Allure May 23, 2023



Hair Plopping Is the Easiest Way to Dry Your Curly Hair


The best curls of your life, ahead.

Using a hair dryer is like eating a lot of sugar. It’s not great for you, but we tend to ignore that because it tastes so good (a.k.a. makes for bouncy hairstyles). We believe in all things in moderation (and with a good heat protectant), so we wouldn’t say you need to retire your hair dryer. But curly hair types might want to sub a few blowouts with hair plopping.

Plopping is a heat-free way to dry curly or textured hair with an old T-shirt. Does it sound sexy? No. Does it look sexy? Also no. But will it save your hair in the long run and also create beautifully-defined, smooth curls? Yes. So how does an old T-shirt give you your healthiest curls yet? We asked the experts for their take on plopping benefits and how you can do it yourself at home.

Meet the experts:

Leigh Hardges is a hairstylist at Maxine Salon in Chicago. 

Liana Le is a hairstylist at Marie Robinson Salon in New York City. 

What is hair plopping?

Hair plopping is a heat-free way to dry curly hair. Instead of using a blowdryer, hair is gently “plopped” (or dropped) onto a T-shirt or microfiber towel, which is then tied up at the ends to allow moisture to absorb into the towel. The plopping motion downward onto the towel allows curls to dry in their natural curl pattern. 

Any textured hair type can use hair plopping as a way to gently dry, but Leigh Hardges, a hairstylist at Maxine Salon in Chicago, recommends this technique for type 2 and 3 curls, which have “more challenges in retaining curl on the ends and minimizing frizz.”

What are the benefits of hair plopping? 

Not only is hair plopping an easy way to gently dry curls, but it also has a host of benefits over traditional drying methods.

  • Plopping enhances curl definition. “[Hair plopping] is almost as if you are diffusing the hair gently without heat,” says Hardges. “Curls can dry in a scrunched shape to give more activation and definition.” 
  • You’re not subjecting your hair to heat damage. Heat isn’t kind to any hair type, but it can be especially bad for curlier hair, which tends to already skew dry. By drawing moisture out with fabric, you’re not exposing delicate curls to damaging heat. 
  • It smooths flyaways and frizz. Because heat can dry out hair, and lack of moisture leads to frizz, hair plopping can be an effective way to cut back on unruly texture, says Hardges.

What should I use to plop my hair? 

You only really need two things for hair plopping: a fabric and styling product of your choice. The styling product will depend on your hair’s specific needs, but Hardges likes Mizani Miracle 25 Leave-in Conditioner as a first layer of hydration for all hair types. 

For wavy hair (types 2 A-C) and curly hair types (types 3 A-C) Hardges recommends a lightweight texture-defining product like Oribe Curl Gloss. “It’s a loose gel that you can apply easily and it doesn’t leave curls with a gel cast or crunchy.” For more coily, frizzy hair types (type 4 A-C) a heavier cream with nourishing and conditioning ingredients can help to keep curls smooth and in check. We like TPH By Taraji Curls 4 Days which adds great definition to tighter curls. 

For the fabric, an old T-shirt may sound a little more DIY, but it’s actually the most effective option. “Microfiber towels are popular, but they can cause frizz in some curl textures,” Liana Le, a hairstylist at Marie Robinson Salon in New York City. Cotton is a lighter fabric that will help to remove moisture without any static or damaging pull. 

As a finishing touch after unwrapping the hair, Hardges recommends Kerastase Curl Manifesto Sublime Repair Hair Oil. “It’s perfect to seal in moisture and add shine,” she says. 

How do I plop my hair? 

The process of hair plopping is the same no matter what hair type you have. Ahead, our expert-approved step-by-step guide to plopping.

  1. After washing your hair, wring it out in the shower and apply any styling products you plan to use. “Most importantly, remember not to brush the hair, as this disturbs the natural curl patterns,” says Le.
  2. “Next, shake out your hair to loosen up your curls with as little touching as possible,” says Le. “This will help prevent frizz.”
  3. Lay a microfiber towel or T-shirt down on your bathroom counter (or bed, or dresser — any flat surface at about waist height). 
  4. Flip your head upside down, loosely gather it at the crown of your head with your hands, and then lower your head to rest the hair onto the fabric. 
  5. Fold the top half of the fabric over the back of your head up to the nape of your neck, pull the edges along either side of your head and tuck it underneath the forehead. Keep your head down. 
  6. The bottom half of your fabric should still be laid out on a flat surface. Take those ends and wrap them to the back of your head. Secure the ends with a clip, or if you’re using a T-shirt, use the sleeves to tie the wrap. 
  7. Allow the hair to dry in the wrap for one to two hours. 
  8. After you've plopped for your desired time you can finish drying any remaining moisture. “Use a diffuser on low heat, or simply let your hair air dry,” says Le. “Whatever you do, don't touch your hair much as it will create frizz and disturb that natural curl pattern you’ve created.”
  9. Add a finishing product like a nourishing oil, if needed.

Plopping: Frequently Asked Questions

Now that you have the step-by-step process down, there are a few other details to keep in mind before you try hair plopping.

Should you plop wet hair or damp and towel-dried strands?

“To begin the plopping process, you should start with damp, gently towel-dried hair,” says Le. “It is important to wring out most of the moisture in your hair prior to plopping.” That way, your product won’t just be absorbed into the fabric with the excess water in your hair. 

Should you keep your hair wrapped until it’s totally dry? 

Hardges does not recommend this method. “You still want to get some drop to the hair and not be overly scrunched,” she says. 

Can you plop your hair overnight? 

We advise against going to sleep with your hair wet for many reasons. Hardges says drying time should be limited to 45 minutes to two hours should be enough to define your curl pattern without overly scrunching.

What is dry plopping and how does it differ?

“[Dry plopping] is a way to reactivate curls and maintain volume,” says Hardges. “This is done when the hair is dry, but it needs a refresher, so water or leave-in spray is used to help hydrate curls. Then the hair is plopped to mostly dry.”