Wet Set: Definition and Tips for Setting Black Hair

Think This Styling Method Is "Old School"? Not Really

Woman styled in a roller wet set
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A wet set is a method of styling black hair, preferably immediately following a shampoo and conditioning session while the hair is still wet to very damp. Also known as a roller set or a wash and set, a wet set can either create curls or straighten the hair, depending on the tools used.

Rollers of various sizes are often used to curl the hair or create a gentle curl or "bump" on the ends while providing volume.

Women also use straws for "straw sets" on wet hair. They may also use small rollers or perm rods to create ringlets. Setting lotion or mousse is used to hold the style.

Advantages of Wet Sets

It can take some practice to get the hang of a smooth set, but this setting technique, once mastered,  has several advantages in that it:

  • creates heat-less curls, which is a gentle way of styling the hair without worry of damage
  • results in full, bouncy hairstyles, often due to a lightweight product used to set the hair
  • styles created from these sets tend to last until your next shampoo
  • is a heat-free way to straighten black hair of all textures, including relaxed and natural types
  • wet setting a wrap creates a very smooth finished style without heat
  • is less likely to result in frizz when done correctly
  • results in styles full of sheen or shine

Once your hair is set, whether you opt for a curly or straight look, maintenance is minimal.

Simply covering your hair at night with a bonnet (and/or sleeping on a satin/silk pillowcase) or wrapping is all you need to do. With the right setting lotion or mousse, you can wear a lightweight, frizz-free hairdo that holds very well.

Good Products for Wet Sets

Looking for product options? If you don't currently have a favorite, try any of these:

Tips for Successful Wet Sets

Your stylist makes it look easy to set your hair on rollers or wrap it around your head, but you can master wet sets if you follow a few tips:

  • Begin with thoroughly detangled, damp, or wet hair.
  • Use a mousse or liquid setting product (like the ones listed above) or your own favorite.
  • Work on thin sections to ensure smoothest results.
  • Keep the hair taut as you roll or wrap it.
  • Use jumbo rollers if you want a straighter finish or very little curl.
  • Air dry or sit under a hood or bonnet dryer.
  • Do not take your hair down until it is completely dry.
  • Avoid applying any oil-based products until your hair is dry