Creating voluminous, shiny, curly hair is the easiest way to glam up your look, no question about it. But if you weren't blessed with naturally curly hair, it can be a bit of a gamble to try to bring curls to life with a curling iron or wand. To take the guesswork out of how to use a curling iron and make the overall styling process easier, we’ve put together tutorials on how to curl your hair with both curling irons and wands, including automatic curling irons. Trust us: With the right tool and styling products (like hair mousse, heat protectant, and hair spray), you’ll be able to confidently curl your hair in no time. Here are step-by-step instructions on how to use a curling iron, curling wand, and automatic curling iron.
Step 1: Select Your Tool
Before buying your curling tool of choice, take a few things into consideration. For starters, determine if you prefer a curling iron with a clamp or a wand. A curling iron with a clamp, as you can probably guess, features a clamp that helps hold your hair in place as you curl. A wand curling iron has no clamp. Instead, you wrap your hair around the barrel and hold it in place while the curl forms. Your choice is all based on personal preference and which you find easier to use.
Next, think about how curly you want your hair to be. If you’re looking to create tightly wound coils, you’ll want to choose a barrel size of ¾-inch or less. If big, bouncy beachy waves are more your jam, pick up a curling iron with a barrel size of one-inch or more.
As far as types of curling tools go, ceramic and tourmaline ones are always a good bet, as they can help minimize the look of frizz. Then, there’s also the manual labor aspect—if winding your hair around your curling iron barrel doesn’t sound ideal, an automatic curling iron may be just what you need.
Step 2: Start Your Look With Freshly Washed Hair
To get the most out of your perfectly curled look, it’s a good idea to start off with clean hair. Hop in the shower and use a system of shampoo and conditioner formulated to manage the appearance of frizz, like the L’Oréal Paris EverPure Frizz-Defy Shampoo and the L’Oréal Paris EverPure Frizz-Defy Conditioner. Follow up by applying a hair mousse, like the L’Oréal Paris Advanced Hairstyle CURVE IT Elastic Curl Mousse, to wet hair to help add some volume.
Step 3: Blow-Dry Your Hair
Once your hair is about halfway air-dried, blow-dry it the rest of the way using a boar bristle brush until it’s completely dry. Make sure to apply a heat protectant, like the L’Oréal Paris Advanced Hairstyle BLOW DRY IT Thermal Smoother Cream, first.
Step 4: Test Your Curling Iron’s Heat
Now that you’ve blow-dried your hair, it’s time to get to work with that curling iron or wand. First, find the proper heat setting for your hair. Typically, it’s a good idea to test out the lowest heat setting possible to see what type of curl it creates. From there, you can adjust the heat as needed before you start.
Step 5: Section Your Hair
Once you’re done heating up your curling iron, divide your hair into two or three horizontally-stacked layers depending on how thick your hair is (fewer to curl fine hair and more to style thick hair). Use a lobster clip to hold the topmost layers out of the way while you start curling the bottom section. You want to curl your entire head of hair—not just the top layers—because the more curls you create, the fuller your hair will look.
Step 6: Curl Your Hair
Now it’s time to reach for your curling weapon of choice. The process will depend on which one you chose (more on that in a sec).
Step 7: Shake Out Your Curls
Once you’ve finished curling your whole head of hair, flip it over and give it a good shake to loosen up your look for a more natural-looking finish.
Step 8: Set Your Curls
If needed, lightly mist your hair with a hair spray, like the L’Oréal Paris Elnett Precious Oil Satin Hairspray to keep your curls intact.
How To Use a Curling Iron, Curling Wand, and Automatic Curling Iron
Now that you know the tenets of using curling tools, allow us to explain how to use each one, based on your pick!
How To Use a Curling Iron With a Clamp
If you’re using a traditional curling iron, here’s what to do.
1. Grab a section of hair. Create a section of hair to curl. The smaller the section, the tighter the curl. The larger the section, the looser the curl.
2. Position your curling iron. Open the clamp of your iron, then place it toward the root of your section of hair, with the hair placed between the open clamp and the iron. Be careful not to burn yourself.
3. Close and slide. Lightly close the clamp, then slide it down the section of hair until it’s at the very end. Close the clamp fully.
4. Twist, twist, twist. Twist your curling iron up toward your roots, wrapping the length of the section around it in the process. Wait about 10 to 15 seconds for your hair to heat up.
5. Open the clamp and release. Gently open the clamp and pull the curling iron from your hair, allowing the curl you just created to hang freely. Not too hard, right?
How To Use a Curling Wand
If you’ve decided to use a curling wand instead, here’s how.
1. Section your hair. Like with a curling iron, you’ll want to start by splitting off a section of hair to curl. Remember, smaller sections create tighter curls while larger sections create looser curls.
2. Position your wand. Hold the wand in the hand that’s opposite the side of hair you’re curling. Then, place it so the base of it is near the root of your section of hair with the barrel pointing downward.
3. Wrap around. Using your other hand, wrap the length of your section of hair around the barrel, working your way down so that your ends are wrapped around the smallest part of your wand.
4. Wait and release. Let your hair heat up for around 10 to 15 seconds, then unwrap your hair and pull the wand away to reveal a beautiful, bouncy curl.
Editor’s tip: If you prefer a more natural look, curl your hair away from your face. To do so, wind your hair down and around your curling wand in a clockwise direction on the right and counterclockwise direction on the left.
How To Use An Automatic Curling Iron
Automatic curling irons are bound to be your best friend—they do all the legwork for you! For a step-by-step guide, check out our article, Calling All Lazy Girls—The Automatic Curling Iron Is Your Dream Come True.
For more hair-curling tips, here’s How To Curl Your Hair With a Flat Iron.