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How to curl hair with a curling iron

I’ll teach you how to curl your hair with a curling iron in 10 minutes. This video tutorial shows you how and what products I use so my curls last all day (or multiple days)! A curling iron is easier than a flat iron and you don’t have to spend a ton of money to find a good one.

The vast majority of days I curl my hair, rather than leaving it straight or smoothing it out with a straightener. I feel more polished and my hair is more comfortable during the day with some curl to it since it stays out my face more easily! Another benefit of taking a few minutes to curl it is that it looks cuter if I pull it back in a pony tail during the day, and if I lift weights, I can just do a low bun and it still looks fine post-workout or even on day two. (But if I do cardio, I have to wash my hair – I get too sweaty!)

I’ve attempted to curl my hair with a flat iron and it’s just a total disaster. But I find it super easy to use a curling iron so I stick with that method. Plus, it gives a more polished look vs. beachy waves, which I generally prefer. After all, we all want Victoria Secret Angel curls, right?

There are two videos – one with short hair and one with medium length or longer hair. I use the same method no matter how long my hair is – the only thing that changes is the size of the curling iron.

For longer hair, I use a 1.25″ barrel. For shoulder length or shorter, I use a 1″ barrel. Barrel size really makes a difference with each hair type!

How to curl your hair with a curling iron in 10 minutes!

You can see my IGTV video hair tutorial with a sped-up tutorial here.

My hair products

I show in the video a few products I use, and I also linked them below. Some of the hair products that I use have changed since I filmed the first video when my hair is shorter so the below list is the most current.

They’re listed in the order that I apply them. Hair care is everything.

Beautycounter Shampoo & Conditioner.

I use a tiny amount (Dime sized for shampoo. Nickel sized for conditioner) so my hair isn’t weighed down with too much product.

  • I also really like the Rahua Shampoo & Conditioner, another clean brand.
  • I love this Innersense’s shampoo & conditioner too.

I don’t currently use those but I have in the past and they work great. Beautycounter is probably the “cleanest” of the three brands, but I feel good about all of them. (This post talks about what ingredients to avoid in your shampoo!)

Innersense I Create Lift Volumizing Foam

Right after I get out of the shower, I use the Innersense I Create Lift Volumizing Foam on wet hair. I love this because it gives me great lift and volume without any crunchy feeling. It also smells amazing. on wet hair. I love this because it gives me great lift and volume without any crunchy feeling. It also smells amazing.

Cult and King Tonik light hold leave in conditioner

After the volumizing foam, I spray this Cult and King Tonik light hold leave in conditioner on my damp hair. It improves hair health, gives it very light hold, shine and just makes my hair look amazing. My stylist has used this on me for a few years and I finally broke down and bought my own since my hair always looks SO much better when she uses it! It also contains menthol to help stimulate hair growth, which I’m all about in my postpartum phase! (I’m still recovering from major hair loss!)

Styling Cream by Cult + King

This is a styling cream by Cult + King. I use just 1-2 pumps and apply only to the bottom half of my hair. It doesn’t go near the roots or else it can weigh hair down. It has heat protection in it and a light hold. And it works great whether I’m using a round brush to smooth my hair or a curling iron to create nice waves.

Kerastase volume in powder spray

Once my hair is curled, I spray this at the roots and then use fingers to massage into hair to help lift at the roots.

Innersense I Create Finish Spray

I love the Innersense I Create Finish Spray for any leftover flyaways. It’s the best finishing touch for all of my hairstyles, but I only use a tiny bit! It does leave a slight crunhiness which I don’t love but I can run my fingers through it to soften it. I also really like this Kenra Dry Oil Control Spray. Once I run out of the I Create Finish Spray, I’ll likely go back to the Kenra one.

  • Blowdryer.
    • UPDATE: My previous blowdryer died after using it for 4 years and I got the Dyson Hair Dryer and I LOVE IT. It dries my thick, long hair in 7 minutes! So if you’re looking to splurge, go that route. It would make a great gift too 😉
  • T3 Curling iron
    • I just upgraded to this one after the spring broke on my Hot Tools curling iron. I LOVE it and it holds my curls longer. And I also like the heat settings, and I feel like I’m protecting my hair better. I do not use a curling wand because I like the clamp! If you use a wand, wrap your hair but not at the ends. If you want tighter curls, wrap small sections of hair in each section. I’ve found that this curling iron helps me set the curl much better.
  • Alligator clips. I’ve since ordered these since filming to help pin up my hair as I do the layers and they’re great. I don’t need these as much when my hair is shorter but depending on my hair length, clipping it up is super helpful! When my hair starts getting super long, these are SO necessary.

A few pointers when curling your hair

I prefer curled hair with loose ends and curls not too close to the root, which is why I clasp it with the curling iron near the root and never curl from the bottom. There are lots of methods for curling hair, but this is my tried and trusted method.

You’ll notice how the ends of my hair stick out just a little after I wrap it around the barrel. That gives it a little more natural look by not tucking the ends into the iron.

Always twist your wrist to turn the barrel away from your face so it curls away, which helps open up the hair for a fresher look. When you’re curling the back, curl a few pieces in the alternate direction so they don’t all clump together.

I grab somewhat large sections of hair to make it go quickly and so it’s not overly curled (the more hair you use, the closer you’ll get to loose waves). Then, I go back and get pieces that are too straight and curl them separately. That also helps keep it natural-looking so all the curls aren’t exactly the same size and/or perfectly curled. I prefer looser curls, so that’s why I use large sections of hair.

After I curl, I let the curls sit for a few minutes to cool (usually I do my makeup at this point). Leave your hair alone while the curls are still warm – letting them cool while more tightly curled helps them hold longer. This helps make them bouncy curls.

I don’t brush it out. When I apply the Davines texturizer , I use my fingers at that point to break up the curls a bit. If you’re left with tight curls and want to loosen them, use a wide tooth comb to run through your hair. Over time, you should also see the curls fall a tad.

Here are a few pics of how it looks finished!

My skincare and makeup routine are both listed in detail here.

Nix these mistakes for perfect waves every time.

There’s nothing worse than spending tons of time meticulously curling your hair before an event, only to end up with frizzy curls, weird pieces sticking out, an embarrassingly outdated style, or worse. limp locks because your curls didn’t even last half an hour. Luckily, we’ve compiled a list of curling iron errors to avoid so you can achieve gorgeous waves this summer.

Mistake: Not Prepping Your Hair

In order to get a good curl, you need to prep your hair first. “It’s like building a house,” says celebrity hairstylist Patrick Melville. “You have to create a good foundation for it to hold.” To do this, first use a heat-protecting product (it’s essential to prevent damage), then blow-dry your hair completely. This will close the cuticle and help hold your curls, as well as avoid heat damage from using the iron on damp hair. Melville also suggests using a styling glaze pre-ironing (he likes Hantz Professional Styling Glaze, $10 hantzprofessional.com) for control and texture. Also, if you know your hair has a really hard time holding a curl, go ahead and mist your hair with a little hairspray before you use the iron.

Related: 7 Blow-Dryer Mistakes You’re Probably Making

Mistake: Curling Your Hair in the Wrong Direction

Make your desired part before you start curling, as this will help determine which way you curl the hair. For a more natural look, you’ll want to curl your hair away from your face. This means winding the hair down and around the wand of the curling iron in a clockwise direction on the right side of your face and a counter-clockwise direction on the left side.

This is the right way to curl your hair:

Mistake: Twirling the Iron Instead of Your Hair

Most women clip their ends into the iron, then twist the iron in toward their head. According to Melville, this will give you more of a barrel curl (think Shirley Temple) or flip (think Farrah Fawcett), rather than the more natural-looking wave you were probably going for. To achieve that, hold the iron so the barrel (the hot part) is facing down toward the floor, then wrap your hair around it, starting from the roots and locking your ends in last. This will not only make your curls last longer, but it will also give you more volume at the roots. Also, make sure you don’t twist the hair at all before winding it around the barrel, as this will prevent the heat from distributing evenly on the hair. Think of your hair as a ribbon, and lay it flat over the curling iron as you wind.

Mistake: Using an Iron That’s Too Large

You might own four different-sized curling irons, thinking you need each one to achieve a range of tighter or looser curls. The truth is, you really only need one. “You can do a lot more with a one-inch barrel than you can do with a larger one,” says Melville. “It’s more universal. If you want a looser wave, just take a slightly larger section of hair.”

Mistake: Curling Too Much Hair at a Time

While taking a slightly larger section of hair may provide you with a looser wave, curling too much hair at a time isn’t a good idea, either, says Melville. You won’t get an even distribution of heat throughout that section, which can cause your curls to do a disappearing act. For the most natural look, wrap small sections of hair around the barrel of your iron using the technique described above (and make sure the sections aren’t all exactly the same size—your curls will look more natural this way).

Related: 6 of the Coolest Beauty Tools Ever Made

Mistake: Buying a Curling Iron That’s on Clearance

If you curl your hair frequently, you should invest in a good iron with a ceramic barrel. Also, there’s a difference between spring hinge irons and marcel irons with a swivel handle. Even though it might take some getting used to, Melville recommends going for a marcel iron because the clip on a spring can cause unwanted creases in your curls. The marcel iron can also stand in for those wand-like curling irons with no clip at all—just wind your hair around the iron and hold it by the ends. Melville recommends leaving the ends out of the iron completely to get a more natural “undone” look.

Mistake: Holding Your Hair in the Iron Too Long

Obvious alert: Curling irons are hot. Some irons can reach up to 450°F, which can cause some serious damage, depending on your hair’s condition and texture. Melville recommends using a low or medium setting on finer, more fragile hair and leaving your hair wrapped around it for no more than two to three seconds. You can use the hottest setting if your hair is strong, coarse, and thick, but be careful not to leave it on any longer than you need to.

Related: 6 Mistakes You’ve Been Making With Your Flat Iron

Mistake: Touching Your Hair Right Away

Always allow your hair to cool down for a couple of minutes so the curl has a chance to set. Touching or running your fingers through your curls immediately after curling it can cause unwanted frizz or make your curls droop. After that waiting period, you can help keep your style in place by spraying your curls and your hands with a finishing spray (Melville recommends Osis Session Finish Hairspray, $19 ulta.com) and crunching the ends. To get a more natural, slightly messy curl, break up your finished curls with your fingers at this point. Alternatively, you can brush them lightly for a smoother wave. This will also help you distribute product evenly throughout your strands.

Finally, make sure to remember that many curly styles can be created by using variations on these techniques. If you have a specific look in mind that you want to try, ask your stylist to show you how to recreate it the next time you visit the salon. They’ll appreciate the chance to give you a tutorial, and you’ll get a hairstyle that works with your specific cut and texture.

Lindsey Metrus is the associate general manager at Byrdie and has been with the brand since 2015. Her work also appears in BuzzFeed, StyleCaster, and Yahoo.

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Stocksy / Design by Michela Buttignol

Sarah Potempa knows a thing or two about curling hair. She’s the creator of The Beachwaver, and she has styled countless celebrities, like Hailee Steinfeld and Margot Robbie for major events. She’s also been the lead stylist at the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show multiple times. (Her Angel wave expertise is legit.) So, who better to reveal the tricks for holding a curl? Here’s how Potempa achieves bouncy curls for the runway, the red carpet, and real life.

Meet the Expert

Sarah Potempa is a celebrity hairstylist and the creator and CEO of The Beachwaver Co.

Use a Properly Heated Tool

First things first: Is it true that thin or naturally straight hair won’t hold a curl as well as other hair types? Not so, says Potempa. “Now, with modern technology, any hair type should be able to hold a curl!”

Curling irons come in a variety of materials including ceramic, tourmaline, gold, and titanium. Ceramic and tourmaline irons are the most popular; they have even heat distribution and control frizz.

Potempa says, “Look for a quality tool that has components like an adjustable digital temperature and ceramic rods or plates. The Beachwaver has custom extra-long heaters that extend the entire length of the barrel to ensure even heat distribution throughout the hair.”

“It’s important to be educated on the right heat setting for your hair. For example, if you have thick hair, you’ll want to use a higher heat setting than someone with thin or fine hair. Adjusting the heat setting to your hair type will ensure that your curls hold!”

Speaking of a proper heat setting, Potempa says digital is the way to go. “If you use tools with an analog (dial) heat setting, you don’t know what temperature you’re using on your hair, and the heat may not be evenly distributed throughout the iron. If the heat is inconsistent, then the curl won’t last.”

Prep Your Hair

Prepping before you curl is also instrumental to your style lasting all day. A heavy shampoo and conditioner will weigh freshly washed hair down. If your hair isn’t extremely dry, wash with a light moisture shampoo and conditioner like Nexxus Hydra-Light Weightless Moisture Shampoo ($12) and Conditioner ($17) for a great start to take on the curls.

For even better results, curl your hair on the second or third day after shampooing. Dirty hair can hold a curl better than squeaky clean hair, and it’ll save you a lot of prep time, too. If your hair feels greasy, start with a dry shampoo.

Use a mousse and heat protectant before you blow-dry in order to give the hair more hold.

Prepping with a setting spray is also great for locking in your curls. Many of them offer heat protection, too. Matrix Biolage Thermal Active Setting Spray ($11) helps curls go the distance.

Use Clips

Clips are your styling friend, both pre- and post-curl. “If you need extra hold, you can set the curls with silver clips. You just wrap the curl and pin it on top of the head to let it set for a few minutes. When you unpin the curls, they will have even more structure and volume. It’s also important to remember that the tools you use along with the curling iron matter! Divide your hair into clean, even sections before you curl. This will ensure that every curl has structure and looks great,” Potempa explains.

Barrel Size Matters

Switch to a smaller barrel size if you want to make the curls last longer. For example, if you are using a one-inch barrel and your curls are falling, then try using a smaller iron. Curling smaller sections of hair will also give you tighter curls and more hold,” she says.

Try Hot Rollers

If your hair is fine, limp, or otherwise refuses to hold a curl, hot rollers may be a better option than a curling iron. You’ll likely want to practice setting your hair in hot rollers before any big event to make sure you’ve got the technique down. Let the rollers sit in your hair for a minimum of 10 minutes—even longer if you have extra time.

Keep Your Hands Off

It’s tempting to want to run your fingers through your hair immediately or brush out your curls as soon as you’ve finished, but Potempa says this is the reason your curls fall quickly. Instead, she suggests spraying a hairbrush with hair spray once the curls have cooled and then passing them through with a brush.

Soft, touchable curls might be ideal, but if you have trouble getting curls to hold and you want them to last all day, you probably need to opt for a hairspray with a firm hold. The staying power will be worth it.

Tight curls, gentle and soft curls, wavy hair – curls are amazing. And the best part is that they flatter just about any type of hair, and on any length. But if you’re blessed with poker straight hair, (and we say blessed because straight hair looks amazing too, right?) then what do you do?

Hair curling is an option, but what about hair damage? Fortunately, there are several techniques that teach you how to curl hair without a curling iron or tongs. We’ve put down the fastest and the best ways for hair curling without heat.

Top Ways to Curl Your Hair Without Heat

#1: Old t-shirt for New Curls

  1. Wash your hair the way you usually do. Blot it dry with a towel.
  2. Cut a t-shirt in long strips from the neck to the hem.
  3. The thinner the strip, the tighter the curls.
  4. Take a small section of your hair, and roll the strip and the hair upwards till your scalp (or till as much as you want). Roll inwards so the curls turn towards your neck.
  5. Tie the end of the strip to hold the hair in place.
  6. Repeat this for all the hair.
  7. Let your hair dry completely before removing the strips.

#2: Headband for Retro Curls

  1. Wash your hair the way you usually do. Blot it dry with a towel.
  2. Slip a headband around your head.
  3. Take sections of your hair and wrap around the hairband until all the hair is within the band.
  4. Secure loose ends with pins.
  5. Let your hair dry completely.
  6. Gently remove the headband and pins, and unleash your curls.

#3: Braiding for Natural Waves

  1. Wash your hair the way you usually do. Blot it dry with a towel.
  2. Make a center parting and tie two ponytails.
  3. Braid the two ponytails and secure the end with a rubber band.
  4. For tight curls, make more braids, for looser curls, make just one braid.
  5. Let your hair dry completely.
  6. Gently loosen the braids and shake your curls free.

#4: Sock Bun Waves

  1. Take an old sock with the toe part cut out and roll it into a doughnut shape.
  2. Wash your hair the way you usually do. Blot it dry with a towel.
  3. Pull your hair into a ponytail at the top of your head.
  4. Pull your ponytail through the sock. Wrap the hair and tuck it in securely.
  5. Roll the sock to include more hair.
  6. Continue rolling and tucking until you reach the top of your head.
  7. Secure the bun with the help of clips.
  8. Sleep in with the bun and loosen it in the morning for gorgeous tumbling waves.

#5: Waves are Easy

  1. Wet your hair lightly unless you’ve just washed it.
  2. Detangle your hair and make a center parting.
  3. Twist each section tightly to form a bun on the two sides of your head.
  4. Let your hair dry overnight.
  5. Gently open the buns the next morning and voila! Waves!

#6: Roll with it

  1. Get your hands on some hair rollers. Big rollers give big curls, and small ones give tighter curls.
  2. Wash and condition your hair, and blot it with a towel.
  3. Separate a section, roll it and immediately encase it in a roller. Secure the roller as per instructions.
  4. Repeat the step until all hair is sheathed in rollers.
  5. Leave untouched for 4-5 hours.
  6. Gently remove the rollers and enjoy the curls.

#7: Twist & Curl

  1. Wash your hair the way you usually do. Then dry it with a soft towel.
  2. Comb your hair thoroughly and make a center parting.
  3. Twist each section until it resembles a tight coil. Secure it to the top of your head with a clip. Do the same to the other side.
  4. Allow your hair to dry overnight.
  5. Remove the clips and enjoy your curls.

You are thinking that the above methods can be used in curling long and medium hair lengths, right?

Well, if you are wondering how to curl short hair without a curler, then we can assure you that, the methods mentioned above are workable on short lengths of hair.

Rather the braiding and the headband roll methods are best for short hair, and will give you waves with an oomph!

Also, we have given such a detailed DIY for heatless curls, there definitely must be some benefits of this method of curling your hair. Well, the following points are the most important as per our perspective and hence we think you should try heatless curls.

What are the benefits of curling hair?

  • You get added volume in your hair with effortless curls and waves
  • You don’t have to style it a lot, as waves and curls settle and give you a fresh new look in accordance to the curl diameters
  • Reduced hair fall due to reduced styling and combing of hair
  • You can easily avoid ponytail ridges and hair pin marks due to curled hair

Now that you know the benefits of curling your hair, refer the below points for added benefits of heatless curls.

Disadvantages of using Curling Irons

  • Split ends – The heat emitted by the curling irons ends up giving us more split ends than usual
  • Hair Loss – Due to excessive heat, hair is weakened, and thus prone to increased hair loss
  • Loss of Shine – Over time, excessive heat leads to dull, lifeless hair
  • Brittle and Rough Hair – Over styling also leads to brittle and rough hair

Getting curls with no heat method eliminates all the above stated disadvantages and hence it is advisable to use our no heat hair curling methods the next time you feel like sporting curly or wavy hairstyle!

We’ve been trying to achieve bouncy, defined curls since our first middle school dance. We remember wrestling with stubborn tangles, dividing our hair into tiny sections and reaching for Mom’s 15-pound curling iron. By the end of our experiment, our biceps ached and our bathroom resembled a smoky Vegas casino.

Since then, we’ve tried nearly every method to summon curls, from “plopping” our wet waves into a T-shirt to wrapping our strands around a ceramic wand. But after our many hair endeavors, which method produced the elusive “perfect curl”? In the latest episode of Three with Me, a YouTube series in which we show you the three smartest ways to do something, PureWow Creator Kate attempts to find out. She puts three of the most popular hair-curling techniques to the test: Roller curls, heatless wrap curls and flat iron curls.

Watch this video to see Kate’s fabulous results for yourself (and check out the step-by-step instructions below).

3 Ways to Get the Perfect Curl:

Method 1: Roller Curls

  1. Separate hair into two sections, one at the crown and another at the bottom.
  2. To ensure the hair is warm and the curls are able to set, curl each one-inch section of hair with a curling wand, then follow with a roller. Remember to curl away from your face.
  3. Place the roller at the bottom of each section of hair, then wind upward toward the root. Add bobby pins or clips as needed.
  4. To add volume, direct the rollers down the center of your head, like a mohawk.
  5. Once it’s fully cooled after 10-15 minutes, unravel your hair from the rollers in the same direction in which they were rolled and brush through.

Method 2: Heatless Wrap Curls

  1. Place a heatless curling rod (you can also use a pair of tights or a bathrobe belt) along the front of your head, laying it like a headband. Use a claw clip to secure the top of the rod in place.
  2. Part your hair down the middle. At the top of one side, begin wrapping small sections of your hair all the way around the rod. Work your way down each side of your hair then secure with a scrunchie where the two end pieces meet.
  3. Go to bed with your hair wrapped, then take it out gently and brush through.

The Curling Wand has Kinder to Hair technology featuring a mineral infused barrel and variable temperature so you can select the right heat for your hair. The barrel is 25mm long perfect for most hair types past shoulder length to create curls and waves.

Take a look below at the different types of curls and waves that you can create using this one tool.

SHOP THE CURLING WAND

For more inspiration and how to’s follow CLOUD NINE Hairstyles and CLOUD NINE YouTube.

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Ladies with the thicker manes need to prep a little differently before curling hair. Look at your hair: If you hair doesn’t appear oily, don’t wash it before curling, says Moticka. Just apply a dry shampoo, like Elizabeth and James Nirvana White Dry Shampoo, $28 to your roots to give extra lift and staying power, says Moticka. To give curls extra shine and hydration, apply a lightweight hair serum (try Schwarzkopf Essence Ultime Amber+ Oil Nutrition Oil-in-Serum, $6.97). Finally, use a strong-hold mousse on your entire head to define curls and fight frizz (try Joico JoiWhip, $16.99)

Tip 6: How to Curl Hair Into Bouncy Curls

Now that you’ve properly prepped your hair, you’re ready to learn how to create bouncy curls that last.

1. Divide and clip your dry hair into manageable sections. Working from the nape of your neck up first, grab a one-inch section and comb through it.

2. Pick up the section at the ends and mist with a light-hold hairspray to create lift. If your curling iron has a clamp, clamp hair at the ends and roll up until it is completely around the barrel. If you are working with a curling wand, wrap section around the barrel starting at the roots.

3. Hold hair on the iron for 10 to 20 seconds. Continue working in sections until your entire head is curled.

4. Finish by gently finger combing curls and misting entire head with hairspray.

If your hair has a hard time holding a curl, once you release the section from the iron, roll it back up on your fingers and secure with duckbill clip. If you are concerned about creating weird clip marks around your hairline, place a small piece of tissue paper (or toilet paper) between the clip and your hair. Leave hair in clips until your entire head is finished and hair is completely cooled, says Moticka. Then you can release and finger comb.

Image via Imaxtree

Tip 7: How to Curl Hair Into Beach Waves

To get those loose, wavy, California-girl curls that are all the rage these days, you will need to change up your hair-curling strategy.

1. Section and clip dry hair into diagonal sections, which will give hair a softer look, says Moticka. Grab a two-inch section of hair and comb through it.

2. Lift up the section from the ends and mist with light-hold hairspray to create lift. Carefully wrap the hair in a spiral manner around the barrel of the iron (from roots to the tips), pointing the iron downward toward the floor.

3. Let hair sit on iron for 10 to 20 seconds, holding the ends tightly around the barrel the entire time. Release hair and mist section lightly with hairspray. Continue until your entire head is curled.

For soft, glam waves brush through curls with a natural bristle brush. To get a piece-y, beachy feel, simply shake out the curls with your hands.

Image via Imaxtree

Tip 8: Clean Your Curling Iron

Though it’s a hassle — we already have to clean our makeup brushes (groan) — it’s important to clean your curling iron after every use, otherwise it gets coated in product build up. The residue will prevent your curling iron from heating your hair evenly and you’ll end up with lackluster curls. Yikes.

To clean your iron, wait until it is completely cool and simply wipe it with a damp towel. If you haven’t cleaned it in a while, you may need to invest in a hot iron cleaner to remove the gunk — give Hot Tools Styling Iron Cleaner, $5.99, a try.

If the almighty hair care gods didn’t grant you naturally curly hair, you’ve likely clocked your fair share of time in front of YouTube tutorials on how to curl hair. And perhaps your curling iron has become your BFF as you’ve tried to fake the bouncy curls and flowing waves of your dreams.

Curling irons are indeed magical little devices that can turn straight hair curly in an instant, and simply add definition and perfection to natural curls. But as easy as that last declarative statement sounds, they can actually be quite tricky to master. That’s why we went to a pro to get the 411 on the best types of irons for your hair type and texture, the tried and true methods for how to curl hair into a lasting look, and the expert techniques that will turn your hair into frizz-free ringlets every time you style.

The curling iron is by no means a modern invention; people have been using them to add texture to their hair for eons (think ancient Greece, not caveman days). In fact Babylonian and Assyrian men crimped and curled their beards with curling irons (freaky fact, but yes, it’s true). Of course these curling irons didn’t look anything like the electrical curling irons we know and love today — they didn’t debut until around 1959 thanks to BaByliss, and we’re assuming women or men today don’t use them to curl their beards (not that we’re ones to judge), but it’s interesting to know that the desire to have curly hair dates way back. So whether you’re after tightly wound ringlets or tousled, beachy waves, this guide on how to curl hair will help you master the curling iron once and for all.

While there are tons of hair tutorials out there on different ways to curl your hair, one small detail that always seems to be missing is how to actually use the curling iron. For example, the way you hold the curling iron and which way you turn it is very important when curling your hair. And it’s not as intuitive as you may have thought.

First things first, make sure you have a curling iron you love, including the right curling iron for your hair length. Ceramic curling irons help reduce frizz, some people prefer wands to irons, and this one is a tried and true classic that won’t break the bank.

Follow this guide below to create classic, natural looking waves. I’m using a 1 1/4 inch curling iron for this tutorial.

Start by separating your hair into 2 sections. If you have super thick hair then you may end up doing 3 layers.

How to Use a Curling Iron

Option 1:
Start by holding the curling iron vertically with the clasp facing forward. Then clamp a 2 inch section of hair about 1-2 inches from the ends. Curl the hair out and away from your face, all the way up to the root. Hold for 7-12 seconds depending on your hair texture. Always curl the front pieces away from your face (unless you’re going for a retro Hollywood vibe).

Option 2:
If you have super thick hair, this is a better option for you. Again, hold the curling iron vertically with the clasp facing forward. Then clasp a 2-inch section of hair about halfway up. Twirl the curling iron out and away from your face so that you are just curling the roots. Hold for about 7 seconds then gently release the clasp just slightly and slide the curling iron down to about 1-2 inches from the ends. Now curl the section of hair all the way to the roots and hold for another 7 seconds.

The result of either option should look like this:

Once you’ve done the front pieces, I like to switch up the direction of the curl to create a really natural look. This time, hold the iron vertically but with the clasp facing the opposite direction. Clasp the hair about 1-2 inches from the ends and twist the iron in and towards your head, up to the roots. Hold for 7-12 seconds then slowly release the clasp. You can also use option 2 above, just be sure to twist the iron towards your head for an inward curl.

Now spray the bottom layer with hairspray. Then let down the next layer.

Once you get to the top layer, again be sure to curl the few front pieces out and away from your face. For the 2 pieces in the very front, on either side of your face, I like to use “option 1” because these sections shouldn’t be as curly as the others. I also hold the iron in the curl for less time, about 5-7 seconds, for a looser effect.

Again, spray your whole head with hair spray.

Now gently flip your hair forward then back and rake your fingers through it to get rid of the structured ringlets.

Does this help you master the curling iron?

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  • Story By: Abigail Yonker
  • Feature Image By: Kristin Ess

My hair and I have had a rather tumultuous relationship throughout the years. In its natural state, my hair is blonde, thin, puffy, and very wavy — and while I’ve never strayed from my color except to embrace slightly lighter or darker variations, I’ve spent a LOT of time and effort on the texture.

I’ve had perms (two!!), and I’ve tried everything in the book from salty texture spray to a variety of straighteners (Does anyone remember the Wet2Straight? That was my shit.). I go back and forth a lot on whether I prefer to add wave, straighten to sticks, or let the wild things fall where they may. In all this experimentation (about 14 years of it!), I’ve perfected some pretty effective hairstyling methods over the years. Here, I’m sharing my best tips and tricks for curling your hair for an everyday look — two different ways, with two different tools.

Curling With a Curling Iron

I know, I know — you THINK you know how to curl your hair with your curling iron (But if you did, would you really be reading this? Something to think about.). In reality, a lot of people are making one simple mistake when curling their hair with a curling iron — not letting it cool before touching, moving, or tousling.

  1. Separate hair into at least two layers (maybe more if your hair is really thick).
  2. Take a one-inch(ish) section of the bottom of hair. Attach the clamp to the hair at the top of the section, then slide it down to about a centimeter up from the very end of the hair.
  3. While hair is clamped, wrap the barrel away from your face, trying to keep the strands flat against the barrel (for even heat distribution). Once you get to the top of the hair section, hold for 5-8 seconds.
  4. Instead of unclamping, simply pull the barrel out from the bottom, letting the hair slide through the clamp as the barrel moves.
  5. This is the most important part — DON’T TOUCH THE NEWLY CURLED SECTION!
  6. Repeat the process on one-inch sections of hair for the entire layer. Once the entire layer is curled and cooled, spray with strong-hold hairspray.
  7. Once the bottommost layer is complete, we switch up the routine. Take down the next section — this time, you’re going to use your iron as a wand.
  8. Take a one-inch section of hair. Place the barrel (facing down) up close to the root fo the section (but not so close that it touches your skin). Wrap the hair around the barrel from top to bottom, with the hair wrapping around the barrel away from your face.
  9. Once you’ve wrapped the full section, hold the tip of hair at the bottom still for about 5-8 seconds, as the hair heats up.
  10. Release your hold on the hair, then pull the iron down and out.
  11. Don’t touch the newly curled section!
  12. Once an entire layer is complete, adjust the sections so they are all falling into place — then spray with either a strong-hold hairspray or a texture spray.
  13. Comb through with fingers, comb, or brush (depending on how piecey you want the final result to look). A brush will bring the curls together to form a subtle wave, but a comb or fingers will result in a more textured situation.

Beach Wave Curling Iron 1″

The exact iron I use — lets you control heat settings, can be used with or without clamp, and features an automatic shut-off (for those mornings when you forget to turn it off). I’ll use this til the day I die!

/media/matrix us media library/2017july/banner_curling iron.jpg Learn how to properly curl your hair with a curling iron and the top mistakes to avoid to ensure you are getting the most out of your hairstyle and hair styling tool!

Whether you are a curling iron connoisseur or novice, there are definitely “best practices” to keep in mind when using this heat tool to ensure you are getting the most out of your hairstyle – and hair styling tool!

Here are common curling iron mistakes and what you can do to correct them:

You’re not prepping your hair properly

The Fix: You could cook a meal without salt and pepper but it tastes so much better when you season the food! You could curl your hair without using hair styling products, but the results will be so much better if you choose a few hair curling products that will enhance your hair type. Before you dry your hair, apply a volumizing mousse or hairspray if you want to thicken fine hair, or a hair smoothing cream if you want to fight frizz on thick hair. It also helps to choose formulas that offer a degree of hair hold.

You’re skipping the all-important heat protectant

The Fix: Every thermal hair styling tool packs a lot of heat, and curling irons make direct contact with your hair. Matrix pros recommend a double dose of heat protection. Apply a heat-protection cream before drying your hair, and then mist your hair with heat protection spray when it’s dry, before using a thermal curling iron.

You’re grabbing too much hair at once.

The Fix: Curling too much hair at once will backfire because if the section of hair is too thick, the curling iron will not be able to heat through all of your hair, and your curl will fall flat. Pros recommend sections that are about one inch by one inch as a general guideline.

You’re making your curls look too perfect.

The Fix: The curl or beach wave trend right now is to create lived-in hair shapes that don’t appear too “done.” The secret to this organic wavy hairstyle shape is to vary the sizes of sections that you curl, as well as the direction. So as you wave your hair, take some wide sections and some skinnier sections and alternate the direction towards and away from your face.

You’re not omitting the ends.

The Fix: Another characteristic of lived-in beach waves or curls is an imperfect hair shape. Modern wavy hair isn’t curled all the way to the ends—the focus of the movement is in the center of the hair strand. Of course, if you’re going for a more traditional, formal curled hairstyle, by all means, curl each section all the way to the tips.

You’re curling your hair before it’s completely dry.

The Fix: This one is a big no-no! Curling irons are designed to create beach waves and curls in dry hair. To do so, they heat up your strands, and if your hair is wet or even just a little bit damp, it’s way more susceptible to hair damage. So air-dry your hair completely before flipping the switch on your curling iron. And for more hair hold and polish, blow-dry your hair into the general shape and direction you want for your final hairstyle. This sets the stage for hairstyle perfection!

You’re not letting your curls or beach waves “set.”

The Fix: The secret to locking in a curly or wavy hairstyle is to first heat your hair thoroughly when it’s wrapped around your curling iron. (But not too long or you’ll cause heat damage!) Then allow your hair to cool completely before you touch it.

Here’s a pro trick: after curling a section of hair with a curling iron, slip it out of the iron with the curl intact, and then clip the curl to your head as if it was a roller. Clip each section after you set it, and leave all of your hair clipped until it cools off. Then remove the clips and rake through your hair with your fingers or a wide-tooth comb for a firmer shape, or brush it with an oval styling brush for a fluffier shape.

You’re using the wrong temperature.

The Fix: Every hair type requires a different heat setting. Fine hair should be curled with a low temperature; thick, coarse or curly hair requires more heat to get the job done. Bottom line? One temperature does not fit all, so purchase a curling iron that offers the temperature range that’s right for your hair type.

You’re using the wrong size curling iron.

The Fix: If you’re looking for lazy beach waves and you’re getting springy curls that resemble fusilli, look no further than the size of your curling iron. The fatter the barrel, the looser the wave and vice-versa. If you have a medium-length hairstyle and you’re looking for those loose, ‘it girl” waves, your best bet is a 1 inch or 1 ¼-inch barrel. If your hair is long, you’ll achieve gentle beach waves with an iron barrel that’s 1 ½-inch or 2-inches in diameter.

You don’t know your angles.

The Fix: Curling hair with a curling iron is about geometry—angles matter. So if you want to create a tight, traditional, bouncy curl, hold your curling iron horizontally. If you’re looking for a long, loose beachy wave, work at a vertical angle. And for hair volume at the root, work on a diagonal.