Monday, October 25, 2010

How To: DIY Wedding Curls That Will Hold Until Your Last Dance

First, I want to thank everyone for the nice comments on my blog post last week about my bad Post Wedding Chop. Hearing from everyone that you still liked my new, shorter haircut really is helping me get over my disappointment, so a big THANK YOU to everyone who took the time to comment.

Secondly, quite a few of you asked me to go into more detail about how I did my new curly hairstyle, what products I used, etc, since you were considering a down and curly look for your wedding day hairstyle. Well, this weekend I took some pictures while getting ready to go to a friend’s wedding, so I can show you all what works for me to get lasting curls. I did my own hair for my Trash The Dress photos, as well as my boudoir session basically the same way that I’ll show you here.

(I'm pretty sure these example boudoir hair pics below are aren't too bad for work, but please don't scroll down if you're concerned.)
{Photos by Jessica Winn Photography, aka Ms. Fondue)

I should note though that everything in this post is only what works for my hair, and may not work for everyone. If you are planning on doing a curly look for your wedding day, or other wedding events, I suggest you do at least 4-5 trial runs. I’ve been curling iron and hair product obsessed pretty much since I started high school, so I’ve had years and years of practice and experimenting to figure out which products work best for me, and I suggest you spend some time figuring out what works best in your own type of hair.

First, let’s start with product. I’ve tried many of the more expensive salon brands, and nearly all the drug store brands of products, and for my hair, I’ve found it’s really not worth the price for most of the salon brands. My favorite shampoo and conditioner is Garnier Fructis Fortifying for color-treated hair. However, about every three months I switch over to Dove’s shampoo and conditioner for a couple weeks, to make sure I’m not getting any build up from only using one kind of shampoo and conditioner.

About once a month I also like to use a MOROCCANOIL Restorative Hair Mask for about 10 minutes in the shower. My hair is on the dry side, so this really helps hydrate it, but it also makes it a little more sleek, so I only do it before I know I’m going to wear my hair straighter for a few days.

Now, for the products I use to achieve the curly look: Garnier Fructis Curl Construct Mousse and Garnier Fructis Sleek and Shine Hairspray. Again, these are just what works best for me, because I think Garnier products make my hair look a lot less “crunchy” and hard after using them, but other brands may work better for you.

My other must-have is my curling iron. I use a 1.5 inch professional iron, by Gold ‘n Hot. Helen of Troy is also a good pro brand. These curling irons are usually not sold in drug stores, but you can get them at beauty supply shops, like Sally Beauty Supply, or online and they’re around $30. You have complete control on the temperature, most up to 500 degrees, which is the temperature setting I use. But definitely ease into these high temp curling irons, you don’t want to singe your hair! Experiment, gradually turning the temp up until you find the right setting for your hair type. And make sure you get one that has the black tip a the end, getting a curling iron that has the hot part go all the way to the end is just asking for a burn!

Alright, now on to the styling. I start with wet hair, and brush in a nice handful of mousse, concentrating on the ends and bottom layer of my hair (since the bottom layer is next to the warmth of your back, and has the weight of the rest of your hair on it, it usually doesn’t hold curl as long as the top layers). Then I blow dry, being sure that it is completely 100% dry. Any wetness left will just make your hair not curl as well, so give it an extra minute or two of blow drying after you think your hair is dry, just to be sure.
(please excuse my lack of makeup in these photos!)

Once my hair is completely dry, I clip up the top layers, so just the bottom is exposed. No matter how much or how little I’m curling my hair, I always do it like this, in layers. You want to be sure you’re getting all the layers evenly curled, and it’s much easier to grab them if the higher layers are out of the way.

I then grab about a 1 to 1.5 inch section of hair, and lightly spray it with hairspray. Again, this is something you’ll want to experiment with, if you have more delicate hair, and your curling iron is turned up too high, this could cause burning.

After spraying the section of hair, quickly wrap it around the curling iron. Don’t grab the bottom of your hair with the iron and curl up, as this will just concentrate the curl at the bottom, and it will go flat more quickly. Instead grab the strand of hair with the iron about half way up, twisting the iron in your hands, and work your way down until the end is wrapped around the iron, and hold for a minute or two (obviously, the longer you hold, the tighter your curls will be).

TIP: Starting the iron half way up your hair enhances the curls higher up, which tend to hang themselves out sooner than the curls at the bottom of your strands of hair, so doing it this way ensures your curls hold longer. If you’re not familiar with this technique, you may want to practice with a cool iron a few times, until you get the turning and grabbing with the curling iron down.

I tried to demonstrate this as best I could without burning my hair (all this photographing while curling was hard!):

Continue to grab sections of hair and curl all around your head until the bottom layer is completely curled. Spray the heck out of it with hairspray, both the top and bottom of it, and let it dry for a few minutes.

Then, unclip the rest of your hair and bring down another layer to repeat this process on.

TIP: I like to curl every other layer the same way. So I’ll curl the bottom layer with all curls going to the back, and the layer on top of that with all curls going to the front, the next layer with the curls going to the back, etc. This helps you avoid all your curls curling into each other, since you don’t want to end up with just one giant curl! Also, gently shaking your curls out with your hands is helpful every couple of hours, to keep the curls separated.

Once I have my top layer of hair down and ready to be curled, I pause to get rid of my flyaways. This works best to do it before you curl your top layer, because smoothing flyaways into the curls doesn’t make for a smooth look. So I apply a tiny amount of Pureology Shine and Control DryShine Styler to the top of my top layer of hair, which instantly gets rid of the flyaways. I also use this product when doing my straighter hairstyle, a little bit goes a long way to separate my layers and give my style texture when it’s just barely curled under at the tips. See, you only need a little:

For this hairstyle that I’m demoing, I did 4 layers of curls, all with the same process: grab a section of hair, spray it, hold each curl for a minute or two with the iron, and once the layer of curls is completed, spray it a lot and wait for the hairspray to dry before pulling down the next layer. If I hadn't been stopping to take photos constantly, this would have taken me about 45 minutes to do all the curling.

Once all your layers are curled and hairsprayed within an inch of their life, let your hair sit for about 15-20 minutes. I like to do my makeup and get dressed during this time. I’ve found that as my curls cool down, they will initially hang themselves out naturally, and start to look less structured, and more like the loose curls I’m going for.

After I’ve let my hair cool, I always come back and give my hair a little shake with my hands, to make sure none of the curls have curled together. I then give the slightly looser curls it one final spray, and I’m good to go.

Now, the above pictures of my completed hairstyle were taken at about one in the afternoon. After driving about an hour to my friend’s wedding, walking around, eating, putting on and taking off my jacket, boogieing on the dance floor for several hours (yes, Mr. Cola was actually in a dancing mood for once!), and driving back home, here is what my hair looked like at about midnight that night.
(Still pretty dang curly for partying at a wedding that went from 3pm until about 11pm, right?)

The only thing I did to it in the eleven hours since I’d curled it was just shake out the curls gently every few hours, to keep them separated. TIP: if you’re doing lots of sitting, or riding in a car, be sure you gently move your hair in front of your shoulders before you sit back, or flip your hair over the back of the chair. Leaning back on your curls will make them go flat a lot quicker.

So that’s it, that’s my little tutorial on how I get my hair to still have curl at the end of the day! Please let me know if you have any questions, and I’ll try to answer them in the comments as best as I can. And I can't stress enough how important trial and error is! Experiment until you find what works for you and your hair.

Will you be doing your own wedding day hair, or your own hair for any other wedding events or photo shoots?


  1. EEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!! Thanks for posting this! I am planning on wearing my hair down and curly for the wedding (this weekend!) so I've been practicing my technique and seeing what will make it stay everyday. I am definitely going to try starting the curling iron at the middle of my hair, and I am sooooo lazy and never separate them into top and bottom layers. Also, I've been thinking I need a good before mouse so I'll check out Garnier.

    What I do is put leave-in conditioner with a heat protectant in my hair straight out of the shower and then go to bed (I take showers at night). Then, when I wake up, I put in a shine and flyaway oil thing and start curling straight away. You and I have the exact same hair type, and mine takes about 30-40 minutes to curl. If I'm going to have a rough day, I don't bother hair spraying it because I don't like the crunchiness of most hair sprays (I'll have to try your recommendation). Last weekend I picked up a product by John Frieda that is supposed to wake up your curls if they are dead. It works PREEEEETTY well, it doesn't bring them back to life 100% but it keeps them going. I know there are others out there (John Frieda's was $4.99, TiGi makes one for $13.99) and I wonder if those other products work better?

    BUT. At my bachelorette party my girlfriend curled my hair with a straightening iron and those curls did NOT budge at all, and I'm talking about hours on the dance floor and throwing up and everything. There are tons of YouTube videos out there on how to do it so if you're interested I recommend it! The only thing is, the technique produces SERIOUS curls and I am looking for something a little more soft and romantic for my wedding day, so I'm not going to use it then, but I recommend it for a night out!

    Did you write this post for me? Because this is SO RELEVANT TO MY LIFE RIGHT NOW! Your hair is so, so beautiful btw!

  2. And by mouse I mean mousse. Not sure I would put a mouse in my hair!

  3. Kristin, I totally read your mind, and of course wrote this just for you! ;) Can't wait to see your wedding hair!

    I'll have to check out some of that curl wake up stuff...although I've never been a fan of John Frieda products. My biggest problem now that my hair is shorter is that when I pull it in front of my shoulders so I don't lean back on it, it slides back, since it's not as long.