If you’ve tried like 37 ways to curl your hair with an iron only to throw up your hands in despair we feel your pain.
Which may be why you’re now asking about how to curl hair with a curling iron.
Let’s start by answering the big question.
Q: How to curl your hair with a curling iron?
- Work the clamp with your index finger and thumb.
- Grab a one inch section of hair, lift the clamp and with the hair between the clamp and barrel slide the iron up near your scalp. You want the clamp on top of your hair or facing forward.
- Clamp the hair towards the end of your iron initially to leave enough barrel surface for all the hair.
- Assuming you’re going to curl away from your face twirl the iron towards your head while slowly opening and closing the clamp as you twirl to allow the hair to glide down and around the barrel.
- Once the entire section is on the barrel give it four or five seconds for the hair to heat up sufficiently.
- Then lift the clamp, slide the curler out and viola your curls are done.
That basic overview is enough to get you started.
Of course there’s always more that’s good to know. So if you’ve made it your mission to get your curl on keep reading.
You see other than those six steps curling with an iron comes down to prep, brushing out tangles, plus the actual curling.
Then too ideally you may find you get the best curls curling next day hair.
Now if you just shampooed you can always dirty your hair up with products like hairspray or dry shampoo which will be explained in more detail in a bit.
You always want to start off by spritzing some kind of thermal protectant or heat spray on your locks as that article of ours explains.
Work with manageable amounts of hair. If you grab too much in a section the heat won’t penetrate and warm all the strands enough for curls that last. On the other hand more hair tends mean softer curls.
It will take some practice to master opening and closing of the clamp while twirling the iron. So don’t give up if you don’t get it after the first few times. As they say practice makes perfect.
In fact you probably want to practice with a cold iron until you feel you’re getting the hang of this well enough to turn on the heat.
Those experienced with this technique will carefully tap their hair on the barrel to gauge how well the hair is heating up.
Don’t be in a rush but don’t dawdle either. You want the hair to heat up enough to curl but not enough to scorch it. For most that’s between 4-6 seconds. Longer if your hair is thicker. Shorter if it tends to be finer.
You want the finished product to be a little springy. This will give you tighter curls on day one leaving enough texture for the next day.
Should you curl the ends? You can curl them or not depending on the look you’re going for. If left out you’ll end up with a more of a beach wave style.
Now if you’d like to see some “how-to-get-bouncy-curls-that-last” hacks in action this video does just that.
Tip: It’s so good you might want to take notes!
Still only watch it if you want to learn how to prep your hair then create either ribbon curls, a body wave and classic curls.
But wait! There’s more.
Here’s answers to six more common questions about using a curling iron.
Quick Section Navigation
- How do I get straight hair to hold a curl?
- Which way are you supposed to curl hair?
- What size curling iron should I use for beach waves?
- What is a good temperature for a curling iron?
- How to use a curling iron for loose curls?
- Do you use a curling iron on wet or dry hair?
Q: How do I get straight hair to hold a curl?
If you’re convinced curling irons don’t work and frustrated with how fast your curls fall you’re not alone.
You spend all the time working the curling iron to get your hair looking all bouncy and hot, in other words magical, only to see all that work go down the drain a few hours later. Not fun.
Basically getting curls to stay requires knowing a few hacks.
First we’re back to the dirty hair rule. Yeah you may find second day hair holds a curl better.
Sam Villa suggests other products to try for grip before curling. You know to dirty things up a little? Useful for turning stick straight strands into everyday curls with minimal effort like:
- Dry shampoo
- Hair spray like Redken’s Wax Blast
- Volumizing mousse like Got 2b’s fat tastic
- Salt spray like Bumble and Bumble’s Bb Curl primer
After towel drying see if these applying products like these to damp hair don’t help give your curls a better “memory”. And yeah you may even want to spritz the hair spray BEFORE you starting to curl away.
(You might want to check out this handy article we wrote if sea salt spray is not something currently in your bathroom.)
Next trick for longer staying power would be to leave your tresses on the iron until they’re warm to the touch. Just not too long. Like already mentioned five seconds or so is all it should take.
Then it’s also smart to always hold any freshly minted curl while it cools before you let it go.
The more determined can clip them in place on their heads to give it extended cool down time.
Either approach to cooling down allows curls time to “set”.
Another tip found in an Allure magazine article would be to go easy on the conditioner. Over conditioned hair is slippery hair. All that can cause the curl not to stay.
Try these tips to see if you can’t get closer to curling iron curls that last 9 hours rather than 9 minutes.
Q: Which way are you supposed to curl hair
This can be a little confusing!
Most often you want to curl your hair away from your face, or outwards, to create that “wind’s always blowing in your face” kind of vibe.
Stylists agree this opens up your face and presents a more appealing and friendly kind of appearance.
Plus the results look more natural and less done on purpose, if you know what I mean.
At the least this is the approach to take with the pieces that’s surround your face.
Yet curling the opposite way, or towards your face, is felt by some to give a more bohemian feel to things. Which can work in some instances too.
Otherwise get beyond the hair around your face and you’ll want to mix it up curling some sections towards and some away because natural curls don’t follow any rules. Rebellious little devils!
Q: What size curling iron should I use for beach waves?
Aha! This is a bit of a trick question.
Because the right answer depends on the length of the hair involved.
If it’s longer then a one and half inch barrel should be about right. But if your tresses are shorter than you need to cut down on the diameter accordingly – for example one and a quarter inch is about for shoulder length strands.
So for those who have struggled to get tousled beachy waves that don’t look too perfect maybe it’s because you’re using the wrong size barrel for your length of hair.
Pro tip: You might also try this trick. If you’re using a smaller barrel for a looser wave tug lightly on the curl while it’s still warm right after you remove it from the iron. Easy does it though. The idea is to loosen it not stretch it out too much.
Q: What is a good temperature for a curling iron?
Here you want to let your texture dictate. Fine hair might want to stick to 200 degrees or less. While those with coarse or thick hair will find the sweet spot between 200-300 degree F produces curly fabulous curls.
Now before you start to pen an angry comment in disagreement, yes, I’m being conservative much like Redken was in their attempt to address this point.
But being conservative is good for a reason. Discussing how hot is too hot is risky business. Because there is no one temp fits all here. Mistakenly opt for too hot and too soon you’ll wreck your hair.
Plus if you’ve done any research online you’ll quickly see that recommended temps are all over the map. Which is why some may disagree with those lower suggestions just made.
But I feel those comfortable with inferno like heat settings forget you have to know EXACTLY what you’re doing to work with 350+ temps without scorching your strands. Few do.
This much can be agreed on however.
Rule #1: The finer the strands the lower the heat that’s needed to do the job.
Rule #2: Cranking the temperature dial to the max is never what’s needed unless hair fried to a crisp is the goal. Anyone who suggests temps approaching 400 degrees are okay is really suggesting you to play Russian roulette with your hair.
Besides don’t you at least wonder how reliable the heat setting is on your tool?
For that reason you’ll will want to experiment and find the lowest heat setting it takes to produce lasting curls with your hair with your curling iron.
Which is why it’s smarter for less-than-savvy spiral stylers to start low, see how your hair does, and gradually increase the heat until the Goldilocks temp that’s just right is found.
And please don’t EVER forget to use heat protectant which another of our articles explores in depth.
Because no one wants to be like this girl who literally burned her hair off with a curling wand that was too hot. The shocked look on her face as she held her severed strands in her hand is a priceless reminder.
Q: How to use a curling iron for loose curls?
Okay so you’re not a Shirley Temple ringlets wannabe.
Here’s five tricks to try to loosen things up.
Again, while still warm stretch out those freshly minted tight spirals by tugging on the ends with your fingers to loosen them up.
Use a bigger diameter barrel. That will start you off with looser curls from the get go.
Never curl the ends. It’s what those looking for more of a beachy waves effect do instinctively.
If your hair holds a curl well you may be able to curl bigger sections of hair as that will also result in looser curls.
Finally once everything is curled up bend at the waist, flip your head forward then backward. This should whip things into shape and break up any too tight ringlets. If need be rake any holdout coils with your fingers to complete the job.
Q: Do you use a curling iron on wet or dry hair?
This one’s easy. 100% dry only, please. That’s because the heat of the iron is usually above the boiling point of water. And what does boiling water do? Right, it expands. Sometimes explosively. Which means the heat will shatter your wet, even damp, strands in the process.
So one rule of curling irons to remember is you only want curl the wet hair you want to explode!
A bit melodramatic? Okay you got me! 🙂
But if you’ve ever tried curling even damp hair you likely heard a lot snap, crackle and popping going on and that wasn’t because of your Rice Krispies. What was happening is you were zapping your hair.
Now if you need a more scientific explanation labmuffin.com, an interesting site that combines science and beauty, lays out the whys and wherefores of exploding hair in an easy to understand way. Pointing out that even dry hair doesn’t come away unscathed.
And if you’re looking for more tips and tricks like this, please do follow our popular pins board on Pinterest where we share all kinds of fabulous finds! Your hair will thank you in ways you can’t imagine.