12 Ways To Get Beautiful Curls And Waves Without Heat

While your curling wand might give you picture-perfect hair, frequently styling with heat can cause damage. "Too much heat on the hair causes breakage," FEKKAI brand stylist partner Chad Wood told Well+Good. "Constantly heating and cooling will weaken the hair, leading it to break." British hairdresser of the year Lisa Shepherd told TechRadar that heat damage can leave your hair looking thin, or for some people, it will be "thicker at the roots and thinning out towards the ends." Another telltale sign is split ends. Once your hair is badly damaged, it can be hard to fix the dry ends, but you can get a trim and learn from your mistakes. To keep your hair healthy, experts recommend using heat once a week at most (via Healthline).

The good news is that cutting down on your favorite styling tools doesn't mean you can't have beautifully styled hair. For those who love curls and waves, there are lots of other ways to get stunning locks without picking up the curling iron. Read on for heatless curling techniques for different hair types, using everything from your bathrobe to your socks.

Grab a bathrobe belt for heatless curls

The secret to waking up with perfect curls might lie in an unexpected place — your bathrobe. TikTok is full of videos from people trying out this hack. Bri Harmon shared the tip back in 2020, and her video had over 1.2 million views. The idea is to remove the belt from the bathrobe and place it on top of your head, with a piece dangling down on each side. Then twist sections of damp hair around the belt and secure at the bottom with scrunchies (via Stylist). When you wake up the next morning, gently remove the scrunchies and unravel each side for beautiful curls.

Garren, a celebrity stylist and co-founder of R+Co, told Health that this method is great for big waves, and although Harmon didn't use any product on her hair, Garren recommends adding a little to damp hair to help your curls last longer. He added that you shouldn't try this on dirty hair — it's best to bring out the bathrobe belt just after you've shampooed and conditioned.

Twist your hair with odd socks

Another hair trend taking TikTok by storm is the sock curl. This method is similar to the bathrobe belt, but instead of having one braid on each side, you can use multiple socks, creating smaller, more defined curls, as noted by Allure. Start with damp hair (or spritz it with some water in a spray bottle if it is already dry), and separate it into sections, clipping a sock to each one. Criss-cross the hair around the sock and then secure at the bottom with elastics. Leave your socks on for around two hours for gentle waves, as noted by Byrdie, or overnight if you want more of a curl. Just gently remove the socks and run your fingers through the curls to separate them.

There are a few variations on the method, such as one from a TikToker who placed the toe of the sock at the top and then pulled the open end of the sock back over the twisted hair to keep everything in place. Meanwhile, another TikToker kept the open end of the sock at the top and then twisted each section and curled it into a bun shape. Then she pulled the open end over the bun to keep it together. 

Whatever method works for you, socks are an easy and inexpensive way to curl your hair without heat.

Try vintage pin curls

A technique used by women throughout history, this vintage style just requires clips and lots of patience, as noted by L'Oréal's Beauty Magazine. Gina Schiappacasse of salon Hairstory told PopSugar that it's best to start with damp hair that has dried slightly and then apply some product to "add hold and smooth out frizz." Schiappacasse recommended concentrating the product from about halfway down to the tips of the hair. Next, Schiappacasse said to part the hair and split it into sections between an inch to an inch-and-a-half thick. She then advised to take a section at a time and roll it from tip to root, creating "pinwheels" that you should keep in place with bobby pins. Start at the front of your head and make your way to the back until it is all pinned. Once all your hair is curled, it's time to wait. 

You can wrap a silk scarf around your head if you want to sleep with the curls, in order to prevent frizz (via L'Oréal). Once your hair is dry, remove the pins and unravel the curls. Although you might initially look like "an electrified poodle," as One Fab Day noted, the key is to brush the curls out with a paddle brush and add a finishing cream.

Wrap your hair in rollers for heatless curls

Hair rollers have been around for decades, and with a little patience, you can achieve beautiful, bouncy curls with them. "Rollers are a great option whether you're trying to get beach waves or more defined coils," hairstylist Anthony Dickey told Allure. "It's a safer, healthier alternative to heat styling and works for all hair types." If you want to to sleep in them, avoid velcro rollers, as they can damage the hair by snagging the ends. Instead opt for a soft foam version (via Glamour).

Velcro rollers are still a good option if you have a few hours before an event. L'Oréal's Beauty Magazine recommended letting your hair air dry so it is just a little damp and then spraying it with a product to ward off frizz. Next, you should create sections about one-inch thick and wrap them around each roller. Avoid adding too much hair to the roller — it should feel secure. L'Oreal Professionnel's U.K. Editorial Ambassador, Adam Reed told Glamour UK the biggest problem is forgetting to tuck in the ends, which can cause a "fish hook" look, so make sure you are rolling all the way. 

Beauty Magazine suggested spritzing everything with hairspray, and once your hair is dry and the curls have set, gently remove each curler.

An overnight braid can give beachy waves

One of the simplest ways to get some texture through your hair is with an overnight braid on damp hair. Rather than make curls, this will create beachy waves. According to Allure, it's a technique that actress Kate Hudson appears to love. One thing to note is that, although this style doesn't involve using any heat, braiding can cause breakage. So, if you like this look, save it for special occasions (via Bustle).

Fort Lauderdale-based hairstylist Olivia Smalley told the Allure it's best to start with protection spray. Then get your hair wet and get braiding. ​​"If you do a French braid, you'll have more volume and wave at the roots," Smalley said. "A normal three-strand braid starting at the ponytail will give a straightened root and wavy bottom. Both look beautiful!" Once it's secure, she recommended just letting it dry completely. Then you can take out the braid and add some texture spray for a little more volume.

An old t-shirt could be the key to perfect heatless curls

Another favorite method for heatless curls on TikTok is to roll up an old t-shirt into a ring-like shape and wrap your hair around it. When it comes to choosing the t-shirt, make sure you consider it carefully — a thick fabric will make the ring too bulky when rolled up (via Upstyle Daily), and it's probably best to try it out on long, thick hair rather than short or thin hair (via Glamour UK).

TikTok user My Pawfect Family went viral with her version of the technique. She advised rolling up a t-shirt and creating a halo shape by securing the ends together with a hair tie. She placed the t-shirt on top of her head and moved sections of her hair up and over, pulling the ends underneath the shirt ring. After waiting for an unspecified amount of time, she removed the hair tie and gently removed the t-shirt to unleash the curls.

Curlformers create well-defined curls

Curlformers are tools that allow you to pull through sections of hair to set the shape, and they can supposedly be used on lots of hair types, though with different results (via Insider). They've been a hit on TikTok with creators trying them out. They come in a range of shapes, giving different styles like barrel curls and spiral curls. Each set comes in different colors that twist in opposite directions, so you need to use one color on one side of your head and another on the other side, as noted by Byrdie.

To use them, you simply insert a hook through each mesh Curlformer. Then hook a small section of damp hair at the top, and pull your hair through. Use Curlformers on all of your hair, and once your hair is dry, you can remove them (via InStyle). And your hair should be set! Hairstylist Kim Kimble told Byrdie that it's best to find your largest curl and take it down first to check if it's dry. She added that it takes between two and eight hours for the curls to air dry, depending on how thick your hair is. 

There is an option to speed up the drying time with a hood and a hairdryer, but this means using heat on your hair.

Flexi-rods can be used overnight on wet or dry hair

A favorite for natural hair, flexi-rods can really enhance your curls. As the name implies, these curlers allow you to wrap your hair and bend the rod to keep everything together. You can use them on wet or dry hair. The key is to wrap the hair tight around the rod then bend it to secure it in place, as InStyle explained. For wet hair, you need to wait for everything to be dry, and for dry hair, it's best to leave the curls to set overnight.

Tina Pearson, the owner of a New Jersey salon, told Cosmopolitan that one of the best things about flexi-rods is that they can be used on any type of hair, but the number of flexi-rods you will need will differ depending on your hair texture. Most people will need between 20 and 40 rods.

Scrunch your hair to encourage waves

If you have a slight curl or wave to your hair, you can scrunch your hair as it dries with the right products for gorgeous waves. L'Oréa's Beauty Magazine recommends trying a little wave spray on towel-dried hair. Once it's applied, scrunch your hair to create soft, beachy waves. Another option for a beachy wave is a sea salt spray. As it is essentially a mixture of salt and water, it helps replicate what swimming in the ocean does to your hair.

Kiley Fitzgerald, a hairstylist at West Hollywood's Mare Salon, told Well+Good that mousse can also help. "A great way to achieve really soft waves is to brush your hair when you get out of the shower and towel dry," she said. "Get your favorite hair styling mousse and begin to apply to your hair while you lean your head over and scrunch your hair."

Use pillowcase rags as curlers

This trick has been around since the Victorian era, and it was particularly popular with women who couldn't afford a set of curling tongs (via Point Ellice House). Still, it's effective. All you need is a pillowcase or some fabric to create rags about 20 centimeters long and three fingers thick, which you will use as the curlers, as Mamamia explained. 

TikTok user FaytheGay went viral on the platform with her method. She recommended spraying hair with some leave-in conditioner. Then take the rag and place it at the bottom of a small section of hair. Next, roll the rag upwards, keeping it as tight as possible, and tie the ends of the rag at the top to keep it in place. Repeat this process for each section of hair. Sleep with the rags in, and when you wake up, you can untie and unravel everything, brushing it out with your fingers and adding some styling creme, as noted by Mamamia.

A headband can create heatless curls

This method uses a simple headband and takes just a few minutes to do before you go to sleep (via Bustle). Diane Stevens, Nioxin Global Ambassador and owner of Cole Stevens Salon, told Bustle that this method is great for straight hair. She recommended brushing a moisturizing product through damp hair and then parting your hair as you normally would. Next, she explained that you need to grab a headband and wear it over your head "like a crown." Stevens said the key to creating the curls is to pull sections of hair through the headband starting on one side and then moving to the other. After sleeping with the headband in, Stevens shared that you should then unravel your hair to reveal stunning curls.

Influencer ​​Mimi Ikonn shared her slightly different technique on the Luxy Hair YouTube channel back in 2014. She said she prefers to use two bands layered on top of one another for more security. Also, instead of pulling the hair through and adding more each time, she splits hair into two sections and then twists each section before looping them through the bands. In the video, Ikonn used a blow dryer, but she said you can just let your hair dry naturally if you have the time.

Try space buns for a two-day style

With the right positioning, space buns can be a fun hairstyle that will leave you with cute waves for the next day. In a video, YouTuber Nami Cho showed how she brushed through her hair and then created a zig-zag part at the back. She then gathered the left side of her hair in a bunch at a 45-degree angle from her nose. It's important to get the twisting right to make your waves wearable when you take the buns down. Cho suggested focusing on making sure they are symmetrical and thinking carefully about the direction in which you are twisting your hair. To encourage waves to fall away from your face when you undo your space buns, you need to twist the hair toward your face. 

Once you have twisted your hair into a bun, Cho recommended securing the bun tightly with a hair tie. You should then continue the process on the other side. You can wear the space buns one day and keep them in overnight, taking them out the next day for gentle waves.