Vintage vibes: How to get retro-inspired pin curls at home in 8 easy steps

Beth | 01 December 2017
Pin curls tutorial: Brunette model with defined curly hair
20 mins Style Easy

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


It’s hard to imagine a time before heated styling tools, right? However, back in the days before we had curling wands, tongs and heated rollers at our disposal, pin curls were the order of the day. Pin curls, as the name suggests, are curls made with hair pins and, in case you hadn’t noticed, are having somewhat of a resurgence lately.

Admittedly, this DIY hair setting technique can be more time consuming than modern curling methods, but once you’ve seen the results, we’re sure you’ll agree that it’s totally worth the extra effort involved.

With longer-lasting curls and less damage caused to your hair, the benefits of pin curls are clear to see. So if you’re ready to give them a go, just follow our step-by-step guide below and you’ll be channelling your inner vintage siren in no time!

Hair how-to: 8 steps to perfect pin curls


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, such as the Toni & Guy Wave Memorising Balm. This will help 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.


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.

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


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.


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.



Release your curls.

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



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.



Final look.

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


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…

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

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.

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

Step 3: Catch your curl

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 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

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!


Loved this pin curls tutorial? If you did, why not click on over to our Vintage Hairstyles page next? There you’ll discover even more ways to rock classic styles, like the ’60s beehive and ’20s flapper curls, all with a modern twist.


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