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How to Plop Hair With a T-shirt for Perfect Naturally Curly Hair

Do you ever see those girls walking down the street with gorgeous, effortless-looking curls? What if you could obtain those same results with just a few short steps?

The term is called hair plopping and it’s a game-changer for those with curly hair. Here, I’m gonna give it to you straight (or curly) on how to do it!

Profile of black women with curly hair with head tilted up.

What is Curly Hair Plopping?

Simply put, plopping is a heat-free drying technique that uses cloth (usually a t-shirt or microfiber towel) and products to create gorgeous, bouncy curls that are frizz-free.

LOC v LCO Method

Before the plopping process starts, many curly-haired girls use the LOC or LCO layering technique. Confused? Let me break it down.

The LOC method, is a moisturization layering technique where you first apply a liquid (oftentimes a leave-in conditioner), oil, and then a cream (usually a curl cream). This sequence traps moisture in your hair and keeps it hydrated for longer. If you have high to medium porosity hair, then this method may work well for you.

The LCO method stands for liquid (leave-in conditioner), curl cream, and oil. This method is used frequently in the natural hair community and helps you get moisture back into your natural curls since dehydrated locks can cause frizz. However, even if you do not have natural hair, you may still find this method works best depending on the porosity of your hair.

Close up of natural hair with lots of curl and texture.

It will take experimentation to find out which method your curls respond best to. To learn more about hair types and find out if you have low, medium, or high porosity, take this quiz.

One easy way to determine porosity is how quickly your hair dries. If it takes a few hours, and sometimes overnight, you may have high porosity. If it dries in a matter of minutes, it may be low porosity.

How to Plop Hair

  1. Shampoo and Condition in the shower as normal. With the conditioner still on, comb your hair.
  2. Once you get out of the shower, layer your hair products on by using either the LOC or LCO method.
  3. Get a t-shirt and lay it down on a flat surface, like your bathroom counter, with the neck hole facing the top of the counter.
  4. Flip your head upside down so your hair is dangling towards the ground. In the middle of the t-shirt or microfiber towel, gently ‘plop’ your hair in the middle of the shirt in an accordion pattern. This will ensure the integrity of the curl pattern stays.
  5. While still leaning over with your hair plopped, take your hands on each end of the bottom of the t-shirt and wrap it around the nape of your neck and behind your head, in a criss-cross. With one hand keeping the shirt at the nape of your neck secure, take your other hand to the collar of your shirt and bring it down to your neck.
  6. Bring the sleeves to the front of your face and tie the wrap. At this point, you can stand up and make any other adjustments as needed. Don’t worry if you have excess fabric, just tie it up and out of your way and adjust it as needed.That is it! Keep it wrapped like this for anywhere from 15-45 minutes for the drying process to complete so you can see your results.
  7. Optional: You can either let your curls completely air dry or use a diffuser to get even more defined curls. More on diffusing later.

How to Plop Hair FAQs

Woman with eyes closed and curly hair. Has a slight smile on her face.

How Long Does Hair Plopping Take?

It is totally up to you and different factors, like your hair type, length, and texture. You should leave your hair plopped for at least 15 -45 minutes, but some people choose to leave it overnight.

If you start with sopping wet hair, it will take longer to dry completely. However, if you wring the excess water out before plopping, it will cut down on the dry time.

The hair-plopping journey is unique to everyone and with some experimentation, you’ll be on your way to perfect curls in no time.

How Often Should You Plop Curly Hair?

You should plop your curly hair after every wash day. Since plopping does not cause heat damage, there is no harm in plopping until your heart is content.

When Is The Best Time To Plop Curly Hair?

Side profile of woman from the shoulders up, in shower with hands in her curly hair.

The best time to plop is right after washing and on wet hair. This allows you to work with wet curls, which can give you the results of tighter curls that don’t fall flat. It also cuts down on the drying time because you can multitask and do other things while your hair dries.

What are the Benefits?

Since curls are sensitive to heat, plopping is a great way to achieve natural curls that are defined and do not cause damage. It can also dramatically cut down on styling time due to the ability to multitask (win/win)!

Plopping does not require expensive or complicated tools, which can help with a more minimalist mindset when it comes to your beauty routine.

Can I Use a Regular Bath Towel?

No, you cannot. A regular bath towel that you use on your body can remove too much moisture from your hair. The tiny fibers in the towel can also pull on your strands of hair and create frizz. It is better to use one of the following:

  • Old t-shirt or fabric
  • Short sleeve t-shirt
  • Long sleeve t-shirt
  • Large cotton handkerchief
  • Microfiber towel
  • Any soft, cotton cloth, with extra material that you can use to wrap securely on top of your head
Women with a microfiber towel with her hair wrapped on top of her head.

If you have tried to plop hair in the past with a regular bath towel and have had lackluster results, try one of the above options to see if you have better results.

How Tight Should the Head Wrap Be

If your head wrap is on too tight, this can damage the curl pattern and cause frizzy hair. On the flip side, you want it secure enough that it maintains the curls and helps define them. It should feel secure and comfortable, but not overly tight and restricting.

Can I Diffuse at the End?

Yes, you absolutely can! The drying technique of diffusing has been used for decades by curly girls all around the world. If you don’t have at least an hour to completely plop your hair, and let it dry, diffusing for a few minutes can remove excess water from your hair and help speed up the drying time.

It just might be the perfect compromise for you depending on your time and how your hair responds.

Woman with black curly hair diffusing her hair.

Diffusing can also capture any straight strands that may have gotten left out of the microfiber towel or t-shirt.

What Products Do I Need to Achieve This Look?

You don’t need much to plop hair, but finding the right combination of products is key. Since everyone has different hair, it may take some experimenting to find what works for you.

At a minimum, you are going to want a leave-in conditioner, curl cream, and oil. See above for the order to put them in depending on your porosity and other factors.

Close up of woman with lilac purple nails, dropping some oil into your curly hair.

What Length of Hair is Best for Plopping?

You should have medium to long hair for success in plopping. It must be long enough to be wrapped up on top of your head, which keeps the curl pattern. Any extra length, beyond the middle of your back, may take longer to get your hair plopped.

Back of head with llong curly hair that is auburn in color.

What Types of Hair Work Best to be Plopped?

Naturally curly or wavy hair works best to plop because it already has a natural curl.

I’ve seen people who have seemingly straight hair, who plop their hair, and come out with amazing hidden curls! How amazing would that be?

Can You Plop If You Have Straight Hair?

Anyone can technically plop, but do not expect to achieve a tight, ringlet look if you have natural, straight, and fine hair. However, plopping may give you more volume and some waves that are still a great alternative to using heat.

Woman sitting in salon chair with a hairstylist looking at her straight hair.

How Wet Should My Hair Be When Plopping?

This depends on how porous your hair is. For some people, damp hair works best or some people have better luck with their hair being sopping wet. Excess moisture may keep the curls defined and not clump together.

What is Causing My Curls to be Frizzy?

Back of someone with bright red curly hair getting a haircut.

According to Healthline, frizz can be caused by many things. Anything from the weather to over-washing can contribute to frizz. Even split ends can cause hair to look frizzy and dull. So if you are struggling with frizz, consider getting a healthy trim to see if that helps your curls. Some people get trims every 4-6 weeks, depending on how fast their hair grows.

Is Hair Plopping Worth It?

Two black women with curly hair in beige silk dresses, giving a half smile.

Learning how to plop can be a revolutionary skill to learn and utilize. With only a handful of products and an old t-shirt, you can be well on your way to having less frizz and better curls. Bonus points: You can also enjoy a cup of coffee or maybe a Netflix episode, all while your beautiful curls are air drying to perfection.

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