No, “plopping” is probably not the best thing since yoga pants.
But for many girls with curly hair it’s a close second since it’s said to be a foolproof way to get amazingly well defined curls without a lot of fuss and bother.
So if that frizzy mess you casually refer to as “my hair” has been driving you bonkers for longer than you can remember and a buzz cut is starting to sound good step away from the clippers!
Instead read on through the curly hair plopping frequently asked questions that follow. (Be sure not to miss the 11 tips towards the bottom.)
You never know. This may just the hair-saving technique you’ve been looking for but couldn’t find.
Question: What Is Plopping Exactly?
It’s a heat free technique usually using a t-shirt to tame unruly curls that produces polished, bouncy spirals that best of all are frizz- free. Or what those with curly hair would call a dream come true!
Question: How Does One Plop?
There’s really not a lot to it.
In way of prep some will suggest sopping up the excess water from you hair by scrunching for a minute or two first with a micro fiber towel.
And if your strands benefit from styling products you are going to want to apply them now before letting the plopping begin.
Those details out of the way here’s a quick three step play by play.
Step 1) Spread your large t-shirt on a flat surface be it a countertop, the toilet with the seat down or your bed. Most prefer to have the neck of the shirt pointing towards them. Just be sure to have a large enough shirt to do the job. Meaning more hair calls for a bigger shirt.
Step 2) With your curls on the top of your head (some will gather their strands into a high pony) bend over and let them pile up onto the shirt until the crown or your head just kisses it.
Step 3) Gather the hair up in the shirt using the sleeves to tie things neatly into place.
Now if that’s clear as mud and you’d prefer to watch someone do it never fear. Here’s two short video clips that show you how.
Plopping – Long Sleeved T-shirt Method
The purpose of including this video is to show you what’s involved and why a long sleeve T-Shirt may work best for you. That could be important if you’ve never plopped before or if you’ve never used a long sleeve t-shirt before.
Okay but as they say if one demo video is good two must be better. This second one demonstrates a slightly different approach using a short sleeve shirt.
Plopping – Short Sleeved T-shirt Method
Sure it ain’t pretty but it sure is effective at producing nicely defined curls. And much more fun than accidentally rubbing hot sauce in your eye.
So there you have it – plopping hair in about 2 minutes or less. Twice.
Question: Yeah But, How Does This Work?
This is almost the best part. When you place all your hair on top of your head and wrap it up in the t-shirt, the defined curls almost happen by magic.
That’s right. Or as Allure magazine put it you might look at it as if the curls when all pressed together like an accordion in the T-shirt almost scrunch themselves.
Even better your hair dries way faster than it ever would by air drying alone. Which I guess is why it’s said to be the easiest way to dry curly hair.
But you get another big benefit here. It’s a totally hands off technique. And anyone with curls knows the more you fuss with your hair as it is drying, the more you touch it period – even when styling, the greater the risk of ending up more frizz than you want.
With plopping you avoid that completely.
Question: Why Does This Work So Well For Some?
It’s friction-less! Let me explain.
Sure you could, and probably have, wrapped your hair in an ordinary towel. But here’s why you probably don’t want to do that.
Drying curly hair with a terry cloth towel only riles things up which is the kiss of death since all that friction means tons more frizz and crazy wild hair.
In comparison wrapping your hair in an old t-shirt avoids all that. Being much more absorbent and thinner, the t-shirt wicks the water away from your hair so it dries much faster.
Not to mention drying this way doesn’t disturb the curl pattern.
Plus gravity is not pulling the curls down either.
Question: What Does Plopping Do For Your Hair Exactly?
You may find the technique does a couple of things for your strands.
For one it will produce loads of nicely defined curls with better definition than you can get any other way.
And two, if you use leave in conditioner, the T-shirt will trap the heat coming off your head helping the product to better penetrate your strands. Leaving you with super soft luxurious tresses.
Three, it frees up time to do something else other than work on your hair.
Question: How Long Does This Take?
Good question. There are no hard and fast duration rules here. You basically want to leave the t-shirt on for as long as it takes to do the job. And there are two ways to approach this.
For some that’s 20-30 minutes is long enough for their hair to dry sufficiently. From there they may let things air dry or they may spend a few with their strands on the diffuser before heading out the door.
Others sleep on it. Finding that after 7 or 8 hours their hair has dried completely and with the great unwrapping in the morning all sorts of fabulous curls fall out.
Question: Do I Have to Use Products?
I get your point. There’s always products involved because it wouldn’t be a hair tutorial without them, right?
Well, the nice thing about this one is products are optional.
Basically if you use products in your curly hair routine now you can continue to do so. If you don’t you can continue not using them.
In other words the success of plopping isn’t product dependent and it’s hard not to like that.
Of course the list of products most often used would include the usual suspects – leave in conditioner, smoothing serum, and styling mousse or gel. The idea is to control frizz and flyaways while adding softness to those curly strands.
Oh and just like you would otherwise do you’d likely avoid applying anything moisturizing much above the ears since the natural oils coming off your scalp would take care of that part of your hair.
And you may want to comb through your just washed hair to make sure they are distributed evenly.
Question: What To Do After Plopping Hair
Whether you sleep in a plop or use it as part of your after shower morning routine to get rid of excess water some are unsure what to do AFTER plopping.
Yeah you want to know the best styling moves for your curls or waves once your remove the tshirt ‘cause you’re only seeing curls that are squashed and flattened.
You may be wondering how much do you scrunch? Finger comb? Fluff? Shake out?
First, expect that your curls are going to look a little weird after plopping. That’s the natural result of being in a controlled environment protected from gravity under the cover of the tee.
After gently removing your t-shirt you might look for obvious bits of hair that need to lifted off your scalp. Like around your face?
Clipping your roots at this point can give them some badly needed lift. Especially around your part.
Some actively engage in some gentle curl shifting. Or moving clumps around to where they feel they should be.
Finally it’s seldom a bad idea to bend over and give things a good scrunch and fluff once your hair is closer to dry. You want to use your fingers next to your scalp on the underside of your curls to volumize the roots a bit.
Keeping in mind that some find touching their visible curls too much at this point causes a frizz break out.
Question: Does Plopping Cause Frizz?
Plopping could be causing frizz if you don’t know the right answer to the questions like “Do you put product in before or after plopping?” or “Do you plop with gel?”
Because the right styling move is usually to saturate your locks with your leave in, gel, or creams BEFORE plopping. Definitely before. This helps to set your curls.
You also want to plop at the level of hair wetness that works best with your curls i.e. dripping wet, soaking wet or just wet.
You’ll only figure that out by trial and error. Using a micro fiber towel to scrunch away water as needed. Or not using one at all. Know what I mean?
But putting product in before allows you to get it evenly distributed when you scrunch it in or apply using the praying hands method. Knowing that typically neither approach disturbs the curls much and so preserves your curl definition.
Remember too that friction alone from applying product to dried hair can give you the dreaded frizz halo.
Question: What Else Should I Know?
Ideally those with medium length or longer tresses will have the best chance of success with plopping. Or to put it another way this fuss free technique may not work best for those with coils that fall above the shoulders or shorter.
Because rather than unveiling the best curls of your life when the t-shirt is removed, the hair may stay “up” which is commonly known as clown hair. Or the curls may be misshapen or, frankly, oddly squished. Or blessed with flat spots galore. That’s certainly not the look you’re going for I’d imagine.
Question: Any More Tips?
Okay so now for the tips portion of our presentation. Or as we like to call it, tips, tips and more tips. Pay attention here. There is likely stuff you don’t know in these 11 gems.
- The trick with this technique, if there is one, is to use the thinnest t-shirt you can get your hands on. The fact it is so thin will allow the water to wick away and evaporate faster. Keeping in mind the role of the t-shirt in this hair care drama isn’t to act like a towel. It’s more to simply hold your hair in place. So if you’re hair isn’t drying overnight, try this move.
- Another suggestion if you do this overnight and your hair isn’t dry in the morning is to try scrunch it damp first, or let it air dry for a bit, then plop and then go to sleep.
- Also if you’re trying to “sleep on it” and the t-shirt keeps coming off due to all your tossing and turning try going with a t-shirt with long sleeves . Those longer sleeves will help you to get a better grip when tying things up.
- But still remember that the idea here is to cinch up the t-shirt so it stays securely in place not do its best tourniquet imitation. Any t-shirt is generally nice and smooth so it doesn’t ruffle the cuticles while your hair is drying all coiled up.
- Avoid ending up with hair that is more smashed than smashing by loosely piling your hair on the top of your head inside the shirt. You want to deliberately and slowly stack your curls on top of each other to avoid entanglement.
- Don’t even think of using some generic dollar store terrycloth towel for plopping or scrunching. They feel anything but smooth. So all those tiny little threads on such towels will do nothing but rough up the strands of your hair which is a sure fire recipe for frizz.
- If you need heap micro-fiber towels for scrunching raid the garage looking for cleaning cloths. If that fails head for the car care section of any Target, Home Depot or nearby auto parts outlet. You can often find 16 inch by 16 inch or so hand towel sized cleaning cloths going for less than a dollar each. Perfect.
- Experiencing a few flat spots? Nothing to get excited about. Just give them some extra styling love using your curling iron to quickly touch them up. Beats having to style all your hair, don’t you think?
- Unfortunately this is NOT a way to make straight hair curly (but there are other ways to accomplish that). It is a way to give your naturally curly strands a chance to dry without frizzing up.
- Also always remember one simple rule – hands off . That’s right. The less you mess with it the better it will turn out. So do not play with the curls, or any curls for that matter, when they’re even the slightest bit damp. Resisting that impulse will maintain the definition and avoid frizzing up. Even when you are adding product see if you can get by with just barely scrunching very gently – disturbing your curls as little as possible.
- Along the same lines it is better to emulsify your products first by rubbing your palms together so you can use a light touch on your tresses to distribute them as evenly as you can.
There you go.
Hope you can see why some say plopping is the anti-blow dryer styling method.
Besides few things are as liberating as not having to spend all that time drying, straightening or styling those curls after shampooing.
If you can get past the rather lame term this goes by plopping is a life changing way to dry your curly hair. One that produces nicely defined waves or curls that cascade perfectly just like in the shampoo ads.
If you liked this you will definitely want to check out our curls gone wild board on Pinterest. Yeah why not grab some curly hair inspro and while you’re at it can you please follow us? That way you won’t miss out on any of the “finds” we post to that board?
Thank you for making this website! So helpful.
So glad you’re finding it useful, Nona. Thanks for taking the time. Made my day!
Thank you, Tori! ABSOLUTELY love your site!!!!! Extremely helpful!!!
Than you so much for the article! Can you plop with a microfiber towel that buttons?
Glad you liked this Stephanie. I don’t see why buttons would matter if you keep them on the side away from your hair! 🙂
I have fairly short curly hair 3A, and I successfully plop the top and sides. The back is straight in a long shag (very retro!) I plop for about 20 minutes with combed gel hair shaken wildly before the t-shirt is applied – works great! I also just use an old style “Afro-pick” to pull it out only at the roots if I need more height. Another secret: Don’t wash too frequently! And only use shampoo every other wash. Thanks for your site and letting me add my 2 cents!
Tori: I turn 60 in a few weeks. I’ve been very down and really looking for a way to update my look starting with my hair which is long and curly. This website is an AMAZING RESOURCE. I really appreciate all the information and tutorial videos. Thanks for providing great information and removing a lot of anxiety about styling my hair.
Awww, Tracey, that’s so sweet. I’m so glad you find we could help! Kind words like this keep us motivated and working hard to share even more helpful tips and ideas. Thank you so much for taking the time. Hope 60 is your best curliest year yet!
Thanks for all of the tips on plopping hair. I am 77 and my white and silver very fine low to moderate density is going from wavy to curly now that I am using proper products and methods. I will try leaving my husband’s tee shirt on my head longer. It has just been keeping my wet hair off my shoulders while I dry off and get dressed. My hair dry lies just below my shoulders and is layer cut. I will try leaving on until dry when I shampoo tomorrow. Hair seems to be an ongoing experience.
Sydney! A delight to hear from you. You’re an inspiration. Sounds like you’ve made great progress. Yes, hair is something you never have figured out completely as your transition to curlier living proves. Who knew, right? Best of luck with your plopping adventures. Thanks for sharing.
Tori!! Thank you!! I discovered “plopping” on Pinterest a few weeks ago, and am never going back to drying with a diffuser. It’s magical to wake up in the morning, whip the t-shirt off my head, and see my hair DONE!!! Having said that, your detailed article has answered some questions that I haven’t seen addressed anywhere else – such as the efficacy of a microfiber towel for plopping.
I retired one year ago, and that’s when I discovered that I have wavy hair!!! I used to use a flat iron EVERY DAY, to smooth out the “bumps” of hair , mostly in the back of my head, and smooth out the frizz.
I’ve gone from wavy to curly in just a few short months, with the help of tutorials such as yours. I could not be more thrilled with my hair results! Thank you!! Curl on!!
Good for you, Linda!
Loved how you called plopping “magical”. Which it kinda is.
Clearly your hair approves of that kind of magic more than what comes from a flat iron.
Thanks for sharing your success as an inspiration to others.
Happy retirement living with your newfound breathtaking curls!