What is hair setting lotion and how to use it

Jeanette | 26 February 2017
use hair setting lotion for glam retro waves

Get the lowdown on this old school styling product.


Do you struggle to achieve beautiful curls? Or are you practically green with envy when your friends rock wavy hairstyles that seem to last all day long? Well, there might be answer to your hair styling woes. Surprisingly, hair setting lotion isn’t a product that you’ll hear bandied around by the modern masses, but it can be a solution for anyone that wants to control and curl their straight mane.

Its popularity is often higher in the rockabilly circles – probably because this vintage hair product can reliably make pretty pin curls and retro waves like no other! So, have we piqued your interest? Then to find out more about hair setting lotion, keep reading.

What is hair setting lotion?


black woman with curly hair
What is hair setting lotion?

So, what exactly is hair setting lotion? Well, much like the name suggests, it’s a styling product used to set hair into a particular shape or style. The lotion is similar to a gel, and works by coating the hair, thus stopping strands from drying out when being set in rollers. And afterwards? Once dry, it keeps the style in place for a long period of time, by stopping moisture from being absorbed by the hair.

How is it applied?

Hair setting lotions are typically applied to damp hair, but be careful: you don’t want to apply the product to thoroughly wet hair, as this will dilute the product and affect your overall look.

We recommend reading the instructions carefully, because while mousses and gels are typically applied by putting the product onto your hands to evenly distribute it, some hair setting lotions are sprinkled directly onto the hair. Once you’ve saturated your strands with the lotion, you can then begin to set your mane into the style you want to create, by using hair rollers or curling clips.

The size of the rollers you select will result in different size curls – for looser curls, opt for a larger cylinder, and if you’re after a tighter curl, pick a slimmer one. Begin by sectioning your mane for your rollers, starting from the bottom and winding your tresses around the roller until you reach the top. Repeat this process, working your way around the round the head, until you’ve set all of your hair. Then you can either let your hair air dry, or use a hair dryer to help speed up the process.

Editor’s tip: Try to make sure your sections of hair are fairly even: overloading each roller with too much hair will affect the quality and appearance of your curls!

What can you use it for?

With the advent of modern styling products like mousses, gels, and even hair sprays, the popularity for hair setting lotion has decreased in recent years. Granted, it might seem a bit old school, but hair setting lotion is still great for hard-to-curl hair and for creating more structured vintage styles, like finger waves.


So, are you ready to try hair setting lotion for yourself? Then click here to test out our step-by-step flapper hair tutorial and imagine your on the set of The Great Gatsby!

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