Why 'Plopping' Is Your New Curly Hair Hack


Over the last few weeks, I’ve been asking all my friends with wavy or curly hair one question.

“Do you plop?”

I first learned about “plopping” while watching Gillian McLean’s shower routine for wavy/curly hair video on YouTube. I became familiar with her channel after I watched her video called “I Didn’t Know My Hair Was Curly!” when I was feeling dissatisfied with my own hair. I ended up learning a technique that’s completely changed the way I care for my hair.

What is plopping?

Plopping is a method of drying your hair by wrapping a T-shirt around your head and letting it sit over a period of time. The longer you keep the shirt wrapped around your head, the better it will turn out. Plopping doesn’t usually work super well for people who have straight hair because it’s about defining the waves/curls that already exist versus creating new ones. Is it really made for my hair type though?

Well first, here’s a little bit about my hair journey.

I had pretty straight hair when I was a kid. Then, once puberty hit, my hair started getting wavier and even curly. This isn’t uncommon.

However, my hair often wasn’t what I wanted it to be. For every perfect curl I had, I’d find a frizzy mess of strands. What I realize now is that my hair was damaged because I didn’t know how to properly take care of my waves. I cut a lot of my hair off right before I started college, partly in hopes that it would give me the perfect waves I craved. Instead, my hair just seemed even frizzier at times. This is what my hair looked like pre-plopping:

I was able to love my hair then, but since I started plopping, I have a whole new appreciation for my wavy texture. I’ll never use a towel to dry my hair again.

Why shouldn’t I towel dry my hair?

Drying your hair with a towel can be a bad idea no matter what your hair texture is. Towels are absorbent, which is great for drying your skin but can do a lot of damage to your hair, according to Swirlster. Your hair is more vulnerable when it’s wet because it has more elasticity. The thick fibers of a towel can cause breakage.

Also, even the softest of towels are still pretty coarse, which means rubbing them against your hair can cause frizz. That’s particularly bad news if you’re trying to keep your curls/waves intact.

Instead of towel drying your hair, dry it with an old T-shirt instead. The material is more gentle to your lovely locks.

You can even take this method a step further. If you have wavy or curly hair, especially if it’s on the thicker side, plopping could be right for you.

So, how do I plop?

If you’re easily intimidated by beauty tips, don’t worry. Plopping is very easy! You’ll be admiring your curls before you know it.

  1. Find the right T-shirt. 

    The best shirts for plopping made of cotton, the softer the better. Make sure it isn’t dirty! Don’t use a shirt you wear all the time, of course. How are you going to plop with it you’re wearing it? Now’s the time to dig out all your old high school T-shirts from the bottom of your drawer. When I plop, I use a long-sleeved shirt because it’s easier to tie nice and snug around my head. (You’ll see what I mean later).

  2. Take a shower! 

    You can plop with clean or dirty hair. Just know that the texture might vary a little. Make sure your shirt is on standby for when you’re done.

  3.  Lay your shirt on the floor with the hem facing towards you.

  4. Gently lower your sopping wet hair onto the shirt, in roughly the center.

  5.  Fold the bottom of the shirt across the back of your head. Then, grab the shirt by the collar and pull it so that it’s covering the rest of your hair.

6. Slowly raise your head up and tie the sleeves of the shirt into a knot, securing it on your head. (See why a long-sleeved shirt comes in handy now)? Tuck in any loose strands. Your wrap doesn’t have to be perfect! It might look different than mine or even different each time you do it. What’s important is that it’s on nice and tight and that all your hair is wrapped inside.

7. Leave your hair like that for as long as you can. It doesn’t have to be completely dry but closer to dry than damp.

8. Remove the T-shirt wrap! You may have to scrunch your hair a little to get the amount of curl you want.

This is what my hair looked like immediately after I took the shirt off after this round of plopping. I had a pretty big block of freetime this day, so I left my hair up for about an hour and a half.

You can definitely see the difference between what my hair looks like after plopping compared to what it looks like when I towel dry it.

Here are some tips for plopping success:

  • If you use product in your hair, either dry your hair off some with the T-shirt and then put it in or just don’t plop as long and then add it to your damp hair. Plopping works best when your hair is dripping wet, but you also don’t want to add most products to super wet hair.
  • Don’t plop your hair and then go straight to bed, at least not for the first few times you do it. If your hair isn’t used to just being its natural wavy/curly, (i.e. if you straighten your hair or blow dry it a lot) sleeping on it immediately will likely take it back to its frizzy or towel-dried state. Try to plop in the morning, even if it just means washing your hair instead of taking an actual shower. If you’re not a morning person or just don’t have the time, at least try to plop earlier in the evening instead of right before bed.
  • Experiment with plopping! Try different shirts and different lengths of time. Try scrunching your hair with some product. Do whatever gives you the waves of your dreams!  

Sure, the idea of sitting around with a T-shirt on your head might sound silly, but give plopping a chance. You might find that you never let a towel near your hair again.