How To: Pin Curls Hair Tutorial

Nicola Lombardi

Retro loving plus size girl, I love experimenting with my red hair, embracing the thighs of life, trying to perfect the perfect brow and being continuously torn between wanting to be a real life mermaid or a Disney villain...choices.

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I did my first pin curls set about three years ago – I had been into the vintage/repro/rockabilly look for a couple of years at this point, but had never done anything more than a few victory rolls. My hair has never taken well to heat and whenever I’ve tried to curl it, it always falls limp within a few hours. I would spend so much time fawning over the stunning Instagram ladies with their beautiful curls and realised that most of them don’t use heat at all, they did a wet set and slept in foam rollers overnight.

Sleeping to set hair? Hello! This is something I could do!

I often used to feel like I could hide behind my long hair, and that putting it up around my face in some way would make me feel insecure. Then I quickly had a word with myself and decided to stop fawning and doing nothing about it and to get stuck in to some research. Old Hollywood hair, here I come.

Getting Started

I spoke to some ladies about what they use and bought some soft foam rollers from Poundland (of all places!) for my first set. I have a lot of hair so I bought a few packs, along with some setting lotion and a spray bottle and I was ready to go. I now use the pillow style soft curlers which I got from Claire’s (£8 a pack), I need two packs of these for my hair.

There are different patterns that you can follow when setting your hair so it works out a certain way, I’m not very good at that level of organisation so I keep mine quite simple as there’s so much hair: I do mine in three main sections, along the parting and all the way down the back and also the two sides. I think if you have shorter hair the patterns work really well, but I am yet to experiment.

So, to get started I would also recommend you get a hair scarf. I got a slumber hat from Superdrug, which was basically an industrial hair net and was perfect – really comfortable to sleep in and had good ventilation to help the hair dry overnight. A comb or backcombing brush is best for when you brush the curls out, along with some hair pomade (ideally). You can get this in most shops that sell hair products but I prefer Suavecita. Ever seen Ghostbusters? Well, it looks like Ectoplasm, what is not to love?!

Some people start with wet hair, and let it dry a bit, but as mine is so long I find it easier to keep it dry and use an equal part mixture of setting lotion and water in a spray bottle to make the sections of my hair damp as I go along – this makes it more consistent. I struggle doing this with clean hair so second day (at least) hair is usually best. I put most of my hair up in a quick pony tail or clips to keep it out of the way.


Pin Curls Hair Tutorial

  •  I usually find it’s best to start with the front of the centre section. Start by picking a section about an inch wide – I don’t like to pick too much or it becomes difficult to roll and set. Spray the hair until damp and give it a good brush. It can often be a bit frizzy when dry so try to make the hair as smooth as possible when putting the hair into the curlers.
  • Open up the roller and hold the selection of hair away from you, place the roller on the underside and slowly roll it back towards your scalp. When it’s nice and tight to my scalp I then twist the roller back together – this does take some practice but it gets easier the more you do it. I try to keep the rollers going in the same kind of direction along my scalp. It does take some time to put the hair up but trust me, it’s worth it! Keep doing this all the way down the centre and towards the back, this can be difficult as you don’t have any visibility on the back so you just have to feel your way and use a two mirror trick at the end.
  • When you start on the sides you’ll find it a bit easier as you don’t have to do a yoga position to see the whole side! I try to keep these in lines that flow and keep the rollers directly under each other. Usually, this is just a fantasy and as long as they’re all going in the same direction I’m happy!
  • You may find that you end up brushing and re-rolling a lot of sections until you’re happy with how they sit. Keep doing this until you’re totally happy. I find it’s good at this point to spray the entire head with more of the setting lotion/water mixture and a good dose of hairspray, or three, or five. Basically, all hair spray is good hair spray.
  • Once you’re happy it’s time to get out the scarf/slumber hat and carefully place it over the hair making sure all of the curler sections are hidden away.
  • Now it’s time to sleep! The best bit, the easiest bit. As I said, I find these really comfortable and never had any issues getting to sleep in them. You may find it a good idea to use some bobby pins to pin the scarf down to your hair and make sure it doesn’t come undone during the night.


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Pin Curls Hair Tutorial

  • Wake up! You want to give yourself enough time in the morning for a good brushing out session as this style is a bit of a commitment. I find taking out the curlers really satisfying, the curls always turn out so bouncy!
  • Now it’s time for the brush out, you can use your backcombing brush for this or just a normal brush, whichever you prefer. Brush each section out one by one. I brush out each side and style it before moving on to the next one. I find it’s easier to manage the styling by section and not leaving it all until the end. You will find brushing out can actually take some time. The curls are usually really tight and arm-ache is something you’ll need to endure.
  • Then suddenly, you’ll find it starts to take shape! This is where I get the pomade ready as it helps keep the style, define the curls and makes them super shiny all whilst taming the frizz. It really does make a difference like no other product, in my opinion. I usually leave the fringe until last as I think it’s the most dramatic looking section.
  • I like a huge swooping side section so I try to keep some of the top of the side section back for this and keep brushing and styling until I’m happy. To make it more dramatic you can back comb the roots to give it more lift compared the rest of the hair which is already seriously bouncy.
  • You may find that you need some bobby pins to keep certain sections in check, it’s also great to pair this hairstyle with a hair flower or clip on the side, the bigger the flower the better in my book. Again, a girl’s best friend – more hairspray.
  • Take selfies, admire, pose and get ready to feel fabulous.


This hairstyle with these products has incredible hold; for me a wet set really is the best way to go. I know this style can take a lot of work, but I honestly feel my most confident when my hair turns out like this so it is honestly worth the effort. I still envy the ladies that can achieve this with heat, but I will continue and keep you posted on my hair journey along the way, the higher the better and I’m not giving up on my research!



Nicola Lombardi

Retro loving plus size girl, I love experimenting with my red hair, embracing the thighs of life, trying to perfect the perfect brow and being continuously torn between wanting to be a real life mermaid or a Disney villain…choices.

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