How to Get Perfect Beachy Curls

Today I’m excited to share a second hair tutorial for curly hair (here’s the first!). My hair-stylist friend Reagan agreed to reveal her secret to getting loose bohemian curls. How gorgeous is her hair, above? Here’s her easy trick…

1. The “before” shot!
2. First, you want to take different-sized sections of hair, so your curls won’t be too uniform. Take these partings of hair in varying sizes and wrap around the barrel of your curling iron. (Hair stylists swear by the Marcel 1″ curling iron, since it won’t flatten your hair and gives you more body). Leave the last couple of inches of hair out to not curl them because they would end up absorbing too much curl—which would end up looking too girly, like Shirley Temple. I also like to curl away from the face (going back, instead of forward) since it makes the curls flow away from your face, opening up your face more.
3. Once you pull your hair out of the curling iron, pull it straight for a few seconds, until the hair has cooled.
4-5. Repeat on the other side.
6. Finally, shake out the curls to loosen them up and make them look natural.

Overall, explained Reagan, adding heat does wonders for your hair, since it smoothes it and makes it shinier. This technique makes your curls look more controlled and graceful—and less crazy!

Thank you so much, Reagan!

P.S. 15 more hair tutorials, including a braided crown for curly hair.

(Photos by Alpha Smoot for Cup of Jo. Styling and modeling by Reagan Baker from the blog Hair Dresser on Fire)

  1. Gorgeous! Mastering a loose curl is tough.. This is a good tutorial!

  2. Hi,
    Great blog nice n useful information , it is very helpful for me , I realy appreciate thanks for sharing. I would like to read more information thanks.
    Curly Hair

  3. I come true my dream to become beautiful girl.I can have beautiful hair.

  4. PS I have to say, I’m excited to work with a stylist to figure out some great styles for really tight curls…thank you again! xo

  5. Thank you for all these great comments! Reagan and I thought her hair qualified as a certain type of curly hair, but I see your point about Reagan’s hair being more like “beachy waves” than straight-up curls. The styles we shared are perfect for girls with natural curls and waves, but I understand that some of you ladies have ringlets and corkscrew curls. Stay tuned for a tutorial just for you… It will be coming up soon! Thanks so much for pointing this out. xoxo

    • Yay thank you! And thank you for taking the feedback graciously, this is why I think you’re great! Love your blog, you seem to have never-ending inspiration. :)

  6. I can’t tell the “before” from the “after.” To me, it looks like running a brush through the before hair would produce the same, slightly smoother, result in seconds. Having stick-straight hair, I’d be curious to know how I could get that effect without heat.

  7. How is Shirley Temple’s hair “too girly”? Girls who are born with very curly hair are hardly “too” anything.

    • I think she just means that Shirley Temple’s hair was so carefully heat styled into perfect, princess-like ringlets, whereas natural curls just look real, and not so precise, or girly.

    • oh yes, she has very curly hair herself, she is just saying to stay away from the ringlets look, which you really only get from styling.

    • When I think curly hair I think Keri Russell, Rebecca Gayheart, Minnie Driver. Those are the kinds of curls I would love to see a tutorial for-curls like mine.

    • When I think curly hair I think Keri Russell, Rebecca Gayheart, Minnie Driver. Those are the kinds of curls I would love to see a tutorial for-curls like mine.

    • I completely agree! The model shown has what I consider to be wavy hair–not curly.
      Joanna, I would love to see some real curly hair tutorials:) Thank you so much for your amazing posts

  8. This looks great! I’m hopeless at hair, my finished look was more like the “before” pics :)

  9. My hair would be considered borderline wavy/curly (depends on humidity!), but this technique is what I use a lot – you can do pieces throughout and it makes it a little more defined and less unruley than just letting it curl on its own. Unless you have very defined corkscrew curls, I think this works pretty well.

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  11. Pretty hair style!

    • PS: I’ll try not to be offended by the “too girly, like Shirley Temple” comment. ;)

  12. Well, that pretty much sealed the deal for me – I’m growing my hair out! While shorter hair has its advantages (not taking 20 minutes to blow dry every morning), I do miss easy hairstyles like this!

  13. I know lots of others have already commented on this, but can you please stop claiming to post “curly” hairstyles that are actually wavy?

  14. Please don’t confuse curls with waves. Two totally different beasts! Curly girls have spent years looking at magazines telling them straight > curls, and how to “curl” wavy hair- and have only been able to internalize the frustration. Doing this on a blog, with comments, can be dangerous.

    Just to illustrate the point- a magazine [Lucky?] once sent a girl out with CURLY hair to test the crazy reactions she received. It was in a section where they usually try out a crazy trend like “no pants” or something. It was insanely offensive. If you are wondering the “over-reaction” it comes from years and years of being marginalized in magazines/ hair care.

    Now if you had called this a wavy hair tutorial you would only being receiving positive response.


  15. great post Jo! I use the curling iron sometimes when I want my hair to look different… ok, maybe this is not curly hair but I love wavy hair too. thanks for sharing!

  16. My hair is wavy, and for some strange reason I feel like I need to stand up for the curly haired girls and say this is NOT curly hair. Not even a little bit. You should change these to “wavy hair” tutorials and find a girl with actual curly hair to do your next series. Even I would be offended if you did another “curly hair” tutorial with this girl after all of the feedback your readers are giving you.

  17. I have to agree with everyone else – that is not very curly hair at all. I’m surprised you posted another tutorial and called it “curly” after the comments on the last one. In any case, I love seeing hair tutorials and Reagan always looks beautiful.

  18. Im having a rEALLY hard time seeing a difference in the before and after pics. A little less frizzy perhaps.? My hair is very similar but I refer to it more as wavy, bendy, and annoying! I do get some ringlets but they are mixed in with a mash of other shapes. I would never spend time curling it to look essentially the same. I either blow it straight or diffuse it into much curlier. Ive noticed many of your pictures with hair, it seems like the hair isn’t brushed. Is this a NYC style?

  19. Hi, I love your blog and I read it every day. I just have to say one thing… this isn’t curly hair, this is wavy hair… us girls with curly hair can say that it is quite difficult to find any real tips for real curls, although it is easy to have them natural, it is difficult to find out how to style them, I would really love to see more tips on how to handle real curls and maybe suggestions on different styles. Thank you!!! :D

  20. I think my curls would fall straight out if I did that. My hair never stays in place, always goes back to straight within an hour! She has lovely wavy hair before she curled it!

  21. I LOVE her hair. Curly or not.

  22. Ha!ha! I just read the comments, and it seems that Im not the only really but really really curly reader! ;)

  23. ah, so jealous of girls with wavy texture! If I curled my hair like this, one side would be flat by the time I finished. boo.

  24. I seriously need to get a curling iron!

  25. Lovely lovely, but definitely not curly hair!

  26. Please do one for real curls! I mean these are neat and all but if I woke up with hair like the before I would say my hair was straight. Cause us curly people can’t do any of these without taking an hour to burn our hair before we burn it some more. :]

  27. Totally agree with those who said this isn’t very curly… I have naturally super curly hair and I always see styles in magazines for strait hair only. It would be really nice to acknowledge curly girls too when making a so called “curly” hairstyle It seems bizarre not to!


  28. I’ve been looking for a tutorial on this style! Great post. I’m trying this tomorrow.

  29. PS: after I blow-dry my curly hair with the comb, it looks SOOOO BAD. I call it my “George Washington” wig. it’s like, big and wavy and just really really fluffy. don’t get discouraged when you get to this stage!! I promise, you can tame down that fluff and make it look so perfect and beachy and natural. I get lots of comments/compliments on my hair and it makes the whole process totally worth it! :)

  30. hey curly girls!! I also have super curly hair and here’s what I do to get this same look!! (really, look at the photo on my blog)

    AHEM. so after a shower, I comb through my hair with a kinda wide-toothed comb to get out all the tangles and separate the curls. I spray on some beachy spray (Bumble & Bumble?) and use the tips of my fingers to twist oil (Moroccan or Gooseberry or Nuxe) onto the very tippy-tips of my hair. then I blow-dry my hair (low heat if I have time, high heat if it’s a normal, hurried day) while combing it with the comb. it allows some of the natural body to come through, but it combs out the super-curls and keeps the crown from being too poofy.

    then I do this exact method shown here, wrapping portions of hair/curl around the barrel of a curling iron. I do it in like 10 sections. I have thick hair, so this whole process takes me about an hour. but, once I have perfect beachy waves, I don’t have to wash my hair again for another 4-5 days. thank god for my shower cap ;)

    hope this helps!!

  31. This is fun, but I’m going to jump on the bandwagon: I’d LOVE to see some tutorials for those of us with curly hair (not just a touch of wave). We need your hair help most of all ;)

  32. love this! i use the same technique to do my hair :)

  33. This is the exact look that I am FOREVER trying to get. Unfortunately my “before” would have stick-straight, baby-fine hair that just refuses to hold a curl, loose or otherwise.

  34. Not to jump on the bandwagon here, but speaking as a girl with 27 years of curly-hair-having experience, I feel qualified in pointing out that her hair is hardly curly. It’s slightly wavy (and enhanced with heat tools) at best. There is a huge audience looking for new ways to style and wear our natural curls and corkscrews that doesn’t require removing the curl before putting it back in! We would love to see a feature like that!

    • I have pin-straight hair, and I even feel qualified pointing out that this is NOT curly hair. There was a similar response to the first “curly hair” tutorial, so hopefully there will be a real one soon..

    • Agreed with Marie above (and every other commenter pointing out that Reagan, while a beautifully-coiffed girl, does not have curly hair.) Please stop billing her and these tutorials as ‘for curly hair’. I’m sure you saw that the overwhelming majority of comments on Reagan’s last ‘curly hair’ tutorial were mildly annoyed readers who didn’t appreciate the mislabeling of the style tutorial. It’s quite galling to see once again.

  35. Love her hair, if my bangs would EVER grow out mine would look really similar (I hope!!) Question though… I’ve seen very similar tutorials using a curl stick rather than a curling iron. What are the advantages to using one over the other?

  36. As a curly girl who has been asking for hair tutorials for ages, this actually fits beautifully with where I’m at right now. I usually either flat-iron or put my hair up in a bun after a shower, and in the latter case, I’m left with something that looks a lot like Reagan’s starting place. Not straight, not smooth, kinda nuts around the bottom. This is a beautiful fix that doesn’t require starting over.

    Thank you!

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  38. This is JUST what I needed this week!
    My hair is thin and bone-straight (fun, right?) so my ponytails always look boring and limp. Adding some wave is just what I’ve been trying to do, but with no success. I’ll give this a try, thanks lady!

    Has anyone ever tried braiding your hair, and then straightening the braid? I’ve heard that’s another secret trick, but not sure if it works :)


    • I’ve tried that but it didn’t do much. :-(

  39. Here’s the question I have whenever I see tutorials like this on pinterest or other blogs, but I have never asked. I already have very curly hair…like super tight shirly temple curls underneath, with the crown of my head being more wavy. I would love to re-create this look but I have no idea how to do it with hair that is really curly. Do you blow dry it straight first. ANY advice is welcome… (

    • Yes I do… or iron it! ;) …which is why my hair rarely looks like this.

    • sounds like you and i have the same hair…very curly at the nape of neck and then random frizzy waves. I still use this technique that reagan uses. I have a 2′ curling iron though. I pin my hair up, work from the bottom, and curl about 1 inch sections of my whole head to get the look above. other times, i go to sleep with my hair damp and wake up in the morning and curl the super tight curls at the nape of the neck and just the section framing my face to have a more polished look when my hair is curly.

  40. …or you can just wear your semi-wet hair up in a bun or braid it and then you get wavy hair without any damage or work.

    • every single day of my life! haha but mostly out of laziness and not wanting to blow dry my hair at the crack of dawn. I find that I still have to use a curling iron for a little definition when I take it out of the bun after work, but at least it gets the curls started :)

    • See, this trick does not work for me at all, I still end up with an indent and the top flat and the rest waving around.

    • Another good technique for making the most out of already naturally wavy hair, with no heat for when your hair is wet is to simply divide your hair into 2-4 sections, twist each section and let air dry. When hair is almost dry, unravel and tousle – voila. Just like here:

      I think the curling iron technique works best on second-day hair, the technique I mention above is good right after washing!

  41. This is just what I needed! I have that “not quite straight but not quite curly” hair, which drives me crazy in the summer because it’s too hot to straighten and gets frizzy instead of wavy! I’ll have to give this a try. Thanks Joanna!

  42. She does have gorgeous hair but I really wouldn’t call it “curly”. I would love to see a tutorial where the model starts with super curly hair :-)

    • …and finish with super curly hair. I’m tired of every style starting with “straighten your hair…” :(

  43. Love the blog, but please stop calling waves, curls.

    • Yes! Love the blog, and this hair is beautiful, but it is not anywhere close to curly hair. I have curly hair, and to get my hair to do anything like this, I would have to blow-dry it STRAIGHT first! I would love to see a Reagan tutorial for real curly hair!

  44. Beautiful styles, but I’d love to see something on actual curly hair though :) Magazines always do this too, “curly” hair tutorials a on girls with a slight wave, lol, so not the same thing! They are pretty though.

    • Me, too! I’ve got too many corkscrews for this style… But I love all of your hair tutorials, anyway!

    • Agreed. This hair is not CURLY. Its slightly wavy at best.

      Lets see someone who has actual curls and frizz.

    • Agreed-on all fronts. I have curly hair, but still define the curl with the iron, it does smooth it, though honestly I would call this wavy not curly, and I don’t see much difference between the before and after. An I also like looking at the hair tutorials regardless.

    • Thank you! I agree. I sometimes feel like I’m a curly girl in a straight-haired world. Nobody except other curlies get it.

    • Agreed. This is what my hair looks like when I iron it – though it is pretty!

    • Yes, I agree. I’m starting to think that you what you really mean is tutorials for making your hair look curly, and not tutorials for actual curly hair.

    • that’s why it says BEACHY curls…

  45. This is a really pretty style – I love a loose wave! Great tip to curl away from the face too – thank you! :)

  46. Heat also damages your hair, so I’ll take the advice of my sisters and stick to twisty hair rollers. Gorgeous curls and no damage. :)

  47. Gorgeous! Mastering a loose curl is tough.. this is a good tutorial!

  48. Thank you! This is great!

  49. Great tutorial. Reagan has such pretty hair!