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Pin Curls Are Back! And They Can Make Thinning Hair Look Thicker Overnight

Inspired by Lauren Bacall's iconic look, generations of women have relied on pin curls to look younger

Actress Lauren Bacall was known for her longtime romance with Humphrey Bogart, her sultry stare and her deep voice. But her hair was legendary. “Set it and forget it.” That was the motto of the icon, known for covet-worthy ‘pin curls’ that you could run your fingers through and had the power to stay put during long days on set. Bacall was said to balk at Hollywood’s demands to appear more youthful by plucking her eyebrows, shaving her hairline back or straightening her teeth, and later on, skipped the Botox and facelifts everyone else was doing. But the To Have and Have Not actress carefully styled her hair, and it’s precisely how she kept herself looking young.

Portrait of actress Lauren Bacall in 1944
Lauren Bacall often paired her pin curls with a sultry red lip (1944)Kobal/Shutterstock
Bacall’s pin curls look good from any angle (1945)HA/Cinema Publishers/The Hollywood/Shutterstock
Portrait of actress Lauren Bacall in 1953
Bacall is all smiles as she shows off her pin curls (1953)The Legacy Collection/THA/Shutterstock
Actress Lauren Bacall in 1990
Bacall’s pin curls were consistently stunning (1990)Keith Butler/Shutterstock

How did pin curls keep Lauren Bacall looking young?

Not only does the soft-curl style help hair appear fuller, more voluminous hair, but it can be a great way to mask the fact that your hair is starting to thin with age. “Pin curls have been a fantastic method to hide thinning hair since the beginning of the 20th century, and still works perfectly today,” explains CurlVitality founder Barbara DelleMonache.

“In general, curls add depth and dimension to hair, making it seem denser than it is. And the style that kept Lauren Bacall young is also a damage-free way to make it look like you have fuller hair,” adds DelleMonache. 

How can I recreate Lauren Bacall’s pin curls?

The age-old method of curling hair by simply rolling it into loops while it’s still wet, setting it with pins and letting it dry (aka ‘a wet set’).

Chaz Dean, a celebrity hairstylist who has worked with Gwyneth Paltrow and Juliana Margulies, explains the heatless pin-curl process step-by-step.

  1. Start with freshly cleansed hair, and apply a nourishing mousse throughout the hair, like WEN Summer Pina Colada (Buy from Wen by Chaz Dean, $42). 
  2. Next, part your hair where you prefer and separate it into three large sections.
  3. Start at the crown and work your way down; set your hair in pin curls by creating little loops using 1” sections (a trick is to wrap the hair around a finger) and secure each with bobby pins. Do this until all the hair is set in curls.
  4. Lightly spray with a finishing spray or hairspray, and place a hair net over the head to help hold it in place while you sleep.
  5. in the morning, unpin the curls and run your fingers through your hair or a brush to create the desired look.

Here’s a tutorial if you’re unsure how to make and position the curls. 


How can I achieve pin curls in a pinch?

Since it has found its way into the modern-day, viral methods abound that recreate that coveted tight, bouncy curl with a little less effort — it still has to set, but the rolling is less tedious and won’t leave your wrists aching. The best part? These methods can be done with items you have around your home, like socks or leggings, even pillow rollers (like these from Kitsch, $14) can do the trick. 

This YouTube video shows how easy it is!

That said, if you’re in a crunch for time and want the pin curl look without the overnight wait, you can grab a curling iron and do it in about 20 minutes or less, explains celebrity hairstylist Sarah Potempa, who has styled the famous tresses of Reese Witherspoon, and Emily Blunt. 

  1. Start with dried hair, and apply a heat protectant spray that adds flexible hold to the hair while preserving strands under super high temps. Potempa recommends the Great Barrier spray from her Beachwaver line (Buy from Beachwaver, $25.20). 
  2. Using a small barrel curling iron like the Beachwaver rotating curling iron, (Buy from Beachwaver, $99), take the hair in small sections, extend it straight out, place the clamp on top and roll up the root. The smaller barrel size not only creates the pin curl look but adds volume at the root, helping the curls to last longer. 
  3. Hold each curl for a few seconds, then release. 
  4. Once each curl has been released, roll it back up and secure it with a duck bill clip (Buy from Amazon, $6.99). Spray the entire head with hairspray.
  5. Once the curls have cooled, remove the pins and comb through. Voila! A perfectly pin-curled head in minutes. 

Jene Sena

Jené Luciani Sena is a veteran journalist and internationally-renowned bestselling author of The Bra Book: An Intimate Guide to Finding the Right Bra, Shapewear, Swimsuit, and More! and Get It!: A Beauty, Style, and Wellness Guide to Getting Your #It# Together. She’s also a style, bra and beauty expert regularly seen on shows like Access Hollywood and NBC’s Today.

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