Curling Hair with a Flat Iron (When You Have No Time!)

Get more mileage out of your hot tools with some styling hacks.

Learning how to curl hair with a flat iron is kind of an essential skill to learn, especially if you want to create more relaxed bends like summery beach waves or loose Hollywood curls. Like with anything, practice makes perfect; it’s all about trial and error finding the method and the look that suits you best.

How to Curl Hair with a Flat Iron

how to curl hair with a flat iron long brown locks
Curling hair with a flat iron results in flatter, bendier waves.

First off, for optimum results, use a good set of straightening irons. Ceramic plates are kinder to the hair as they evenly distribute heat and do not catch on or create knots in your hair (this is common with painted metal or glass versions). A few more tips:

1. Know your irons.

For curls, remember to use a thinner flat iron, rather than a paddle iron—the latter is better for straightening.

2. Flat irons work best on completely dry hair.

Ensure all the strands are dry, and if volume is wanted, add a mousse. We like the lift we get from Dove Style+Care Volume Amplifier Mousse.

3. Start low.

Heat the iron to the lowest heat setting, and increase as needed. Thin hair will require less heat, whereas coarse hair might need more heat to effectively style it.

4. Don’t forget your heat protectant.

Spray on a thermal protectant (we love the smooth results we get from TRESemmé Thermal Creations Heat Tamer Spray) and comb through the hair to ensure it’s evenly coated. This added layer of protection will prevent hair from singeing on hot spots on the iron. For thick hair, section and spray to absolutely ensure all strands have an even coating.

5. Section hair.

Divide your hair into two sections from the ears up. Clamp the top section of hair onto your crown and secure with a clip.

6. Tug and twirl.

Starting with the bottom parting, further section off the hair into smaller sections (Two to three sections usually work best but it depends on how tight you want your curls to be.).

The trick to learning how to curl hair with a flat iron is to hold your iron like a curling wand. To do so, hold your flat iron close to the scalp, wrap the hair in between the prongs and slowly move downwards, while giving the iron the occasional twirl around both prongs. As a rule of thumb, the tighter and closer the wrapping of the hair around the iron, the tighter the curls (which is ideal for ringlets). For looser, romantic curls, do the opposite. Note: When it comes to curling the upper section of hair, remember to curl away from the face, so the hair naturally flicks outwards—it’s a more flattering look.

7. Mix up the texture.

For a more interesting look, try adding in flicks with the curls. To create the flicks, clamp the iron half way down the section of hair, and turn it back on itself to create a U shape. Staying on this angle, move towards the tip. Make sure to add some flicks at the back sections as well.

8. Finish with a spray.

Give your curls some structure and control by adding a humidity-resistant hairspray, such as Nexxus New York Salon Care Frizz Defy Finishing Mist. You can also opt to mist hair with a shine spray, such as Bed Head by TIGI Headrush, for a luxurious highlight. If looser curls or more wavy curls are required, use a brush, such as a paddle brush to gently separate your ringlets. Alternatively, use the fingers to run through hair, gently shaking from root to tip.

Do you know how to curl hair with a flat iron? Check out our other curling tips here.

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