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'Plopping' is my favorite curly hair hack — and it's stylist-approved

It's not a new technique, but it's catching on.
Courtesy Jillian Ortiz

I have curly hair — and a lot of it — so styling and drying my hair tends to take a long time. That is, until I stumbled upon the plopping method while on a TikTok binge, and it completely changed my hair routine.

Hair plopping helped me achieve tight, hydrated and — if I say so myself — stunning curls. And though I tried it and found it works for me, I still was curious to learn more about how the process worked and if anyone with curly hair can try it. To find out, I spoke to some curly hair experts about what it is, how to do it and if it's safe for all hair types.

What is hair plopping?

Plopping is a hair drying method for wavy and curly hair that helps enhance your curl while also giving your hair more definition and volume, and cutting down on dry time, curly hair experts shared with Shop TODAY.

The process involves using products in your hair while it is wet and then tying a T-shirt or microfiber towel around your head to let your hair dry after "plopping" your curls to add volume and reduce frizz.

"What happens is, that [T-shirt or microfiber towel] acts as a layer of hair in the way, so the cuticle can't rise — the cuticles have nowhere to go," Lorraine Massey, owner of Spiral XYZ salon and founder of CurlyWorld, told Shop TODAY of the frizz-defying technique. "So that's another reason why people love plopping."

So is it the technique or the products that are responsible for the results? Jackson says it's a combination of both.

"The plopping, in my opinion, can also enhance, but it's working hand-in-hand with the product and it's also speeding up your dry time," Marissa D. Jackson, co-owner of CurlClub.LA, told Shop TODAY.

How to plop curly hair

"Rule No. 1 of curly hair, no matter the texture, your hair should be disgustingly wet [before plopping]," Jackson said.

With that in mind, after rinsing out my conditioner, I use my fingers — not a comb or brush — to comb through my hair. Before I step out of the shower, I ring my hair out once to keep it as wet as possible.

  1. After the shower, apply your normal styling products — I use a leave-in conditioner and serum.
  2. With your hair wet, and your styling products distributed evenly throughout your hair, place a T-shirt or microfiber towel down on a flat surface (ideally at waist level, so you can easily situate your head on it).
  3. Place your hair in the center of the tee or the towel, placing your ends down first.
  4. Lift the bottom of the shirt or towel to the nape of your neck, scrunching your hair up from the ends, almost like an accordion fashion. Then tie the shirt or towel securely up in a turban style.
  5. Let your hair sit for however long you need to dry; if you have very tight curls, Massey and Jackson advise against letting your plop for too long, since it will disturb the curl pattern, but notes that the length of time is different for each person depending on hair type and thickness.
  6. Remove the towel and proceed to air dry or diffuse until fully dry. Voila! Consider your hair, plopped.

Is hair plopping safe for all curly hair?

"I think it works for all and every curl type, but you just have to be aware of the placement of your hair while it's plopped," Massey said.

For very tight, coiled hair, Massey says, to keep your head upright and plop while standing up, leaving your hair splayed and tying a looser wrap for the turban. For looser hair types, Massey recommends gathering your curls and placing your hair toward the top of your head and following the directions above. The higher you place your hair, the more volume you're likely going to get, which is why anyone with looser hair might want to place it higher.

Products for hair plopping

Turbie Twist Microfiber Hair Towels (Set of 2)

Jackson recommends using a microfiber towel when plopping. "I prefer the microfiber because I feel like it absorbs more water, so regardless of whether I decide to air dry or diffuse, my dry time is down."

One former Shop TODAY writer loved using the Turbie Twist to dry her hair. She also found it helped to reduce frizz and kept her hair out of her face while she was getting ready in the morning.

Aquis Microfiber Hair Towel

If you prefer something that isn't as fitted, one Shop TODAY editor recommends this towel. It helps cut down on her drying time and can be tied looser or tighter based on your needs.

Ouidad Curl Shaper Double Duty Weightless Cleansing Conditioner

If you're already on your curly hair journey, you've probably come to know the products that work best for your curls — those are the ones that you should stick to using when you plop your hair. For my own curly hair, I like this product. Since some shampoos can strip the hair of moisture, I like using this cleansing conditioner that is formulated for curly hair. It makes my hair feel clean, but hydrated.

Ouai Leave-In Conditioner

Leave-in conditioners help my hair hold onto moisture, and I like that this one doesn't weigh my hair down or make it feel greasy.

Olaplex No. 9 Bond Protector Nourishing Hair Serum

This is the first serum I've incorporated into my hair routine, and I don't think I'll ever go without it. It's made my hair shiny and soft, whether I wear it curly or blow it out.

Ouidad Curl Shaper Out Of Thin (H)air Volumizing Jelly

This gel doesn't feel sticky on my hands and it doesn't make my hair feel crunchy, which is a win in my book. I've found it helps my curls hold onto their shape, but still makes them feel soft.

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