how to use curling tongs on your hair

Hot Tool Spotlight of the Week: Curling Tongs

We deconstruct this bathroom-drawer staple.

If you’ve ever come across the term and scratched your head, you’re not alone. Ease up: The phrase curling tongs is just a synonym for curling iron, and is popularly used in countries like the U.K. to mean the same thing. The word “tongs” perhaps comes from the two-pronged look of most curling irons, where the clamp opens up in the manner of a kitchen tong.

For the novice: Curling tongs are mechanical styling tools used to recreate curls on otherwise non-curly hair. That means all you straight and wavy-haired gals can enjoy the look of ringlets and spirals with the help of hair tongs.

Hot Tool Spotlight of the Week: Curling Tongs

curling tongs being used at New York Fashion Week
Quick and easy: Curling irons are a common sight backstage at fashion shows. Photo credit: Suzanne Cohen Photography

Typically plugged into an outlet (although we have come across some cordless and butane-powered variations), curling tongs use electrical power to heat up its barrel in order to style hair.

1. How heat helps style hair.

Human hair is made up of keratin bonds, which has a shape that can be altered when subjected to heat. Heat—from curling tongs, or other styling tools such as wands, hot rollers, blowdryers or flat irons—disturbs the interaction of these protein bonds, and thus restructures hair into the shape that it’s molded in, i.e. a curl (via a curling iron), volumized (via a round blowdrying brush) and so on. Unless hair is chemically processed with a “permanent” curling or straightening treatment (a.k.a. a “perm”), hot-tool curling is usually temporary and hair eventually reverts back to its original state when washed.

2. Good habits to keep in mind when curling.

Exposing your hair strands to heat can be damaging, and repeated exposure can result in dryness, damage and even breakage over time. To keep the integrity of your hair intact, it’s always advised to prep with a strengthening and conditioning wash and care system, followed with a thermal protectant. Curls are also best achieved with the use of an appropriate curling agent, such as curl-enhancing creams and leave-on conditioners that help detangle spirals, define your ringlets and generally protect hair from frizz.

3. Heat-protect sprays: not just an extra step.

It may seem like a tedious add-on, but thermal protectants, or “heat protect sprays,” are a crucial pre-styling product when using curling tongs. Check out the TRESemmé Thermal Creations Heat Tamer Spray that’s kind of like potholders for hair in how they protect your hands from singeing, heat protect sprays help coat hair with a layer of conditioning and protective agents that form a barrier on the strand, so as to shield it from damage from direct heat contact.

4. Frequency of use of curling tongs.

As with all heat-styling tools, hair curling tongs are best used in moderation. No amount of product can completely protect the strand 100 percent from direct contact with heat, so keep the mechanical curling to an as needed basis and perhaps not as an everyday option. Be responsible with the use of your curling tongs, and you’ll get to enjoy curly looks for longer and without damaging your strands.

Craving for curls but want less damage? Check out these heatless hairstyles you can do with other tools.

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