Pin Curls 101!




Introduction: Pin Curls 101!

About: Professional MUA, educator, and Benefit Beauty Artist working in Sacramento & the Bay Area. I specialize in film, print, editorial, glamour, & special FX. FB: ...

Pin curls were the basis of many different classic styles, from the 18th century all the way up to the 1960's. You can put these in pin curls your hair at night before bed, and in the morning brush it out to Veronica Lake waves, Clara Bow frizz, or a Doris Day flip! Pin curls are a super easy and versatile way to style your hair once you get the technique down.

Teacher Notes

Teachers! Did you use this instructable in your classroom?
Add a Teacher Note to share how you incorporated it into your lesson.

Step 1: Prep & Supplies

You will need:

  • a TON of duckbill clips. Like 5 times more than you'd think you need. Use these instead of bobby pins-- they'll be more secure and won't leave crinkles in your curls.
  • a LOT of super hold gel. If your hair feels like a crunchy helmet when you're done then you've used the correct amount of gel.
  • a rat-tail comb to separate the hair.
  • butterfly clips to section the hair.
  • a spray bottle of water is handy to re-wet the hair if it starts to dry while you're still working.

This process is best on medium-length to long hair, unless you're some sort of pin curl savant. It's very difficult to form a curl on short hair.

Start with sopping wet hair. The wetness will help the hair adhere to itself and stay in place without getting frizzy or bumpy.

Work the gel through the hair. Make sure that the entire head is saturated in gel-- don't be stingy! The more gel you use, the smoother your curls will be and the longer they will last.

Step 2: Section the Hair

Begin by using your rat-tail comb to section the hair. The top section will be what is known as a "mohawk part"-- the section from your temples back. Twist it up out of the way and secure it with a butterfly clip.

Next, section the hair above the tops of the ears, twist it up, and secure it.

Step 3: Form Your First Pin Curl

Start with a one-inch section of hair.

Comb through it with the comb facing upwards while drawing the hair upwards. This smooths the hair by making sure it is all going in the same direction.

Now, if you've started on your left-hand side, place your index and middle fingers together near the middle of the hair shaft. Loop the hair underneath your fingers and wrap it around. If you've started on your right-hand side, wrap the hair OVER your fingers. You want the curl always facing away from your face.

Carefully slide your fingers out of the curl you've formed. You can use your thumb and forefinger to pinch it together to hold it.

Utilizing the curl shape you've already created, roll the curl all the way to the base of the hair shaft.

Make sure that the curl is flat against the head and is rolled away from the direction of the face.

Slide a duckbill clip through the curl to secure it. Slip the bottom through the root of the hair, next to the scalp, to hold it; then clip the top part THROUGH the curl, not across the entire thing.

Step 4: Continue Pin Curling

Continue creating pin curls, using uniform sections of hair in straight rows. Keep the pins all going the same way.

Once you've pin curled all of the hair except for the top "mohawk part" section, you can decide where you'd like your hair to part. For a deep side part a la Veronica Lake, roll the pin curls in the mohawk section all the same way (in the direction that you'd like your hair to part). You can also part it in the middle or give yourself a less deep side part, just keep the curls all going away from your face.

Step 5: Dry & Done!

If you're sleeping in your pin curls, I would recommend tying a scarf all around your head before going to bed to protect the curls (and your pillowcases!). If you have a hood dryer, USE IT! You can sit underneath it until the curls are partially dry, wrap your head, go to bed, and sit underneath it again in the morning before removing the pins to refresh your style, instead of sitting under it until you're completely dry.

If you have thick hair, you might want to do your pin curls in the morning on a day when you don't have to leave the house and keep them in until they're dry the next morning. It usually takes my hair about 2-3 days to dry when I do pin curls, which is why when my hair is long I've moved on to the hard set (tutorial up Friday!).

When you remove the pins, start at the bottom and slide them out carefully to avoid catching the hair and messing up your curl pattern. Finger-tousle the curls to relax them slightly before doing any sort of styling.

For springy curls and waves that don't look like dreadlocks, comb through your hair with a wide-toothed comb.

For a 1920's teased look, comb through your hair with a fine-toothed comb, smoothing down the top and teasing the bottom.

For serious waves and volume that will stay all day, brush through hair with a bristle brush.

If you have long hair, you can finger wave the top and pin curl the bottom.

There are seriously OODLES of styles that you can create with pin curls as the basis. My model had extremely damaged hair and didn't quite dry all the way overnight so she ended up with the tousled-curl look you see above, but the great thing about that is that even slightly damp, as long as you hairspray it, the shape will hold all day (or until you get it wet). This is GREAT for ethnic hair as well (though I'd recommend checking out a tutorial specifically designed for that hair texture as it does behave differently than my type of hair).

Be the First to Share


    • Wearables Contest

      Wearables Contest
    • Coffee Speed Challenge

      Coffee Speed Challenge
    • Fix It Contest

      Fix It Contest

    8 Discussions


    2 years ago

    This is a new technique for me to pit lots of big curls in my long hair. I wet each strand with setting lotion then hairspray it all. I let it airdry while i do stuff then hit it with the hair dryer on low, then on cool. It will take practise simce i had some trouble with inserting and removing clips. Comes out nice.


    3 years ago

    if I may offer a tip for a quicker drying time, my hair is real thick and I set pin curls when my hair is approx 70% dry, keeping a spritzer bottle of water handy in case some of the hair starts to dry before I can finish. Then I sleep in it wrapped in a scarf. Pretty much dry in the morning (depending on when I start and when I get up).


    4 years ago

    Yet another great tutorial by alex your face!


    5 years ago on Introduction

    I remember I (and a Lot of ladies in my class) used to Dread having to complete these for quarterly finals and then for our state testing- of course, we had mannequins with much shorter hair to work on... I can do it just fine on shoulder length!!!


    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    I originally wanted to go to cosmetology school as well, but after a week of finger waves, pin curls, and roller sets (and resisting throwing my mannequin head through the window) I decided makeup school was good enough for me ;)


    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    It looks to me like you could have passed cosmetology school with the best of em!!! Back when I took the course (at a community college in WA state) we learned it all from haircuts to facials and makeup- it's really too bad it's not like that anymore, so many missed opportunities or extra schooling involved.


    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    Why thank you, that's very kind! I would've loved to find a school that offered great cosmetology, esthetics, AND makeup programs, but no one seemed to have the triple threat. My school had a FANTASTIC and comprehensive makeup program though and I can always go to cosmo or este it's nice to have a break between schooling sessions! :)