How to Use a Curling Iron on Very Short Hair

Curling short hair can be challenging, because you may not be able to handle the length. Maybe you want to curl your hair for a special event or just to change your hairstyle for a day. Before you do that, make sure you prepare your hair with a styling spray, heat shield and a good brush. You also need to use a curling iron or straightener to curl it. If you don't have styling tools, hairpins, pencils and pens will work just as well.

In this article, I will show you three different methods to easily curl your short hair. I will also include different options of tools and products to make the process even more comfortable for you.

How to Prepare your Hair Before Curling?

Apply a texture spray to your dry hair to give it more volume and body. With this product, your short hair will be able to hold curls longer.

Apply a heat protective gel or spray and let it dry. If you have thin hair, you should use a heat protection spray, as the spray tends to give you more volume. If you have thick hair, opt for a heat protection gel. You should apply this product all over your hair to make sure it stays shiny and damage-free after curling. Leave the protector on for 1 to 2 minutes to dry

Brush or comb your hair. Gently run either a good brush or a good comb through your hair. You should brush or comb from roots to ends so that you can help distribute the heat shield and make sure your hair is knotless. If your hair is thin and you want it to have more volume, you can use a round brush to comb it.

Pick up the top layer of your hair. Take hair from each side of your head just above your ears and pick it up with a hair clip. This will make it easier to curl the bottom layer of your hair. If your hair is very short, there may not be a large top layer that you can pick up. If so, skip this step.

Which Tool ​Should you Use to Curl your Short Hair?


Get a curling iron that measures 0.5 inches. This way, you'll make sure the wand is big enough to create curls in your short hair, but not too big for it. You can get a curler either at your local beauty products store or online.


Use a straightener of about 1.25 inches. The process will be slightly harder, but if you don’t curl your hair often, a straightener might be more convenient.


These can be pens, pencils or even mascara tubes. Get a tubular object wide enough for your hair to wrap around twice. This way, you'll get defined curls.

What to Do Once Your Hair is Prepared and you have Picked your Method?

The steps to curl your short hair are the same for the first two methods. It takes more time for the third method, but the final result will be the same: You’ll end up with natural looking, beautiful and well-defined curls!

Curling Iron and/or Straightener

  1. ​Take 0.75 to 1-inch of hair from behind your ear. Hold the curling iron in your dominant hand.  If your hair is very short, you may only be able to hold less than 1 inch of hair at a time, so as far as you can, try to take a small amount from the front of your hair.
  2. Wrap the hair one to two and a half times around the wand in the opposite direction of your face. Carefully wrap the hair tightly around the wand about 0.5 inches from the roots. If your hair is very short, you may only be able to wrap it once around the wand. To form a C curl, you must wrap the hair at least one-and-a-half times around the wand. To create an S curl, you must wrap the hair two and a half times.
  3. ​Hold the hair for 30 seconds around the wand if your hair is medium to thick. If your hair is not treated, set the temperature to between 370° to 400 °. If your hair is colored, the temperature you use should not exceed 390°. If your hair is thin or doubly treated, you should use a lower temperature of between 350° to 370 °. If your hair is fragile, you can leave it around the wand for 10 to 15 seconds. To give your hair enough time to curl around the wand, you can count out loud. You can also use a timer to be sure to hold your hair in the curler long enough.
  4. After your hair has been around the wand for 30 seconds, you can slowly release it and remove the wand. Hold it in the palm of your hand during 3-5 seconds for the curl to settle.
  5. ​Alternate with the curling direction of your hair. If you have curled one strand in the opposite direction of your face, try curling the next strand in the direction of your face. If you alternate the curling direction, your hair will have more volume. Be careful to curl the same amount of hair, as well as alternating the direction throughout your hair for an even look.
  6. To continue curling your hair, take 0.75 to 1-inch of hair at a time and work from the front all the way through to the other side. Try to make the curls the same size and shape.
  7. ​Repeat the same steps for the top layer of your hair. Loosen the hair you've picked up and curl the top layer by working with 0.75 to 1-inch strands of hair at a time. Be careful to grab and hold curly hair, so the curls stay in place. When curling very short strands of hair in the front, you should take your time. Wrap them once around the wand and be careful not to burn your fingers. If your hair has very short strands on the top layer, you can wrap them once around the wand and curl them up. This way, you'll give the top layer more volume. However, some people find this "bubble" look old-fashioned.
  8. ​Let your hair cool for 1 to 2 minutes. After curling all your hair, let the curls rest and cool. Avoid touching or moving them to help them settle.

Hairpins and Tubular Objects

  1. Start with wet or damp hair. This is an excellent method for when you just got out of the shower and still have wet hair. You can also use a spray bottle full of water to moisten your hair, as it will be easier to hold the curls.
  2. ​Use a tubular object around which you can wrap your hair twice. To test the object, you can take a lock of your hair and try to wrap it around it. If you can wrap the lock twice around the object, you can use it for this method. You can also use objects of different widths (for example, a thin ballpoint pen and a wide mascara tube). This way, you'll have a little variety and can use the smallest object to curl the shortest locks.
  3. ​Wrap a 0.75 to a 1-inch strand of hair twice around the object. Take a lock of hair between your fingers. Then take the object with the other hand and place it on top of the lock. Wrap your hair around the object twice in the direction opposite of your face. Continue wrapping until the object is just above the roots. If your hair is very short, you will only be able to work with a few inches. Try to take enough of a lock of hair to wrap it at least once around the object. If you wrap the hair backward, in the opposite direction of your face, this will give it more volume.
  4. ​With your fingers, gently slide the object away from the wrapped hair. It should come out relatively quickly. When removing the object, you must keep the hair wrapped with the other hand in place, so it doesn’t unwrap.
  5. Hold the curly hair in place with one hand and secure it with hairpins with the other hand. To keep it in place, insert 1 or 2 curling hooks through it.
  6. Keep curling the rest of your hair. Curl another strand following the same steps. If this lock is shorter, you can curl it using the smallest object. Make sure your hair can be wrapped around it at least once. If you want your hair to have more natural looking curls, you can alternate the curling direction of the locks.
  7. Curl your bangs or the smallest strands in the front using your thumb and index finger. If you have a short fringe and you want to curl it or you have very short locks of hair on the front, use the thinnest object you have at hand. Hold a lock of hair in one hand and then place the object on the end of your hair. Use your thumb and index finger to hold the object in place as you roll your hair down. Then, remove the object and hold the curly lock in place.
  8. After curling all your hair and securing the curls with hairpins, wrap a silk scarf around your hair and tie it to the back of your head. This way, your curls will be covered. With the scarf, you'll prevent your hair from frizzing as it dries.
  9. Let your hair settle for 2-4 hours or overnight. Since this method does not use any heat, you should allow time for the hair to settle naturally. You can let it dry for several hours under the scarf or sleep with it to allow your hair to dry during the night.
  10. After letting the curls settle, carefully remove the hairpins, one by one.

What to Do After you Curl Your Hair?

Make a little fuss over the curls with your hands. Once the curly hair has cooled, take the locks of your hair in your hands, lift them up and then shake them. You can also throw the front of your hair to one side and run your hands through your hair. 

That way, the curls will look more untidy and natural. To do this without ruining them, it's best to slide your hands up towards the roots and massage the scalp. Don't use a brush or comb, this could undo the curls.

To set the curls on your short hair, apply hairspray all over your head. Only a small amount of hairspray should be used. This way, your curls won't become too stiff or brittle when drying. If you prefer to let your hair look more untidy and natural throughout the day, you can omit the application of hairspray.

Related Questions

How can I protect my hair from the heat of hair dryers and ironing?

Before you start using your iron, it's important to keep in mind that your hair must be completely dry. The heat of straightening irons on wet or damp hair damages the structure of the hair fibers and their cuticles in the long term.

How can I curl my hair naturally?

A very common natural method is to use homemade foam and a dryer. To make the foam you'll need 2 cups of water and 1 cup of flaxseed. To prepare it, boil the flaxseed in the water for a few seconds, then let the mixture rest for 10 minutes and strain it. Use that viscous liquid as if it were a commercial curling product.

Are curling wands better than curling irons?

It really depends on the use you are going to give it. If you don’t curl your hair too often, I would recommend getting an iron instead of a wand.

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