Banishing Bad Hair Days since 1997!™

Curling Your Hair: Pin Curls & Rag Curls Made Easy


Image Courtesy Of Barbara Lhotan

People have been curling their hair since the beginning of time using sticks, twigs or their fingers.

One of the most popular topics on when the site was first started in 1997 was basic tips on how to create texture in hair with pin curls and/or rages.

All types of hair from stick straight to naturally wavy, curly, coily and/or kinky can benefit from being reformed into new cuticle shapes.

Whether you want to transform stick straight strands into an array of waves, curls, coil and/or kinks or just want to fine tune your natural cuticle shapes into more refined patterns. 

Consider the following pin and/or rag curling tips.

Mold Hair Bonds To Curl

Disulfide and hydrogen chemical bonds are responsible for causing hair to curl.  If you're born with these bonds your hair will curl on its own.

If you're not born with natural waves, curls, coil and/or kinks, your hair can be temporarily or chemically molded to form new textures. 

These redefined cuticle shapes can be maintained either for a short period of time or until any treatments and/or cuticle enhancing chemicals wear off.

When you were born with the necessary bonds, but your hair doesn't wave, curl, coil or kink in the appropriate patterns, you can adjust the natural bonds by means of chemicals and/or curlers to tighten, shape or fine tune your current hair patterns.

Prepare Hair For Curling

There are three basic methods for molding hair in order to create curls according to your specifications:

1. Chemical treatments (perms and related)
2. Wet sets using water, styling products, a variety of curling tools and optional heat
3. Dry sets using hot hair tools such as round brushes with dryers, diffusers, irons and/or optional curlers

Curling With Chemical Treatments

All types of hair from stick straight to wavy, curly and kinky can be remolded with the following chemical treatments:

1. Chemical perms to add curls to straight strands or refine existing curls
2. Relaxers to soften existing curls and waves
3. Chemical straighteners to remove existing curls and?or create straight strands

Chemical treatments will not permanently alter curl patterns. Once the hair grows back at the roots the hair will revert to its natural texture pattern.

Curl Hair With Wet Sets

If you wish to temporarily curl straight strands, or reform curly strands, you'll need to first alter the natural hydrogen bonds in your hair so you can reform them.

Wet your hair.  It shouldn't be dripping wet, or it may take longer to dry. Hair only needs to be damp enough for water to make contact with every strand.

Spritzing the hair with water serves to break the hydrogen bonds in your hair.  Water allows you to reset the bonds.

Apply mousse and/or a light gel to help your curls keep their shapes.  As your hair dries it stiffens and the new shapes are formed. 

Avoid putting too much product on your strands or it may make your strands feel hard or sticky.

Make Rag Rollers

Rag rollers are softer and more gentle on hair than pin curls.  If you want to roll your hair with rags, you'll need to make a large stock of rag strips before you roll your hair.

Rag roller strips are very inexpensive to make.  You can use old t-shirts and/or sheets as a perfect material. Look for lint free materials for your rag rollers.  Cotton is a great fabric for the rag rollers.  It's very soft, durable and wash well.

Cut or rip the t-shirts and/or sheets to make 6" long by 1" wide strips of rags.   If you have exceptionally long and.or thick hair, you may want to cut longer and/or wider strips.

Make sure you have plenty of rag lengths left to tie with no matter how large a section of hair you are rolling up.

This might be the best option for very long and very thick hair. I always create 40-50 of these strips handy at all times.

Pin Curls Are A Good Alternative

It's safe to say that people with hair to the middle of their back or shorter may still be able to easily use the pin curl method.

The advantage of pin curls is that they are quicker and easier to create.  If you decide  to create  pin curls, invest in a large box of bobby pins with well-coated plastic tips.

When bobby pins age, the plastic coated tips starts to separate from the pin.  Damaged ends may start to grab your hair. 

It may possibly rip or tear the hair and/or the ends.  They may also actually scratch or leave little tears on the scalp. Hair pins can work well although you will need to use a lot of them.

Wash Your Hair Before Bed

In the evening, before you go to bed, wash and condition your hair as you usually would.

Finger pick the tangles out of your hair and allow your hair to air dry to an almost complete dryness. The dampness/dryness ratio will depend upon how thick/long your hair is.

If your hair dries very slowly, please make sure your hair is almost completely dry before proceeding.

If you don't have time or don't wish to wash your hair, simply dampening it slightly with a mister or wet comb should do the trick.

Create Individual Sections

Start separating your hair into small sections.  Depending upon your desired texture you may wish to use smaller or larger sections. 

This may be in only one inch sections or a bit more or less, again depending upon the thickness and length of your hair.

Roll Hair Around Rags Or Pins

Roll the sections of hair around your finger (for pin curls) or around a strip of rag. This may take a bit more practice to do with rag curls. 

You may need to practice getting the hair to stay wrapped around the rag.

You'll know a section of hair is too large for pin curls if you can't easily secure the curl with 1-2 bobby pins or 3 hair pins.

With rag curls, you can generally make the sections as large or small as you wish as long as your strip of rag is long enough to accommodate it.

Roll the section of hair up to your scalp (tightness and diameter of roll determining your curl factor) and secure the section with pins (coated bobby or hair pins) or by tying off the rag strip with a nice bow.

When you wake up in the morning and you're ready to style your hair, remove the pins or rags.

Your hair should be free of tangles, feel soft and will have a very nice curl. Most pin curl or rag sets won't leave any marks in the hair.  Style as desired.

You may have fun experimenting with how tightly you roll your curls.

Remember that humidity plays a factor in how long you keep your curls. If it's very humid and you spend any time outside, you may lose quite a bit of curl.

Keep Hair Accessories Close By For A Quick Hair Knot

However, you will not lose the overall body in your hair. It will not go completely flat, so far as I have personally experienced. I find that pretty amazing!

On the days that I am not sure of the humidity, I keep a hair friendly barrette close by in case I need to clip my hair back due to a loss of curl.

If you prefer body and waves over curls, you can still pin or rag curl your hair, but create much looser curls.

Make A Wet Bun

An easier way to achieve great body is to roll hair up in a tight bun/twist or two (or more) and pin up on the top/back of your head while slightly damp.

Make sure not to make your bun/twist too high up front on your head, or you'll notice a crease in the front of your hair when you take it down in the morning!

Foam rollers can duplicate the basic effects of a pin or rag curl set.  They are also very gentle on hair, although they may be too bulky to sleep on.

They would, theoretically, also be very gentle to the hair, although quite a bit more bulky to sleep on.

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Thank you for visiting us at The HairBoutique Blog and for leaving your comments. They are very much appreciated. We apologize in advance but must remove any direct advertisements or solicitations.

Original Publication Date: 1997 - Revised Publication Date: 04/20/11

If you want to talk more about this or other hair care articles on or anywhere else, please post a message on's Hair Talk Forums.

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