Curly hairstyles: 20+ style ideas plus the expert tips and tricks you need to know

Looking for stylish hairstyles for curly hair? We've rounded up the best curly hairstyles to inspire a fresh new look

woman with very curly hair
(Image credit: via Getty Images)

Embracing your natural texture and need some curly hairstyles to try? You're in luck, as the woman&home beauty editors have spoken to the world's top hairstylists over the years, and have all the tips and tricks you need to style curly hair. 

Curls are unique and require a fair bit of care and attention, but finding the perfect hairstyles for curly hair is super easy. With a little know-how about your curl type (do you have waves, curls, coils, kinks, or a mixture of two?), you'll be on your way to bouncy and healthy curls in no time. Plus, there are so many famous curly-haired women to inspire you, from Tracee Ellis Ross to Sandra Oh and Andie MacDowell. 

“The most important part of any choosing any style is taking face shape into consideration," adds Zoë Irwin, Creative Director for John Freida Salons. "If you have a round face, then something lighter and layered is more flattering. If you have a longer face, long layers work well to lift and they work well with a fringe [bangs]. The main thing is not to have a style that cuts into the curls too much; razor cuts are terrible for curls. See a curl specialist so this doesn’t happen.”

Does curly hair get straighter with age?

This isn't an urban myth per se, but it works both ways, as your hair texture may change in either direction. “Some people do find that their hair becomes less curly and vice versa,” Zoë explains. “Changes in your hair happen as you get older and go through life events, including having children and menopause."

“Hair tends to thin as we age, thus creating less density which can make it less curly,” Michelle adds. “As hair starts to thin out we also gain gray hair, which can sometimes affect the texture and loosen the curl. Gray hair can often be quite fine.”

The best curly hairstyles for women

As for the best hairstyles for curly hair? “A very classic '70s look with layers throughout, a heavy baseline and very rounded shape can look amazing on curly hair,” Zoë explains. “Heavier, French bob hairstyles with a very long layer at the ends can also look really good."

“The cut that is right for you will depend on hair type and texture,” explains Michelle Sultan, textured hair specialist and Creative Director for Imbue. “In the salon, you have to ask questions and have a thorough consultation, as together you can figure out what cuts would work best for your lifestyle and your hair. 

“For example, if your hair tends to be quite fine, go for blunter or solid cuts, or layers that encourage lift through the hair and volume. That sounds like a contradiction, but [the best style for you] all depends on the hair!”

Short curly hairstyles

If you're looking for short hairstyles for curly hair, you are spoilt for choice for healthy cuts that make the most of your texture. Just make sure you take the time to nourish with deep conditioners and hair masks and, if you choose to blow dry rather than air dry, use a diffuser on a cooler setting. 

The curly pixie cut

The short natural curls

The French pixie cut

The chin length bob

Long curly hairstyles

The key with curly long hairstyles is keeping your hair strong and well-nourished, as healthy hair is able to grow more easily. Remember to go for regular curly cuts to keep your curls' health in check. Lots of layers look great with long curly hair and this can really help to enhance that gorgeous natural volume.

The layered loose curls

The curly curtain bangs

The corkscrew curls

The long wavy-curly hair

The super long curls

Medium length curly hairstyles

Along with the bob, medium hairstyles are here to stay as the most popular length in 2021. Again, this length can work with lots of layers to add volume and help to frame and complement your face shape.

The curly combover lob

The wavy-curly lob

The centre parted layered cut

Natural curly hairstyles

If you have natural hair, there are so many curly natural hairstyles to choose from, including loads of protective options like box braids. Be sure to browse our guide to braided hairstyles when you're done here for even more inspiration to try at home (or to take to the expert hands of your braider!).

The short twists

The twist out

The Teeny Weeny Afro (TWA)

The braided bob

The finger coils

The half Bantu knots

Curly updos

There's something seriously chic about a curly updo, whether we're talking about an intricately braided style or a simple pineapple or top knot. We've handpicked some of the best updos for curly hair to inspire you to get practicing. 

The classic ponytail 

The pineapple

The half up curly hairstyle

The bridal-inspired updo

How to care for curly hair

Michelle recommends following the curly girl method or a similar curl regime to keep your curls springy and hydrated all year round. “Frizz is just a dehydrated curl waiting to happen!” she says. She recommends a sulfate-free shampoo like Imbue's, and moisturizing conditioners. The new Kérastase Curl Manifesto range is also woman&home approved. 

It's also important to load up on hydration, as the curlier your hair, the more prone it is to dryness. "I hair is dry, it’s hard to get bounce and hair can get frizzy and look dull,” Zoë says. “Hair masks are a must!"

Even if you're not following the curly girl method religiously, most curly-haired women find it beneficial to cut down on shampooing. “Look at skipping a wash, simply wetting and adding conditioner, and wash every other time," Zoë adds. You can then use a special microfiber hair towel or try plopping with a cotton t-shirt.

With all these curly hairstyles to choose from, plus our experts' tips and tricks, you're well on you way to embracing your curls in 2021. Happy plopping!