Whether your hair is naturally stick-straight, or you have a head full of corkscrew ringlets, chances are you have admired the classic style of beautiful, even, and full curls. Unfortunately, many women are apprehensive about attempting to curl or set their hair at home—with good reason. The process can be extremely time consuming, and if it isn’t done properly, can result in almost-instant droop, frizz, or just plain failure (after all that hard work!)
However, it doesn’t have to be a salon set or nothing. With the correct tools, process, and a little patience, you can create gorgeous and festive curls right in your own bathroom. Study our “curl primer,” and prepare to wow your friends and family with luxurious curls at your next holiday gathering.
Start With The Right Basics
Your curly hairstyle begins, ironically enough, in the shower. Select your shampoo and conditioner carefully; formulas that are too heavy will weigh your hair down before you even begin (tip: Look for the word “light” in the product description).
Once you’ve washed and conditioned your hair, you’ll want to select a product to apply before blowing dry, which will prep your hair for the curling process. If you have fine or limp hair, try a body-enhancing mousse or gel; select an anti-frizz serum if that happens to be your hurdle. If you do not battle texture issues, a curl-enhancing primer is a safe bet to get your tresses in great shape for styling.
Rule No. 1: If you’re going to use a heated utensil to curl your hair, do not start until your hair is 100% dry! A diffuser on your blow-drier will give you lots of body as well as help avoid the frizzies.
Choose Your Tools
For most heads of hair, a curling iron is the smartest choice as your go-to tool. Irons come in all price points, sizes, and configurations. Which to choose?
First to think about is what type of material your iron is composed of. Again, for most, a ceramic or tourmaline iron is probably your best bet. These materials offer even heat distribution while protecting your locks at the same time.
Another material to consider is titanium, which gets extremely hot and cooks up a wicked good curl; however, it doesn’t offer the same protection and is a little harder on the hair overall.
Chrome irons are inexpensive and can be picked up at the drugstore in a pinch. Use them sparingly, as they can damage your tresses. They also do not offer the most lasting curls, so your hard work may fall after a short amount of time.
The next thing to consider is the barrel size. The bigger the barrel, the looser your curl will be. You may wish to consider a smaller barrel if you have hard-to-curl hair.
Barrels can go all the way up to 2” diameter and down to a 3/8”. If you’re unsure where to start, a 1 ¼” iron is a good medium barrel that will create lasting curls on most women.
If you wish to have looser waves, or have hair that very easily holds a curl, try going up in width. Girls with tight natural curls can benefit from the very smallest barrels, which can assist in taming randomly wayward corkscrews.
Some women have hair that just does not lend itself to holding curls easily, no matter what iron is used. In these cases, consider trying hot rollers to set the hair. Hot rollers offer the longest-lasting curls, and are actually amenable to all hair types—they just require a different technique which some find to be more time-consuming than a curling iron.
Getting To Work
Curling your entire head of hair properly can take some time, but if you follow a few guidelines, the work will be worth it: You’ll be rewarded with a style that lasts through the day or night.
After drying completely, pin your hair up in sections and start with the bottom two inches of locks. Give your entire head a coat of hairspray, then curl each section, holding the iron on each lock for about 10-20 seconds. To add lasting longevity, fasten each finished curl with a bobby pin.
Do not remove the pins until your hair has completely cooled. After taking the curls down, you can either keep as is (bouncy, full curled tresses) or run a brush gently through for a more relaxed, wavy look.