What Is Hair Setting Lotion?

Get the lowdown on this old school styling product.  

Hair setting lotion is 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. Once dry, it keeps the style in place for a long period of time, by stopping moisture from being absorbed by the hair.

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.

How to use hot rollers: Brunette model with damp long medium brown hair wearing a yellow jumpsuit starting to roll a heated roller
Credit: Verity Jane Smith

How Is Hair Setting Lotion 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!

black woman with curly hair
How do you use setting lotion?

What Can You Use Hair Setting Lotion 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.

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