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I’m a Dude—Can I Plop?

photo of man with curly hair

I spent over 30 years trying everything I could not to have curly hair. You name it, I tried it: flat ironing, relaxing, professional straightening treatments, cutting it all off. Hair damage aside, it wasn’t so bad—until it was. I was tired of running; doing all that to my hair day in, day out was a lot of work! And for what? To get caught in the rain and freak out because my hair curled back up? Enough was enough.

With some prodding from a few friends, some of whom just happened to be professional hairstylists and fellow beauty editors, I decided I needed to embrace my natural curls. But just deciding to do it was only the first step. I realized right away that after all those years spent trying not to have curly hair, I knew almost nothing about how to actually care for and style my curly hair.

I understood the basics, but putting it in practice was completely new to me. I had to change how often I washed my hair and what I used when I did. The heavy pomades and gels I used to control my hair before left my curls looking crispy or greasy. And I learned that air drying takes a very, very long time. It was during this period of re-learning that a friend sent me a YouTube video about how to plop hair. “Have you done this?” she asked me. I had not, but in the interest of curly haired men everywhere, I gave plopping hair a try.

Men's curly hair styles a how to

The author's hair before plopping.

My Experience With Plopping My Hair

For anyone not familiar with how to plop hair, it’s a pretty simple method for drying curly hair. Technically, you can plop at any time of day, as long as you have the time (depending on how long your hair is, it can take a while). I chose to shower at night and plop while sleeping. The idea of a minimal-effort styling routine that would allow me to wake up with perfect curls without waiting around for hours was just too enticing.

The basics of how to plop hair are pretty simple. You start with shampooing or cleansing your hair and then gently drying it using the scrunching method to get rid of excess water but leave it pretty damp. Most people gently brush it out at this stage, because most of the people you see plopping are women and have long hair (I used my fingers because my hair isn’t that long). Then apply a moisturizing product like Redken Curvaceous Ringlet Anti-Frizz Perfecting Hair Lotion or Mizani 25 Miracle Milk throughout the hair. Some people rake the product through with their hands followed by a scrunch and others just scrunch from the beginning, but you want to make sure the product is evenly distributed.

Then comes the hard part: the turban. Every plopping hair video seems to have a different technique, but the gist of it is to create a turban using a T-shirt. The T-shirt is important because the soft fabric is thought to dry curls without disrupting the curl pattern the way a classic terrycloth towel would. Spread the T-shirt on your bed and gently lower your head into the middle, hair first—this is also important because it will prevent your hair from matting against your head. Admittedly, this is difficult if your hair is not long. Secure the T-shirt on your head, so your hair is completely covered and then go to sleep. Theoretically, you’ll wake up with completely dried, defined curls that need minimal if any styling.

The first time I plopped, my turban slipped off during the night and I woke up with the hair on half my head sticking out like I’d been electrocuted. The second time I tried it, it worked—my curls were some of the best I’d ever seen them. To really test it, I plopped my hair a few more times and got mixed results. It could be that my hair is fairly short (longer on top and shorter on the sides) and that plopping is really best for those with long hair. But it could also be because plopping is an imperfect art that leaves a lot to chance. That’s the thing about curly hair; it does its own thing. You can try to control it as much as you want, but at some point, it’s going to resist. Did plopping hair give me perfect curls every single time? No way. But is it a tool in a larger toolbox I’ll pull out every once in a while? Absolutely.

Men's curly hair styles a how to

The author's hair after plopping.

How I Care For My Curly Hair

Plopping hair may not have become part of my daily hair routine, but it did teach me a valuable lesson: you can only try to control curly hair so much. Making sure it’s healthy and taking care of it properly is paramount and, for my curls, the styling comes second to hair health.

These days, my hair routine is deceptively simple. I wash my hair only once or twice a week to preserve the natural oils. When I do, I use a cleansing conditioner like Kérastase Discipline Curl Ideal Cleansing Conditioner or, if I need extra cleansing power, a curl-friendly shampoo like Matrix Total Results Curl Please Anti-Frizz Shampoo. I always follow a shampoo with a conditioner like Matrix Total Results Mega Sleek Frizz Control Conditioner to replenish moisture. I sometimes wet and condition my hair even on days I don’t wash it if my curls feel extra dry. Once a week, I use a hair mask like Shu Uemura Art of Hair Ultimate Reset Restorative Hair Mask to restore hydration and bounce to my strands.

The golden rule of finding curly hair products for men is to avoid anything that will weigh them down. When it comes to styling my curly hair, I’ve learned that less is definitely more. When it’s still damp, I spray in some Redken Brews Thickening Spray to help pump it up and then scrunch in a little bit of Redken Brews Liquid Matte Hair Paste to give my curls hold without crunch. These days I’m favoring air drying, which admittedly takes a while, but I’m okay with that. On days when I’m in a rush, I partially dry it with a diffuser attachment on a blow dryer and then let it air dry the rest of the way. I’ve noticed that leaving a little bit to nature usually gives me the best results.

And as for plopping? It was a fun experiment while it lasted. I’ll probably plop again, just to know I still can and to see what happens, but for now, my curls and I are doing just fine.

Interested in more advice about how to style curly hair for men? Use our salon locator to book an appointment at a salon near you.

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