My Top 10 Wavy and Curly Hair Essentials

Despite the fact that the majority of people I know tend to have some sort of wave or curl to their hair (whether they admit it or not), there is still not a ton of knowledge to be found in one place for curly-haired people. And because every single curly has his or her own unique curl type that seems to have its own personality, it can be even more difficult to sift through curly hair resources to find information that is pertinent to you. It’s no wonder that so many curlies have resorted to using a straightener every single day. While I enjoy and appreciate straight hair (even for myself on occasion), I am a firm believer in embracing your waves and curls! Since discovering my waves once I hit puberty, it has been an uphill battle to find the products and techniques that work on my wavy curls. While I don’t think the journey will ever end, I feel confident in my research and experience that I have found a nice list of essentials that my curls could not do without.

It’s important to note that while these things work for me, they may not work for you and your curl type. If you’re going by the Curly Girl method, I have 3B/2C/2B curls and waves–somewhere between “wavy curvy,” “wavy whirly,” and “curly twirly.” Yes, it’s totally normal to have multiple curl types on one head. When I was in late elementary/early middle school, my best friend Chrissy always called my curls “wavy woos.” I think it works well. Even though you may not have the same hair type as me, a lot of these essentials can still apply to other wavys and curlies. While pricey and time-consuming, the best thing you can do for your curls is just to try different products and techniques until you find something that works. (And often times, you’ll continually have to adjust this routine as time goes on and your pattern evolves.)

Without further ado, here are my top 10 wavy curly hair essentials. Be sure to scroll to the bottom to enter in a very special curly giveaway!

My Top 10 Wavy and Curly Hair Essentials

1. Curly Girl: The Handbook (2nd edition)

If there was one “manual” out there that I would recommend for curlies, it would be this. Written by the fabulous Lorraine Massey, this book outlines in detail the various curl types, best hair cut techniques, recommended products for each texture, recipes for homemade treatments, and more. I received this book back in high school and it changed my understanding and perspective of curly hair dramatically. I’ve read another handbook of sorts (Curl Talk by Ouidad) and while it was informative, I still much prefer the CG Handbook and revisit it whenever I’m in a curly hair rut. And if you’re a curly girl, you know that happens cyclically and it’s important to have a go-to to rely on. (Stick around to the end of the post for an opportunity to win your own copy!)

Curly Girl The Handbook is my #1 Wavy and Curly Hair Essentialvia

2. A Curly Hair Artist/Stylist

A few months ago, I talked about my extremely positive experience with the lovely Kelly Elaine Inc., a specialized curly hair salon in Pittsburgh. Kelly and Victoria have been instrumental in making my curls more manageable and beautiful. Once you find a stylist who truly understands curly hair, you can finally relax when you go to the salon! Kelly recommends you look for a stylist who is part of Curly Hair Artistry. Founded by Scott Musgrave, this group of talented stylists regularly train and learn about curly hair cutting and styling techniques. Click here for a current Global Stylist Listing. Before you get a cut, ask your stylist if he or she cuts curls dry and what education they have to get a good feel of how they might work with your own curls. Read more of my interview with Kelly for more tips and advice for finding your perfect curly hair artist.

A Custom Curly Hair Cut and Review Kelly Elaine Inc


In addition to having the Curly Girl Handbook, it’s equally as important to have a place to turn to for articles, product reviews, and forums. is one of my favorite resources to consult regularly. I mostly use it to look up products I come across at Target or see online and it is really helpful to see reviews from others who have the same curl type as you. You can also look up salons in your area that are “curly hair certified” and read reviews on them. You may have seen my review of Kelly Elaine, Inc. back in 2011 on there! There’s also some pretty cool giveaways and testimonials to check out.

4. Your Holy Grail Products

I am of the belief that you may never find your “holy grail” products, but you’re in luck if you come relatively close. For me, these products have changed over time, but right now I have had the most consistent results with the DevaCurl products. Here’s what I’m using these days:

In the Shower

Raked Through Soaking Wet Hair and then Scrunched Gently

I’m hoping to do a more detailed post about styling in the future, but this is the trickiest area when it comes to curls. Some curlies can achieve perfect coils with mousse and hairspray, while others require carefully distributed creams and gels. There is a big debate when it comes to ingredients, but typically try to avoid sulfates, parabens, and silicones–although not all silicones and other “no-nos” are bad for certain curls. I’ve been a huge fan of Curls Rock by Tigi (the original blue pump, not the new black pump) in the past and it is full of silicones. Trial and effort, people!

Tip: Don’t give up on a product until you’ve tried it both on soaking wet and towel-dried hair. I have had the best luck with soaking wet hair right out of the shower, but this may not work with certain products.

5. A Microfiber Towel

Please note that while I am recommending a towel, I am NOT recommending you pile your hair in it and wear it as a turban. This will promote frizz and disrupt your curl pattern greatly! Instead, I am recommending a smooth, absorbent towel (i.e. microfiber, not terry cloth) to use for scrunching out excess moisture. For me, this is the last step in the styling process before heat drying. For some of you, this may be before you apply products. Again, try out variations and see what works best for you.

6. A Diffuser Attachment

If you aren’t using a diffuser to blow dry your hair and you’re not getting frizz, you MUST spill your secrets. While I think air drying is very important, sometimes most often there is not enough time to wait three hours for your hair to dry (I’m not even exaggerating with how much hair I have.) AND I achieve more bounce factor when applying heat. To illustrate, check out this Instagram from a few months ago:

The Difference a Diffuser Makes on Wavy Curls@themodernausten

While I am actually on the search for a new diffuser, I have found that I’ve had the best luck with diffusers that have prongs to reach into the roots of your hair, rather than just the bell-shaped or “sock” variations. I’ll report back when I find some good options.

Tip: Don’t start using heat until your hair has partially dried on its own. I usually style my hair right out of the shower and then go get dressed, put on makeup, etc. before finishing up. Keep your hair dryer on low while using the diffuser to prevent frizz.

7. Metal Hair Clips

Curly hair can often be weighed down while wet, especially with product loaded in. Clip up your roots using sturdy metal clips like these to achieve lift and to help the drying process move faster. Try to clip your roots in a rainbow pattern, as Kelly demonstrates here.

Using Metal Clips to Achieve Lift at the Roots for Curly Hair

I used to swear by the “plopping” method for lifted roots, but I find I have a little more control with clips. I still think plopping* is a great option when you need to get hair out of your way or if you really need to take a nap or lay down in between styling and drying time.

*Plopping is using a t-shirt to pile your hair on top of your head, wearing the neck of the shirt as a “headband” and tying the sleeves together to hold it all in. It elevates the hair to provide volume and lift and discourages playing or messing with your hair, a common culprit of frizz and loose texture. (You know we’re close when I’m willing to “plop” my hair in front of you!)

8. A Hair Buff

I have the worst second (and third) day hair ever when it comes to my curls. Some curlies are lucky and their curl pattern gets better or less frizzy as days pass. My hair, unfortunately, looses its curl after a long day and it’s a big stringy mess after it’s been laid on at night. Things like “pineappling” haven’t been effective for me either, though they may work great for others. So far, the closest I’ve come to success has been because I used a Buff at night. Here, one of Kelly’s clients demonstrates the best way to use a hair buff for night-time to ensure great second (or third) day hair.

Even though I’m still fine-tuning the process, I still love using my half-sized Buff for all sorts of things! It functions as the best workout headband I’ve ever owned because it doesn’t fall off and it can be adjusted to take care of those shorter pieces of hair that fall out of my messy bun. Additionally, it’s perfect for keeping my hair out of my face when I’m doing my makeup, cleaning up around the house, or just need it out-of-the-way. Every time I wear it, I think how much more effective it would’ve been to wear a Buff during Girl Scouts back in the day rather than wearing a bandana while around the fire pit!

It comes in two sizes (I wear the half version, but if my hair was past my shoulders, I probably would’ve gotten the full size).  Kelly thinks one of you might want a Buff too…keep scrolling!

9. A Wide-Tooth Comb

Throw away all of your combs and brushes. The only comb you need is a cheap wide-tooth comb (preferably with a handle) that you can find at the dollar store. The trick? You’ll ONLY use this in the shower when you apply your conditioner. (Some of you may use it to distribute product, too, but I haven’t found this to work well for me, as I have to many waves prone to pulling straight with brushes and combs.)

10. A Spray Bottle

It seems silly to put a spray bottle on this list when you could so easily splash and scrunch water on your hair to revive it, but a spray bottle will do a much better job at distributing the moisture and minimize the amount of interfering you’ll do with your hands. Spritz your hair when you need a little pick-me-up or make your own spray gel to evenly distribute gel during styling.

What would you add to this list, curly guys and girls? Share you top picks in the comments below!

A special surprise

Wavy and Curly Hair Essentials Giveaway

Because Kelly Elaine Inc. is so incredibly awesome, Kelly has given me the opportunity to reward two of my curliest readers! We already gave away two product kits a few months ago, and now it is time to give away two of my favorite essentials!

Prize #1: Curly Girl: The Handbook (2nd Edition) – valued at $13.95

Prize #2: Original Full Buff – valued at $20

Giveaway is open to Continental U.S. residents only. Winners’ entries will be verified and contacted via email. First winner randomly chosen will have the choice between the two prizes. Giveaway runs from 12/11- 12/18 at midnight. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclaimer: Kelly graciously provided me these items to giveaway in exchange for the review I posted a few months ago. This post contains affiliate links. Thanks for supporting the brands that make The Modern Austen possible!

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Hi! I'm Marissa. I'm a twenty-something dedicated to living life positively, sharing inspiration, developing my best self, and dressing the part. You can find me diving into a good book, looking for the ideal swing dancing partner, swooning over fabulous typography, or doing something ridiculous for blog's sake.

40 thoughts on “My Top 10 Wavy and Curly Hair Essentials”

  1. This post was really detailed and thorough. As a curly girl, these are definitely things that I think about and do on a regularly basis but have never thought through in such an organized manner. You did a great job! Since all of us have different curls and different methods, when you do your post about how you style your hair, would you want to do it as a collaboration? I could do a post about how I style my hair? And maybe we could find a few other curly bloggers to chime in? I don’t want to steal your thunder since this was your idea but let me know if this interests you. I would love to see how others are doing their hair!

    1. Whitney, I LOVE this idea! Let’s start “combing” (ahh, see what I did there?!) through our favorite blogs and find some curly girls who might be interested. I don’t really have a good ETA for when I’ll be ready to do a tutorial (I really don’t know where or how I would film it or take pictures of it), but this would be good motivation for me to figure it out. We’ll talk more soon! Thanks for the kind words :)

  2. I agree with Whitney, this was really through. My hair has gotten less and less wavy as my hormones have changed over the years, but I still swear by my diffuser.

  3. I read the Curl Girl Handbook a few years ago and it was a game changer!

    I’ve never heard of the hair buff, but will definitely plan on trying one since my curls are so flat by the second day! I’ve also started using bumble & bumble curl defining creme and its not perfect, but I’m getting closer to the ultimate curl concoction.

      1. I have a mix of 3A/3B underneath and 2B on top. If you do try the curl creme definitely start off small amount because it can be quite heavy for thinner top curls. The first time I used it I ended up with a big, greasy mess!

  4. Wow. Sounds super complicated. I’m glad my hair is fairly straight! I’m glad you have the tools to make yours look as good as it does on a daily basis!

    1. Isn’t it amazing? I can’t believe I went so long without one. It really makes you wonder what they cover during trainings and how they explain curly hair since too many stylists don’t know what they’re doing.

  5. I would love to share curly tips and tricks with my pre-teen. She needs help understanding proper hair care and why her hair needs special treatment compared to her straight-haired sister. She doesn’t like to listen to her “mom”, of course. I think a mother-daughter day at Kelly’s may be just the trick to find some curly-headed common ground.

  6. Thank you thank you thank you! Because I’ve had such bad luck with drying my hair, I air dry my hair 365 days if the year…in the freezing cold some days. I have the curliest of curls that go unruly & frizzy at the first sign of humidity. I’m pretty brave when it comes to trying new hairstyles so I would love any tips or tools to get me out of my current curly hair rut!!!

    1. Oh Cynthia, I feel you! Finding the right products and style is key and I know how daunting that task can be! I definitely encourage you to visit and check out the tips on hair that’s in the 3c-4c range.

  7. I’ve never heard of the buff! Or the book. Excited to try new things with my new adoption of being a curly-haired girl!

  8. hi marissa, this is a great follow up post to an email you sent me a while ago about your hair techniques, so i’m so glad you took the time to compile it! i recently got a copy of the curly girl handbook from the library and purchased the deva curl no poo and have used it a couple times, but immediately became frustrated when my hair didn’t magically air dry with perfectly formed curls. a part of me hoped it would – but i know my head was in the clouds! it’s hard to know what i did wrong/right or what to try next. i think i need to get a diffuser – and even though they aren’t terribly expensive, it’s hard knowing what to spend the money on if i may never figure out a process that works to get my hair to look curly! ah, i’m sure you’ve heard and experienced all this before though. thanks for the great giveaway though – i did enter just as it would be great to have a copy of the book on hand to reference regularly.

    1. I should have been more upfront about the no poo! Simply using No Poo won’t magically bring out my curls (sadly!)–it mostly just helps with moisture and making sure you’re not stripping your hair of what it needs to avoid frizz but still cleansing. Definitely make sure you’re using gel and a diffuser to form curls (and don’t comb your hair after leaving the shower). It’s such an exhausting period of trial and error, but finding a curly stylist REALLY helps you identify what works/doesn’t.

      1. i did recently buy a hair dryer with a diffuser, and i liked the way my hair looked after using it to dry my hair after a shower one night, but the problem is i like to shower at night, so after sleeping on it it the curls kind of flattened by the next morning (the picture in the far right here). whomp whomp. i am going to buy some new gel (the stuff i have is so old) and keep experimenting with it though. i’m just trying not to be discouraged that my hair doesn’t look the way i want it to after diffusing (it doesn’t have as much volume as i’d like; it just feels and looks flat). either way, thanks for motivating me to embrace my naturally curly hair!

  9. First off, I like that Naturally Curl labels the curly hair types! I found that interesting. I’m both 2A and 2B. Secondly, wow!! Lots of fantastic advice! I’ve been using a microfiber towel for the past few months and it’s made such a difference! I blow dried my hair once years ago and it was a complete disaster! Hermione hair! I’ve never tried using a diffuser because I’m lazy and just air dry my hair (I take showers at night), but maybe I should! Thanks for this great giveaway!

    1. The texture types were really enlightening for me too! I’ve totally been there with the Hermione hair, that’s for sure. I can’t shower at night because my hair will get flat or frizzy or crazy if I slept on it, sadly.

  10. This was such a wonderful and thorough post. I do not have curly hair, but am so envious of people who can maintain a curl. I would love to win this for my mom. She has curly hair and is constantly in a battle with it. I think this giveaway would be a great asset for her!


    1. Hey Chelsea! Thanks for taking the time to comment. I hope you will share this post with your mom in hopes that she finds ways to combat the craziness of curls. And perhaps the book could make a great gift in the future!

  11. Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant!! I’ve bookmarked this post for future reference!! My hair is kinda stuck between wavy and straight so I have to work at it to get any kind of decent style, this post is super useful, thanks :)

  12. I loved this post, Marissa! I loooooove curly hair, and now that I’m growing mine out, I can’t wait to style it curly more often! I definitely have noticed a difference when I’ve used a diffuser vs. letting it air dry, so I will absolutely be buying a diffuser (you’re right, the ones with prongs work much better than the “sock” variety) to encourage my curls/waves to be bouncier and fuller.

  13. Thank you for this! I just came across it, but I loved the section on finding a surly hair stylist. I’m planning on going to one for my next haircut (just waiting for some payments to come in so I can afford it), and I’m excited to see what difference that makes with my hair.

  14. My hair is almost dead on your curl pattern! 2b/2c/3a here. I call my hair wurly because that’s the closest thing I can say that explains it.

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