Retro curls are always a good look. Since at least the 1920s, humans have styled hair using a "wet-set," which is a heat-free technique used to create 'fingerwave' and 'pincurl' hairstyles. You can create a variety of easy, flattering looks using only water, gel, comb, a few pins, and a headscarf!
Step 1: Meet Ama
A million thanks to my lovely and creative friend Ama Wertz, who volunteered to have her hair wet-set for this tutorial. Ama has curly, fine, dense hair that falls just past her shoulders. As you can see, she basically had a natural fingerwave in her hair, especially toward the top. The ends were more of a fluffy cloud than a defined curl, so we refined her natural waves with a fingerwave, and then set the ends in flowing, face-framing pincurls.
Step 2: Create Your Fingerwave
To be clear, this photo was taken from behind and above Ama's head. So the top of the image is her forehead, and the bottom is the back of her head.
Start with wet hair. Create a deep side part. Your hair will probably naturally want to part more easily in one direction rather than the other. Go with whichever looks and feels better. Ama's hair was already in a deep side part on the left, so I made it deeper to accentuate the biggest wave above her forehead.
Next, comb the hair on top of your head into its first wave. For Ama, I decided to follow her hair's natural growth pattern by pushing the wave toward her face. You could also flip it so that you're pulling the wave away from your face. We went for big waves to give her a more flowing look.
[Photo of Beyoncé rocking amazing all-over fingerwaves in her video for "Haunted"]
Step 3: Set Your Fingerwaves
Insert your pins along the edge of the "island". Line them up parallel to your side part, and make sure to follow the direction of the hair with your pins so that they don't dry into dents in your hair.
Next, create your wave below the first island, in the opposite direction. So the resulting pair should look like an S-shape (maybe a backward S-shape). You want the middle of your S's to create a straight, neat ridge. You can "pinch" this ridge gently to accentuate it before you pin it in.
[Lol another photo of Beyoncé with some gorgeous face-framing, soft fingerwaves]
Step 4: Add Pincurls!
Comb all the hair from ear to ear into whatever wave pattern you want, hugging the entire horizontal section. We kept it simple, moving from a wave at her left temple, simply combing the hair down at the back of her head, and gradually forming a new wave at her right temple.
If you are feeling ambitious and creative, you can insert more fingerwaves in here using the same fingerwave technique we described earlier. Insert clips to keep all of this hair secure.
Next, divide the hair hanging below the clips into five sections. For Ama's look, we created them all the same size.
To create your pincurl, comb the hair (make sure it's still wet - spritz it down as often as you need to). Pinch the curl at the base with your dominant hand.
Use your non-dominant hand to lift the hair and loop it over your pinching fingers. Release the hair with your non-dominant hand, then reach under your pinching fingers to retrieve the hair you just looped over.
Then use your non-dominant hand to pinch that loop you just made, and release your dominant hand. Use your dominant hand to insert your pin into your curl, securing it to your head. Make sure to insert the pin so that it is going with the grain of your curl. Insert two if you need to.
Step 5: Let It Dry, and Voila!
Your hair will only set properly if it is bone dry when you take the pins out. You might want to set your hair at night, tie it up in a silky scarf, and sleep on it to give it plenty of time.
You have a few options for finishing your wet set. You can brush it out completely, or brush it out loosely with just your fingers. Maybe you prefer the "wet" look (created by the shiny finish of the gel), in which case you can remove your pins and loosen only your pincurls, leaving the top half alone.
Read on if you want some more images for inspiration.