People always say you want what you can’t have. It’s true for kids about toys and lots of men and women about lovers, but it’s also almost always applicable to those who love experimenting with gorgeous hairstyles but have straight hair with zero curls or waves.
Having curly hair is a dream for many. However, perms are not. Perms have a bad reputation for making your hair dry, frizzy, and high-maintenance.
So sometimes, even the most perfect curls and coils aren’t worth it. Luckily, getting a perm isn’t the only way you can sport beautiful curls if you have straight hair.
Even if you don’t have naturally curly hair, there are lots of ways you can achieve great curls, whether you want them perfectly defined or more loose and effortless.
Here are my favorite pointers on how to get curly hair without a perm.
Why Choosing Not To Get A Perm Has Its Benefits
A perm is exactly what it sounds like – a chemical process done to your hair to make it curly permanently, or at least for a long time.
They’re done with solutions and chemicals that open up your hair cuticles and penetrate your hair fibers.
This causes your strands to swell and curve, giving them a curl.
Perms are best done on virgin hair that has never been dyed or chemically processed before.
This is because although perming solutions don’t strip your hair of healthy proteins the way bleach or hydrogen peroxide does, it still contains harsh chemicals that can damage your locks, leaving them dehydrated and frizzy.
This happens because perming solutions alter the structure and composition of your hair.
And though perms are meant to last around six months to a year, the potential damage in your hair is irreversible.
Plus, since perming solutions contain potent and super strong chemicals, they could end up hurting your health too.
When inhaled, they could cause nausea.
And if the solution accidentally makes contact with your sensitive skin on the scalp, it can cause itching, rashes, or even chemical burns.
In short, you come into the salon for smooth curls but could end up with dry, poofy hair.
That’s why many people don’t even consider getting a perm.
It might kill off the vitality of their hair, so they opt for other options that allow them to flaunt curly locks, but without chemicals touching their mane.
How To Get Curly Hair Without A Perm
Here are some of the ways that you can get those ringlets without doing a perm:
Create perfect curls with your favorite heat-styler
The fastest and most efficient way to get curly hair is by grabbing your favorite heat styling appliance.
It’s super convenient because you don’t have to wash your hair or wait overnight to get your curls (like most of the other suggestions in this post).
Plus, it only takes 15 minutes tops to curl all your tresses!
But it’s important to remember that heat isn’t always the best thing for your hair.
High temperatures can strip your hair of moisture, leaving it dry and brittle.
So, even if it’s tempting to flaunt perfect curls every day, try not to use your hot tools daily.
If you must, always use a heat protectant first.
The easiest way to make ringlets in your hair with heat is by using a curling wand.
The size of the barrel matters a lot because it dictates the tightness of your curls.
If you want Shirley Temple curls that are small and springy, use a 1-inch barrel.
If you prefer loose, soft curls, go for a 1.5-inch one.
The trick is to hold your curling wand vertically while pointing it down to the floor. Then, wrap your hair around the wand, hold for 5-10 seconds, and let go.
Catch the curled hair in your palm and shake it out gently to help cool it down faster.
If you’re more comfortable with a flat iron, there is a way to get curly hair with that too.
First, get a section of hair and clamp your iron down near the roots.
Slide the iron down as if you were straightening your hair.
Then, right where you want the curl to start, flick your wrist to twist the iron in a 180-degree turn.
Then, pull the iron straight down.
When you let go, your hair should have a defined curl.
Curl your hair in different directions so that your locks don’t blend and stick together.
It will look more natural if some sections are curled away from the face while others go inward.
When you’re all done heat-styling your entire mane, carefully shake out your hair with your fingers to break up the curls that are too stiff and rigid.
You can also use your favorite hairspray to lock in your curls and have them last all day.
Go for traditional Velcro rollers
When you hear Velcro rollers, you probably picture your grandmother on her vanity way back in the 60s or 70s.
Sure, they’re old school, but they were all the rage decades ago for a reason.
Overnight rollers are amazing for getting those glamorous, voluminous curls that were coveted back in the day.
Plus, because they don’t use any heat, they’re great for keeping your healthy hair damage-free.
This is one of the best ways to curl your hair if you have damaged, chemically processed locks.
They’re also super simple to use.
Just apply your favorite mousse to damp and detangled hair and roll up each Velcro roller in a section of your hair.
Then, hit the hay for the night and wake up to retro waves a la Farrah Fawcett.
There might be a bit of a learning curve to using Velcro rollers if it’s your first time.
But if your grandma got the hang of it then, what’s stopping you from mastering it now?
Use styling products that can enhance your natural wave
Many people think they have straight yet frizzy hair all their life and only realize their mane has a natural wave or curl when they use curl-enhancing products for the first time.
There are styling products like creams, serums, jellies, and gels that are formulated especially for encouraging your natural curl to show up.
This is how many women discover that their hair has a slight curl after all.
And these products do more than just bring out your curls.
They also add more definition to them.
You’ll often find these products filled to the brim with moisturizing ingredients as well, since curly hair is known to be dry and need extra hydration.
If you want to fight frizz while feeding your hair the intense moisture it’s craving, try using the Cantu Avocado Curl Activator Cream.
It’s a cult favorite in the curly hair world for its power to enhance your natural wave or curl while making your hair more voluminous.
The formula of this cream is amazing for dehydrated hair that needs extra love too.
All these work together to define your curl better, keep frizz at bay, and quench the thirst of your thirsty, dehydrated locks.
But if you want something a little bit lighter than a cream, you can opt for a gel.
One of my favorites to use is the dippity-do Girls With Curls Gelée.
The main mission of this gel is to bring out your curls and waves but keep them looking and feeling natural.
A little goes a long way with this gel.
You need only a small amount to scrunch it into your entire head.
Since it offers a light hold, it leaves the hair super smooth and with no crunch.
It also smells super good, so you’re sure to get compliments on your scent in addition to your lovely, defined curls!
Finger coil when styling your locks
When using a leave-in conditioner or curling cream, you can scrunch your hair for natural-looking curls or take it a step further by finger coiling.
This is the act of wrapping your locks around your fingers to achieve the perfect Goldilocks curls.
The finger-coiling technique does have huge pros and cons.
Yeah, you have to sacrifice a lot of time and patience to curl every lock of hair around your finger.
But you reap an amazing benefit: it makes hair with even the smallest wave look super curly and defined.
Wash and detangle your hair and apply your curling cream while the locks are still damp.
Then, take a half-inch section of hair and start twisting it around your finger, as close to the roots as you can.
Then, gently pull the lock of hair out of your finger.
Try to twist the hair with your fingers as you go so that you can hold the curl better.
Repeat the process in small sections until you’ve done your entire head of hair.
From there, let your hair air-dry.
You’ll have the perfect doll-like curls that everyone will be jealous of.
Try a sea salt spray for loose waves
Have you ever wondered why your hair gets thicker and curlier when you go to the beach?
That’s because of the salty breeze in the air.
Sea salt is amazing for boosting volume and bringing out your underlying curl pattern.
Luckily, you don’t have to go to the beach just to get those loose, sultry waves.
You can simply use a sea salt spray before you head out the door for the day.
Because sea salt sprays have a medium or flexible hold, your hair will still feel soft after you use it.
There will likely be zero crunch – just beautiful curls that look sexy and natural.
One of the best sea salt sprays I’ve tried is the Bumble and Bumble Surf Spray.
This spray volumizes your hair to give you that matte, tousled look you only get from the beach.
It contains Epsom salts that give your hair that curly texture, plus seaweed extracts that soften the hair and boost elasticity and shine.
The latter also helps tame frizz and flyaways, so you can sport smooth curls all day long.
The cruelty-free formula is free of parabens, phthalates, and formaldehyde.
Just spritz this sea salt spray into your damp hair.
Don’t forget to flip your hair over and spray the underside of your head too, near the nape of your neck.
Scrunch upward with your hands or a towel.
The scrunching motion will encourage clumps and curls to firm, giving you a more defined texture later on.
Sleep in hairstyles that will give you curls in the morning
The most low-maintenance way to achieve curls without getting a perm is by sleeping in styles that are sure to give you fab curls when you wake up the next day.
Before going to sleep, dampen your hair by spraying some water into it.
You don’t want it sopping wet – just a little bit damp.
This will help it retain the curl longer when you take the hairstyle out in the morning.
Then, you can put it in the hairstyle you want.
An easy one is a bun.
Tie your hair high on your head if you want bodied, voluminous curls that start at the root.
For a softer, more romantic curl that starts at the mid-lengths, tie the bun by your nape.
Another hairstyle that’s popular for heatless curls is braiding.
Split your hair down the middle and do a simple French braid on each side before bed.
When you wake up, you’ll have effortless curls.
However, note that braids can sometimes make your hair look more crimped than curled.
A more modern take on overnight braids that gives you the perfect curl each time is the scarf technique.
It’s similar to braids, but gets you looser, bigger curls that are more defined.
Divide your hair down the middle.
Then, roll a silk scarf so that it takes on a rope shape, and put it on top of your head so that the rope falls on the sides of your face, like pigtails.
Start with one side of the hair.
Split that section into two smaller locks and place the scarf between them.
Twist one lock of hair around the scarf, and then add the other section into the twist, combining the two locks.
Continue twisting your hair into the scarf until you get to the bottom and secure it with a scrunchie.
Then, do the same thing to the other side of your head.
When you wake up, gently pull out the scrunchies and scarf and admire your seamlessly smooth curls.
And there you have it – my top tips and tricks on how to get curly hair without a perm.
We’ve seen that it’s possible to get those beautiful curls you’ve always wanted, without committing to a perm that can damage your hair and end up giving you super fried and frizzy locks.
Sure, none of these methods will give you curly locks permanently, but at least you get to experience fab ringlets in your hair even just for a day.
Encouraging your hair to get curly isn’t the easiest thing in the world to do.
But with a terrific hair tool arsenal of curling wands and Velcro rollers, and a knack for shopping for high-quality styling creams and leave-in conditioners, you’ll be well on your way to getting great spirals.