Your Guide To Perfecting Pin Curls

We may receive a commission on purchases made from links.

Hair, like clothes and makeup, goes through seasonal trends. For example, many times, an old hairstyle from a decade ago gets a revamp and gets rebranded, sometimes with a new name, which we're now seeing with Y2K beauty and fashion trends. It's the same with pin curls. Pin curls have been around since the mid-1930s and were the go-to hairstyle of the modern woman at the time, even though the ringlets required a bit of time, patience, and effort to get them to stay put throughout the week (via Vintage Hair Styling). 


Like many trends, pin curls have undergone a renaissance as newer techniques involve curling irons and curl creams that keep the ringlets free from frizz for a longer time. Pin curls have also passed the test of hairdo time because you can style them in several ways: a blown-out retro look, a classic chignon, or a pin curl bun. And on top of that, they are an easy way to preserve your already made curly hairstyles (via All Things Hair). So, if you were ever feeling like the '40s and had no idea where to start, here is your all-in-one guide to perfecting pin curls.

Gather your tools and prep your hair

To get the best pin curls ever, you'll need to start by gathering the necessary tools. The beauty of pin curls is they can be done using a curling iron, or heat-free by wrapping around your fingers. You'll need curl cream or mousse, your favorite brand of heat protectant spray if you're using a curling iron, and a bowl of alligator clips, bobby pins, or prong curl clips, depending on how thick your hair is. You'll also need hair clips for sectioning your hair and setting spray for when you're done.


As always, you want to start with clean, washed hair. You can create your pin curls on both dry and damp hair (via All Things Hair). For dry hair, start your pin curls by applying a setting lotion like the Lottabody Refine Me Curl Defining Mousse to the hair. Follow it with a good heat protectant like the OGX Protecting + Silk Blowout Quick Drying Thermal Spray if you're going the curling iron route. For damp hair, apply a curl setting cream, mousse, or frizz serum like the Garnier Fructis Sleek & Shine Anti-Frizz Serum to ensure your curls stay frizz-free and last long. Then, you're really ready to begin.

Time for the curl-making process

After parting your hair on the side you want it to be on, middle or side, take a 1-inch section from the part on your hairline and hold it upwards. However, some use 2-inch sections depending on how full the hair is or the look they're going for (via NaturallyCurly). Now, here's where it can get tricky. Use your fingers as a guide on how big you want your pin curls to be. If you want tighter pin curls, roll your section around a finger or two. If you want wider, more voluminous curls, use three to four fingers and roll the section around it until you get to the root of your hair. In one YouTube tutorial, content creator Sage Lilleyman recommends spritzing a bit more setting lotion or water as you work through the sections.


After rolling, remove your fingers while still holding the curl flat against the scalp and attach the prong curl clip to the roots of your hair. For the curling iron method, select a suitable barrel size — this can be 1-inch or 1½ inches — and wrap the hair around it. Gently withdraw the barrel after four to five seconds and attach the prong clip to hold the curl close to your scalp (via Spornette Brushes). Repeat this process across your hairline near your nape and ears —section, roll, clip with prong curl clip or bobby pins— before moving on to the rest of your hair. 

A few tips on styling and maintaining your curls

If you're using the curling iron method on dry hair, you only have till the hair is cool again before removing the pins. For pin curls done on damp hair, waiting till the hair is completely dry or using a blow dryer on low heat is routine for this hairstyle. If you have the time, L'Oréal Paris says to create your pin curls in the morning if you need them for a night out so they can have a full day to set. Once your curls are set and your hair is dry, gently remove the pins from the curls (via TCB Naturals). A pro tip is to avoid dropping the curls roughly so they do not lose their coil or elasticity. Now, you're ready for styling. 


You can shake out, finger-comb, or brush your new pin curls with a boar bristle brush to give them that blown-out look. You can also pull them back into a bun for some 1940s nostalgia — the options are infinite. Seal your pin curls with a hair serum or oil like the L'Oréal Dream Lengths Frizz Killer Leave-in Serum and a generous spritz of setting spray. To maintain your curls, try tying a silk scarf to bed for this hairdo to prevent frizz. Now, you've got your very own set of perfect pin curls.