How to Get Disco Curls, Spring’s Must-Try Hairdo

by Michelle Rostamian

A collage of the best disco hair, featuring Zendaya, Keke Palmer, Emily Ratajkowski
Collage by Ashley Peña. Images courtesy of Getty
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#BeautyTikTok coined “hair cycling,” Instagram introduced us to the “I’m cold” makeup look. There’s no doubt social media heavily shapes today’s beauty trends, but sometimes we prefer looking back to previous eras as a guide for the latest hair and makeup looks. One trend that’s making a major comeback this spring? Disco curls. Hollywood’s finest (including Emily Ratajkowski and Cardi B) have put the hairstyle back on the map—transporting us to the Studio 54 days, when a bouncy, va-va-voom ‘do had the power to dominate the dance floor. Here’s everything you need to know about the resurgence of the style, below—along with a step-by-step guide on how to achieve the look according to your hair type.

What Are Disco Curls?

Disco curls embody a bold, next-level volume, texture, and curl pattern. “The fullness of the curls gave volume to flat hair in the ’70s, but over time the trend has progressed from a frizzier, teased look to a more defined curl,” says celebrity hairstylist Meechie De’Franco. Sophie Sugarman, another hairstylist to the stars, also notes that more recently, she’s seen a rise in people embracing their natural hair texture and curls. “As we head into spring and summer, we are going to see bolder and bigger hairstyles come to life,” she says. Not to mention, aside from being an attention-grabbing, statement-making hairstyle, disco curls have the added benefit of lasting you all week if you play your cards right (more on that later).

Emily Ratajkowski at Viktor and Rolf’s Flowerbomb party in New York City on February 9, 2023.

Photo by Hippolyte Petit/Getty Images

How to Achieve Disco Curls, According to Hair Type

Your hair texture, length, and cut all play a role in the type of curls you’ll yield. For instance, a layered cut creates more volume because fullness is built into the style, says De’Franco. Textured hair will be more likely to hold a curl versus fine, flat hair, and short- to medium-length hair will have to choose their barrel size carefully to ensure fullness (19mm is recommended, per De’Franco). That being said, all hair types and textures can pull off disco curls. As with most hair styles, in-shower and post-shower prep is key, as is barrel size and post-styling products.

Straight Hair

If you have straight hair, Sugarman says to avoid curl-enhancing products as they’ll be too heavy and can weigh your hair down. Instead, seek out volumizing products such as the Unite Boosta Volumizing Shampoo and Conditioner, both of which are laced with pro-vitamin B to add mirror-like shine. When it comes time to dry your hair, Sugarman recommends rough drying the hair—rather than drying it completely—to maintain some natural texture. Follow up with a medium-size curling wand across each section of hair, taking the time to pin up hard-to-curl sections and letting them cool in this position to fully set. If you plan on wearing your disco curls to a special event, De’Franco recommends opting for a firmer hairspray—this will help create maximum texture for the night, but isn’t suitable if you’re looking for your curls to last days, as firmer hair sprays are naturally stickier, which can cause your curls to flatten overnight.

Fine, Flat Hair

If you have fine hair, opt for a clarifying shampoo, which De’Franco says can help eliminate some weight from the hair (especially great if your hair is straight and fine). Pair that with a volume-boosting conditioner and follow with a volumizing mousse (like the ColorProof Super Plump Whipped Mousse)—just make sure to apply the mousse while your hair is wet, as it’ll give your eventual curls a firmer shape, says De’Franco. Then, use a 19mm curling wand for a fuller curl (or a 25mm wand for looser curls on longer lengths). If you have stubborn hair and suspect your curls will fall quickly, De’Franco recommends flipping the hair upside down or lifting each section with your hand and spraying a texturizing spray throughout to create volume.

Wavy/Curly Hair

To avoid weighing your hair down, start off with a curl-enhancing shampoo and conditioner that’s free of heavy oils. Add a dime-sized amount of Ranavat’s Fortifying Hair Serum for shine, along with a lightweight styling gel like Function of Beauty’s Moisturizing Hair Styling Gel. Sugarman says you can either air dry your hair or use a diffuser on low speed and medium heat to help expedite the drying process. Then, try the twist-and-wrap technique, which involves twisting the hair before wrapping it over the curling wand. “Once the section is curled, remove the wand and shake the curl out so it sets with the voluminous texture,” says Sugarman. “Throughout the back of the hair, I always alternate the sections to give it a natural feel, while around the front I curl away from the face to give it that modern touch.” Spritz on a weightless hair spray (like Aveda’s Air Control Light Hold Hair Spray) and make sure to be even with your application, as concentrating it in one area more than another can give your curls a hard, oversprayed look.

Textured Hair

If you’re after disco curls that are looser than your natural curl pattern, first cleanse your hair with a clarifying shampoo and follow with a moisturizing conditioner (such as the L’Orèal Paris Elvive Hyaluron Plump Hydrating Conditioner). Next, De’Franco says to apply a hydrating mousse and blow dry your hair until it is completely dry—“the mousse will help give your hair a straighter foundation prior to creating the disco curls,” she says. “If your naturally textured hair has the size curls that you desire for your disco curl, shampoo and condition the hair, apply a mousse on your wet tresses, comb your hair into the desired shape, and use a diffuser to shape and dry the curls at the same time. Finish the look off with a texturizing spray or light holding spray.”