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Heatless Curls For Short Hair — 4 Ways To Get The Bounce Without The Burn

These genius alternatives to hot tools give delicate, thinning hair volume without breakage

If Instagram and TikTok are any indicator, you’re missing out if you’re not curling your hair with a heat-free technique that’s either newfangled or retro — remember pin curls? “Heatless curling techniques have gone viral on TikTok, with methods from using leggings to curling headbands to foam rollers,” says Andrew Fitzsimons, celebrity hairstylist and founder of his eponymous hair care line. “I think the appeal of heatless curls is there is less damage to the hair compared to heat styling methods, and it’s also an easy styling alternative to hot tools.”

Gentler, time-saving, and successful at creating bouncy, long-lasting curls — it’s no wonder heatless curls are giving curling irons and blow dryers a run for their money. And these techniques are not just for long hair either as those with shorter hair styles can experiment with these viral techniques, too. And some tricks don’t even require you to buy anything new. Best of all? Once you get the hang of one or more of these heatless curls for short hair, you may never want to go back to hot tools again.

Three benefits of heatless curls for short hair

Read on for why you and your hair will be singing the praises of heat-free curling strategies.

1. Heatless curls keep hair healthy

“Heatless curls are beneficial when you are trying to lay off the heat and maintain your hair health,” says Fitzsimons. “Exposing your hair to heat consistently, unprotected, and at high temperatures causes a lot of breakage and damage.” Brittany Gharring, celebrity hairstylist, agrees, adding that when it comes to irons and dryers, the effects on your hair can be cumulative. “Excessive use of hot tools— no matter the technology— will create damage, including dryness, split ends, and breakage,” she says. “Heatless curls eliminate this risk, allowing your hair to retain its natural moisture and health.”

Melora Hardin smiling with curly hair
Melora Hardin, 56Getty Images

Using heatless methods to achieve bouncy curls like Melora Hardin above ensure shorter strands don’t become damaged or prone to breakage, which is especially beneficial for women with fine, thinning hair.

2. There’s less styling time needed

The second major pro in the heatless curls’ column? You can set them and forget them, meaning once you pick a technique and master it, you can quickly “do” your hair with less effort. The magic here lies in your hair staying in the curl position for longer to air dry (versus using heat), which can happen either overnight or anywhere from 30 minutes to a few hours, depending on how tight you want your style. The key, though, is none of these techniques require much active styling time at all once you’re familiar with them. “Overnight heatless curl methods are great for waking up with pre-styled hair so your get-ready time is cut in half,” says Fitzsimons. “This method also allows you to create different styles of curls whether it be waves, tighter ringlets, large glam curls, or beachy waves to suit any occasion.”

3. You can use items you already have

Finally, the price with many of these viral techniques is right. Unlike fancy curling irons and dryers, which can set you back a pretty penny, many of these heatless curl methods rely on inexpensive rollers, rods, satin curl kits, and even wackier, repurposed items you already have around your home, from robe ties to leggings.

How heatless curls enhance short hair

Just like how hot tool-created curls boost volume, heatless curls also add dimension to shorter stands by lifting hair up and off of the scalp. “In particular, shorter hair gets the ultimate face lift with extra body bounce and shine when using anything from sponge curlers to the silk-covered pillow rollers,” says Gharring.

Viola Davis smiling and with curled hair
Viola Davis, 58Steve Granitz/WireImage

Viola Davis, as seen above, is a great example of how heatless curls for short hair creates va-va volume and movement.

Heatless techniques are also great for thin, aging hair specifically. According to Fitzsimons, aging hair tends to be thinner, weaker, and drier, which, again, compounds the damage that hot tools can create. “Hot tools can also lead to discoloration on your strands and strip away color, especially if you are dying your gray strands,” he adds. “Heatless curls can help maintain the vibrancy of colored hair and offer a non-damaging style option for women who are going gray but want to elevate their everyday look.”

The 4 best ways to create heatless curls for short hair

Heatless curl techniques run the gamut, but these four ways are easy to master with a little bit of practice. All it takes is grabbing a few tools and following these directions straight from hairstylists.

1. Sponge or foam rollers

When you want voluminous, bouncy curls, heatless foam hair rollers (Buy from Amazon, $9.49) are the way to go.

Glenn Close smiling and she has curly hair
Glenn Close, 76Getty Images

The ringlets, like Glenn Close has above, created by foam rollers lift shorter strands up and off of the scalp so hair appears two times thicker.

To do: Start with freshly washed, damp hair, parting and separating it before applying a leave-in conditioner (Buy from Ulta, $16). “Clip back the top section and start with the bottom layers,” says Fitzsimons. “Then, one by one, section off the hair, take each section and roll it towards the base of your head, and secure it [the roller]. For added volume, every other section can be rolled inwards towards the base of the head or outwards.” You’ll keep following this method for the top section of hair until everything is rolled. Fitzsimons suggests letting your hair set for 30 minutes or until dry before removing the curlers. After unrolling hair, tousle with fingers and set with hairspray.

See for yourself just how easy it is to create va-va volume with foam rollers by watching the below tutorial from the Sparkling Silvers YouTube channel.

2. The rod method

This technique relies on using a foam rod that often is wrapped in satin or silk, which can cut down on friction and frizz. Kitsch Heatless Hair Curler in Satin (Buy from Amazon, $15.98) went viral on TikTok this year after influencers shared how it easily created voluminous curls.

And while videos show long-haired influencers using the tool, those with shorter hair lengths can use it, too. It might just take some trial and error to get shorter strands wrapped around the band, but the how-to is fairly simple as shown in the below image from Kitsch.

Woman showing the steps to use Kitsch Heatless Hair Curler in Satin, a satin curling headband that can be used to create heatless curls for short hair

To do: “Similar to other heatless methods, you want to take freshly washed, damp hair, comb and part the hair, and section by section, start at the base of the hair and wrap it around the satin rod,” says Fitzsimons. “Make sure the hair is wrapped evenly and tightly around the rod.” Repeat this process, securing each section at the ends— typically with scrunchie-like elastics or claw clips— and then leave it in for at least 20 to 30 minutes or longer before releasing. After hair is unwrapped, gently comb through hair with fingers and set with hairspray.

Check out the below video from YouTuber Linnea Jericho to see first-hand how exactly to use the Kitsch curling band.

3. Pin curls

Sometimes old-school methods are worth going back to, and that’s exactly the tried-and-true appeal of pin curls, which can yield classic Hollywood-like waves. (Click through this story to learn all about the pin curls the kept starlet Lauren Bacall young and beautiful.)

Allison Janney smiling and she has curly hair
Allison Janney, 63Steve Granitz/Getty Images

Allison Janney above is proof that pin curls give shorter strands mega bounce and frame gorgeous facial features. And achieving the look couldn’t be easier— keep scrolling for step-by-step photos and Fitzsimons’ simple how-to.

A woman showing the steps it takes to create pin curls for heatless curls for short hair

To do: After applying a leave-in conditioner evenly through your hair, divide your hair into small sections; Fitzsimons recommends sections about 1 to 2 inches in width. Begin rolling the hair upwards towards your scalp around itself, and secure it flat in place with a bobby pin onto the head. “Repeat for each section and leave the pin curls for several hours or wear overnight—depending on how tight you would like the curls to be,” he says. “The longer you keep the pins in, the tighter the curl.” Once curls are unrolled, tousle with fingers and set with hairspray.

Or follow along the below pin curl tutorial from The Knit Yorker YouTube channel.

4. Robe or leggings curls

Have a spare pair of leggings or an extra robe tie on hand? You can use the same technique a headband-style rod kit requires for similar spirals. Plus, these makeshift materials will sit a little closer to your head, which can be more comfortable for sleeping when opting to create curls overnight.

To do: Again, Fitzsimons says this technique starts with spritzing on a leave-in conditioner from roots to ends and parting and separating your hair. “After you separate the hair, lay the robe tie on top of your head in the middle of your part and take one side of your hair by section and wrap it around in the same pattern and direction around the robe,” says Fitzsimons. “Repeat on the other side. Let the hair sit for at least two hours or overnight if you choose.” Then, unravel from the robe tie and tousle with fingers; set with hairspray.

To see this robe tie trick in action and how it can take a bob from blah to bouncy, check out the below video from YouTuber Shonagh Scott.

For more hair styling tricks, click through these stories:

How to Style Thinning Hair So It Looks Twice as Thick — 9 Tricks You’ll Wonder How You Lived Without!

How to Get the Perfect Curls for Your Hair Texture

3 Secrets to Creating Salon-Worthy Hair at Home

5 Simple Yet Glamorous Hairstyles To Try This Season

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