How to Use 1950s Hair Curlers

Updated November 21, 2016

Hair curlers were all the rage in the 1950s. If you didn't have beautifully curly hair, you clearly weren't spending enough time on your appearance. Women in the 50s often permed their hair at home using harsh, foul-smelling chemicals, and then applied hair curlers and slept in them overnight to contain their permed curls. Luckily, using 1950s hair curlers to achieve the look can be done without the chemicals today.

Shampoo and condition hair. Curlers work best on clean hair. Gently towel-dry your hair to get most of the water out, but leave the hair damp. Use a comb to remove tangles.

Divide your hair into sections. Create a part with the comb from the middle of your forehead to the nape of your neck and comb the two sections apart from each other. Create another part running horizontally from behind one ear to behind the other ear and enclose each of these back two sections in a hair clip to keep them separated. Create two more sections by dividing the remainder of your unclipped hair horizontally again and applying a clip to each section.

Decide what you want your hair to look like after styling. If you want large, loose curls, you'll need to use larger curlers; for smaller ringlets, you'll need to use small curlers. Generally speaking, longer hair should be curled with large curlers, while shorter hair can be curled with either large or small curlers.

Unclip one section of your hair. Divide the hair into half-inch sections, or whatever width will fit comfortably with the size of hair curler you've selected. Hold each half-inch section straight and extended to apply hair curlers.

Roll hair into curlers. If you want your curls to turn away from your head, place the curler on the outside of your hair at the very bottom of the half-inch section. For curls that turn inward toward your head, place the curler on the inside of your hair. Roll your hair around the curler until you reach your scalp. Secure with a hair clip. Repeat for each half-inch section and each clipped section until your hair is completely encased in curlers.

Wait for hair to dry. To do this the old-fashioned way, put hair in curlers before bed and sleep on them. Remove curlers in the morning. As this may be quite uncomfortable, you may wish to use modern technologies such as a hair dryer to speed things along. To do this, blow dry your hair at medium heat for at least 30 minutes. Longer hair requires a longer drying time. Once the hair is dry, remove curlers and gently loosen the curls.


Completely dry your hair before taking out the curlers. Hair that is still damp will quickly lose its curl. You may want to use a hairspray or mousse product to help hold the curls throughout the day.

Things You'll Need

  • Shampoo and conditioner
  • Comb
  • Hair clips
  • Hair curlers
  • Hair clips
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