How to Curl Synthetic Hair (or Freshen Droopy Curls)

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Have you ever wondered how to curl synthetic hair?

I absolutely love my wavy wigs and toppers, but over time (due to wear or to combing…or both), the curls and waves do droop a bit.

Sometimes, this is ok – who doesn’t love a beachy vibe?

But, other times, you might want to revive those curls.

Yes, it’s possible to curl synthetic hair – wigs, toppers, extensions, you name it!

Let’s demonstrate this on Top Wave, by Jon Renau, in color 10H16.

I made a video to go over the whole process, but be sure to check out the entire post with more pictures, below!

Materials Needed to Curl or Recurl Synthetic Hair

  1. The hair. Duh. 🙂
  2. Canvas Head (or another way to secure your hair)
  3. T-Pins
  4. Foam Rollers
  5. Steamer

I’m using the Jon Renau steamer shown here. Any steamer will do to curl synthetic hair, but look for one that has a small spout. That way, the steam won’t go all over the place.

steamer to curl synthetic hair
You can take 25% off this steamer at Wigs by Patti’s Pearls with code “hopeandmane”!

The size of your foam rollers will depend on the size of the curl or wave you are trying to add into your synthetic hair. I used this pack of foam rollers (affiliate link) because it’s dirt cheap and comes with a variety of sizes.

foam rollers for curling synthetic hair

Step 1: Pin a Foam Roller to Your Wig Head

Use a T-Pin to pin an appropriately-sized foam roller to your wig head. I like to do one roller at a time, versus pinning a bunch on one pass.

Pin roller to your wig head
See that blanket in the corner? My grandma, who passed almost to this day (of publishing!) in 2001, made it for me. <3

You can see in the pic above, the hair on the left is quite straight. This is what we are trying to fix by curling our synthetic hair!

Step 2: Wrap Small Sections of Hair Around the Roller

Wrap smallish sections of hair around the roller. You don’t want to use too much hair, as the steam won’t be able to “get at” all the strands.

Also, wrap the hair in the direction that the curl is already trained to go in. It’s much easier not to fight the curl’s natural pattern.

Step 3: Secure the Ends with Paper

Once you roller the synthetic hair all the way down to curl it, you’ll need to secure them with…something.

I’m using paper towels here (because, well, I’m cheap. You might remember my “how to wash human hair guide” where I used a Target bag as a shower cap. #noshame.

If you have perm papers laying around from the 80s, you could use those, too.

Secure the ends of hair to the foam roller

The paper towels I used do two things: first, they help the hair underneath that lays on either side of the pin to lay smooth. Second, they prevent a little kink from forming under the pin.

You can see that kink here, on a spot that I didn’t use any paper:

Kink from not protecting synthetic hair ends

Step 4: Apply Steam to Your Synthetic Hair to Curl It

I couldn’t quite get a pic of this since I was using both hands, but you can see me demonstrating this in the video above. 🙂

Apply steam to the hair on the left side, right side, and underneath the roller. Just do the best you can.

You’ll see the hair “react” to the steam and kind of cling to the roller. You can use your finger (carefully! Steam is hot) or a long comb to help guide/smooth the hair on the roller, too.

Step 5: Allow Synthetic Hair to Dry for at Least 12 Hours

Here’s where patience is a virtue! You’ll need to allow between 12-24 hours for the curl to dry and cool.

If you’re in a hurry, allow it to cool on its on for as long as possible, then take a blowdryer on the COOL setting and apply it to the synthetic hair.

how to curl synthetic hair

Step 6: Release the Curl and Be Amazed

After you’ve waited between 12-24 hours, it’s time to see the curls you created. Woohoo, it’s like magic.

Carefully unpin the bottom of the hair (be careful, those T-pin suckers are sharp!) and pull the foam roller away from your synthetic hair.

If the curl took a little too well, no worries…we have another trick up our sleeves to relax the curl a bit.

curling synthetic hair with foam rollers

Step 7: Adjust the Curl

If needed, you can easily take a little “oomph” out of the curl you’ve created. Once again, we’ll be using our trusty steamer with this step.

Use one hand to gently pull down on the curl, and use the other to lightly apply some steam to it.

loosen curls with steam
This pic also shows how straight the hair has gotten. Check out the left side!

You’ll see the curl immediately relax after you apply some steam.

Allow the curl to cool for another few hours, just hanging there (I know, I know…and you thought synthetic hair was supposed to save time! I promise the results are worth it).

Here’s what we end up with. The curl on the right is one I relaxed using a bit more steam. The curl on the left is without relaxing.

Two kinds of curls with synthetic hair

See how easy that is?

If you’ve spent several hundreds of dollar for a synthetic wig or topper you want those curls and waves to last! Sometime they need a little help.

What I’m wondering with this method is if it might help my friends who have true curly hair. It might be a process, but if you got tiny, tiny rods, I wonder if you could create a crop of spiral curls??

It’s nice to know you can take a straight wig or topper and add curls and waves to it.

What do you think of this method? Do you think you’ll try to curl your synthetic hair this way?

I’ve avoided it for years, but I was so happy to discover curling synthetic hair is not too bad at all!

P.S. I actually combined this synthetic topper with some human hair extensions for an incredibly voluminous look! Scroll down for the video.

16 thoughts on “How to Curl Synthetic Hair (or Freshen Droopy Curls)”

  1. My new synthetic heat friendly wavy wig is hardly waving anymore. I mentioned in another note that I plan to try putting the wave back in with very large adjustable heat rollers. Before I begin, please set me straight about something…is it true that before setting and/or re-setting synthetics, you’re supposed to completely straighten it with steam or a flat iron? It doesn’t really seem necessary to me. Your thoughts, please.

  2. I have had Lyme disease for 7 years & my hair became very very thin from it which led me into the world of wigs.
    I bought a Gabor Gratitude synthetic wig about 6 months ago. I did not wear it much at first.. I finally got it looking the way I wanted. I wore it many times but I decided to try washing it then I used the Downy as a conditioner that I saw in Utube. It didn’t do much for it. It now is flat & lifeless. It showed me that you can’t believe all of the people on Utube. I guess I need to get some of the products that Lauren has mentioned.. I need to wash it again. But I have a question about putting some wave not curls back into it. Do I use the tool that looks like a heated round brush?
    I was going to use the Bambu conditioner on it after I wash it. Then let it dry. Then use the above tool or is there something else I should use to .put wave back into it? I also wonder if I need to use something to put body into it? I really need to get it presentable for tomorrow night. I really would appreciate your help Lauren. Thanks so much

  3. Working on synthetic wigs is always a tricky part because you never know how things will turn out and how the wig fibres will react to the heating procedures. Looks like I’ve found the right way to get things done. Thanks for sharing all the necessary steps to curl your synthetic wig.

  4. Lauren, I can’t believe I’m getting this email today! I’ve been racking my brain trying to figure out how to add some loose waves to a straight synthetic topper I just purchased. I want to find a larger foam roller though. Love it, you’ve saved the day again.

  5. Hi Lauren,
    I recently tried to bring new life into a wig with a larger curl pattern ~ Jon Renau’s Ciara…I think that’s what she’s called? I was nervous, but the piece was over a year old and had nothing left to lose! I didn’t want to use steam (in case I wanted the change to be temporary), so I washed the piece and dried it (!) with a round brush hair dryer, piece by piece. When done it was smooth and beautiful ~ good-bye clumps! ~ BUT, no more curls. So, I recurled the wig with a set of velvet hot rollers, using a variety of sizes for variation. I left them until they were cold, then uncurled them. The results were amazing!! A little too curly for my tastes, but I wore it around the house for a couple of days, pulling my fingers through the curls to stretch them. By New Years Eve, it looked like I was wearing a brand new wig! Something new for the wig community to try 🙂
    Wish I had a way to upload you a picture!
    Thanks for your great site, Lauren ❤

  6. So excited to try this! I think I’ll practice on my old icky toppers first, though.
    Side question: I just bought a new Jon Renau in 10H16 and it didn’t quite match my bio hair. Too dark. So, I lightened my bio hair with an ash blond color and now my bio hair is too golden brown (oddly enough) which looks kind of “off” with the coloring from the 10H16. Any thoughts about what a good hair color would be to better match it? Even something a little darker brown…
    That might be a good future FAQ blog—matching your color treated bio hair with toppers…

    • You know, when I used to get my hair colored I always requested (at the guidance of my hairdresser) color 6N, which was a “neutral”. Then she followed with a toner. I don’t know if that’s helpful, ha. One thing you can try… if it’s truly golden and not reddish, check our Jon Renau’s In Tone Violet Shampoo. It is a toning shampoo that removes golden hues from human hair (faux or bio!). It really works! I tried it on a piece but the difference was so subtle that it didn’t show up on video so I haven’t published it yet. I’m going to re-do it and see what happens. You shampoo, then put a generous amount of this toning product on, and leave for at least seconds. I left it for 90 seconds, and the result was still subtle, so when I redo it I will leave the toning shampoo on for closing to 3 minutes. It will take out some of those golden hues. 🙂

    • It will react just like a normal, synthetic curl will. It will droop over time by wearing and from combing, but should maintain somewhat of a curl until you treat it with hot steam again (either to re-curl or to straighten).

    • The heat from the steamer sets the curl! For your curls, you’ll want to find the tiniest foam roller they have. 🙂 The kit I linked to in the post has a few that are smaller…but you might want to find even smaller. Maybe search Amazon or Sally’s?


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