Monday, March 22, 2010

Wet Set Woes (Hair Lessons, Part 1)

OK, so I'm not QUITE this clueless, but...

Readers, I have a confession to make. Despite my love of vintage looks, what I know about doing hair could fit on the tip of a bobby pin.

Not that I know how to use one. I can roll a hem, but I can't roll my hair.

Yes, somehow I have managed to make it through almost 30 years without the first clue about blowdrying, braiding, piecing, parting, gels, sprays, rollers, pins, clips or combs. I don't own a curling iron or a single can of hairspray. I used to "cut" (hack at randomly with scissors without benefit of three-way mirror) and dye my own hair during my high school punk rock days, but considering the poor results, I hardly think that counts as "styling."

My current hair "routine" consists of putting water and gentle baby shampoo (I'm pregnant and concerned about chemicals!) on my head every few days, rinsing, toweling dry, frowning at the triangular poofiness that results, and brushing my hair up into an elastic. Every three or four months when split ends begin to manifest, I get a trim and blow-dry at a nice salon and feel really fabulous for a little while.

So my hair has exactly two styles and a half styles:

  • "Down" (when it feels like not fanning out into a reverse triangle)
  • "Up" aka "Ponytail" (most other times)
  • "Half Up, Half Down" (when I'm feeling WILD)

I assure you this is not for total lack of trying. A few years ago in a fit of hope I bought a set of hot rollers, but discovered they have almost no effect on my thick, stubbornly straight hair--no matter how long I left them in, the curls lasted 15 minutes, tops. So away they went under the sink, never to be plugged in again. The last time I got curls in my hair was for my wedding in September 2007 (thanks Mom!):

But I am nothing if not ambitious and determined. I bought a copy of Vintage Hairstyling and a set of mesh rollers (I didn't trust velcro ones to stay in) and today I attempted my first ever self-inflicted wet set.

This picture probably looks like a joke but I really did try:

I washed my hair, put styling gel on it, sectioned my hair with a rat-tail comb (or tried to), followed the book directions for an "off-base" curl (rolling hair under at a 45 degree angle) and stuck pins to hold the curls in place. But they just didn't seem to stay put. Masheka thinks the problem is probably with my pin technique, and I concur--I wish I had asked either my mother or mother-in-law to show me how to do it properly when I was visiting them a few weeks ago. I did leave them in until my hair was almost dry...

But before I show you the underwhelming results, let's take a walk down Mikhaela hair memory lane:

And now for our sad hair experiment conclusion...

Nary a curl in sight. And the styling gel made my hair feel all weird and sticky. Back to the drawing board.


  1. Whenever I decide to do curls I actually use my straightening iron, not a roller set. Youtube is an excellent resource for makeup/hair tutorials.

    This person has tons of fabulous pin-up/vintage hairstyles:

    I'm sure you'll get the hang of it with practice. Good luck!

  2. Thanks... I'm just afraid of burning myself and my hair is so touchy and damage-prone I don't even like to blowdry it with heat. But if I really get nowhere with wet methods I might attempt heat ones again.

  3. I feel your pain... I have always been awful with hair! I have finally managed to curl it so that it will last though. I used what are called "Pillow rollers." They look like rag rollers, but with foam in them, and you can get them at the drugstore. I dry my hair halfway, then spray each piece with setting lotion as I set it. I don't worry about a specific set or sectioning, and it comes out fine as long as I leave them in until it's totally dry (I sleep in them.) If I can do it, anyone can!

  4. Hi, I just found your blog via Gertie's blog. I too have recently started experimenting with curling my hair, and until a few weeks ago I thought my hair just couldn't hold a curl (I also have thick, heavy, very straight hair) But I have found that curling my hair when it is dry and just wetting the ends a bit with water and/or lottabody makes my hair crazy curly! I have been doing pin curls (a little tricky) and have also done a few pillow roller sets which are a little easier.

    So not that I have much experience but my advice is to not give up, also I highly recommend Lisa Freemont Street's channel on youtube she is a wealth of knowledge.

    Also I really love the outfits you have made recently, you are such an adorable pregnant lady :)

  5. I am super lazy when it comes to hair (not a morning person!) and generally rotate among the same three basic styles as you. But I like doing occasional overnight wet sets with pin curls or pillow curlers. They're long-lasting even on curl-resistant hair, and they're the lazy girl's beauty godsend. I mean, your hair does itself WHILE YOU SLEEP. Lisa Fremont-Street is a good teacher on setting technique, as is Strawberry Koi on YouTube, and the ladies at the Fedora Lounge have some excellent tips.

    I start with dry, clean hair, put some Lottabody diluted 1:1 with water into a plant mister and spritz each strand with the setting lotion as I go. Hair is much easier to manage and section off if it's dry. Having a tailcomb and lots of clips to keep hair out of the way while you curl helps.

    Bonus: the learning curve is really steep, so after two or three sets you'll have the hang of it. I will be posting a tutorial on how to make your own pillow curlers soon. They are stupidly easy.

  6. As someone who is basically bald, I think you have gorgeous hair as-is. I would go with the straightness and not fuss with God's will. LOL

    I really like it parted on the side, but I'm very fond of that page boy cut too! Frankly, you look great bald, imo.

  7. Wow, thanks all--these are great suggestions! I'll look up those videos and try the alternative methods suggested.

    Peter, I hear you--and I probably will just leave it straight 95% of the time (just as I don't wear makeup 95% of the time), but I would love to be able to play with hairstyles to go with certain looks or special occasion outfits sometimes!

  8. Love your walk down memory lane - and you were a beautiful bride!

    I hear ya about the hair woes. If you take a small section of my hair (say a pencil-size handful) and knot it when it's dry - knot as in knot and pull the ends as tight as possible - as soon as you let go, it unties itself straight. So I generally follow Peter's advice - blow dry straight and leave the rest to the stylist who gives it a little flair every quarter year or so.

  9. My hair is thin, not thick, but doesn't hold a curl to save its life. The best thing I've found is setting it in pin curls while my hair is wet and sleeping on it (my mom used to make us sleep in rollers as kids, what??? pin curls are not the most comfy to sleep in but it's not like having rollers in). This is more of a 20s look than a 40s look, at least on my short, thin hair, but it is a curl that really lasts. Photo of the result here

    Can't wait to see you at Crisp on Friday!

  10. I have curly hair, its horrible. In fact I didn't realize that some hair actually couldn't curl (I thought people just weren't scrunching it enough) until I got my hair relaxed. I missed my curls after my wonderfully straight, way too flat to my head hair did nothing when I tried to scrunch some life back into it. Having never used rollers before, seeing as my hair was curly... until I fried my hair into staying straight (which I regretted until it grew out) I had similar problems. So here is my advice for you: 1.) Start on the bottom of your hair and work your way up 2.) get the soft rollers, they are way easier to use than the pined in rollers, but if your stuck in your ways get some pin curl clips and clip them in at the base of the roller, where its closest to your scalp. 3.)Isolate, isolate, isolate!! Use clips, elastics or even bobby pins, what ever you have to do to section your hair as neatly as possible. Lastly 4.) If it feels loose it is loose, if it feels secure.... pin it again! I find an X with the pined rollers works best... however its not the most comfortable when sleeping in them.


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