Hair » How to Use a Curling Iron or Wand?

How to Use a Curling Iron or Wand?

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Nearly everyone has had at least one experience with the ever-present hair staple known as the curling iron. As the name clearly indicates what it does is curl hair, obviously, but there are so many different types of curls for so many different hair textures. Even certain natural locks can be curled with the right curling iron and the right heat setting. In this article, we will provide you with the right tips and tricks to curl your hair with a curling iron or wand without any fuss at home.

In this article:

The Interesting History of Curling Irons

By the 1960s every woman and a lot of men had either a curling iron or a straightening comb at home, sometimes depending on the texture of the person’s hair. The reality is that curled hair has been a symbol of wealth and comfort (even when the look has been uncomfortable to obtain) for centuries.

The ability to alter the natural texture of one’s hair signified wealth and power but the earliest curling irons were not very good at regulating heat. Many of the very first options lent the wearer burned hair and scalded the skin.

As time passed and technology improved, so did the hair tools that allowed people to curl their hair into a myriad of styles. There has always been the option to set curls, but using a heated tool to create them was quicker, and progress is often measured by the ease it creates in our lives.

Electric curling irons are credited to two Frenchmen whose 1959 edition was sold in drugstores. It wasn’t until 1980 that a version we might recognize today really appeared.

Theora Stephens, an African American woman, patented a safer and more useable version of the electric curling iron. Her version allowed for better hair health because the temperature was controlled, and the addition of a spring made it easier to use. This version was mostly used by professionals until the ZeeCurl was invented to curl all hair types, followed up by a commercially available version for those at home.

From this point on, it was really up to preference and experience. Stylists typically still use Marcel type curling irons, which have a clamp and no spring with a design that allows the handle to roll with natural hand motions. They use very high heat, but the stylist has been trained to know how much is too much, just enough or too little for the texture and thickness of their clients’ hair.

With these and other options available at home, eventually people became tired of the Marcel style and gravitated to those with a shorter barrel, barrels of different sizes and even wands without clips. Curling irons that have no clip are called curling wands and generally have a taper if not a small dexterous barrel to wrap sections of hair around, hold and release for a looser curl.

How to Choose the Best Curling Iron for Your Hair Type

How to Use a Curling Wand to Curl Hair?

All curling wands and irons work the same way. You turn it on, the barrel heats up, you wrap your hair around the barrel and allow the heat to penetrate, thus creating the curl. Take your hair off the iron and allow your hair to cool and voila! You have beautiful curls. But this is the 100-yard overview.

  1. Choose the Right Size

    Make sure you have the right size iron for the look you want.

  2. Switch It on

    Turn it on and wait for it to reach the correct temperature for your hair. Finer hair needs a temperature below 200 degrees Fahrenheit to prevent damage and create optimum curls. Thicker, coarser hair can go up to 300 degrees Fahrenheit as an average.

  3. Work on Clean Hair

    Always start working on clean, dry hair. Start curling at the root, not the ends. This is especially true if you are using an iron with a clamp. Clipping the curling iron at the end and wrapping your hair upwards is likely to put a crimp in your hair and ruin the curl. Same with a wand, the curl looks better when it is tighter at the root.

  4. For Looser Curls…

    If you want looser curls, use the iron vertically, but if you want more volume, hold the curling iron horizontally.

  5. Don’t Leave a Lock out

    When you are releasing your hair from the curling iron, slide the hair off the iron and hold it a second before letting it loose and take a look at it. There is nothing worse than curling your whole head and later finding a lock or two of hair that has a messed-up curl.

  6. Set It!

    Once your hair is curled, use a good hairspray to lock in your curls.

Curling Iron Hair Styling Tips

Other Curling Iron Tips & Hacks to Know

  • Clean the build-up off your curling iron by letting it heat up, unplugging it to let it cool to being just warm, then immediately wiping the barrel with a moist cloth.
  • You can clean a cold curling iron with rubbing alcohol.
  • Vertical parts are better for wavy hairstyles and horizontal parts are better for volume.
  • The smaller the barrel, the tighter the curl. When choosing one, know that the coils will get tighter and springier the smaller the size of the barrel gets.
  • The larger the barrel, the looser the curl. Think beachy boho waves with softer volume as the barrel gets bigger.
  • If you feel your curl is too tight after taking your hair off the iron, you can loosen the curl as it cools! Just pull it straight a few times (4-6 pulls max) as it’s cooling to loosen up the curl.
  • If you have naturally curly hair, you can use a smaller curling iron to modify a few wayward curls and keep your natural look polished.
  • Tighter curls at the root create a more voluminous look, so for shorter, finer hair, curl tighter at the root than the tip.
  • If you want your curls to really last, pin each section up as soon as you take it off the curling iron. This will allow your curls to set as they cool and you can continue getting ready.
  • For best results, divide your hair into sections that are no wider than the width of the barrel you are using to get even distribution of heat and ideal curls.
  • The longer the cord, the easier it is to manipulate and maneuver, and the best cords are a swivel cord over 8 feet, which reduce wrist strain.
  • Curl your hair away from your face if you want to create more volume.
  • If you can find a tapered wand or curling iron, buy it. You can create a wider range of curls very quickly, which is great if you want a more natural look as you can vary the curl sizes throughout your hair.
  • If you want to turn your curling iron into a wand, remove the stand and unscrew the sides of the clip, then just remove the clip.

Photos via @byangelaprice, Instagram