From foam rollers and satin rods to items that can be found in your closet — including robe ties and socks — Instagram, YouTube and TikTok are flooded with videos of heatless curling hacks that have racked up millions of views. The process for how to do sock curls and robe tie curls can look a bit silly, but the resulting voluminous curls these heat-free hairstyling tricks create are truly amazing! The best part? Theses styling techniques can save you time (because they style hair while you sleep) and money, are easy on your strands, and work on all hair lengths, including those with short hair. (Click through to see more heatless curls for short hair methods.)
Sock and robe curls are “easy to do with minimal tools and showcase a super fun transformation from wet hair to beautiful bouncy curls,” says Sarah Potempa, celebrity hairstylist and co-founder of The Beachwaver Co. If that’s right up your alley, keep scrolling for the simple how-tos for creating sock curls, robe tie curls and more that are guaranteed to leave short hair (or longer locks!) looking full and bouncy come morning.
The benefits of heatless curling methods
If waking up with springy, defined curls with little effort isn’t enough to convince you to grab a couple of clean spare socks out of your sock drawer, maybe the other pros that sock curls (and other heatless techniques) offer will sway you to try this hairstyle hack.
1. They keep aging hair healthy
“The main benefit is the heatless element — being able to achieve movement without risking heat damage,” says MariLynne Cosmillo, hairstylist and founder of hOURS haircare. Overuse of hot tools and frequently exposing hair to heat can lead to breakage, dryness and split ends that leave hair looking thin, frizzy and brittle.
2. They make hair look fuller
“Sock curls can add lots of bounce to your hair, creating a very full style, although volume — meaning height, specifically — isn’t necessarily the focus here, since the socks don’t work to lift your roots,” says Cosmillo. “That said, those with a very pliable root may find that switching your part after creating the curls allows more volume to shine through.” (Click through for more ways on how to style thinning hair.)
3. They use items you already have
There’s no need to buy a pricey curling iron to achieve gorgeous curls, just grab a few items that you already have in your home like a few spare socks, the tie of your robe or a headband. (Click through to learn 10 brilliant uses for orphan socks.)
4. They’re easier to do than using hot tools
“So many struggle with using curling irons or doing elevated blowouts on themselves, so a technique like this can be really appealing,” says Cosmillo. All you have to do is “set” your hair by following a sock curl tutorial (see below) and then forget about it until the morning.
5. They save you time getting ready in the morning
“Sock curls and robe curls help reduce the time you have to spend the next day on your hair by allowing you to wake up with already done curls,” says Potempa.
3 heatless curl techniques that work for short hair
1. Sock curls
Like any other hair styling technique, there’s a little bit of a learning curve when it comes to creating high-volume, long-lasting sock curls. On the whole, though, sock curls are very easy to experiment with and will form tight, bouncy spirals, says Potempa, even on fine hair. If you have a couple of thin, spare socks and a little bit of time before bed (or downtime during the day), you can make them happen. Read on for Cosmillo’s simple step-by-step guide for creating sock curls.
How to do sock curls
Start with damp, almost dry hair, then divide your hair into sections: one on each side of your head, and from the ears back, split down the center so you have one on each side. Take a clean sock and secure it with a flat hair clip at the top of your first section to hold it in place. You’ll work from top to bottom, grabbing hair as you move downward, similar to how you would work your way through a French braid, says Cosmillo.
After one sock is in place, begin with one section at a time and take a small 1-inch segment of hair from the top of the section and wrap it around the sock. As you circle around the sock, pick up the next piece of hair and wrap it around the sock. Continue with small segments until all of hair in the section is wrapped around the sock, then secure strands with an elastic; repeat on the remaining sections. Let hair dry fully (overnight is best when possible), then remove the socks and tousle hair with fingers.
Helpful tips when creating sock curls
Those with longer locks can often achieve bouncy spirals using just two larger sections of hair, Potempa says four sections can be better for creating defined curls in shorter cuts.
And to make sure your style lasts all day, apply a pre-styling balm, like Beachwaver Braid Balm (Buy from Beachwaver, $16) from roots to ends of damp hair before starting the hair wrapping process. “This will help hold the style better overnight and reduce frizz that may occur when sleeping,” says Potempa. Or get the same benefits from using a mousse (Buy from hOURS, $27) beforehand — both products also give strands some grip, which makes wrapping hair around the sock easier.
For a visual on how to create sock curls, watch YouTuber Sophie Hannah‘s in-depth tutorial below.
2. Robe tie curls
According to Potempa, the steps it takes to create robe tie curls are very similar to sock curls. The prep is virtually the same — the biggest difference, according to Potempa, is that you’ll center one tie on your head as opposed to two (or more) socks for either side of the head.
One thing to note: “Robe curls can be tricky on short hair because fluffy robe ties are generally too thick to give short hair the desired heatless waves,” says Potempa. “I would recommend a satin or silk robe tie, as that would be thin and work better when defining curls on short hair.” And to keep the tie in place overnight, secure it to the head with bobby pins. What’s more, since robe ties tend to be flatter and sit closer to the head, you may find that this technique is easier to sleep in.
How to do robe tie curls
Divide damp hair into two equal sections and lay the robe tie on top of your head in the middle of your part (secure the tie to the head with bobby pins if needed). Then, similar to sock curls, start on one side of the head and Potempa says to take a one-inch section of hair that’s closest to the face and wrap it over and around the robe tie as you bring it back to the front, adding an equal amount of hair to the starting section and wrapping it over and around the tie again.
“Continue adding sections and wrapping the hair around the robe tie until this entire side is incorporated and you’ve reached the ends,” says Potempa. Secure hair to the robe tie with an elastic. Repeat the process on the other half of your head and leave the hair-wrapped robe tie in place for at least 1-2 hours, but ideally overnight; unwrap hair in the morning and tousle with fingers.
Check out this tutorial from YouTuber Shonagh Scott for even more tips on how to create robe tie curls on short hair.
3. Headband curls
Headband curls are yet another heatless option that can give you that bouncy blowout look, even when your hair is on the shorter side. This viral trend works thanks to a French/Dutch twisting technique that utilizes a stretchy headband to create curls overnight.
“This is a good option for short hair because it will give more of a wave pattern throughout the hair, even in the back,” says Potempa. “However, it isn’t as secure as sock or robe curls and may be a bit more uncomfortable at night.” If that’s the case for you, headband curls can be done during the day as well — just let them set 1-2 hours before unraveling.
How to do headband curls
“You place the headband over the hair and each section you take, you simply tuck over and through the headband — add more hair and tuck over and over again,” says Potempa. “Continue twisting each side until the hair has met in the back. Flip the remaining hair through the headband until all of the hair has been secured.”
To see this technique in action and why it’s great for short hair, watch the below video from YouTuber Frugalista Beauty.
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