How to Curl Hair with a Curling Iron

Some people are fortunate enough to be born with a mass of perfect curls. For those of us who weren’t born so fortunate, the secret to luscious tendrils lies in a very simple device: the curling iron.

Curling your hair with a curling iron can be very intimidating if you’ve never done it before. After all, most irons get really hot, so it’s important to always exercise safety. Still, the process is easy enough, and can be divided into six simple steps.

Step 1: Prep Your Hair

The first thing you need to do before curling your hair with a curling iron is to prep it. After washing your hair, you may want to apply volumizer or some other hair product before drying. Different products achieve different results. Usually, if you plan on curling your hair, the most common products to apply are: volumizers, root lifters, heat protectors, or de-frizzing agents. The decision between products should be based on two things: your hair type and the end result you want to achieve.

Whichever product you use, it’s important to read the labels. Follow the directions carefully; some products aren’t meant to stand up to high heat and aren’t suitable if you intend to curl your hair.

Step 2: Dry Your Hair

Since curling irons run off of electricity, it’s very important to make sure your hair is thoroughly dry before using one. Not only is damp hair hard to curl, it’s downright dangerous.

Air drying your hair is always an option, but most women prefer to blow dry, since it’s a time-saver. Refer to the first step before blow-drying; make sure the hair products you use are designed for heat. Another benefit of blow-drying over air drying is that a blower dryer helps induce volume and lift: a desirable trait for a curly mane.

Step 3: Prep the Iron

It’s extremely important to check the manual of a curling iron if you’ve never used that specific iron before; different irons work differently and have different features. As with any appliance, it’s always best to be comfortable with the product you’re using.

General safety measures should be taken. The instructions that came with the iron will be more specific, but a good rule of thumb is to never use a curling iron near water; again, it runs on electricity, and misuse of the iron can result in electric shock.

After you turn the iron on, allow it to heat thoroughly (your iron’s instructions should explain how to tell when the iron has reached optimal temperature). While it’s heating, select the setting (if the iron has one) that you wish to use; that way, you’ll be sure that your iron reaches the right temperature before you start styling.

Step 4: Separate Your Hair

Curling irons are designed to curl a small amount of hair at any given time; usually, that amount is about the width of an inch (it can vary based on the iron and the hair type, as well as the desired amount of curl). In order to start curling your hair, you need to separate the desired section from the rest of the hair. Some people find it useful to push back their uncurled hair with bobby pins, so that they can focus on one section at a time without the rest of their hair getting in the way.

Step 5: Curling Your Hair

To curl your hair, wrap the desired section of hair around the barrel of the iron and then roll the iron up towards your scalp, taking care not to burn yourself. Hold the iron in place until the section of hair is heated enough to curl (refer to your instruction manual about the specific time-frame for your iron). Once the hair is hot enough, gently release the iron from the section to reveal your curl. (Note that if you think your hair is burning during this phase, you should revise your method. You’re most likely holding the iron in one place too long. Also, if you notice your curls look oddly kinky upon release, try rolling the barrel of the iron in the opposite direction when curling.)

Repeat the curling process for each section of hair until you achieve the desired effect.

Step 6: Finishing Your Hair

There are many different ways to finish off your curls, depending on the look you’re going for.

If you find your curls are too tight and you look like Shirley Temple, try running your fingers through them to loosen them up. You can even bend over and shake your curls out for a wilder, edgier look. It’s very tempting to brush out very tight curls, but when you do that, the result is dated and, if your hair is natural straight, often negates the entire process of curling.

The best product to finish off your curls with is some simple hairspray to allow for a long-lasting look. Choose a lightweight volumizing formula for a soft, natural look; if you want to make sure your curls stay put until you wash them out, opt for a stiffer, firmer hairspray. (However, keep in mind that stiffer hairsprays make hair seem less touchable and realistic.) If your hair is naturally prone to frizz, using an anti-frizz serum or light hair oil is an option to keep your sexy tendrils shining, tame, and fabulous all day long.