I should have eaten my crusts.
February 17, 2012 11:56 AM   Subscribe

I have fine, long, wispy, ultra-ultra-straight hair and according to the hairdresser, lots of it. I would like to occasionally have some loose, simple curls or waves, for going out, weddings and other dressy events.

For my hair type, should I buy curling tongs or one of those heated cylindrical brushes? Or something else? (Please don't say rollers.) Any other tips for a home hairstyling novice are welcome.
posted by reshet to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (13 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: This is going to sound really weird, but I have had the best luck with curling my hair* using a flat iron instead of curling tongs. I KNOW. But hear me out. It works. Search for some videos on YouTube because it is hard for me to explain and you really need to see it to believe it.

*Like you, I also have lots and lots of fine, long, wispy hair. I think it's a pain in the ass to use a curling iron with this hair because all the wispy ends never stay rolled up on the barrel. The flat iron method works because you're really only curling one section of length at a time.
posted by joan_holloway at 12:04 PM on February 17, 2012 [3 favorites]

I too have fine ultra-straight hair and lots of it. For occasional curl or waves, I have had the best luck with these methods:

1. Large-barrel curling iron or waving iron (I have both). Drawbacks: time consuming and difficult to get the back done properly
2. Hot rollers (I know, you said no hot rollers, but they work for me)
3. Hair dryer + non-heated cylindrical ceramic brush (I have a large one and a smaller-sized one; the large one is for body, the smaller one is for waves)

For hair like ours, I have a lot better luck holding curl/wave if I put a light amount of mousse in my damp hair first. I'm not going to recommend a brand, because everyone's hair and environment are so different that what works for me might not work for you (and what works for me now in the winter might not work for me this summer). I went through a bunch of different kinds before finding the one that works for me right now.

Your best bet is to experiment! Do you have friends who have the tools you're considering? If so, borrow them and play around with them for a few days.
posted by erst at 12:05 PM on February 17, 2012

I've never had luck with irons of any sort when curling unless I use half a can of hairspray along with it. I HAVE had luck with Bumble&Bumble curl conscious creme though. I towel-dry my hair, rub between my palms a quarter sized dollop and just scrunch it in my hair (with my head upside down so my hair can get as much fluff as possible!) and poof it up a little more/scrunch a little more when I've got my head back to upright. Doesn't give that gross crunchy or dirty feel that some hair products do, and it's a combo of wave/curl that looks pretty natural.
Seconding the borrowing of a friend's tools...cheapest way to know what works for you! =)
posted by PeppahCat at 12:07 PM on February 17, 2012

I have hair similar to yours and it holds curl better if it hasn't been washed that day. I hate the way my scalp feels, but since I add other product to keep the curl, it's not visually noticeable. Also, as someone who tends to fuss with my hair, I make extra sure not to touch it once it's curled. I'm sorry I don't have curl suggestions; I use hot rollers and I know that's not an option you want.
posted by juliplease at 12:18 PM on February 17, 2012

Try different things. I have the same type and I find curling irons get results but they never stay (unless I use it on dirty hair).

I have put rollers in at night with wet hair and that has worked - but the trouble with that is my hair is never fully dried by the morning.

A flat iron does work. Try a few things and see what works for you. For me, I've come to terms with my straight-flat boring hair.
posted by Danithegirl at 12:18 PM on February 17, 2012

Yes, flat iron curls! Look up tutorials on YouTube, like joan_holloway said. You get loose, beachy waves rather than the Shirley Temple tight sausage curl look you can get from a curling iron. It will seem bizarre and impossible at first, but just sit down one night with a cup of tea or a glass of wine, watch a bunch of tutorials, keep trying. It will truly, truly get easier. I now find curling with a flat iron dead simple and find the curling iron impossibly fussy on the rare occasion I whip it out.

For best results, use a good quality ceramic flat iron (I'm a CHI devotee and use my 1 inch iron every damn day - poke around the net for good deals) and start with a dime-sized dollop of styling balm or serum like Aveda Smooth Infusion Style Prep Smoother before blow- or air-drying. After curling, you can either finish with a medium hold hairspray if you want the curls to stay relatively well-placed, or you can tousle with a texturizer or wave spray (I like Aquage Sea Salt Texturizing Spray.) Just spray all over, spread your fingers on your scalp, and shake/scratch lightly like you're shampooing.
posted by superfluousm at 12:19 PM on February 17, 2012 [3 favorites]

Best answer: if you just want loose, beachy curls, you can't go wrong with no heat curls with a headband. It takes like no time (barring overnight resting) and barely any effort. Pretty, natural waves, no special equipment to buy.
posted by peachfuzz at 12:33 PM on February 17, 2012 [7 favorites]

i also have long, fine, straight hair—and lots of it. i have never been successful with keeping curls when i've used curling irons (plus, with the amount of hair of have, curling irons are just too time consuming).

my best results have been
1. wash hair
2. run styling lotion through hair (i like bumble + bumble curl creme)
3. hot curlers
4.hairspray while hair is in curlers, getting thorough coverage (i like bumble + bumble sprays)
5. remove curlers after they have thoroughly cooled and spray again (including bending over to spray the underside of the hair).

i've been able to maintain the curls from this method for a few days afterward.
posted by violetk at 12:51 PM on February 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

I love this John Frieda product. I have long fine hair that has never held a curl very well using any other product or heat styling method. I spray this in when wet and blow dry my hair a little but leave it a little damp and then roll it up with these long spongy rod rollers to dry. If my hair dries on the rods it is really curly, and if it is mostly dry when I roll it up I get nice simple waves.
posted by blacktshirtandjeans at 1:21 PM on February 17, 2012

I have hair just like yours, and I got great curls with old-fashioned wet-hair-into-curlers, sleep on it, take it out in the morning.
posted by jb at 9:02 PM on February 17, 2012

I love to fuss around with 'vintage' styles using wet sets, and the key to getting them to dry is to start on just-damp hair and to use a setting lotion. I've had great luck with Motions Foaming Wrap and Set lotion, available in the Afro hair section. LisaFreemontStreet is a great YouTube channel for tutorials on vintage styling.

For more casual curls, I alternate between hot rollers and a curling iron. The key to getting iron curls to really last is to use a good mousse on your wet hair before you dry, and after you curl each curl roll it up into a standing pin curl, pin with a pin curl clip, and allow to cool.

Good luck!
posted by nerdfish at 11:34 PM on February 17, 2012

I too have long, fine, stick straight hair and plenty of it. Lately I've been showering at night, parting it down the middle and then wrapping my mostly dry (but still just slightly damp) hair up in two buns on the very top of my head, easily secured with a small claw clip, sometime before I go to sleep. For tighter waves/curls, just make four smaller buns - two on top on either side, and two low down by the nape of your neck or wherever they won't get in the way while you sleep. The longer you leave them in, the more distinct the waves. Let 'em out when you're finished getting ready, run your fingers through it, and voila: lovely beachy-looking waves with zero effort.
posted by involution at 11:41 PM on February 17, 2012

Pin curls with a setting lotion should work-- take small sections of wet hair, roll them up around your fingers, and bobby-pin the resulting roll to your head. Go to sleep, and in the morning you should have a head full of bouncy curls.
posted by nonasuch at 6:38 AM on February 18, 2012

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