Think the Wet Set Is Old-Fashioned? Think Again

curlers in a drawer with hair pins
Antoinette Gentile / EyeEm / Getty Images

A wet set is a method of styling Black hair immediately following a shampoo and conditioning session, while the hair is still wet. Also known as a "roller set" or a "wash and set," a wet set can either create curls or straighten hair, depending on the tools you decide to use. Rollers of various sizes are often used to curl the hair slightly, or create a gentle curl or "bump" on the ends while providing volume. People also use straws for "straw sets" on wet hair. The same people might also use small rollers or perm rods to create small ringlets. Setting lotion or mousse is used to hold the style.

Once your hair is set, it won't take much to maintain, regardless of whether you opt for a curly or straight look. Simply wrapping your hair at night with a silk scarf and/or sleeping on a silk pillowcase is all you need to do. With the right setting lotion or mousse, a wet set will give you a lightweight, frizz-free, well-holding hairdo.

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.
  • creates a style likely to last until your next shampoo.
  • is a heat-free way to straighten Black hair of all textures, including relaxed and natural types.
  • creates a very smooth finished style, without heat.
  • is less likely to result in frizz when done correctly.
  • results in styles full of shine.

Tips for Successful Wet Sets

Your stylist probably makes it look easy to set your hair on rollers or wrap it around your head, but that's not always the case. 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.

Check out the products below, which are also likely to help with your wet set journey.

Related Stories