It’s Easier Than You Think to Rock That Vintage Vixen Look.

Lena Horne
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Animal activist Doris Day.     Humanitarian Audrey Hepburn.   Civil rights pioneer Lena Horne.

Aside of being seriously bad-ass do-gooders and stars of the silver screen, what else do they have in common?  Those great hairstyles!

Of course, these ladies all had their very own personal hairstylists, but that doesn’t mean you can’t steal their looks.  There’s just two words you need to know:  pin curls.

Doris Day
The only things Doris Day loved more than pin curls were animals.

Pin curls date back to the 20’s. In those days, curling irons had to be manually heated, which meant sticking them over a flame and then hoping it wouldn’t singe the hair off your head. Pin curls were created as a way to make a curl that would last for days and wouldn’t frizz even in humid weather.  All without potentially scorching your scalp.

While over the years stylists have developed several different ways to achieve a “pin-curl look”, the original method is nothing more than a tight curl that is wound from the ends of your hair to the root of your hair. Whether you wind it clockwise or counter-clockwise determines which way the hair will curl.

Easy-peasy, right? Well, not so much. In fact, pin curls could get so complicated that magazines would be published with “maps” detailing where each curl went, which direction, how big, and how it should be brushed out and re-shaped.

Fortunately, you don’t have to do your whole head in pincurls to get a great vintage look. Some curls in your bangs or a loose wave on the sides are all you need.  Let’s start with the easiest way to make a pin curl.

1.) Your hair should be clean and damp, but not dripping. Keep in mind that these curls can take a long time to dry, so you want your hair to be just damp enough to set. Spraying product onto dry hair is often enough.

2.) Section the area you’d like to curl into approximately 1/2” – 1” wide pieces and comb it smooth. Emphasis on smooth. Use some “anti-frizz” product if you need to tame any split ends. You’ll want to start with a section near your part, and work down from there. Tip: the bigger section of hair you use, the looser your curl. Just make sure the section isn’t too big to wind around your finger.

3.) Take one of the sections and starting at the end, wind it around your finger, all the way up to the root. Be sure that the tip of your hair doesn’t slip out. Just like with a curling iron, the end of your hair should be tucked inside the curl.

4.) Slip the circle of hair off the finger and keep it in place with 2 or three “u-pins” (a type of bobby pin that doesn’t crimp) or “curl clips

5.) Repeat with the rest of your sections and let them dry – completely! Don’t be impatient. A curl that feels dry on the outside can still be wet in the center. Give it at least 2 hours.

Lena Horne
Lena Horne. A pioneer in pin curls.

Unroll each curl and use your fingers to detangle them and – WHOA!! WHAT HAPPENED?!!

It’s okay! We promise! Don’t jump into the shower yet. It may look like a crazy set of Bozo the Clown curls now, but the trick of pin curls is all in the brushing out.

Again, patience will be your best friend. After you’ve detangled the curls, you can begin the brushing out. You’ll want to use a paddle brush rather than a bristle brush. Rather than just dragging the brush through your whole head, you’ll want to brush each curled section individually from root to end. You’ll see the beginning of a shape forming.  See?  We told you!

Now that the individual curls are brushed out, start combining the sections and brushing them together. With each brush your hair will get smoother. Don’t fret – it can take 15 minutes to brush out a set.

Once it starts to come together, you can experiment with the curls and fix any frizzy parts with hair-spray or pomade.

Need a little more help?  Fortunately there are some great videos out there for no matter what kind of hair you’ve got.   Here are just a few.

Give ’em a try.  And no matter what they come out like, be sure to send us a photo!



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