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The best dirty hairstyles for curly hair, according to a hairdresser

WORDS BY EMILY HOLGATE

No dry shampoo required.

As a chronic oversharer, I often describe myself to people as a ‘grotty girl’. While I do embrace the clean girl trend, in slicking my hair back, wearing simple makeup and gold jewellery, I want to make it clear that this is all a facade. Because really, I am and always have been in ‘goblin mode’

Behind an illusion of glamour, I dread showers and avoid them for as long as possible, often forget to brush my teeth at night, and am lucky if I wash my hair once a week (hence the slick hairstyles).


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As someone with a naturally frizzy, curly mane, I find it difficult to participate in the multitude of dirty-clean hairstyles frequenting my feed. Cute, messy buns? Couldn’t be me. French braids? Don’t know her.

The slick-back ’do is probably the only dirty hairstyle I ever attempt and it takes a lot longer than it probably should. On day five, my hair is an unruly mess and it usually takes copious amounts of spritzing, brushing and gel to get it into place. 

But with more people putting down the straightener and embracing their natural locks, as I’ve done over the past two years, I decided to research some more dirty hairstyles to add to my repertoire.

I have more of a flat curl pattern (if you’re familiar with curl types, I sit around the 2C mark), so I can only imagine how difficult it would be to style more defined or coily hair. So, with some tips from Edwards & Co. style director Matt Jones, I’ve discovered a few new styles for my fellow (grotty) curly queens to try.

The OG slick bun

The slick, ’90s-style bun isn’t just for those with straight hair. This is my tried and tested, go-to style for when my roots are a little greasy but I’m still holding curls in the ends.

For the slick bun, spritz your roots all over with water or a styling spray – Matt tells me that hydration sprays, creams and oils are perfect for rehydrating, softening and defrizzing your dirty hair.

Then, go in with a brush (a flat brush works best but I just use my Denman) to brush your hair up into a sleek ponytail, and secure it with a hair tie. From here I grab a strong hold gel and smooth it all over my head, before slicking it back again with a toothbrush (unused, obviously).

You could also use the toothbrush to style your baby hairs for a more refined look. Matt adds that those with “smoother hair types can use pomades and gels to add shine, while disguising oily roots”.

I then loop my pony into a very small bun so the curly ends are still visible, and flip the bun around so the curls sit on top of my head. Alternatively, you could flip the ponytail onto your head and secure it with a claw clip.

The bubble braid

 

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This is another one I love that works for both straight and curly hair. For this, follow the same slick ponytail instructions above, and tie the pony as high or low as you want – I personally have medium-length hair so keep it in the middle of my head, but for longer hair, you could tie it at the top for an elegant, cascading look.

Once you’ve secured your ponytail, it’s as simple as grabbing a few mini rubber hair ties to tie your pony into sections and using your hands to pull out the ‘bubbles’ a bit for a more textured look. I then spray the entire look, roots to pony, with hairspray.

You could also do this same style but braid the ponytail instead, for a Kim K-inspired ‘wet look’ braid. Matt says this type of braid is “super on-trend” and that a “spray oil is key for any good wet look”. 

“My tip is to blow dry in volume at the roots to ensure the hair looks wet, but not oily,” he says.

The messy pony-bun

 

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I know I said I couldn’t do a messy bun but the good thing about curly hair is that a ponytail on top of your head can effectively give the same look as a curly bun. Simply pull your hair loosely up on top of your head (I like to use a scrunchie so that it doesn’t look too flat).

For those with coily or more refined curls, the ponytail will immediately give the illusion of a cute, curly bun. But for me, with flatter curls, I like to flip the pony on top of my head.

Whichever your curl type is, you can then secure the ponytail and curls with some butterfly clips to hold it in place and make it look more like a bun. Matt says this style works particularly well for those with finer hair, as you “can try pulling your hair into a top knot and pinning some pieces down into a chic, messy style”.

For an added ‘messy’ element, you can also pull out some of your curls or baby hairs from your fringe, near your ears and at the base of your hair near your neck. And voila!

The scarf

 

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Matt tells me this style works particularly well for those with coily hair. “Depending on how activated the curls have become, you may want to grab your favourite scarves and handkerchiefs and aim for a wrapped look,” he says.

The scarf also works for other curl types if your hair is too dirty for even the slick back look. Simply follow the same instructions as the messy bun, and tie a scarf around the top of your head. Your curls will still shine but you won’t be able to see those dirty roots – and you can match your scarf to your outfit, too. 

The low pony

Another one that’s perfect for all hair types. This one is pretty self-explanatory – part your hair and follow the same instructions as the slick bun, but this time you’ll be brushing your hair towards the base of your neck. Once it’s all slicked back, you can secure a tight, low ponytail. This is another style that’s perfect if your hair is greasy at the roots but not the ends (as curly hair often is).

If my curls are a bit flat, I spray the ponytail with a salt spray or even water and run some curl cream through with my hands. You can then let it dry naturally or diffuse the pony, but it’s a great way to refresh your curls while still giving off a sleek look.

Don’t reach for the dry shampoo

As a final piece of advice, Matt says those with curly locks should avoid dry shampoo and instead use “plenty of creams and serums”. 

“The reason we use these is they will hydrate the hair which helps eliminate frizz. Dry shampoos and powders are used to soak up oils, which thirsty curls need to stay frizz-free.”

For advice on caring for curly hair, try this.

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