How To Curl Short Hair

Here's how to achieve salon-worthy curls at home.

Short, curled hair


After chopping my hair to my shoulders, I practically gave up on trying to curl it. The techniques that I used to practice on my long hair just weren’t giving me the results that I wanted and for the life of me, I couldn’t figure out where I was going wrong. As it turns out, short hair—shoulders and up—requires a different method to achieve those perfect bouncy and beachy curls. 

According to hair stylist Paola Cabiedes, the trick to salon-worthy curls is a combination of using the right tools and the right techniques. When it comes to short hair specifically, Cabiedes says that she uses a "less is more" approach to create curl definition without adding too much volume. For all the short-haired ladies dreaming of good hair days, here’s how to achieve your most gorgeous curls yet.

Paola Cabiedes is a hair stylist at Avant-Garde Salon and Spa in Cape Gables, Florida. She specializes in hair bobs, balayage, hair melts, lived-in color, and long, thick hair.

What You’ll Need

How To Curl Short Hair

  1. Use a clip to section off your hair and mist each layer with a base coat of hair spray. This will give your hair a foundation to hold the curls, says Cabiedes.
  2. Section off your hair again. Start with the bottom third of your hair (unless you have layers cut into your hair, then see our FAQ!) and curl in one-inch vertical sections away from the face.
  3. Skip the middle and proceed to the top layer, curling in one-inch vertical sections away from the face. Touch up and curl any exposed pieces of that untouched middle layer.
  4. For a looser curl (which Cabiedes says is all the rage these days), pull down on the end of each newly-curled strand to loosen it and stylishly straighten out the end a bit.
  5. As you go, set your hair with the same hair spray before the curls cool completely.
  6. Apply texture spray to the root for volume and an easy-going, slightly tousled finish. 

How To Style Short, Curled Hair

Upon achieving your desired hair texture, choose a hair-do to best show off your expertly-done curls. Here's some of our favorite ways to style short hair in 2023.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Why am I skipping the middle layer?

    Cabiedes stresses that for short hair, especially classic bobs, less is more! If you add too many curls, the hair shape may become unflatteringly voluminous or even triangular. Often, she won’t curl every piece of hair, preferring to sandwich an untouched middle layer between curled bottom and top layers, touching up any exposed pieces.

  • What if I don't want loose, beachy curls?

    To achieve trendy, loose curls, Cabiedes likes to add more volume and ringlets towards the root and less at the bottom. However, a polished, glamorous bob is timelessly classy. For a more glam, old Hollywood-style curl, Cabiedes says to continue the curl pattern all the way to the end.

  • What if my hair has layers?

    For layered hair, Cabiedes recommends starting to curl from the top layer, and working from the top-down in a brick laying formation to account for the different lengths. This way, there’s curls between other curls rather than on top of one another and won’t have too much height. 

  • How about hair rollers?

    As much as we love our curlers, Cabiedes doesn’t normally advise them for short hair.

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