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How to keep your hair curly all day without hairspray

Keeping waves or curls in straight hair all day can take a little planning. Hair often looks perfectly curly when just styled but drops within a couple of hours. Layering on hairspray isn’t always the answer as it can just coat the hair, weighing it down and making it sticky. If this happens to you, then you need to start setting your hair when wet, rather than using heated tools to make instant waves on dry hair. Hairspray has been the modern fix since the 1960s invention of the beehive, but classic set curls can survive without it.

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  1. Comb through clean, damp hair, then work in plenty of setting lotion, combing it through again to distribute the product. If you can’t get setting lotion, or have fine hair, you might prefer to use mousse.

  2. Divide hair into sections, using the comb and sectioning clips. This helps you to work neatly and if the curls are neater then there are no knots or kinks to drag them down later on.

  3. Wrap each section around a curler and secure with a clip.

  4. Leave hair to dry fully, or ideally dry it under a bonnet dryer. This dries hair in the regular way but doesn’t blow the curlers around, loosen locks or cause frizz.

  5. Undo your curls and arrange them as you like, being careful not to pull them too much. Pinning small sections at the front gives a vintage look. It can also help to stop the overall style from dragging down, causing the curl to fall out.

  6. Tip

    Sponge rollers, available from most large chemist shops, are ideal for setting wet hair from scratch. As they are fairly soft, you can even sleep in them, which helps to set the curl even better. Or you could try bendy foam rollers.

    Don’t unwrap your curls until they are completely dry or they won’t have had a chance to set properly.

    If you have naturally very straight hair avoid hot, steamy bathrooms and getting caught in the rain, or your curls will fall out.


    Don’t put too much product on your dry curls once they’re set. The styling product that goes in damp hair helps maintain volume but too many finishing products weigh hair down and drag out the curl.

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Things You'll Need

  • Comb
  • Setting lotion or mousse
  • Sectioning clips
  • Curlers
  • Hair clips
  • Bonnet dryer (optional)

About the Author

Shefali Choudhury is a qualified make-up artist and nail technician, with more than 12 years experience of professional makeup in beauty, film and theater. She graduated in fine art from Central Saint Martins and has been writing professionally since 2007.

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