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How to Plop Your Hair

How to Plop Your Hair

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By  Amy Elisa Jackson

We love a wet look, but sometimes you may want to switch up your style or curly hair routine. When transitioning hair, remember that air drying may not always work for your timeline and you may prefer the look of styling products when applied to damp hair. The way you dry your hair can affect its style and its health. Like protective hairstyles for natural hair, “plopping,” a term coined by curlies and coilies, is a curl-friendly solution to drying hair without heat. Here’s what you need to know when it comes to how to plop curly hair. 

What is Plopping? 

Curly hair plopping is an alternative to drying hair with a traditional nubby, terry cloth towel which unintentionally increases frizz, roughens the texture of your hair and stretches out curls due to the twisting. Plopping is performed with a t-shirt, microfiber towel, or pillowcase to reduce friction on the hair cuticle. Curls are surrounded by the smoother fabric and scrunched so that curls retain their natural pattern. 

How Does Plopping Help My Hair? 

Moisture retention is crucial for anyone with a curly hair type and during the styling process, it’s important not to disrupt the curl pattern. Plopping hair helps curls retain more moisture by using smoother, less absorbent fabrics to lightly dry the hair before the styling process begins. Because the hair doesn’t go through a “twisting” or “wringing” process and isn’t impacted by the friction of a rough towel, it reduces the friction on the hair and allows curls to keep their natural curl clumps and patterns. Also, using a t-shirt or towel provides an alternative option to heat drying, which when done excessively, can eventually begin to damage hair. You can also use plopping in conjunction with diffusing and blow drying to reduce the amount of heat necessary to completely dry the hair. 

How Long Should I Plop My Hair? 

As with most topics involving curly, coily, tight, and wavy hair, there’s no one correct length of time that you should plop hair. It can depend on your hair porosity or density. If you have a ton of hair, it may require more time to fully dry. If you have very high porosity hair, your hair may dry very quickly. 

Here are a few tactics to try: 

  • Plop your hair for 10 – 20 minutes then diffuse or air dry until you’re satisfied
  • Plop your hair until it is completely dry
  • Hair plopping overnight to wake up with damp or dry hair

If you normally air dry your hair, knowing the difference between plopping results and air dry results may help you determine what works best for you. With air drying, you may end up with more elongated stretched curls as water weighs down hair. Whereas, plopping hair strands may create tighter curls. Also, do you like curl definition? Applying a styling product to damp hair after plopping may create more defined curls as opposed to putting a styling product on soaking wet hair that may dilute the product. However, you may find that you like the volume created by a softer hold and a little friendly frizz. What you should choose is entirely based on personal preference and how you define perfect curls. 

How to Plop Your Hair with a T-Shirt or Microfiber Towel

First, begin by washing your hair with a shampoo and conditioner for natural hair. Once you have clean, hydrated hair, there are two techniques to plopping curly hair. We’ll call them “The Scrunch” and “The Hands-Free”.

The Scrunch 

This hair plopping approach will help your curls find their natural shape and retain their curl clumps. We recommend using a microfiber towel for curly hair, a smooth hair towel designed to be gentle on curls. If you don’t have one, an old cotton t-shirt or pillowcase can also do the trick.

Try this approach: 

  1. Start with wet hair and apply your curl cream and other styling products.
  2. Loosely wrap your old t-shirt or microfiber towel around your hair.
  3. Then scrunch the hair, still covered in the microfiber towel, in your fists as if you were scrunching in styling products. 

The Hands-Free

If you would like to dry your hair for a little longer, you may want to go hands-free. Plopping with this styling technique is a twist on the classic “towel turban.” 

Try this plopping method: 

  1. Lay your microfibre towel or a cotton t-shirt out on a table, bed, or chair. 
  2. Apply your natural hair care products and natural hair styling products per usual to wet hair.
  3. Tilt your hair forward, lay your hair into the towel in an accordion-like pattern to emphasize your natural curl pattern. The hair at the nape of your neck should smoothly be pulled forward. 
  4. Fold the tee or towel over your hair so that it now completely covers your hair from the hairline to the nape of your neck.
  5. Lift your head up (hair should almost be in a little bag); tie the tee’s sleeves or microfiber towel at the front of your head to create a little headwrap or helmet. If it stays, you did it correctly! 

This allows you to do other things while you dry for a longer period of time… even sleep. 

When you’ve finished plopping don’t be afraid to add more product to your taste. It’s all about experimenting and finding out what works best for your beautiful curls! Have you tried plopping hair and what do you think? Will you try this method? 


  1. Cosmopolitan. Your Plopping Hair Guide: How to Plop Curly Hair the *Right* Way. Accessed: July 11, 2021, https://www.cosmopolitan.com/style-beauty/beauty/a25400845/how-to-plop-curls/

  2. Kurlify. The pros and cons of hair plopping. Accessed: July 11, 2021, https://kurlify.com/en/curly-girl-method/pro-con-hair-plopping-curls/#:~:text=Plop%20your%20hair%20for%2010,wake%20up%20with%20dry%20hair.

  3. Naturally Curly. Top Tips for Using a Microfiber Towel on Curly HairAccessed: July 11, 2021, https://www.naturallycurly.com/curlreading/curls/top-tips-for-using-a-microfiber-towel-on-curly-hair

  4. Refinery 29. How To Wake Up & Go With Gorgeous CurlsAccessed: July 11, 2021, https://www.refinery29.com/en-us/curly-hair-overnight

  5. Genemarie. Plopping vs. Not plopping. Does it make a difference? + how to plop curls. Accessed: July 11, 2021, https://genamarie.co/2020/08/plopping-vs-not-plopping-does-it-make-a-difference-how-to-plop-curls/#:~:text=The%20biggest%20differences%20I%20noticed,you're%20going%20for

  6. Today. 7 microfiber towels and wraps to help reduce frizz. Accessed: July 11, 2021, https://www.today.com/shop/best-microfiber-hair-towels-t215591

  7. Buzzfeed. Here's How To Plop Your Hair For The Best Curls Of Your LifeAccessed: July 11, 2021, https://www.buzzfeed.com/augustafalletta/plopping-is-the-best-kept-secret-for-perfect-natural-curls

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Reviewed by Ashley Ludgood

With over 12 years of experience in the beauty and fashion industry, Ashley Ludgood brings a wealth of expertise to her current role at PATTERN. Her insights have been featured in reputable publications like American Salon Magazine, American Spa Magazine, and Skin, Inc. Ashley has also shared her knowledge at conferences, including Face & Body, demonstrating her ongoing commitment to contributing to the industry. Having been an integral part of the team at PATTERN for nearly 4 years, Ashley continues to make significant contributions. Holding a degree in Journalism from Northwestern University, she remains passionate about her field. Among her favorite products, Ashley turns to the PATTERN Styling Cream, Moisture Milk, and the Cleansing Shampoo as her go-to essentials.

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