Curls not lasting regardless of how much hairspray you use?
Stuck with kinks, dents or creases?
Need help getting the hang of using this hot styling tool safely?
Yeah it all seems pretty basic. Turn the curler on. Wrap your hair. Dazzle with world with fantastic curls.
Sadly there are many frustrating little things you could be doing wrong that keep you from enjoying near effortless carefree curling like you see happening all over Youtube.
To help get you past that here’s the questions we answer for you. You can jump directly to the fix you need or take a leisurely stroll through all the tips and tricks found here.
But if this isn’t enough, once done here you might check out our post on curling iron tricks, tips and techniques that answers 9 or so more frequently asked questions about using this hot styling tool.
Quick Section Navigation
- How To Use A Curling Iron For Beginners?
- How To Curl Thick Hair With A Curling Iron
- Another Take On How To Curl Your Hair With A Curling Iron For Beginners
- How To Curl The Ends Of Your Hair
- How To Avoid Clamp Marks When Curling My Hair
- What’s The Best Temperature To Curl Hair?
How To Use A Curling Iron For Beginners
Most all of us have one. But believe it or not most of us don’t actually know how to use it right (and you know who you are) so you get a billowy cascade of bouncy curls to show off whenever you want them.
To best demonstrate how beginners can easily master their curling iron here’s a super helpful video by a stylist that covers the basics you may not be doing right. From how to wrap your hair, the direction to wrap it, to ways to insure your curls last this is a good place to start.
Watching it will be 10 minutes well spent if you’re having trouble with the curls you’re creating with your iron.
Here’s the highlights:
SECTIONING: The initial bit of this video talks about dividing your hair into three manageable sections and clipping what you’re not working on up and out of the way.
HAIRSPRAY: To help hold the curls in place she uses a flexible hold hairspray and combs it through right before curling. It’s a tip worth remembering.
WORKING IT: Grab your iron and make sure the barrel is facing over your shoulder or away from your face when held vertical to the floor with the clamp facing forward.
Section off a smaller strand of hair and clamp it with the iron no lower that towards the middle. I feel the closer to the your roots the better actually. But in the middle is a good compromise.
Tip: You can let the iron linger a bit on the middle of the stand for hair that doesn’t hold a curl for a bit to better heat it up so the curl stays.
Curl away from your face while slowing feeding the ends across the iron by releasing the clamp while twirling the iron.
Tip: Don’t focus too much heat on the ends since they’re the oldest and most abused part of your hair and so most prone to heat damage.
When using a curling iron a flexible hold hair spray is best to hold the curl without stiffness or crunch. You’ll know you have the right one if it’s easy to run your fingers through your hair after applying.
Ideally such a hairspray should not only give you flexible hold, but should also fend off humidity and thus fight frizz, and add a natural-looking shine.
BEACH WAVES: Now for beach waves you do basically the same thing just leave the ends uncurled. Then tug on the strand while it’s cooling to make sure you end up with more wave than curl. (Nice tip if you’re having trouble getting beach waves you’re happy with.)
CREASES: Now if creases are a problem for you pay close attention around the five and a half minute mark when she discusses a common mistake that results in dents from the clamp every time. (Don’t worry if it’s not crystal clear. We’ll also get into crease avoidance in more depth below.)
So yeah an all too common mistake you don’t want to make involves what part of the iron you’re wrapping your hair around the barrel vs the clip or clamp.
Whichever side the barrel is on that’s the direction you want to curl in. In other words you want to be wrapping your hair around the barrel not the clamp initially.
Tip: The other reason for curling away from your face it is open your face up.
Then she offers ways to to use the iron to build volume in the crown. Good to know ideas if flat hair on the top is another concern for you.
BREAKING UP: We all know to finger rake to break up curls that are too tight. But sometimes using one finger to rake your curls works best for a more controlled curl.
Or you can bend over at the waist and shake your curls out that way for a totally softer curly ‘do.
Let me ask you…know when to use a firm hold hair spray? – hint bangs!
Tip: So when you want your bangs to stay where you put them, probably cascading to the side, well that’s the time to break out the extra hold hairspray.
There you go. Admittedly this is not the perfect curling iron intro video. But it’s still well worth watching.
For instance what she didn’t do that I would …
… is ALWAYS apply heat protectant focusing the product on the ends. I cringe when this isn’t emphasized.
… it’s best to give freshly minted curls a chance to cool down while being held in the palm of your hand which will help they last all day long. Just pointing out a little known tip for those struggling with getting their curls to stay.
Still she is a stylist and does cover many of basic curling iron techniques in detail that beginners need to know.
One more thing – a word about iron size.
In this video she uses a one inch curling iron which she feels is best for shoulder length locks.
Then as you know there’s the 1 1/4 incher best if your hair is bra strap length or longer.
The idea is the longer your hair the bigger the barrel you want to use. With the understanding that bigger barreled irons will tend towards waves not curls.
An even smaller diameter than one inch is probably best for hair shorter than shoulder length. Also in general smaller barrels will give you a tighter curl.
How To Curl Thick Hair With A Curling Iron
Usually there’s an implied wish there in that plea for help: You want curling iron tips for thick hair for curls that last.
Okay so here’s a few tips for curls with staying power.
First you need enough heat. Depending on YOUR hair that can be as high as 400 degrees Fahrenheit. So you want a curler capable of that kind of heat output.
Knowing you’re cranking up the heat means the last thing you want is for your hair to stick onto the barrel. For that reason a coating on the barrel that will minimize that risk, like ceramic, is better than chrome plated for the health of your hair.
Such coatings also tend to eliminate hot spots and tend to more evenly distribute the heat.
Now dirty hair usually tends to hold a curl much better than freshly shampooed locks unless it doesn’t. (Yeah playing dirty works for some yet not others!)
So the third tip is if your hair doesn’t look particularly grimy or greasy don’t wash it the same day you are looking to curl it. Instead apply dry shampoo to the roots for lift and added staying power.
To help with the hold a nice strong hold mousse comes in handy. Something like Joico Power Whip Whipped Foam (link to Amazon) helps maintain the curl and may even help your strands resist humidity so be less frizzy.
Fourth, if you’re looking for curls that last try working with smaller sections of hair. A light spritz of hairspray is a good idea at this point BEFORE curling.
Fifth, never just drop the curled hair off the iron to hang around as it cools. It’s always best to help it cool down while coiled tightly in the palm of your hand. This gives the curl a chance to set before it starts its fight against gravity.
Tip: The cool setting of your blow dryer can speed this cool down up.
For the sixth point, you may find a strong hold hairspray once the freshly curls section has cooled off can’t hurt it’s staying power and ensure your style stays pretty all day.
Finally many feel an inch and a half barrel is best for thick hair. That way you can get loose curls by curling bigger sections of hair or tighter ones by working with smaller ones.
Another Take On How To Curl Your Hair With A Curling Iron For Beginners
Now for a slightly different approach from the first video. Never hurts to get a second opinion, right? Especially when it’s quick and full of ideas.
Here’s the step by step breakdown of process she used for how to use your curling iron to get gorgeous, long lasting curls.
Step 1) After roughly sectioning your hair top and bottom, using your eyebrows as your guide, clip off the top part out of the way.
Step 2) Apply your fav heat protectant and brush it in.
Now for the meat of the technique …
Assuming you’re right handed start on the right side of your head with the clamp down.
Step 3) Grab about an inch wide section of hair, open the clamp and slip the hair between the barrel and clamp starting in about the middle of the strand.
Step 4) Glide the iron down the strand twirling the hair across the barrel and away from your face,
Repeatedly release the clamp just enough so you can slide more hair over the iron as you move the tool down the strand until the ends are on the barrel. Using your thumb and index finger to manipulate the opening and closing of the clamp.
Step 5) Now give your hair 10-15 seconds max to heat up on the barrel until it’s warm to the touch.
Note how she taps the hair on the iron with her finger to gauge how warm it is.
Step 6) When warmed through slide it off the iron
Step 7) Catch the hair and let the coiled strand cool down in your hand for at least five seconds. A bit longer if you can.
Only difference on the other side of your head is you want the clamp facing upwards. But you’re still curling away from your face.
Step 8) Bottom half done repeat with the hair you previously clipped up
Step 9) When all curled give your curls a spritz with hair spray and you’re done.
At this point you have three options.
- Leave it as is for super defined curls
- Or you can shake and finger rake the curls out for a more relaxed look
- Or you can gently brush the curls out for a more wavy style
Personally I prefer the tousled more relaxed look. But you be you, okay?
The trick is learning how to manipulate the clamp. She makes it look easy but it will take some practice to get the hang of it. Practice best done with a cold tool by the way.
Anyway, this hopefully helps those wondering “How do you curl your hair step by step?” feel confident enough to attempt this at home.
This also kinda answers the how to use a curling iron for loose curls questions too, don’t you think?
How To Curl The Ends Of Your Hair
If you’re going for curls and not beach waves then yeah the ends will need some attention.
Let’s talk about how NOT to do this first.
You see you never want to clamp the curler on the ends up and then wrap the hair around the barrel as you go up towards the roots.
That’s a bad idea because it exposes the most fragile part of your hair, the ends, to the most heat. Making it a surefire recipe for a split ends disaster.
Instead start clamping near your scalp twirling your hair across the barrel gliding your tresses over it while tapping your hair with a finger. As you feel your hair becoming warm, that’s your signal to let it slide off the barrel.
Tip: If your hair is too hot to touch you left it on the iron too long.
Here’s why this works. The ends, being as delicate as they are, should be most responsive to the heat and should require the least amount of time on the iron to get the curled results you want.
Tell Me How To Avoid Clamp Marks When Curling My Hair
Clearly you don’t want that weird dent in your hair that so many get when using a curly iron.
Because it’s so annoying, right?
Luckily it’s an iron technique issue that is easily fixed.
So here’s what I suspect you’re doing wrong. Wrapping your hair around the barrel wrong.
You see you slide the iron to the ends with the last inch or so of hair under the clamp. Then you start rolling your hair up from the ends over the clamp instead of over the barrel.
Doesn’t have to be the ends either. Could even happen when you start in the middle and twirl the tool the wrong way down the section you’re curling.
Doing so all but guarantees you’re going to get a crease. Because the last little bit of hair is folded over or double backed over the clamp. Like this:
The clamp is on the right and barrel to the left. So where clamp and barrel meet is where the kink is created when you curl the wrong direction on the iron.
I tried to focus on the four second clip that shows the problem unfolding. Unfortunately the video is disabled for remote viewing. You can still click play and watch it on YouTube. When you do the part to pay attention to is between 25 and 29 seconds.
If need be slow the video play speed down to .5 speed and you can see just how the hair folds over the clamp. That fold is what gives you your crease.
So…you always want to be rolling your hair across the barrel not the clamp.
If this is a big problem you can’t solve you can always either leave the clamp closed and use it like a curling wand or just get a wand.
What’s the best temperature to curl hair?
This is a very important question to get answered. Because who hasn’t seen the YouTube video of the girl burning off her hair because the iron was too hot.
So for sure there is no one temperature that fits all hair types. Because the best temperature for your hair depends on the type and density. Coarse thick hair will naturally require more heat than thin fine hair to curl or wave.
So to best answer this what we did was check out user manuals of several popular brands of curling irons. Here’s a rough average for various types.
Even with this, the best advice when using any hot styling tool for the first time is to select the lowest setting and test it on one small section of hair. Leave the hair on the tool for like 6-8 seconds. No more. Over time gradually turn up the heat until you find the setting that works best for you with this tool.
Finally it’s NEVER a good idea to crank up the heat to the max. It’s ALWAYS best to use only the amount of heat necessary to curl your hair so it stays.
Since you’re already here…let me suggest that if you liked the ideas you just read maybe you’d like to follow our boards on Pinterest to get a steady stream of all kinds of foxy fabulousness you might enjoy too.