How to Curl Hair with a Curling Iron: A Step-by-Step Guide

Curls add volume and texture to your hair, making it look fuller and bouncier. But not everyone is blessed with naturally curly hair. That’s where curling irons come in handy. However, using a curling iron can be intimidating if you’ve never done it before. With so many types of curling irons and techniques to choose from, it’s easy to get overwhelmed and end up with a frizzy mess on your head. But fear not! In this article, we’ll guide you through the process of how to curl hair with a curling iron step by step. Whether you want beachy waves or tight curls, we’ve got you covered with tips on choosing the right curling iron, prepping your hair, perfecting your technique, and finishing touches. So, let’s get started and turn your straight locks into gorgeous curls!


Curly hair is one of the most sought after hairstyles but can be difficult to achieve without the proper techniques and tools. Enter the curling iron, a hairstyling tool that has been used for decades to create beautiful curls and waves. In this article, we will delve into the art of curling hair using a curling iron. We will explore the different types of curling irons available in the market and how to choose the right one based on your hair type. Additionally, we will provide you with tips on preparing your hair before curling and perfecting your technique to ensure long-lasting curls. By the end of this article, you’ll have the knowledge and confidence to create beautiful curls that will turn heads!

Choosing the Right Curling Iron

Barrel Size

When it comes to curling your hair with a curling iron, choosing the right barrel size is crucial for achieving the desired look. The diameter of the barrel will determine whether you end up with tight curls or loose waves.

For those who are looking for tight, defined curls, a smaller barrel size is the way to go. A barrel size of 1 inch or smaller will create tight, springy curls that hold their shape well. This is the perfect option for anyone looking to create a fun, retro vibe or a more structured hairstyle.

On the other hand, if you prefer loose, beachy waves, a larger barrel size is what you need. A barrel size of 1.5 inches or larger will give you loose, tousled waves that look effortless and natural. This is a great option for creating a laid-back summer look or adding some texture to long hair.

Of course, there is also the option of using different barrel sizes to create a more varied look. For example, you could use a small barrel size to create tighter curls around your face and a larger barrel size for looser waves throughout the rest of your hair.

Ultimately, the key is to experiment with different barrel sizes until you find the one that works best for your hair type and the look you’re trying to achieve. With a little bit of practice, you’ll be able to wield your curling iron like a pro and create any kind of curl or wave you desire.

Heat Settings

Heat Settings

When it comes to styling hair with a curling iron, the heat settings on the appliance are crucial. Not only do they determine the amount of heat applied to your hair, but they can also dictate the final look and health of your locks. Here’s what you need to know about setting the temperature right for different hair types:

Thick Hair

Thick hair can be difficult to style, especially if you’re using a curling iron that doesn’t get hot enough. If your curls aren’t holding or you’re spending too much time on each section, it might be because the heat setting isn’t high enough. For thick hair, aim for a temperature between 375°F – 425°F. This will ensure that the heat adequately penetrates the hair shaft, creating long-lasting curls.

Fine Hair

Fine hair is more delicate and prone to damage, so you’ll want to be careful when setting the heat on your curling iron. High temperatures can cause breakage and split ends, so it’s important to keep the heat low. Try sticking to temperatures between 250°F – 325°F. This will create gentle waves without causing unnecessary harm to your fine strands.

Damaged Hair

If your hair is already damaged or prone to breakage, you should avoid high-heat styling altogether. Instead, opt for a lower temperature range, around 200°F – 275°F. You might not get the same tight curls as with higher temperatures, but you’ll be doing your hair a favor in the long run. Additionally, always use a heat protectant spray or serum before styling to minimize damage and promote healthier-looking hair.

By understanding how to set the heat appropriately based on your hair type, you can achieve salon-worthy curls while keeping your tresses healthy and happy. Remember to always take precautions to prevent burns or other injuries, such as wearing heat-resistant gloves and unplugging your curling iron when not in use.

Curl Type

Curl Type

When it comes to curling your hair, one of the first things you need to consider is the type of curl you want to create. Two popular types of curls are beachy waves and spiral curls, each with its own unique look and technique.

Beachy Waves

Beachy waves are a popular choice for those looking for a relaxed, effortless style. To achieve beachy waves, start by choosing a larger barrel size (around 1.5 inches) and holding the curling iron vertically. Take small sections of hair and wrap them around the barrel, leaving the ends out for a more natural look. Alternate the direction of the curls, wrapping some towards your face and others away from your face, to create a tousled effect. Once all the hair has been curled, run your fingers through the curls to loosen them up and create texture. Finish with a texturizing spray for added volume and hold.

Spiral Curls

Spiral curls, on the other hand, are tighter and more defined than beachy waves. To achieve spiral curls, use a smaller barrel size (around 1 inch) and hold the curling iron horizontally. Take small sections of hair and wrap them tightly around the barrel, starting at the root and twisting as you go down. Hold the hair on the barrel for a few seconds before releasing. Repeat this process all over the head, making sure to curl in the same direction for a uniform look. Once all the hair has been curled, apply a setting spray and let the curls cool completely before gently separating them with your fingers for added volume.

By understanding the differences between beachy waves and spiral curls, you can choose the right curl type to suit your individual style and preferences. Play around with different techniques and products to find what works best for you.

Prepping Your Hair for Curling

Clean Hair

Clean Hair

Having clean hair is the foundation of any good hair styling routine, especially when it comes to curling your hair with a curling iron. Dirty hair can weigh down your curls and prevent them from lasting throughout the day. However, you don’t want to wash your hair too often as that can strip the natural oils from your scalp and cause damage to your hair.

So, what’s the solution? Enter dry shampoo.

Dry shampoo is a lifesaver when it comes to extending the life of your hairstyle. It absorbs excess oils from your scalp, giving your hair a fresh, clean look without having to wash it every day. Simply spray the dry shampoo onto your roots, let it sit for a few minutes, then brush it out. Not only will it make your hair look clean, but it will also add volume and texture which will help hold your curls in place.

But what if you need to style your hair on freshly washed hair? That’s where styling products come in. Using a volumizing mousse or texturizing spray on wet hair can help create the right amount of grip and texture to hold your curls in place as they cool down. And don’t forget to use a heat protectant spray to protect your hair from the damaging effects of the curling iron.

In summary, keeping your hair clean is key to getting long-lasting curls. But washing your hair too often can do more harm than good. Instead, use dry shampoo to extend the life of your style and styling products to create the perfect foundation for your curls.

Heat Protectant

Heat Protectant

When it comes to using heat styling tools like curling irons, straighteners, and blow dryers, it’s important to protect your hair from damage. This is where a heat protectant comes in.

Heat protectants are specially formulated products that help shield your hair from the high temperatures of styling tools. They come in different forms like sprays and serums, but their purpose remains the same: to prevent breakage, split ends, and other types of heat-induced damage.

Sprays are perhaps the most popular form of heat protectant. They create a fine mist that coats your hair evenly and provides a barrier between your strands and the heat. Serums, on the other hand, are thicker and more concentrated. They usually contain oils or silicones that help smooth the hair shaft and make it less susceptible to damage.

To use a heat protectant spray, simply hold the bottle about 6 inches away from your hair and spritz it all over before styling. Make sure to focus on the ends of your hair, which tend to be the most fragile. If you’re using a serum, apply a small amount to your palms and run it through your hair, paying extra attention to the ends.

It’s important to note that heat protectants aren’t foolproof. While they can help minimize damage, they won’t completely eliminate it. That’s why it’s always a good idea to use the lowest possible heat setting on your styling tools and to limit your use of them as much as possible.

Overall, a good heat protectant is a must-have for anyone who regularly uses heat styling tools. By adding this simple step to your routine, you can keep your hair looking healthy and beautiful even with frequent styling.



To achieve the perfect curls with a curling iron, it is important to section your hair properly. This not only makes the process easier but also ensures that every strand is curled evenly. Here are some tips on how to section your hair for curling:

Using Clips

Clips are an essential tool in sectioning your hair. They help you keep the uncurled hair out of the way while you work on each section. To use clips, start by dividing your hair into manageable sections based on thickness – thicker sections will require more time and heat to curl. Then, take one section at a time and clip the remaining hair on top of your head. This will prevent any tangles and make sure the hair doesn’t get in the way of your curling.


Brushing your hair before sectioning can help you create smoother curls. It removes any tangles or knots, making it easier to divide your hair into sections. Start by brushing your hair from root to tip to ensure that all the strands are smooth. You can also use a comb to create precise sections.

Once you have divided your hair into sections, you can start curling. Remember to start from the bottom layers and work your way up to the top layers to ensure that your curls remain intact. With the right technique and tools, you can achieve beautiful curls that last all day long.

The Technique of Curling Hair

Wrapping Method

Wrapping Method

When it comes to achieving the perfect curls with a curling iron, the wrapping method is key. This technique can completely change the direction of your curls, giving you the look that you desire. There are typically two ways to wrap your hair around the curling iron: towards your face or away from your face.

Towards Your Face

Wrapping your hair towards your face with a curling iron can give you a vintage-inspired look. This wrapping method creates curls that frame your face and add dimension to your hair. To achieve this style, start by sectioning your hair and then take one-inch sections at a time. Hold the curling iron vertically and wrap your hair around the barrel in a downward motion. Make sure to hold the ends of your hair tightly as you wrap it around the barrel. Leave the hair on the iron for a few seconds and then release the curl. Repeat this process until all your hair is curled.

Away From Your Face

If you want to create a modern and natural-looking style, then wrapping your hair away from your face is for you. This wrapping method opens up your face and gives you a more voluminous look. Start by taking one-inch sections of hair and hold the curling iron horizontally. Take the section of hair and wrap it around the barrel, starting at the top and working your way down. Make sure to hold the ends of your hair tightly as you wrap it around the barrel. Leave the hair on the iron for a few seconds and then release the curl. Repeat this process until all your hair is curled.

Both wrapping methods can give you beautiful curls; it just depends on the look you want to achieve. Experiment with both techniques and see which one works best for you. Remember to always use heat protectant and take breaks in between styling to avoid damaging your hair. With these tips, you’ll be able to create stunning curls with your curling iron in no time!

Cooling Time

Cooling Time

After curling your hair with a curling iron, it’s essential to let the curls cool down before touching them. The cooling time is vital because it allows the hair to set and hold its shape for a longer period of time. In this section, we’ll discuss the importance of cooling time and how to determine the right time frame.

Setting Spray

To help hold the curl in place during the cooling process, you can use a setting spray. This will also provide added protection against humidity and prevent frizz. When using a setting spray, make sure to hold the bottle at least six inches away from your hair and apply evenly throughout. Be careful not to overspray, as this can weigh down your hair and make it look greasy.

Time Frame

The amount of time you should wait for your hair to cool down depends on multiple factors, such as your hair type, thickness, and the size of the barrel used for curling. Generally, it’s recommended to wait at least 10-15 minutes before touching your hair. However, thicker hair may require more time to cool down, while fine hair may need less.

It’s essential to remember that the tighter the curl, the longer it takes to cool. For example, if you’re going for tight spiral curls, you might need to wait up to half an hour before brushing or running your fingers through your hair. On the other hand, if you want loose beachy waves, you might only need to wait five minutes.


Cooling time is an essential step in curling your hair with a curling iron. It allows the hair to set and hold the shape for a longer period, preventing the curls from falling out too soon. You can use setting spray to help hold the curls in place while they cool down, and wait anywhere from 5-30 minutes depending on your hair type and desired curl. By following this step, you can achieve beautiful, long-lasting curls that will make heads turn.



The direction in which you curl your hair can make all the difference in achieving the desired look. There are two main directions to consider – alternating directions or curling in the same direction. Each technique can create a different style of curl.

Alternating Directions

Curling your hair in alternating directions, also known as the “wrap and twist” method, involves wrapping sections of hair around the curling iron in alternate directions. This creates a more natural-looking curl pattern and adds volume to the hair.

To use this technique, take a small section of hair and wrap it around the curling iron towards your face. Then, take the next section of hair and wrap it away from your face. Repeat this pattern throughout your hair for a tousled, beachy look.

Same Direction

Curling your hair in the same direction creates a more uniform, polished look. This technique is often used to achieve tight, spiral curls.

To use this technique, take a small section of hair and wrap it around the curling iron in the same direction each time. Be sure to hold the hair in place until it’s fully heated through before releasing it from the iron.

Both techniques have their advantages and can be used to achieve a variety of curl styles. Experiment with different techniques to find what works best for you and your hair type. Remember to always use heat protectant products and to allow your curls to cool completely before brushing them out for a long-lasting hairstyle.

Finishing Touches



When it comes to achieving long-lasting curls, hairspray is an essential tool in your hairstyling kit. Not only does it help hold the shape of your curls, but it also adds volume and texture to your hair. However, not all hairsprays are created equal, and choosing the right one can make all the difference in the final result.

One factor to consider when selecting a hairspray is its hold strength. If you have thick or heavy hair, you may need a stronger hold to keep your curls intact throughout the day. On the other hand, if you have fine or thin hair, a lighter hold may be more suitable to avoid weighing down your hair and creating stiffness.

Another important consideration is avoiding stiffness. While you want your curls to stay in place, you don’t want them to feel crunchy or stiff to the touch. Look for hairsprays that offer a flexible hold and allow your hair to move naturally while still maintaining its shape.

It’s also crucial to apply hairspray correctly. Hold the can about 10-12 inches away from your head and spray evenly over your curls. Avoid spraying too much in any one area, as this can lead to buildup and stiffness.

Some hairsprays also offer added benefits such as UV protection and humidity resistance. These can be beneficial if you live in a humid climate or spend a lot of time outdoors.

In summary, choosing the right hairspray can have a significant impact on the longevity and quality of your curls. Consider factors such as hold strength and avoiding stiffness, and remember to apply hairspray evenly for the best results. With the right hairspray and technique, you can achieve beautiful, long-lasting curls without sacrificing flexibility or natural movement.

Texturizing Spray

Texturizing spray is a hairstyling product that is often used to create a beachy look and add volume to the hair. It is a perfect solution for those who want to achieve effortless, tousled waves without having to spend hours at the beach.

One of the biggest benefits of using texturizing spray is that it can add volume to flat, lifeless hair. This is especially useful for those with thin or fine hair who struggle to create full-bodied hairstyles. By adding texture to the hair, the spray helps to create the appearance of more volume and thickness.

In addition to adding volume, texturizing spray can also be used to create a beachy look. The salt in the spray helps to create texture and enhance natural waves in the hair, giving it a tousled, carefree appearance. This style is particularly popular during the summer months when many people are looking for a low-maintenance hairstyle that still looks chic.

To use texturizing spray, start by spraying it onto damp hair and scrunching it with your hands. Allow your hair to air dry or use a diffuser to speed up the drying process. Once your hair is dry, you can use your fingers to tousle it and create the desired texture.

It’s important to note that while texturizing spray can be a great styling tool, it can also be damaging to the hair if used too frequently. The salt in the spray can dry out the hair and strip it of its natural oils, so it’s best to use it sparingly and only when necessary.

Overall, texturizing spray is a versatile and useful hairstyling product that can help you achieve a variety of looks, from beachy waves to voluminous curls. Just be sure to use it responsibly and take good care of your hair to avoid any damage or breakage.

Brushing Out Curls

When it comes to curling your hair, achieving the perfect look takes more than just using a curling iron. After you’ve finished curling, it’s time to move on to the next step: brushing out your curls.

Brushing out your curls serves two important purposes: softening them and creating a natural look. But how exactly do you brush out your curls without undoing all of your hard work? Here are some tips to help you achieve the best results:

  • Start by letting your curls cool down completely. This will help set them in place and prevent them from falling apart when you brush them out.
  • Use a comb or your fingers to gently loosen up your curls before brushing them out. This will help prevent tangles and breakage.
  • Choose the right type of brush for your curls. For tighter curls, use a wide-toothed comb or a paddle brush. For looser waves, use a round brush.
  • Begin brushing out your curls from the bottom up. This will prevent your hair from getting tangled and make it easier to detangle any knots as you go along.
  • Don’t be afraid to apply some hairspray or texturizing spray as you brush out your curls. This will help give your hair some extra hold and volume.
  • Use a light touch when brushing out your curls. The goal is to soften them and create a natural look, not to completely straighten them out or create frizz.
  • Take your time and be patient. Brushing out your curls can be a tedious process, but it’s important to take your time and avoid rushing through it.

By following these tips, you can easily brush out your curls and achieve a natural, soft look that will last all day. So go ahead and give it a try – your hair will thank you for it!



By following the hairstyling tips and curling iron techniques outlined in this guide, you can achieve a beautiful curly hairstyle that will turn heads. However, it’s important to remember that maintaining your curls requires ongoing effort. Here are some additional curly hair maintenance tips to keep in mind:

  • Use a sulfate-free shampoo and conditioner to avoid stripping your hair of its natural oils.
  • Apply a deep conditioning treatment once a week to keep your curls healthy and hydrated.
  • Avoid using heat styling tools too frequently, as excessive heat can damage your hair and cause frizz.
  • Protect your curls at night by sleeping on a silk or satin pillowcase, or wearing a satin bonnet.
  • Refresh your curls between washes with a leave-in conditioner or curl refreshing spray.

Remember, every curly haired individual is unique, and what works for one person may not work for another. Experiment with different products and techniques to find what works best for you and your curls. With practice and patience, you can master the art of curling your hair with a curling iron and enjoy gorgeous, bouncy curls every day.
Curling your hair with a curling iron can seem daunting, but with the right tools, techniques, and preparation, it can be a fun and easy way to switch up your hairstyle. By choosing the right barrel size and heat settings for your hair type, prepping your hair properly, and perfecting your technique, you can achieve beautiful curls or waves that last all day. Remember to finish off your style with hairspray, texturizing spray, or by brushing out your curls for a more natural look. With these tips in mind, you’ll be ready to tackle curling your hair like a pro. So go ahead and give it a try, and enjoy the confidence boost that comes with mastering a new hairstyling skill!

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