What Is the Bowl Method for Curly Hair? I Tried It, and Here’s What I Thought
Some people rave about it, but it didn't work for me.
As a teen, my styling method for curly hair involved a leave-in conditioner (raked through with my fingers) and a mousse, if I felt like it. Those were the days of frizzy, dry curls and waves — until I discovered curly hair tutorials on social media. I thank those videos every day for teaching me how to properly hydrate my strands without sacrificing volume. Still, I’m always looking for new tricks to keep my hair moisturized (it gets dry quickly) and achieve frizz-free curls without a lot of effort. And that is where the bowl method for curly hair comes in.
Though this styling technique has been hugely popular on TikTok since 2021, I’ve been hesitant to try it. It involves dipping your hair repeatedly in a bowl of water after applying styling products — so I’ve been worried that the process would dilute my products too much and dry out my hair. Still, so many people have raved about the technique that I thought it was finally time to give it go. Keep reading to see my results.
What is the bowl method for curly hair?
The idea behind the bowl method is to hydrate your strands to the max — it’s basically designed to reinstate all the water your hair loses as you style it. First, you apply leave-in conditioner to clean, wet hair. Next, you hold your head upside-down and dunk your hair in a large bowl of water. When you come back up (and lift your hair out of the water), you scrunch your strands, squeezing out excess water and encouraging curls to form. You can then apply a gel or a mousse to lock in moisture and maintain the shape of your curls. Finally, you either air dry or diffuse with a hairdryer. And voilà! Luscious, hydrated curls… allegedly.
How do you do the bowl method?
If you want to try it yourself, follow along with the step-by-step process below.
- Wash and condition your hair as normal.
- Apply a leave-in conditioner, either raking it through with your fingers or using a gentle detangling brush.
- Fill a large bowl with lukewarm water. (The more water, the more diluted your hair products will become. If you don’t want to dilute your products that much, add only an inch or two of water.)
- Set the bowl on a counter, table, or sturdy chair.
- Flip your hair over (so your neck is exposed), and gently lower your hair into the bowl. Lift your hair out of the bowl and scrunch, squeezing the strands in an upward motion.
- Repeat dunking your hair three or four times. Turn your head to the left or to the right on subsequent dunks to ensure you are wetting the hair on the sides of your head too.
- Apply mousse or gel. Scrunch in the product.
- Using a microfiber towel or a soft t-shirt (these prevent frizz, unlike a regular towel), scrunch out excess water and product.
- Let your hair air dry or diffuse it as normal.
Did the bowl method work for me?
I began the process with tried and true products that always give me good hair days. First, I washed my hair with Twist Gentle Oil-Infused Shampoo ($9.99) and — wanting to add as much moisture as possible — conditioned with the Verb Hydrating Hair Mask ($18). Out of the shower, I applied Verb Curl Cream ($18) with a detangling brush, then I added a styling gel-cream from AG Care ($22) for good luck. Finally, there was nothing left to do but fill the bowl with water. I did so, and dunked my hair. Instantly, I knew it wasn’t going to work.
As I scrunched my hair with the water from the bowl, I felt the moisture leaving my strands. My hair became dry and straw-like at the ends, and worsened with each dunk. In this instance, curly hair enthusiasts recommend applying more conditioner, so I re-applied some of the curl cream (does that count as cheating?). While I could still see frizz, I noticed that my curls were big and bouncy, giving me a little hope. I applied a mousse gel ($23), then used a soft t-shirt to scrunch out the excess water.
My hair took considerably less time to dry than normal, which I consider a plus. However, none of the curls were intact by the time it dried completely. They looked more like thick waves, and they felt dry and frizzy at the ends.
What are the pros of the bowl method for curly hair?
If you have fine, wavy hair that is easily weighed down by hair products, the bowl method may work well to enhance your natural waves. Diluting your leave-in conditioner with water could leave your hair looking thicker, light, and bouncy, plus it may give your strands a better chance of clumping and curling.
In addition, this method was relatively quick (it took me between five and 10 minutes) and speeds up the drying time — so you won’t need to pull out the hair dryer.
What are the cons?
If you have dry or coarse hair like me, this method may not so work well for you. Most leave-in conditioners are not designed to be diluted, and they won’t hydrate your strands in small concentrations. However, some people with very tight curls and dry hair have enjoyed using this technique.
Another note: Some bowl method enthusiasts recommend leaving your shower conditioner in your hair. However, that may not be the best idea: Regular conditioner (as opposed to leave-in conditioner) is designed to be rinsed out, and it may contain ingredients that will glom up your strands. In other words, if the back of the bottle tells you to rinse out the product before styling, you should do so.
Lastly, I’ll admit this method was hard on my back. While it was quick, it required me to bend over the bowl in a hunched position; that isn’t ideal if you struggle with back pain.
The Bottom Line
Ultimately, your success with the bowl method will depend on your hair’s dryness and the products you use. You won’t know whether it works for you until you try it. But be warned: You may not get the perfect results that you see on TikTok.
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