The majority of vintage hair styles require curl setting before we create the finished style. And even for styles that could technically be created without putting a curl in our hair first (such as victory rolls), I always recommend beginners don’t skip the curl setting because it makes the styling soooo much easier!
I know many of you will be familiar with curl setting but for those absolute beginners amongst us, I’ll explain this a little further. Curl setting it the process of either wet or heat setting our hair into curls all over the head and what’s unique to vintage styling (as opposed to most modern curl styles) is that we ‘pin’ the curls up whilst they cool or dry. Keeping the curl in this shape until its completely set (cooled from hot curlers, or dried from being wet) means the curl is very robust and can be brushed, sculpted and restyled without losing its curl.
So what are the secrets to a long lasting curl set? Hot curl sets require this formula each and every time…
Dry hair + Chemical + hot to cold process (in pins) = robust curl
If we compromise on any of these ingredients our curls may be loose or fall out quickly. Can you spot which of these you’ve not been doing so far, that’s led to loose curls that fall out immediately? Post over in our Keuxties group and we can chat some more about getting this recipe spot on! Here’s some in depth tips for you on each ingredient:
Dry hair: The best place to start is hair that’s completely dry. You can style day or older hair (as in not washed for a day or so), in fact for fine and silky hair this can work best, but I find older hair only works with dry shampoo in. Any natural oils in the hair will act as ‘wet’ and may weigh the hair down and prevent it from curling as the oils don’t dry in our hair. Dry shampoo counteracts the oiliness and dries greasy hair out, and it also creates texture in the hair by coating the hair strands, so if your hair is very shiny and you find it falls out of clips easily dry shampoo may be a great way of ‘roughing’ up the texture and you’ll find it pins up better. Lastly I recommend if you know you’re going to style your hair after washing it, don’t use any moisturising products such as serums and leave in conditioner or pomade before styling. These again may weigh the hair down and impede the curling process.
Chemical: By this is mean hair curl setting product. There’s soooo many on the market and products can perform differently on different hair textures so you can experiment to find the best for you. I often use a curl setting mousse or a spray, both of which are in development for our own Le Keux Cosmetics hair range coming soon (after years of trying every product out there I wanted to create my own that’s designed just for vintage styling!). I recommend finding one with a heat protecting element so you know you’re not damaging your hair with the curling tongs (especially if you heat set regularly). You’ll see me use both types of products and I recommend you experiment to see what works best in your hair. Whatever you use it needs to be applied to dry hair from root to tip evenly (again amounts and how to apply will be shown in the videos to help you with this) and then the key step is to ensure the product you apply is completely dry before you start curling (we’ve all had that worrying ‘sizzle’ sound with our curling tongs!).
Hot to cold process: now we have dry hair, full of curling product we’re ready to roll. I’ve included a guide below on curl setting your hair (this is specifically for victory rolls as that’s been most asked for and is the perfect place to start your vintage hair learning!). This is taken directly from our tutorial eBooks. Don’t follow this pattern for a curl set you intend to wear down (as in not pinning up any of the hair, that’s a different pattern of setting the curls in different directions, that we’ll go into in a later post). My key tips are:
Ensure the curling tongs are HOT
Curling from the tip of the hair tightly to the root.
Slide the tongs out of the curl so the curl stays in a roll (rather than unravelling the curl when you take it off the tongs which means a lot of essential heat needed for setting the curl shape escapes!)
Pinning the curl tightly.
Interested in getting your vintage makeup locked down too? The tutorial eBooks I’ve taken excerpts from above can be downloaded directly from our website and cover everything you could possibly want to learn! You can find out more about styling vintage hair in our eBooks available to download here.
Section off the area of hair you’d like to roll, and prep with curls if needed, Then start by taking an inch wide section of the hair and hold the length straight up, keeping the tension fairly tight, Using a fine tooth comb, place the brush with the teeth through the hair and a few inches away from the root. Pull the brush gently downwards towards the head, keeping hold of the length of the hair with your other hand. You want to keep a fairly firm grip but also allow this hair to be pushed down so that you don’t cause too much friction or damage to the hair. Once the brush is near the root, remove it away from the hair entirely, this is the start of your backcombing! Next do the same process but insert the brush a little higher away fron the root and push downwards towards the top of the previous ‘set’ of teased hair. Repeat until you have worked through the entire length, The aim is to retain length rather than push all the hair downwards so we are creating volumised, mouldable hair, ready for styling!
Work through all the sections of hair you want to style, backcombing inch think pieces at a time. As you introduce a new section of hair, bring it together with the previous backcombed pieces and repeat the process. By doing this you’ll have one combined mouldable piece to style without any separations. Once you’ve reached the final piece of hair, which will sit on the outside of the roll, you’ll need to backcomb the inside of the piece to keep the top later smooth, ready for styling. Now that the entire section has been backcombed, you can smooth over the outer layers with a grooming brush, gently brushing only the top few layers of hair so you don’t disrupt the backcombing, and use hairspray to smooth any flyaways and set.