Learning how to use a diffuser on curly hair doesn't have to be a daunting task. Whether you already own a diffuser or are on the lookout for one, it’s undeniable that diffusers offer plenty of benefits when it comes to styling both textured and curly hair types. If you’re after defined, luscious curls but aren't sure where to start, we've listed some techniques to help keep your curl pattern intact—as well as deliver volume and shine—with next to no effort using the right diffuser attachment.
How to use a diffuser on curly hair
Step 1. Don’t towel-dry—squeeze or blot instead
Celebrity hairstylist, curly hair specialist, and founder of her very own Afro hair-texture cutting course, Jennie Roberts knows a thing or two about the dos and don’ts of using the best diffusers for curly hair with some of the best hair dryers in the business. It turns out that, mastering using diffusers is much the same as other hair tools—the fundamentals begin before you've even left the shower.
“It might be tempting to towel-dry hair if your curls are dripping after you’ve washed them, but resist the urge. Towel-drying will pull your gorgeous natural curls apart, plus hair needs to be very wet to really mold curls and retain their shape."
According to Jennie, it’s when your hair is saturated that you can truly capture the curl, so "gently squeeze excess moisture out of your hair in the shower instead.”
2. Prep with a leave-in conditioner or curl cream
The right curl products applied to wet hair will give curls weight and definition. Without products, Jennie explains, curls are liable to “dry out or get blown out.” The perfect curl-defining product, however, depends on your curl type and hair texture. Jennie prescribes a few options when it comes to curl enhancers:
“You need to ‘cast’ the curls before diffusing for them to really last. Curl types 2 and 3 (wavy and curly) might need a spritz of leave-in conditioner topped with a mousse or a glaze. I love Paul Mitchell Super Sculpt for this.
“Curl types 4 (tight coils) will require a heavier product, such as a coiling paste. Afro-textured curls especially need more hydration as well as glossy topcoat. I especially love Mielle Organics Twisting Soufflé for both nourishing and creating hold.”
Director hair stylist at Billi Currie and Evo ambassador Tom Smith also advocates for nailing your moisture-to-hold ratio, depending on your hair’s needs.
“If your hair has a very strong and resilient curl, a product with a higher moisture content but lighter styling hold will achieve the best results (Tom recommends Evo Liquid Rollers Curl Balm). If curls stretch out more easily, you need more hold from the start: apply curl cream to soaking-wet curls using your fingers or a wide-toothed comb.”
Finally, before reaching for the diffuser, Jennie recommends a liberal spritz of heat protection spray to minimize heat damage and keep curls defined, bouncy, and healthy-looking.
3. Use a big diffuser
By and large, many of the best hair dryers for curly hair include diffusers, or at least the option to buy an attachment. So what should you look for? Size is Jennie’s criteria for choosing a curl-maximizing diffuser. “The best diffusers have a wide dish in which to dry hair quickly and evenly without you having to touch, move, or manipulate curls with your hands. Look for lots of air holes within the diffuser bowl, and bear in mind that your diffuser is only as good as the hair dryer that it’s attached to—look for variable speeds and heat settings to achieve the best results.”
Jennie’s favorite combo is a Parlux hair dryer teamed with a DIVA diffuser. Jennie favors the DIVA XXL Pro Diffuser because of its generously-sized dish, as well as the fact that it’s both ergonomic and universal (as in, it fits most hair dryer models).
See our full Parlux Alyon hair dryer review
4. Tip your hair into the diffuser bowl with minimal touching
Jennie has a “don’t touch” policy when diffusing. “Scrunching hair with your hands as you dry, or moving it around too much, will destroy the integrity of the curl. Diffuse your hair with as little movement as possible, tipping hair into the diffuser bowl as you go. Gently work your way around your head until each section of your hair is dry. Allowing hair to fall into the diffuser, rather than forcing it, will help you retain your lovely curl texture.”
Your heat and speed settings of choice depend on your curl type; Jennie explains that Afro hair benefits from a lower heat setting, while Tom states that curl types 2 to 3 get best results on a low speed but medium-to-high heat setting.
5. Shake it out and finish with a curl oil
Hair all dry? Now’s the time for some handiwork. “Once you’ve finished diffusing your hair, you can softly scrunch and break it up with your fingers to create more volume.” Jennie adds that “a head massage is ideal for zhuzhing roots and increasing fullness.”
If your hair is especially heavy, she has another styling trick up her sleeve: “Lift hair up gently with an Afro pick to allow air to get into hair and create body without disturbing your natural curl.”
Tom suggests a quick shake and scrunch of hair post-diffusing to break up any crispiness and identify stubborn damp patches that might need another once-over. From there, you’re done. If you have Afro hair that feels or looks dry, a mist of oil will add final-stage shine and help lock in moisture. Try Carol's Daughter Black Vanilla Moisture & Shine Pure Hair Oil. You’re officially a curl boss!
Anna is a multilingual award-winning journalist with over ten years of experience working in the beauty, lifestyle and travel industries.
Her extensive editorial portfolio includes Women’s Health, Woman & Home, The Sunday Times Style, Refinery 29, Cosmopolitan, Elle, Red and Good Housekeeping.
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