One of my favourite ways to set my hair is to use sponge rollers. I started this a few years ago after I’d had my black hair bleached out and gone red and at the time, I was only using tongs to set my hair. The result was dry, frazzled ends so I decided to try sponge rollers as a less damaging method.
The first time I tried it, it took me a good 30-45 minutes to get them all in, nowadays it’s only about 15mins. It’s a brilliant method for all hair types, you just have to take a few things into consideration depending on your length and thickness.
Now the first thing to know about sponge roller setting is the size of the rollers. I use a pretty standard size roller (approx, 3/4″) which is great for most lengths unless you have quite short hair- then you might need to size down. I tend to also use slightly smaller rollers at the back so that it bounces up more underneath.
To start, wash your hair with a light shampoo and conditioner- this is especially important if your hair is long or tends to drop out quickly. If you are using a really heavy shampoo or conditioner then it could be weighing it down too much. My favourite for wet set days is the Davines Oi Shampoo/Conditioner… it makes the hair super soft but it’s still really light.
Styling products are another really important part of your wet set. You need to use a setting lotion to ensure that the curls have adequate longevity. I use TiGi Small Talk which is technically more of a blowdry cream but it works perfectly as a setting lotion- just don’t go overboard on it! I use one and a half pumps on my hair.
I also like to use a little bit of conditioning oil, my favourite is Davines Oi/Oil. Distribute this evenly through the mid-lengths and ends of your hair.
The final product I use and one that I couldn’t live with out is Davines Sea Salt Spray. The one thing that can make it difficult to work with a sponge roller set it that your hair is so fresh, clean and soft. By spraying the Sea Salt Spray on the roots, it creates a bit more of a gritty texture and volume and also means that your backcombing will stay in place.
Once you put all the products in your hair, use a blow drier to take some of the excess moisture out. You don’t need your hair to be soaking wet for a sponge roller set and doing so will only mean that it will take forever to dry. Blowdry it until it is still damp but not dripping.
Now you are ready to start rolling! Use a tail comb to determine where you want to part your hair and then brush it backwards about 2.5″ from the hairline.
You want to roll at least 2-3 rollers at the front towards the face as this will help to create the gorgeous Marilyn swoop! Take your sections no larger than the roller itself and start at the back of your front section.
I tend to hold the roller a couple of inches below the ends of my hair, wrap the ends around (careful not to twist your hair as you wrap or the curl will be a bit too corkscrew) then roll it down. Try to keep make sure the tension isn’t too tight or you’ll end up with very very curly ends.
Use your tail comb to tuck the ends in and ensure it’s rolling neatly.
A problem that occurs with sponge rollers is that the bar that holds the roller in place can create a indentation in the hair. This isn’t a problem for most of the head but here’s a trick to prevent it for the rollers that are on top and therefore the indentations will be seen.
Hold the roller in place and roll the bar around until it can’t go any further. Secure the roller with a little pin curl clip or bobby pin so it’s not too loose. Do this with all the top ones around your parting!
Once you have put in your front rollers (all in the forward direction), start on the opposite end going down. Now you’ll be rolling in the other direction as this section of the hair will be brushed back. I tend to just go straight down the middle of my head, switching to smaller rollers (the yellow ones) for the last 2-3.
Continue on the sides until all the hair is in rollers! It’s a very simple sectioning pattern, just horizontal lines down.
Finally, to make sure that all the rollers stay in place and to make it more comfortable to sleep in, find a large headscarf (I wouldn’t recommend the nylon ones as they can be easily pierced and ruined) and create a large triangle
Place it around the back of your head with the point of the triangle hanging over the top. Tie a knot over that point and in between the first and second rollers. Fold the point back over the knot and the tie a bow to keep everything in place. Make sure it’s wrapped tight enough to stay in place and feel firm but still comfortable.
If you have super long, thick or just slow to dry hair, I would highly recommend finding a vintage hood dryer to help with the drying process. You really do not want to take the rollers out when your hair is still a little bit wet as it just means that your curls will drop out even faster! I usually check how dry they are by unrolling one in the morning and if it still doesn’t feel quite dry enough, I’ll sit under my hood dryer while I’m eating breakfast- it usually only needs 15 minutes or so.
Sponge Roller sets are the perfect setting method for the least amount of damage and maximum curl! It will take a little bit of practice to get your speed up and to get the hang of it but stick with it!
Still have questions? Tomorrow I will be answering 15 frequent problems with roller sets so subscribe to make sure you don’t miss it!