The Complete Guide to Curling Hair
By Jonathan Bales
, last updated January 6, 2012
For those born without naturally curly hair, the idea of curling your hair to create a wild and seemingly care-free hair is exciting. To obtain such hair, however, you have to force it do go against its natural tendencies. It is the presence of chemical bonds which makes hair bend, and most people are born without an abundance of these bonds. When you curl your hair, you are "molding" the hydrogen bonds to act a certain way for a couple of days. Curling your hair is not an incredibly difficult process. There are a variety of methods you can use, from heat-based ones like a curling iron to more natural tools such as rollers or pins. Nonetheless, there are a few guidelines to follow. To curl your hair as safely and effectively as possible, continue reading below.
First, wet your hair. It should not be so wet that it is dripping, as this will take longer to dry. Simply make sure it is damp all around with no dry spots. The reason you wet your hair is to break the hydrogen bonds that you need to "mold." You can also apply a small amount of gel at this time in an effort to help you curls retain their shape once you form them. Be sure to not overdo it on the gel, though, or your hair may get too hard or sticky. Also note that you should not wet your hair if you plan to use a curling iron or hot rollers. These items apply heat to your hair to alter the chemical bonds, and if your hair is wet, it can burn. If you decide to apply a bit of gel to your hair, make sure it is completely dry before applying a curling iron or hot rollers.
Next, you will begin the shaping process. There are a variety of methods to curl your hair, depending on how curly you want it, how easily it naturally curls, the amount of time available, and so on. Foam rollers are a more time-consuming option which may require the help of a friend, but they are comfortable to use and even sleep in. Simply add the rollers to your hair before bed and wake up with curls in the morning. If you use different sizes of rollers, you can acquire a unique style with a lot of depth. Hot rollers are a particular type of roller which create a soft look, but the curls will not last long. Again, because these use heat, do not apply them to wet hair. Hair sticks and rags are options which are similar in philosophy to rollers, but with a different material. The shape of sticks and rags results in a skinnier curl.
For shorter hair, bobby pins have been popular for awhile. Called "pin curls," bobby pins create well-defined, skinny curls which are worn very close to the head. This hair style was popular in the early parts of the 20th century. In addition to the aforementioned curling irons, straighteners are another heat-based tool which can provide curly hair. Many people dismiss straighteners for obvious reasons, but simply twisting your hair around the straightener will create a curled look. This method is generally used to create curls near the end of hair.
If you chose a heat-based curling option, you can now allow the hair to set. Let your hair to dry and cool, and add hair spray to keep the reformed hydrogen bonds in place. If you used another method of hair curling, such as rollers, pins and so on, you should add heat to your hair at this time. Use a blow dryer to heat your hair in an effort to get your curls to "set." Place a barrier, such as a bandanna, between the blow dryer and your hair to keep the curls in place. Note that any heating of your hair is not great for its health, so try to limit this task. Do not blow dry your hair if you used a curling iron, hot rollers or a straightener to curl it.
Once your hair is cool and dry, you may need to "waterproof" it to keep the hydrogen bonds in place. Moisture from rain or even humidity can break down these bonds in the same way they were broken when you wet your hair. Apply a pomade or oil to your hair to limit its contact with outside moisture. This will help your hair stay dry so that the bonds remain intact, providing you with the longest lasting curls possible.