How to Get Curly Hair Naturally Permanently

Sometimes it’s hard not to envy what others have. Watching The Bold Type’s Kat (Aisha Dee) rocking the work space and twirling through New York’s bars with those beautifully bouncy, soft curls is enough to make any straight-haired girl green with envy.

Or what about Zendaya on HBO’s Euphoria? Along with Rue’s cool, casual style, those long gorgeous locks are simply a sight to behold. And oh, how us ladies with straight or wavy hair would love to rock the same look!

It is possible to get permanently curly hair, but it’s definitely a commitment – one that is time consuming and often costly, depending on which method you decide to opt for. It’s not just about the transformation process from straight to curly, it’s also what to expect afterwards.

Curls – regardless of whether you’re looking to rock the 2, 3 or 4 type – need a lot of maintenance and a whole lot of love by ways of quality products, and plenty of pampering.

If you’re ready to commit to a permanent step towards curls, here are the 3 ways you can achieve a head full of locks a la Aisha Dee or Zendaya!

Consider a Modern Perm

Now, before you start panicking at the thought of going in for an 80s style perm – you know, the kind your mom still has nightmares about – take a deep breather. Times have changed and there are now much gentler ways to perm your hair into a head full of curls.

A woman getting a perm

Perms have recently started making a comeback and it’s for exactly that reason – the new methods are far less aggressive than those the women of the eighties subjected their hair to when they first became all the rage.

As is true for most things these days, even the perm has gone digital! Yes, you heard right – powered by a digital display, a 21st century perming machine uses temperature-controlled rods, to reshape your hair into curls.

First introduced in Japan, the digital perm has now found its way all across the world and is available in most, high-end hair salons, starting at around £210. A digital perm will last you up to a year and is non-reversible unless you’re ready to risk damaging your hair.

While you’ll be sure to notice your ends drying out faster and your hair knotting easily, the digital perm is definitely the lesser of all perm evils, and if maintained correctly using the right products, you won’t risk any further damage.

The Curly Girl Method (CG)

This method that was first popularized by Lorraine Massey, may not be for everyone but generally, it has proven to work across most hair types – in other words, you could easily turn your straight hair into whimsical waves following the Curly Girl guide.

The CG method consists of treating your hair to no-poo shampoos, meaning staying clear of all shampoos that feature silicones, sulphates, and drying alcohols, all of which, over time, cause build up in your hair and scalp.

This residue is often one of the main culprits when it comes to a lack of curl formation, because it weighs your hair down, not giving it the lightness and space to naturally form into waves or ringlets.

A woman applying hair product in the mirror

The CG method advocates the use of no-poo shampoos only and encourages you to let deep-conditioners and co-washes to do the cleansing work instead. CG followers are also strictly prohibited from using heat-based styling techniques which only cause breakage and dryness.

Technically, the Curly Girl method sounds pretty straight-forward and not all that complicated: simply stay away from poo shampoos and heat-based styling treatments et voila, your hair’s ready to get its natural curl on…right? Well, no, it’s not quite that simple.

This path towards permanent curls can be long, arduous and extremely frustrating, especially in the beginning stages when you’re bound to be faced with a lot of trials and errors, usually brought on by the search for the right products for your hair.

On top of that, you’ll have to count on going through an extremely awkward transitioning phase, that could leave your hair looking greasy and lank before the no-poo magic finally starts to happen.

With patience and commitment however, you can really make wonders happen and get your tired curls or loose waves popping and reaching type 4 levels!

The Old School Approach: Pin, Rag and Braid Bun Curls

Long before perms became a thing and the CG method was invented, the likes of Marlene Dietrich and Mae West turned to simple, DIY techniques to get pronounced waves and a full head of curls whenever it took their fancy.

A woman in a red dress

These curling techniques may not offer long-term solutions, but you can keep up these curl styles for up to a week if you can go without washing for that long and keep them happy with a daily coat of product.

A favourite for creating wonderful, spirally curls is using pins. Wash your hair then separate your hair into thick strands and twist them around your finger until they snake up against your scalp. Use two bobby pins to keep them in place and repeat until your head is covered.

Keep your pinwheels in place by covering your head in a silk scarf or a bonnet and leave them in overnight. Open them the next morning and style them to your liking. Using the right kind of curl-enhancing cream or fixture, these will last you anywhere from two days to a week.

You can achieve the same look using cloth rags, foam rollers or no-heat rods, some of which are designed for specific curl types, so be sure to do your research to guarantee you’ll be waking up to the curls you were after.

For tightly textured curls, the best way to go about it in DIY fashion is by braiding your entire head. A good rule of thumb here is, the thinner the braids, the tighter the curls. Time-consuming, yes, but the resulting curls are worth it!

Find What Works for You

If you’re looking to get your hair permanently curled, it’s all about finding the method that works best for you. The digital perm is a guaranteed success but may not be available to everyone seeing as it is rather pricey.

The CG method on the other hand, is something you can make happen for yourself, with the freedom to experiment with the products that most appeal to you and, ultimately, work best for your hair.

Obviously, the testing phase will put a bit of a strain on your wallet too, as it is highly unlikely that you’ll immediately find that one sulphate, paraben and silicon-free shampoo your hair is going to take to immediately.

These costs will be dispersed over several months however, and we’re talking about a maximum of £10 per product, as opposed to having to lay out £210 in one go.

As we’ve already stated, with commitment and curiosity, the CG method has a great success rate, and once you’ve gotten through the initial transition phase, you’ll never want to go back to regular shampoos.

Having seen what the no-poo treatment can do to hair you never thought could possibly curl, chances are you’ll stay a Curly Girl for life.


Hi I'm Hati and my hair is naturally very curly, obviously! I have started this blog to share curly hair stories and what I use to manage my own hair. Hopefully you will find it useful! My other main passions are food, art and animlas. I have a little cat who I love very much.

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