I don’t know about you, but in the summer, the last thing I want to do is style my hair with heat. It’s just too hot to have more warmth radiating towards my head and melting off my makeup. Plus, straightening my hair with a blow dryer or flat iron is a little pointless when the humidity is so high. Instead of fighting humid conditions, I find it’s best to work with them by encouraging my own natural wave. Luckily, hair with texture, from loose barely-there waves to sexy tousled curls, is totally on trend. The look is the perfect complement to fashion’s current hippie-chic vibe and the carefree spirit of summer. Best of all, it's easy to curl your hair without heat, saving your locks from heat damage while you stay cool.
3 Ways to Curl Your Hair Without Heat
If you already have some wave to your hair, you might be able to simply scrunch in some product and allow your hair to air dry naturally. To enhance waves further or soften tighter curls, I offer three ways to get boho waves without heat. These techniques are all quick and easy, but you’ll need to allow time for your hair to set. I prefer to style damp hair in the morning and allow it to air dry, but you can also set your hair the night before and wake up to pretty waves.
Tips for Perfect Air-Dried Waves
Product is your friend. Try a sea salt spray or wave-encouraging lotion if your hair is on the straight side. Mousse or curl-defining cream should do the trick for hair with more bend. Be sure to run a frizz control product or shine serum over your ends if prone to frizz or flyaways. For extra hold and humidity protection, spritz a layer of hairspray over the set before releasing your waves.
Hair should be damp but not soaking wet, or it will take a really long time to dry. So if you are fresh from the shower, allow it to air dry a bit before styling it.
The drier your hair is when you release the set, the wavier heatless curls. I like to set my hair and then allow it to dry in the car on my commute to work.
If you don’t have a lot of time in the morning to allow your hair to dry, you can set it the night before and take it down in the morning.
Technique 1: Soft, Loose Curls
When it comes to wet-setting hair, it makes sense to look at the techniques used before modern heat styling became available. Traditional pin curl sets produce a more structured curl, but this simple arrangement yields a looser wave and takes only a few minutes to style.
—Styling product (I used Redkin Full Frame Mousse and White Sands The Cure 24/7)
—Pin curl clips or duckbill clips
Apply product to damp hair and create a vertical section in the front above one ear. This does not need to be perfectly sectioned. In fact, it’s better if it’s not perfectly straight to avoid part lines.
Wrap the strand around your fingers away from your face to create a loop, and wind the curl with your fingers down to your scalp.
Slide a pin curl clip or duckbill clip in upwards from below to secure the strand in place. The bottom prong should sit against your scalp, and the top prong should be through the center of the curl.
Continue taking vertical sections all the way from the crown to the nape, wrap away from your face, and pin them until you reach the center in back. Try not to worry about making these pin curls perfect. Think quick and easy; just wrap the curl, pin it, and move on.
Repeat on the other side of your head, wrapping in the opposite direction (still away from your face.)
Wait for your hair to dry and then remove the clips.
Run your fingers through your hair to break up curls and create soft, beachy waves.
Technique 2: Beachy Braid Waves
Braids are an awesome way to curl your hair without heat because they're something pretty much anyone can do. To update this technique, I started my braids a little farther down and then pulled them wider so that my waves would be looser.
—Styling product (I used Redkin Full Frame Mousse and White Sands The Cure 24/7)
—2 small elastic hair bands
Add product to damp hair; then part down the center, and clip one side out of the way.
To start with, take a large section from about an inch above your ear to the center part. Divide this into 3 equal smaller sections.
Dutch braid (reverse French) the entire side by incorporating hair as you work toward the nape of your neck, folding the strands under. For more detailed instructions on how to create a Dutch braid, visit this post. When you reach the nape, continue braiding the three strands all the way to the ends and tie off with a small hair band. Repeat on the other side.
Gently tug on both sides of both braids to loosen and widen them.
When hair is dry, remove the elastic bands and run your fingers through your hair to tousle the waves.
Technique 3: Twisted Texture
Twisting your hair is a great way to create the natural-looking waves that are so popular these days. There are lots of ways to set your hair in twists, but this is my favorite.
—Styling product (I used Redkin Full Frame Mousse and Kevin Murphy Shimmer.Shine)
—Two small elastic hair bands
Apply product to damp hair.. Part hair down the center in the back and then divide each side by parting from the top to behind your ear to create 4 equal sections.
Grab the back two sections and twist them towards each other all the way down to the ends.
Tie the ends together with a small hair band.
Release the two front sections and twist them towards each other (away from your face), then tie the ends together with a small hair band. You'll notice that the bottom twists have started to loosen, which is perfectly fine.
Allow your hair to dry for several hours or overnight while in the twists, then remove the elastic bands and shake out your waves. Voila! The perfect beachy hair without the heat.
Heatless Curls FAQ
Do heatless curls damage your hair?
If done correctly, heatless curls shouldn't damage your hair. Keep braids and twists loose to make sure you're not putting undue stress on your scalp, don't wrap hair elastics too tightly, and make sure to use a hair protectant or leave-in conditioner to nourish hair while it sets.
Is it okay to curl my hair without heat everyday?
Since heatless curls are gentle on hair, they shouldn't damage or dry out your locks if done every day. As always, keep an eye on your hair and if you notice any split ends or flyaways, take a break.
How long will curls last?
This really depends on your hair type! If your hair holds a curl well, heatless waves may last for several days. If you have fine hair, they may only last for an hour or two. You can extend the life your waves with the help of a texturizing mousse or sea salt spray.
Why are my heatless curls not working?
There are a few reasons the curls may not be taking. For starters, how well does your hair naturally hold a curl? Some hair types are harder to curl than others, and thin or fine hair types may need a little help (often in the form of heat) to help curls set.
Second, you may need to experiment with different curl-defining hair products, like hair spray, mousse, or salt spray for extra hold. Third, give your hair plenty of time to dry. Taking curls out too soon can make them fall flat.
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Sea Salt Spray vs. Sugar Spray: Which is the Key to Your Best Beachy Hair
Our Guide to the Best Natural Products for Healthy Hair
What tips and tricks do you swear by for curling your hair with heat? Let us know in the comments!93
The Karmin curling wand works well for me :)
It's really a very useful tip. I mean by not damaging the hair using heated rollers and all . Absolutely safe and pretty and cheap too
All I can say is all I did was get it damp and twisted it into a bun and it really worked and lasted me a couple of days maybe more if i didnt have to take a shower I'd have to say though better with dirty hair
Katelyn Rutt says
Love love love this! Always looking for heatless hairstyles!
I love it and it really worked out. -lily
The thing I always find that works well is platting your hair as I've got really long straight hair it's hard for it to go wavy! So I put my hair into tight platts over night making sure there damp then when I wake up in the morning my hair is all wavy and nice??
I tried the pin curls and it was so easy and really did work! I wish I could post a pic to prove how even a total amateur like me can do this. Thank you!
Thank you SO much for these tips! I tried the twisted texture and it worked great! I feared I had let my hair dry too much (I was not going to style it then I suddenly remembered your post and decided to give it a go!) but it worked really well! It's been 3 days since I styled it and it's still holding its shape pretty well (and I think it could last longer but I'm shapooing tomorrow so I won't know), while the very few times I used a curling iron, my locks wouldn't last a day! I really like the texture my hair has! Next time, I'll try the braid styling!