Not-So-Prissy Curling Iron Curls

Wednesday, March 2, 2011
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There are so many types of curling irons and so many ways to use them that when I received a request for a tutorial, I was overwhelmed with the possibilities. Consequently, I'm sure this is just the first of many curling iron how-tos. Big thanks to Jaime from Prudent Baby for the question.

Personally, I prefer messy texture over tight ringlets. Here is the easiest way to create loose, modern curls using a curling iron. Make sure that your hair is dry. It would be prudent for you to apply a heat protectant to your hair before you style it.

You will need:
• A curling iron (mine is 1" in diameter but if your hair is longer, feel free to use a bigger barrel)
• Clips
• Rattail comb (preferably carbon so that won’t melt)
• Hairspray

1. Start at the bottom. Section horizontally about 1 ½ inches from your nape and clip the rest of your hair out of the way.

2. Take a small vertical subsection (no wider than your iron and less if your hair is thick). Pull it straight out (remember your base control?), comb it and hit it with your hairspray or a pre-iron spray like Shu Uemura's Iron Design. Clamp the curling iron on the strand, leaving the ends out and begin to wind up the barrel of your iron like you are wrapping tape on a tennis racket.

3. When you get close to your head, place the comb between yourself and the iron to prevent burns. This is especially important around your ears. Wait until the wrapped hair feels hot.

4. To release, open the clamp a little and pull straight down to elongate the curl. Immediately run your fingers through it to loosen and separate. Clear as mud? Ok, ok - watch the painfully embarrassing video if you must.

5. Keep working up the head in this same manner. Try to alternate the direction you are wrapping the curls in.

6. Give it all a final spray.

7. Pose for a pic and send it to me at

My hair is still on the shorter side, especially in the back. I curled this mannequin really quickly in the same manner so you can see what it would look like on longer hair. Please forgive her; she’s never had a haircut so her ends are pretty tragic.

If you have trouble getting your curls to stay curly, your hair is probably healthy, clean, or both. So, that’s a good problem, right? Don’t be afraid of product. Get some in there before you blow dry and spray on a good, strong hairspray before and after you curl each strand. You don’t have to run your fingers through the curl right away to loosen it either since it will likely drop on its own.

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8 Responses

  1. OK, so I’ve been trying to do this for months now. I can finally see where I went wrong. Thank you so much! I’m gonna give this another shot tomorrow, but this time do it correctly. You mentioned “pre-iron spray.” Would you recommend this over hairspray for certain hair types? Mine tends to be staticy in the winter, so I’m wondering if one would be better over the other.

  2. Iron Design has heat protection in it. If your hair is damaged and you don’t have a heat protecting styling cream, a spray specifically made for heat styling tools is really helpful.

  3. what a great post! can you reco a few curling irons? i haven’t used one in years.
    i am totally going to try this – my hair is about the length of the mannequin. my hair has never taken curl well (falls right out), i’m sure it was the lack of product. any specific recos for thick, relatively straight hair, some natural wave?

  4. Yes! I will be doing a post on curling irons soon. As far as products go, I like Iron Design a lot. Another is S-Factor’s Heat Defender. Hairspray is also essential and right now I’m digging Loreal Professionel’s Infinium line.

  5. My hair takes curl pretty well, and I can’t ever seem to have it look nice and smooth but voluminous on top, with the wavy curls below. How did you get it to do that on your hair and the mannequin?

  6. Hi Tiffany! Thanks for your question. Did you watch the video? The link is in step number 4. It shows exactly how I created the curls. I did go closer to the scalp on the mannequin because her hair is longer and I knew that the weight of it would pull the curl down some.

  7. Watched the video and curled my hair and love it. Your instruction is spot on. Curled closer to my scalp to get a little more lift and now my hair looks fuller than it has ever looked.

  8. […] you a tighter curl. To create spiral curls, you will need to roll the hair vertically, as I do in this tutorial. However, to keep the curls tighter, do not pull the iron downward as you release the iron or break […]

  9. This is awesome! I’m so embarrassed that I am looking to buy my very first curling iron, and of course I turn to for help. I can’t believe I missed this tutorial the first time around, but thank you – so helpful!

    and love the shirt :)

    Jenny T
  10. […] That said, if you’re after tighter or more defined curls, you’ll get better results with a curling iron. This technique will create a loose, flowing wave with lots of volume and movement. The barrel of […]

  11. […] to each section before ironing. If you don’t have a triple barrel waver, you can use a curling iron or flat iron to create your […]

  12. […] curls doesn’t require a lot of time. I like to use a curling iron held vertically, as shown in this tutorial but you can use hot rollers, foam rollers, or any other technique you prefer. If you have curly […]

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