Getting perfectly bouncy curls, unfortunately, often comes with a decent amount of damage. And once the damage is done, it's hard to undo. So when the trend of curling hair with socks went viral, everyone jumped onboard. The idea behind sock curls is an easy, effortless way to create curls and waves that rival what a curling iron or hot rollers make sans any heat.
TikTok may be responsible for the recent blow-up of curling hair with socks, but celebrity hairstylist Julius Michael says the trend dates back to the '60s and '70s:
"Before hot rollers or curling irons were a 'thing,' women used socks, cut-up T-shirts, and even soda or beer cans as rollers in their hair."
So if limiting the amount of heat your hair is exposed to but sexy curls are a must, consider this everything you need to know about how to curl your hair with socks.
It's a known fact that heat is the ultimate hair offender. "If you use heat daily or every time you style your hair, curling hair with socks is a great way to give it a break to get it healthy again," Gueldner says. "The technique works for all hair types and is especially great for women with frizzy hair or hair that doesn't hold a curl." Depending on how tight or loose you wrap your hair around the socks determines if you'll end up with tight curls or a loose, flowy wave.
To curl your hair with socks, you'll need a few pairs of clean, long tube socks (make sure they extend from the root of the hair down to the ends), silk rubber bands or scrunchies, and some bobby pins or a few small clips.
Steps for Curling Hair with Socks
1. Start on Wet Hair
Start with freshly washed and conditioned hair—if a hair wash session isn't in the cards, wet the hair with a spray bottle. Michael recommends using a purifying shampoo to remove any heavy product buildup and applying a volumizing product to wet hair. Let the hair air dry about 50% before wrapping it around the socks.
Comb through the hair to eliminate any tangles, knots, or snarls. The hair must be knot-free so it's easier to wrap around the socks. Plus, doing sock curls on snarled and matted hair can cause the hair to break.
3. Section Hair
Divide the hair into two or four equally sized sections depending on its texture (use fewer sections for thin hair; more for thicker hair). Pull each section to the side and clip it up with a claw clip.
4. Secure the Sock With Clips
Take one of the sections of hair and a sock. Use a claw clip to attach the hair to the sock at the root and another clip to secure it to the ends. The placement doesn’t need to be perfect since it’s just about getting the sock not to move around much.
5. Start Curling
Grab one section, remove the bottom clip, and divide that section of hair into two smaller sections. Begin wrapping the hair around a clean sock from the root down, alternating one section of hair over the other to create an X-like pattern, as if you are braiding it. Or, Michael says to weave the sock into the sections of hair, which will create more of a mermaid wave. "Just always roll the hair upward and away from the face," he says.
6. Secure the Curl
When a section of hair is fully wrapped around the sock, tie it off with a silk rubber band or scrunchie or wrap the hair into the open end of the sock. Then, pull the sock up towards the ear and lay it across the top of the head, securing it in place with either bobby pins or a claw clip.
Move to the next section of hair and repeat the entire process.
8. Let the Hair Dry
After all the hair is wrapped around the socks and secured, it's time to let the socks work their magic. Leave the hair wrapped in the socks for either a few hours or overnight, which is best.
9. Gently Unwrap
When the hair is fully dry, Michael says to gently unwrap each section, one by one, from the sock. “If you sleep in the socks and the roots get a little flat, you can use the VOLOOM Volumizing Iron ($139) to give some lift and volume to the roots,” Michael says.
10. Separate the Sections
Separate each section of hair by running your fingers or a wide-tooth comb to loosen the curl gently. Finish with hair serum on the ends to add shine.
The Pros and Cons
Heatless sock curls are a surefire way to reinstate healthy hair, but they, like every other hair styling method, come with their own pros and cons.
There’s no heat damage incurred. “Since you’re not using a hot tool to curl the hair, you're protecting it from possible damage like split or dry ends,” Michael says. “Any time you can protect your hair from damage, it's a win.”
The curls will last all day if not longer. Gueldner says wrapping the hair around the socks creates similar waves and curls to a curling iron minus the heat. Because the hair stays in a wave-making pattern longer than when using a curling iron or wand, the hair has greater staying power.
Socks absorb moisture in the hair to act as a slow dryer. The lack of heat also doesn’t leave hair looking dry or brittle or feeling frizzy or frazzled.
The technique creates a natural, healthy-looking shine. Sleeping with the hair wrapped in socks (or any soft material) prevents friction and preserves its natural shine. Plus, sleeping in socks is pretty comfortable against the head.
The hair emerges with a lived-in sexy curl. Using socks to curl the hair gives it a natural bounce with plenty of fullness that looks like it was created at a salon.
The hair can take longer to dry and set without using heat. “A heat-based styling tool curls and styles the hair faster, usually in a few minutes,” Michael says. “But when using socks, the hair has to fully dry for the wave to come out, which can take hours or even overnight.”
If you don't let the socks completely dry after using them, Michael says you risk them developing a moldy or mildew smell that can transfer to the hair.
If too small of a section is partitioned, it can create a tighter curl pattern, which some people may not want. To prevent this, keep the sections on the thicker side and wrap the hair loosely around the sock.
Alternative Heatless Curl Methods
Sock waves may be the most popular way to curl hair sans heat, but they're not the only way to do it. Consider these heat-free methods a close second.
Gueldner suggests sleeping in loose braids, which can add waves. "Braiding the hair and then sleeping with it in will add more of a cool girl texture to the hair," she adds.
"A bathrobe belt also works for waving the hair without heat," Michael says. "Wrap the hair around the belt and roll it up. You'll get sexy soft waves like a finger wave style."
Heatless Curl Kit
Many hair care brands make heatless curl kits containing everything necessary to style the hair. Instead of using socks to curl the hair, these kits include a silk or satin-wrapped rod to wrap the hair around.
While Velcro rollers flex their muscle best on dry hair, either as a style refresh or to add waves, you can use them on damp hair to set the curl pattern. "Roll up the hair in them and let it sit until you are ready to style it," Michael says.
Michael says to use drinking straws to create more of a tight, springy spiral curl. However, you'll need to use a lot (maybe even the whole pack) since the sections of hair used must be small.
Go for a classic pin curl, which sculpts the hair into a soft yet modern wave. Michael says to first curl small sections of hair with a roller set clip. "Let the hair dry completely, and when you remove the clips, the hair will be in a tight curl that you can brush into a soft vintage hairstyle or use a wide-tooth comb for a modern-day wave."
On soaking wet hair, Michael says to plop curl the hair. “Leave it wet and wrap a T-shirt around it for the night.”
Empty Soda Cans
For '70s-inspired waves a la Farrah Fawcett, Michael suggests wrapping sections of hair around empty, clean soda or beer cans (remove the tops and bottoms). "Winding the hair around the cans and securing them down with bobby pins will give a very sexy-looking blowout effect with little effort."
Article written by Elise Tabin for Instyle