The ‘Utah curl’ is not new, but here’s why people are fascinated

The style is “a beachy look” — and social media influencers in landlocked Utah may be the reason for the name.

Are they beachy waves? Are they curls with straight ends?

However you describe them, “Utah curls” are trending nationwide — and the hairstyling technique popular in the Beehive State is a little bit of both. The name doesn’t refer to curly hair, but to the look created when hair is loosely curled until an almost magical flick of the wrist leaves the ends straight and relaxed.

While the style itself isn’t new, searches for “Utah curls” are enjoying a surge of fame, with queries like “Utah girl curls,” “How to do Utah curls” and the most pressing — “what are Utah curls?” — on the rise over the last three months, according to Google Trends.

It’s also trending on other media platforms, such as TikTok, Instagram and YouTube. The term “Utah curls” has spiked on YouTube the last three weeks.

National beauty news outlets have weighed in on the style’s Utah branding. Utah-based social media influencers popularized the style, Glam.com wrote. The culture of Latter-day Saint women — who are “taught to always be cognizant of their outward appearance and are encouraged to wear makeup and style their hair” — was the perfect launchpad for the trend, a writer for TheList.com asserted, under a headline that questionably put Utah in the Midwest.

The style has also been seen on at least one Utah celebrity: Lisa Barlow, one of the cast members of “The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City,” who has sometimes worn the wavy look as a contrast to her straight hair.

McKenzie Anderson, an Ogden hairstylist based who has been working in the industry for five years but has had a love for the profession since high school, talked to The Salt Lake Tribune about what she knows about the Utah curl.

What is the “Utah curl”?

“I would say it’s a looser curl with straight ends. Almost like a beachy look.”

Is there a history to the Utah curl?

“There’s not a huge history to it, other than people in Utah just like to get dressed up [and] like to look their best. … It’s definitely like a Utah thing for sure, because … you don’t see it anywhere else. … The beauty industry is just really big here, so maybe that’s kind of how it started.”

How does a Utah curl differ from a regular curl?

[The end of the curls are not styled, but they remain straight. Anderson said that technique adds another layer to the hairstyle.]

“The straight ends give it a looser look. … It adds beachyness. … You still look put together, but it’s easy to do. When I grow my hair like that, I’m not having to touch every single piece.”

(McKenzie Anderson) A screenshot of Ogden hairstylist McKenzie Anderson's Instagram account, where she showcases her work and examples of the "Utah curl."

How do you achieve the Utah curl?

“Usually, when I’m doing my curls, I kind of unravel them as I go. You definitely have to use a curling iron with a clamp. … Then, once I’m getting to the end, I just pull straight through. I know some people will just curl their hair and then go back and straighten the ends, If they can’t quite do the movement with their wrist — because it takes practice for sure.”

Why is this hairstyle on trend now?

“For anyone who is out-of-state, it’s different [from] what they’ve seen before. It’s summertime, so I feel like people are wanting more of a beachy, loose or more relaxed look anyway. …I feel like on TikTok, Utah in general gets a lot of stuff trending. There’s a lot of Utah influencers on TikTok, so maybe that’s also drawing more attention to it.”