How to Get Pin Curls

Want to know how to recreate retro pin curls at home? It's never been simpler!

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Pin curls tutorial: Brunette model with defined curly hair

Pin curls, as the name suggests, are heat-free curls created with a hairpin, and they’re usually left in overnight while you sleep to set, so you can wake up with Hollywood-worthy hair.

It’s hard to imagine a time before heated styling tools, right? However, back in the days (around the ’30s and ’40s) before we had curling wands, tongs and heated rollers at our disposal, this curling technique was all the rage.

Admittedly, this DIY hair setting technique can be more time consuming than modern curling methods, but once you’ve tried it for yourself, we’re sure you’ll agree that it’s totally worth it. Plus, it is a less damaging way to create curls — bonus!

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Classic Pin Curls Tutorial

Want to channel your inner retro queen for your next event, just watch our video or follow our easy step-by-step guide, below.


Wash and prep your hair.

For best results, this look calls for freshly-washed hair, so start by using your usual shampoo and conditioner. Once you get out of the shower, comb through your mane so that it’s tangle-free and then use a hair setting lotion to give your curls extra definition and staying power.

Tip: If you don’t have time to wash your hair properly, you can always use a spray bottle of water to lightly spritz your hair until damp, for a quick-fix.

Pin curls tutorial: Dark haired model with damp hair squeezing the T&G Wave Memorising balm into her hand

Divide your hair into sections.

Next, divide your hair into sections (2-3 inches thick) ready for curling. Remember that the smaller the sections, the tighter and more defined the curls will be.

Pin curls tutorial: Dark haired model parting her hair for pin curls

Create your first curl.

Taking your first section of hair, place your finger close to your scalp and wind the hair around it from root to tip (not tip to root as you would with a curling wand). Remove your finger from the middle of the curl and use your other hand to hold the loop in place.

Then take your hairpin and pin it through the middle of the curl, to secure it in place. For especially thick hair, try crisscrossing 2 hairpins together for extra security.

Pin curls tutorial: Brunette model creating her first pin curl

Repeat and protect.

Continue creating your pin curls using this process, starting at your hairline and working back, before moving onto the sides of your hair.

Once your whole head is set in place, cover your curls in a silk or satin bonnet to protect them from frizz or damage. Alternatively, you can also invest in a silk pillowcase, which does the same thing.

Pin curls tutorial: Brunette model tilting her head down and showing a full head of pinned curls

Leave to dry overnight.

Now comes the waiting game! Allow your curls to dry overnight or until they’ve dried 100%. It’s really important not to get overly excited and unravel your curls too early, as if they’re still damp they’ll be more prone to falling out.

Tip: Running late? If you need to speed up the drying process, you can use always use a hairdryer to help your curls on their way. Simply blow-dry your hair while it’s still in the pins and poke your finger into the centre of the curls to test if they’re dry.

Pin curls tutorial: Brunette model with silk scarf leaving her pin curls to set



Release your curls.

One by one, remove the hairpins and allow your curls to drop.

Pin curls tutorial: Brunette model releasing her pin curls



Apply oil.

Take a few pumps of an oil or serum (we love the TRESemmé Keratin Smooth Shine Oil) and rub it between your palms, before using your fingers to soften up your curls. The oil will help to prevent your curls from frizzing up, while also keeping them nice and hydrated.

Pin curls tutorial: Brunette model about to apply hair oil to her hair



Final look.

And finally, all that’s left to do is give your curls a good spritz of the VO5 Invisible Ultimate Hold Hairspray and you’re good to go! See, you did it!

Pin curls tutorial: Brunette model with curly hair


How to create pin curls using heat

Don’t have time to let your curls dry overnight? We know that you might not always have the luxury of time on your side, so we’ve got just the thing for those last-minute nights out.

While pin curls were originally used instead of heated tools, we’ve found a way to combine both old and new with this curling wand pin curl tutorial. A surefire way to get glamorous curls that’ll last all night, get the low-down below…

Step 1: Protect your tresses

As we’re going to be using heat in this look, begin by prepping your hair with a heat protection spray, such as the TRESemmé Keratin Smooth Heat Protect Spray. Then brush through your hair to remove tangles and ensure that the product is evenly distributed through your lengths.

Step 2: Curl your hair using a curling wand

Now, taking sections of hair around 1-2 inches thick at a time, wrap your hair around a clampless curling wand and hold in place for a few seconds.

Step 3: Catch your curl

Pin curl tutorial: Blonde woman rolling her hair into a pin curl
Keep on rolling! Credit: Verity Jane Smith

As you release each section of hair, catch the curl in your palm and twist it back into a loop, before securing it in place close to your scalp with a hairpin.

Step 4: Allow them to cool

Repeat this process for all of your hair and then allow time for your curls to fully cool. This is the perfect time to get on with the rest of your glam routine, like doing your make-up or getting your faux glow on!

Step 5: Finishing touches

Pin Curls tutorial: Blonde woman with soft curls in a green dress
This pin curl method will change the way you curl your hair forever! Credit: Verity Jane Smith

Finally, release your curls, work into your desired style and give your locks a blast of hairspray to ensure your curls last all night. Finito!

How to create pin curls using heat

We know you might have some burning questions about pin curls, so we’ve answered them all right here.

How do you sleep with pin curls?

Worried your pin curls will get flattened while you sleep? You just need to make sure that your curls are sitting flat against your scalp, instead of being elevated away from it. That way, when you tie your headscarf around it, your curls will feel secure and be protected throughout the night.

Psst…If you find it hard to tie a headscarf, try a turban, as it is comfortable to sleep in and more secure.

Can you pin curl wet hair?

Yes, for best results your hair should be wet. However, it does depend on your hair type. Fine hair will require more wetness for hold, while thick hair should be towel-dried and damp to avoid excessive drying time.

What brush to use for pin curls?

While we suggest using your fingers or a comb to loosen curls, you can also use a boar bristle brush to lightly brush through your mane. Whether you want a sleek pin curl look or a more voluminous one, this super gentle brush will help you get the desired results without damaging your style.

How do you take down pin curls?

Taking down pin curls requires a slow and steady pace! So, start from the back and bottom of your hair and take out each individual pin curl by removing the hairpins holding the curl down, and gently unravel each curl.

Editor’s tip: While you’re unravelling your curls, make sure to not disturb them too much, as when you finish taking them down you can style the curls to fit your tastes (be it polished or voluminous).


Psst! All Things Hair are going to be at Goodwood Revival at Betty’s Salon, so don’t forget to come say hello!

Recommended reads:

13 Swinging ’60s Hairstyles We Still Talk About

14 Vintage Updo Hairstyles You’ll Adore

18 Memorable ’50s hairstyles You Can Try Now

lifestyle shot of a brunette model with shoulder length vintage curls with a side parting wearing a white v neck top

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