear by plopping overnight while they sleep. How long you plop your hair depends on your hair type, length, porosity, and lifestyle, so this is one of those time's where experimentation is a requirement (as you can clearly tell by now).
I've personally found that plopping my fine, low-porosity curls for 15-20 minutes is the sweet spot for encouraging definition and soaking up just enough excess water. Anything over 20 minutes dries my curls a bit too much, making it hard to add products afterward without risking frizz or messing with my curl pattern. I've also tried plopping overnight, and found that—as is a common complaint—my hair stayed too damp and eventually made my scalp itchy (dandruff/yeast growth loves damp scalps).
More hair-plopping tutorials
Listen, as you should know by now, what works for one person's curly hair may not work for yours—and plopping is no different. While the standard long-sleeve plopping method works amazingly well for my 2c/3a curls, you may get better results from a short-sleeve T-shirt, or a microfiber towel, or some other technique you make up yourself.
Still, to get you started with zero excuses or hesitations, check out these additional tutorials below, and get ready to have really freaking awesome curls.
How to plop with a short-sleeve T-shirt
How to plop with a towel
And yes, please feel free to DM me your happiness afterward.
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