Setting hair

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There are many different ways to set hair and a huge variety of tools you can use to do it. But, whatever technique you use, there are some basic rules that will always apply.

How does setting work?

Moisture and heat together can cause hair to change shape. When we change the shape of hair, we are altering the bonds on the cortex (see Skin and hair). The process of perming breaks and reforms the cortext of the hair permanently. Setting the hair changes its shape only temporarily, as with blow-drying. In its natural state, hair is referred to as alpha keratin. When we have curled it or set it into a new shape, it is called beta keratin.

The cortext of the hair contains hydrogen and sulphur bonds that can easily be broken. When you perm hair you break both sets of bonds. When you set hair, you break only the hydrogen bonds. The sulphur bonds retain the alpha-keratin shape and, as the set 'drops', the hair will revert back to its natural shape.

How to set hair

Stylists have been setting hair throughout history. Because the hair is stretched around rollers, setting can produce a formal look that may seem dated. Some stylists are moving away from setting and using blow-drying techniques to give their styles a more natural finish. However, setting is still an ideal technique for creating the smooth, sleek hair that is also popular today.

There are three main types of setting:

* roller setting
* pin curl setting
* heated roller setting