How to Curl Short Layered Hair

When it comes to styling, it might seem like people with long hair have it all.

Especially when it comes to curling it’s as if they have all the techniques, tools and styles they could possibly choose from and more. 

But don’t you fret!

For short, layered hair, there are a lot more ways to get your desired curls than you would think.

So, how to curl short layered hair?

Here are a few ways to curl your short layered hair–from using a straightener, a curling iron, and even some heatless options too!


Preparing Your Hair

Just as important as getting your perfect style is prepping your hair to get there. It sets you up for success by helping you make sure that your curls hold and your hair stays protected while you’re at it. 

1. Don’t wash your hair.

Surprise! Curls love “dirty” hair.

Curls hold best on day-old hair because of the oils your hair naturally produces.

With a thin coat of natural oils, your hair molds more easily with the heat. Especially when you’re using a heated tool, newly cleaned hair may be a bit too slippery for the iron to get a good grasp and will cause curls to fall flat sooner. 

But if it’s a bit too oily for your liking, throw in some dry shampoo and you’ll be good to go. 

2. Use heat protectant.

While heat protectant won’t completely stop your hair from getting damaged, it’s at least your best bet for minimizing the toll heat styling takes on your locks.

There isn’t a one-size-fits all hair protectant either.

So make sure to do your research and pick a heat protectant that works best for your hair concerns. Take in consideration your hair texture, type, and hair health to get the best use out of your protectant.

Then, once you’ve picked your ideal protectant, spray it evenly over your hair.

Make sure to avoid your scalp! Spritz it onto damp or dry hair and work in sections to ensure you get a good coating on every strand. 

3. Comb your hair. 

Once your hair has completely dried, run a comb through it to get rid of any stubborn knots and tangles.This will make it easier for you to section out your layers later.

All these tangles can cause snags and pulls when you start curling your hair too. This results not just in uneven curls, but unwanted damage as well. 

If you used a heat protectant spray (and make sure you do!), combing your hair can also help distribute the product evenly throughout. 

4. Section your hair.

Now, here’s the secret. This part is the most essential step for curling short layered hair. 

You might find your hair hard to deal with if it’s not sectioned properly. Having different lengths of hair in your curler in one pass might end up with uneven curls. 

  • Start by parting your hair in the center. 
  • Divide your hair into two big sections and clip or tie them separately to start with. If a center part isn’t your thing, part your hair as you usually would, just making sure that you have two big manageable sections. 
  • Then, starting with one of the sections, take your comb and run horizontally from the top of your ear. 
  • Take the layer your comb lifts, and clip or tie it away from the bottom layer. Now you have two layers you can easily work with. Just do the same for the other side. 

If you find the layers a bit too thick or if you have more layers in your hair that won’t curl evenly together, try parting your hair horizontally starting at the crown of your head and section them off as you go lower.

Once  you’ve got the top layer sectioned away into ponytails or clips, you’re ready to start curling. 

READ: The Ultimate Guide on How To Curl Short Hair


How do you curl short layered hair with a curling iron?

The ease of curling your short layered hair with an iron definitely starts with picking the right tool.

When it comes to curling irons versus wands, curling irons may be better (and more effective) for your short hair.

Short hair may be harder to wrap around wands because they don’t come with clamps and you’re a lot more prone to burning your fingers. Yikes!

Pick a curling iron with a smaller barrel. A 1-inch or 1.25-inch curler should do the trick. 

  1. Starting with your lower layers, take a 1-inch wide section of hair. 
  2. Take your iron and hold it vertically close to your hair. Wrap your hair from the root and not the tips. Try to get as close to the root for your curl to hold longer, being careful not to touch your scalp and burn yourself. 
  3. Tuck your hair underneath the clamp and slowly wind your hair around the barrel, working away from your face. 
  4. Hold your wound hair in the curler for 3-5 seconds before letting go. Voila! You’ve got a curl. 

CHECK OUT: How To Curl Short Hair with a Curling Iron

Now, you might be looking a bit Goldilocks-y with tightly curled spirals right now. But even if you want messy waves or looser curls, resist the temptation to touch your curl right now! 

Proceed to the next 1-inch section of your lower layer and let each curl cool completely. We’ll get to styling it more later. 

Repeat until you’ve finished the entire bottom layer. Once the bottom layer is done, you can start releasing the upper layers one by one. 

Then, just repeat the same process. Be more careful with the upper layers as these are the most visible. 

Just keep going, releasing one layer after the other and working in sections to make sure everything comes out nice and even. 

Once you’re done and have a whole head of curls, make sure every one of them gets enough time to cool down. Once everything’s cooled, you can use your fingers to loosen them in more tousled curls or brush them out for textured waves. 

Don’t forget to use a bit of hairspray to hold everything in place. And just like that, you have curly short layers!

READ: How To Use Bendy Rollers on Short Hair


How to curl short layered hair with a straightener

Sometimes you’re in a pinch and don’t have a curler around. Well, a small straightener can do the trick just as well. Make sure you’re using a narrow one though. Something between 1 to 1.5-inch would work perfectly.

  1. Section your hair as mentioned above. Then, take a 1-inch wide section of hair from the bottom layer. 
  2. Clamp the straightener as close to the root as you can. Make sure not to clamp it down too tightly. Hold it just so the plates loosely sandwich your hair. 
  3. Twist the straightener away from your face and slowly pull it along the length of your hair. Continue twisting as you go down. 
  4. Repeat this process until you’re finished with the bottom layer. 
  5. Release the top layers one by one and repeat the previous steps. 
  6. Wait for all the curls to cool down before brushing them out and styling it the way you like. 

Curling with a straightener won’t give you the most polished curls. This is great, however, if you’re going for beachy waves or a more textured look. 


Heatless curls

If you’re looking to completely stop getting heat damage, you don’t have to sacrifice curling your hair.

There are tons of heatless options now for styling!

These may have varied results for different hair types. Some people’s hair just curls better than others even without heat. 

Heatless curls can also take a little more time and effort to do but these are definitely alternatives that are worth a shot.

READ: How to curl short hair without heat in 5 minutes

Twisted buns

  • Starting with damp hair, apply any styling lotion or mousse you like.
  • Section your hair as previously mentioned. 
  • Then, working in layers, take a section of hair and twist it away from your face. You can make the sections as big or as small as you’d like. The smaller the section, the tighter the curl. 
  • Wrap the twisted section into a bun and secure it with a pin or a hair tie. While you’re twisting, your hair should naturally start folding into a bun. Just go with it!
  • Keep working in sections, by layers until you’ve tied all your hair into small buns. 
  • Then all you have to do is get a good night’s sleep! Release all the buns in the morning and style it the way you’d like. 

Pin curls

This is probably the ultimate classic when it comes to heatless curls. And of course it works on even the shortest hair.

If it worked for the fabulous flappers of the 20s it should work for you too.  

  • Start with damp hair and apply your choice of styling products. 
  • Section your layered hair. 
  • This time, we’re starting from the top layer. Take a 1-inch section from the front of your head by your hairline. 
  • Hold the section vertically. Then, using your finger, (or two! The more fingers you use, the looser the curl) start at the end of your hair and wrap it around your fingers to form a curl. 
  • Once your fingers lay flat on your head, gently slide them out of the center of your curl and pin the curl securely to your head. You can use two hairpins in an x-shape to make sure your curl doesn’t budge. 
  • Then repeat until your hair is completely pinned down. 

For this method, time is your best friend. Keep the curls pinned for as long as possible. Wrap your hair up in a silk scarf if you can sleep on it. 

Then, after waiting a few hours, carefully remove the bobby pins and style it to your liking. 

READ: How To Do Rag Curls on Short Hair

Another great option is to use heatless hair curlers like the curling ribbon. Though it works best on long hair (think about those robe tie curls), it can also work on short hair too. That is, as long as you have enough hair to wrap around it.


See, curls are for everyone! Especially for short layered hair.

Now, make sure to get some practice and you’ll get perfect spirals, curls or waves every time. 

Last Updated: July 28, 2021

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