What is a Wet Set?

During a wet session, wet hair is wrapped in rollers or a curling iron.

A wet set is a method of styling your hair while it is wet, wrapping your hair in rollers or curlers, or creating pin curls. Once the hair is set, it can be air-dried or dried in a hooded dryer, which circulates hot air to help evaporate the water. When the hair is completely dry, it is combed with fingers, combs or brushes. Since hair goes from damp to completely dry in the same position, wet sets usually last a long time.

To avoid broken and damaged hair, always carefully remove any type of hair roller.

The wet set was most popular in the 1950s and 1960s, before portable electrical hair appliances such as hair dryers and hair curlers became widely available. The technique, however, is still used today to achieve a vintage look. Wet sets also tend to do less damage to the hair than electrical appliances, which put relatively high heat directly on the hair. A wet set is also a way to temporarily give your hair curls and movement without using harsh chemicals like a permanent wave solution.

The wet ensemble technique is still used today to create a vintage look.

Magnetic plastic rollers usually provide the smoothest set, but require the use of clips to hold them in place. Velcro rollers, also known as brush rollers, stick to hair and don’t necessarily need clips, although plastic picks are sometimes used to secure them together and hold them in place. Rollers come in different sizes and should generally be chosen based on hair length and desired curl size. When doing a wet set, the hair should go around the roller two or three times for the strongest curls.

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After the hair is washed and towel dried, it is ready to be wet. Applying a small amount of lotion or styling gel to each strand as it is curled can make the hair easier to work with and give the hairstyle extra hold. Hair is typically combed and wrapped around rollers as smoothly as possible, keeping the ends very smooth to avoid hooks or straight areas near the ends of the hair. Care must be taken to section the hair neatly and not put too much into each roller, or it may take a long time to dry. If the hair is too short to be rolled into a roller, it can be shaped into a pin curl and secured against the head with a clip. Pin curls are also sometimes worn near the ears and at the back of the neck.

Allowing a damp set to air dry does less damage to the hair, but typically takes longer, often all day or all night. As sleeping on rollers can be very uncomfortable and wearing them all day is generally not practical, most prefer to sit under a hood dryer to speed up the process. Hood dryers can be hard, like a hair salon, or soft, like a shower cap. The heat should generally be set to medium, not high, and the set should be allowed to cool before the rollers are removed, making sure the hair is completely dry.

There are many options when styling a wet ensemble. Simply running your fingers through it can separate the curls a bit, but keep the pattern. It can also be brushed lightly to create a full, wavy style, or brushed through to achieve a straighter look with volume. A little hairspray can hold the hairstyle longer.

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By varying the size of the rollers, their pattern and placement, and the type of styling products used, many different hair styles can be created with a wet set. This styling technique is also very forgiving. If the result is not very good, it can be washed and redone.

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