How to Use a Curling Iron on Short Hair

Ace those choppy, enviable waves in minutes.

Styling short hair can be a challenge. And using a curling iron on short hair? Even trickier, as some of us still can’t seem to look beyond the traditional blowout. Understandable, since the main sell of short hair is its lighter, wash-and-go appeal. Though we’re not one to fix what isn’t broken, we also love taking on a good hair challenge—especially when it involves trying out a look that’s been trending both on fashion runways and street-style blogs.

One of the hottest looks this year is the curled and texturized bob. Sadly, not all of us have personal glam squads at our beck and call, ready to get us ~done~ whenever we want. However, with the right tools and some D.I.Y. tricks, we can definitely get this celebrity look for less, and in the comfort of our homes too. Read on to learn more how to use a curling iron on short hair:

curling iron short hair loose bob
Texturized bobs with loose, lazy bends are all the rage. Photo credit:

Step 1: Choose the Right Curling Iron

The first step to styling short hair with a curling iron is to choose the ideal barrel for your hair length. Curling iron barrels usually come in increments of an inch, with some starting from 5/8” all the way to 2”. Smaller barrels produce smaller, tighter curls. This makes it ideal for use on shorter hair, since the hair might not have enough length to loop around larger barrels and form a ringlet. For short to medium-length hair, we recommend barrels that are ¾” to 1 ¼” thick. Any larger, and the curls barely form a bump—but then if that’s the look you’re going for, well and good! #beachwaves

Step 2: Shampoo and Condition

We love starting fresh with every style, and particularly with curls, you can never have a clean-enough canvas. Dirt, oil and product grime may provide unnecessary slip and limpness to your locks, prematurely flattening your curl midday. Unwashed hair is also harder to style to begin with and may not absorb styling products as optimally as hair that’s been properly washed and conditioned. A clarifying shampoo and conditioner thoroughly cleanses and leaves hair primed for product. We love how Suave Professionals Sea Mineral Infusion Moisturizing Body Shampoo and Conditioner removes the gunk and leaves a natural bounce.

Step 3: Protect and Prep

Before subjecting locks to any mechanical styling, it’s always in your best interest to coat them with a thermal protectant. In case you’re skeptical and chalk this up as a superfluous step, just think of not having potholders when getting freshly baked cookies from the oven—that scald is real, and wet locks are especially vulnerable to getting damaged from it. Creams might be too heavy on short or fine hair and can do some limpage, so we actually prefer sprays applied from the root to tip. We like how TRESemmé Thermal Creations Heat Tamer Spray evenly coats hair without the weigh-down.

If you want more control and curl definition, add on a mousse or blowdry lotion to your locks after your heat protectant. Curl-specific variations—like Dove Style+Care Curls Defining Mousse—can provide some frizz protection as well. Distribute throughout strands using a comb or your fingers. Now you’re ready to use your curling iron on your short hair.

Step 4: Blow-Dry

Before curling hair around an iron, dry hair with a blowdryer and wait till it’s 90 percent dry.

Step 5: Section Your Hair

Part hair in six sections and secure each with a darby or duckbill clip, as you would with long hair: top right, top left, top middle, bottom right, bottom left, bottom middle. This isn’t a hard and fast rule, as some short hairstyles can do with less sectioning—sometimes you’d be surprised by how quickly you can curl your hair if you just eyeball it, a trick we like when doing more contemporary, haphazard bends.

Step 6: Begin Curling

We usually like curling long hair away from the face to open up our features. But for a fresher, chunkier look when dealing with short hair, mix up the curl directions. Regardless, curls look best when the sections are about 1 ½” thick. Starting with your bottom partings, proceed to twirl each section around the iron, winding till you reach around ear height. Leave around ½” of hair uncurled at the ends before you twirl—leaving the ends loose gives a more modern feel. Leave the iron on for around 10 seconds for a solid curl. Repeat on all top sections as well.

*A note on clamped irons and wands: If you’re using a curling iron with a clamp, hold the prongs open while twisting hair around the barrel. Clamp prongs together when you’ve reached ½” near the end. For wands, start from the top of the section and work downwards, leaving the same amount of allowance at the ends for a good curl to form. Careful with the heat!

Step 7: Shake It Off

Once all sections have been curled, proceed to fine-tune the sections around the hairline as desired. Depending on the look you’re going for, either finger-style each section to slightly separate the ringlets or gently brush hair for a softer, more natural look. Finish with an extra hold hairspray such as TRESemmé TRES Two Unscented Extra Hold Hairspray for an all-day yet touchable hold.

Your curled hair is now complete! Remember, practice makes perfect, the mores times you try out a curling iron on short hair, the better you’ll be at creating those effortless waves.

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