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Crimped hair is a retro look making a major comeback. Ahead, learn how to crimp your hair and discover six of our favorite styles to try.

In Defense of Crimped Hair: Why This Style Deserves Another Chance

If you aren’t sure how to slay this style, we’ve rounded up six photos to inspire you. Bust out your crimpers, because we’re going to party like it’s 1987!
In Defense of Crimped Hair: Why This Style Deserves Another Chance

Crimped hair is back and better than ever. For proof, all you need to do is open TikTok—there are 104 million posts (and counting) dedicated to the style. Take a look, and you’ll quickly find that this retro hairdo has come a long way from its 1980s origins. With contemporary styling techniques, you can customize your crimps to your liking and create all sorts of looks. Keep reading to discover how you can rock today’s crimped hair trend.

Good hair day by @glambyannieaan.

What Is Crimped Hair?

Crimped hair refers to strands styled in a series of small zig-zag waves or ridges. Typically, this texture is created with a hair crimper, but you can use a flat iron or braids to get a similar effect.

Tip: Learn how to create crimpy S-waves with a straightener in our article, How To Curl Your Hair With A Flat Iron, or head over to 15 Heatless Curls Techniques if you prefer to go heat-free.

Was crimped hair big in the ‘80s or ‘90s?

Hair crimping was all the rage in the ‘80s. It was an ideal style for all the people embracing bigger, bolder hair looks at the time. The waved ‘do continued to dominate through the ‘90s and into the early 2000s. In fact, in those years, it was hard not to see crimped hair everywhere you went. Not only was it a popular everyday hairstyle, but celebrities were also sporting crimps for music videos, magazine spreads, and red carpet events.

As with other beauty trends from these eras (looking at you, scrunchies), it was only a matter of time before crimped hair became popular again. But there’s a lot more variety in crimped looks nowadays, as opposed to in the 80s. Back then, crimped hair almost always featured rigid, one-size-fits-all waves. Today, crimps can be as tight or loose as you want based on your hair type and styling preferences.

How To Choose a Hair Crimper

It’s important to select the right crimping tool before styling your mane. For some quick background, a hair crimper typically consists of two heated plates with deep ridges that create a textured pattern in the hair when clamped down. Crimping irons range in width and depth, and each size can give your mane a slightly different finish and effect. In general, the smaller and deeper your crimper’s ridges, the tighter and more structured your waves will appear.

  • Small: Mini crimping irons typically have plates up to an inch wide. These narrower irons are designed for more precise styling, such as for shorter hair lengths, bangs, or accents in specific sections of hair. You can also use them at the roots to give your hair texture and lasting lift (more on that soon).
  • Medium: Mid-sized crimpers (which range from 1-2 inches wide) are often the standard for recreating that iconic ‘80s crimped look. They’re ideal for bold, defined crimps and can cover a larger surface area of hair, making them efficient for styling most hair types and lengths.
  • Large: The largest crimping irons are sometimes referred to as wavers. These tools usually feature three distinct barrels and resemble a triple curling iron. Wavers may be your best option if you like looser, more beachy crimps or have very long or thick hair.

How To Crimp Hair In 4 Easy Steps

Take a trip down memory lane with our four-step guide on how to crimp your hair with a crimping iron.

Step 1: Lightly straighten your hair

The straighter your hair is before crimping, the more defined your wave pattern will appear in contrast. Give your hair a quick blow dry with a round brush, or run a flat iron through it to smooth out any obvious curls or coils before getting started.

We always recommend prepping your hair with a heat protectant before using hot tools. We’re partial to Redken’s Low Hold Thermal Spray Styling Heat Protectant. Just mist this heat protection spray onto dry hair to help safeguard against heat, add shine, and control frizz. We also love that it features the brand’s Heat Restyling Technology, which allows you to reactivate the formula with heat so you can touch up your style between washes.

Step 2: Divide your hair into sections

Crimped hair looks best when the ridges are uniform, giving your locks a more polished touch. To get even results, you’ll want to crimp your hair in sections. Part your hair horizontally from top to bottom, then split each section in half, from left to right, so you have four equal segments. Use a duckbill clip or scrunchie to secure each section of hair.

Step 3: Begin crimping your hair

Working with one loose section of hair at a time, hold your crimper horizontally over your strands and clamp it down a few inches below your roots. Hold your crimper in place for 10-15 seconds to lock in the texture. Move your crimper’s plates below the previously styled section until you’ve crimped the entire length of your hair. Repeat the process on the remaining sections.

Tip: Depending on how thick your hair is, you may have to divide each section further into layers. If that’s the case, start with the bottom layer of hair and eventually work your way up to the top.

Step 4: Set your look

Once crimped, allow your hair to cool, and set it with a workable hairspray, like Redken Brushable Hairspray. The mist contains flexible holding polymers that can help ensure your hair has a bouncy, tousled finish without stiffness or crunch.

How To Use a Hair Crimper To Create Volume At Your Roots

We love to see people re-embracing crimped hair, but crimping tools themselves never actually went anywhere. Even when crimped strands weren’t as popular, many pro stylists would still keep a crimper on hand to help add volume and body to their client’s manes.

How it works: Crimpers are similar to teasing (or backcombing) in that they can help create texture at the crown to add sky-high volume. However, these other volume-boosting methods can sometimes be damaging to your strands. Crimping hair, on the other hand, is usually a bit more gentle.

When you crimp your roots, you're essentially creating small waves or ridges along the hair shaft without tangling your hair. The key is for your crimped roots to be undetectable. The top layer of hair is left untouched, while the underlayers are crimped only at the root. This way, when the top layer is let down, the waves underneath will lift the hair and prevent it from lying flat against your scalp.

You can use this method to make braids, updos, and even blowouts appear thicker and fuller. And, unlike all-over crimps, your hair doesn’t need to be straight for this styling technique to work. Here’s how to try it:

Step 1: Prep your hair

When crimping hair for fullness, you’ll want to first prep your mane with a volumizing shampoo and conditioner to keep it from falling flat. We recommend Biolage Professional Volume Bloom Shampoo and Volume Bloom Conditioner. The duo helps plump fine hair with long-lasting, bouncy volume and adds weightless moisture. Once washed, towel-dry your hair and spritz a body-enhancing heat protectant, like Biolage Professional Thermal Active Hair Spray, throughout your mane. Let your hair dry completely before moving to the next step.

Step 2: Crimp your underlayers

Section off the top layer of hair at your crown and flip it over so that it hangs in front of your face. Then, crimp the roots of your hair just below your part, which is where you want to add the most volume.

Step 3: Flip your hair over and set

Once you’ve crimped your root area, flip the top layer of your hair back over and gently comb the surface so it looks smooth. Set your look with a firm-hold hairspray, like Pureology’s Style + Protect Lock It Down Strong Hold Hairspray, to ensure your volumized style lasts all day and night.

6 Crimped Hairstyle Ideas To Try Now

From fully crimped hair to subtle accents, here are a few ideas to inspire your next hair crimping session.

Crimped hair is a retro look making a major comeback. Ahead, learn how to crimp your hair and discover six of our favorite styles to try.

Good hair day by @glambyannieaan

All-Over Crimped Hair

No style personifies the “go big or go home” motto quite like completely crimped hair. Channel your inner 1980s queen by crimping your locks from top to bottom for a real throwback look. A quick hit of Redken Shine Flash Spray can give your crimps a high-gloss shine and help keep pesky flyaways at bay.

Crimped Hair With Braids

Braids are basically the unsung heroes of hairstyling, swooping in to save the day when your hair is overdue for a wash. If you want to show off second-day crimped hair without jumping in the shower, throw your hair into a loose side braid or a pair of pigtails. The competing textures make for an alluring, dimensional style that pulls focus away from your greasy roots.

Brushed Out Crimped Hair

If you want your crimps to appear more lived-in but don’t have a full day to let your hair do its thing, gently brush through your crimped locks to get a loose, fluffy crimp. To keep your hair from frizzing up when you brush it, hit it with a quick mist of an anti-frizz spray first. We recommend Mizani’s HRM Humidity Resistant Spray.

Jumbo Crimped Hair

Think of the jumbo crimp as the perfect middle ground between traditional crimped hair and beach waves. The XXL crimps are very wide in diameter and appear more like mermaid-inspired S-waves. The resulting hairstyle has a carefree beachy vibe with plenty of retro flair. To get the look, you’ll want to use a flat iron instead of a traditional crimper. You’ll be able to create angled waves as big as your heart desires.

Start at the back of your head, working with two-inch sections of clean, dry hair. Spray each one with a heat protectant before clamping the top of the section with your flat iron. Once clamped, flip the flat iron down and hold for 15 seconds. Then, move your flat iron down the section of hair, flip the flat iron up, and hold. Continue twisting the flat iron up and down until you reach the bottom of the section. Repeat this process on each section until you’ve crimped your whole head, then set your look with hairspray.

Small Crimped Hair Accents

If you’re unsure about all-over crimps, dip your toes into the trend with smaller crimped accents. Crimping just a few sections of your hair adds a cool visual element to your style. And who knows, maybe you’ll love the look so much that you’ll be convinced to try a full-on crimped look another time.

Heat-Free Crimped Hair

Anyone who can weave a simple braid can get crimped hair—without using any heat. To get this look, begin with damp hair (or dampen your hair with a leave-in like Matrix Miracle Creator Hair Treatment) and braid your hair in one-inch sections. Once you’ve finished your entire head, allow your braids to dry (or speed the process along with the help of a hair dryer). All you have to do is remove the braids and tousle your locks to reveal effortlessly crimped hair.

Next Up: How To Do Pin Curls in 9 Easy Steps

Header photo credit: @glambyannieaan

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