How to Curl Your Hair With Curling Irons for Beginners

The Background of the Curling Iron

It’s widely believed that curling irons, in one form or another, have been used as a popular method for creating curls and wavy hair from as far back in history as the Egyptian period. Before the dawn of electricity, they were actually heated in front of an open fire.

Although the original inventor isn’t known, we do know an improved design was first patented in the 19th Century, by an inventor called Hiram Maxim. Just a few years later, in 1890, Marcel Grateau developed his own version of Maxim’s design where they proved extremely popular in his hairdressing salon in France.

Despite the fact that the temperature couldn’t be regulated, often allowing them to become too hot to hold and sometimes burn the hair, it didn’t stop the creation of the famous ‘Marcel Wave’! Luckily for us, due to modern technology, today’s curling irons are now much easier, faster and more importantly, safer to use!

Nowadays, there are many types of curling irons in different shapes, sizes and materials which allow the consumer to create their own style of haircut at home and produce a variety of curly or straighten their hair as they please with the minimum amount of fuss so they no longer need to rely on visiting a stylist in a salon you get their preferred hairstyle.

Many curling irons have clips and come with a specially made heat resistant glove to ensure you don’t burn yourself while using, making them very user-friendly.

How to Use a Curling Iron

Right, so you studied the different types of curling irons that are best suited to your hair and you know the types of curls you want to achieve. You’ve now bought your new curling iron, and haven’t yet plugged it in or switched it on.

You have spent a bit of time getting to know your curling iron by winding your hair in and around it and getting used to holding it close to your scalp and face without actually touching them, so that you can handle your curling iron in a safe manner, without burning yourself when you do start using it for real! If you can answer yes to all the above, then it’s definitely time to start practising those curls now!

Pre Curl Steps

Your hair should be clean, dry and brushed or combed so it is tangle-free.

Spray a volume and hold the type of heat protectant through your hair. A volume and hold protectant is ideal to use, as not only will it protect your hair from becoming dry and damaged, but it will also help your curls stay in place for longer, so it’s a win-win for your hair care and your hairstyle.

Spray hair with hairspray

Clip the top section of your hair up on top of your head. Divide your remaining hair into thin sections for small or tight curls and into thicker sections for bigger, looser, curls.

Your next step is to test a small section of hair to ensure you are using the correct temperature to suit your hair type and prevent damaging your hair. To do the test, it is advised to try and gauge this by starting with the setting on a lower temperature, so you can see the effect yourself and then adjust the temperature accordingly, until it is at the correct setting for your hair type.

As a rule of thumb, lower temperatures are usually best for fine or damaged hair, medium temperatures work well for normal hair that curls easily and the higher temperatures are only needed for hair that is very thick and difficult to curl. Always refer to the manufacturer’s instructions for the temperature guidelines for your curling iron.

Ready to Curl

You’ve followed the Pre-Curl Steps, so that means your hair’s clean and dry, it’s tangle-free AND it’s been sprayed with your chosen heat protectant! Your curling irons are heated on the correct temperature for your hair type and you’re currently sporting a slightly odd looking half ‘up do’for the top part of your hair, with the lower half of your hair divided into thin or thick sections!


Creating Curls Using a Clipped Curling Iron

Starting with the bottom part of your hair, you will curl one section at a time. (When the lower hair is completed, release some of the clipped up hair, dividing it into your chosen thin sections (for tight curls), or thick sections (for larger curls), and continue curling.) Continue to section hair as needed.

Position the curling iron in a horizontal position if you want smaller, tighter, curls or a vertical position for larger, looser curls.

Take a section of hair and place the ends of the hair over the barrel with the clamp pressed open.

When you close the clamp, make sure that the ends extend slightly over the clamp, then holding on to the safety tip with your other hand, start to wrap your hair.

Keep the section of hair taut and carefully wrap it in a spiral around the hot barrel.

Wind the curl toward the scalp as far as you wish to go, making sure your scalp doesn’t come into contact with the hot barrel.

Keep the hair wrapped around the barrel until the hair that is close to your scalp is heated. This can take anything from just a few seconds up to around 20 seconds, depending on the curling iron, your hair, and the type of curl you want to achieve.

When you are ready to release the curl, slightly unwind the barrel and push down on the clamp to release the lever.

Carefully remove the barrel from the curl so the curl slides onto the palm of your hand. Allow it to cool before gently releasing it.

Continue with one section at a time until completely finished and all curls have cooled.

Carefully brush or comb your hair, or style with fingers if you prefer. Spray with hairspray. Ensure curling iron is on a safety mat or in a safety holder when not being held.

Curls using a curling iron with no clips

Ensure curling iron is at the correct temperature.

Place your heat protective glove onto the hand you will use to wrap your hair around the curling iron.

You will start with the bottom sections of your hair, curling one section at a time, continuing to section hair as needed, until all hair is curled. (Remember to divide hair into thin sections for tighter curls or thicker sections for looser curls.)

Position the curling iron in a horizontal position for smaller, tighter, curls or a vertical position for larger, looser, curls.

Doing one section at a time, use your gloved hand to take a section of hair and wrap it around the curling iron, ensuring you wrap the ends of the hair last. (For extra lift or volume, begin by wrapping hair over the widest part of the curler.)

Use your fingertips on your gloved hand to keep the ends of the hair wrapped securely around the curling iron.

Hold until the hair close to your scalp is heated, (this will happen quickly, and take anything from a few seconds to approximately twenty seconds), then gently unwind to release the hair. Let the hair slide from the curling iron onto your hand and allow it to cool before gently releasing.

Repeat until all sections of hair are curled

Gently brush or comb hair or style with your fingers when all curls have cooled. Spray with hairspray.

Ensure curling iron is on a safety mat or in a safety holder when not being held.


Taking care of your curling iron is easy. Make sure your curling iron is unplugged and cooled down safely using its stand or safety mat if it has recently been used.

Use a damp cloth to wipe the handle and barrel of the curling iron.

Related Questions

What does it mean to curl away from your face?

Curling your hair away from your face will result in more volume to your hair and a more natural look. It can be easily achieved by winding your hair down and around the curling iron as you curl away from your face.

Does curling your hair work when it’s in a ponytail?

Yes, it does. Simply put, your hair in a high ponytail before using your heat protectant spray on your hair. Curl one-inch sections of your hair, starting from as close to the hair fastener as safely possible.

Make sure all the curls are cool before shaking your hair and removing the hair fastener.

How do you make curls last longer without hairspray?

You can help your curls last longer by applying styling products to your hair. Applying mousse to your damp hair after washing and prior to drying can be helpful. When curling your hair, hold each curl up in the place by popping a bobby grip or clip in the curl. When all hair is curled, carefully remove the bobby grips.

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