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How to Curl Your Hair, According to a Pro Hairstylist


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Not knowing how to curl your hair is like not knowing how to play spades: extremely embarrassing to say out loud. Still, a growing subset of people on TikTok bravely admit that they aren’t that well-versed in working with a traditional clamp curling iron, nor do they know how to curl their hair at all. And we’re here to say that you’re not alone.

“There are many different ways to curl your hair,” Jerome Lordet, hairstylist and owner of his eponymous salon, tells PS. “It all depends on the kind of curls you’re going for in terms of tightness, size, and definition, as well as your hair’s length, thickness, and natural texture.”

Still, there are a few universal basics to understand when it comes to curling your hair. So ahead, Lordet explains everything you need to know from how best to hold a curling iron to how to curl hair with a straightener.

How to Curl Hair Using a Curling Iron

The most important part of any curling tool is not actually the clamp but the barrel size. “For a more undone, natural look, a larger barrel will create a loose curl that works for every day,” Lordet says. “Typically, an iron with a 1.25 or 1.5-inch barrel will achieve this look.” The Hot Tools Pro Curling Iron ($35) is one of his favorites. Still, swap your barrels if you want tighter spirals or a more flowy look. “For the former, you’ll need a smaller, thinner barrel, as well as to work with smaller sections of hair,” he says. “For the latter, do the opposite.”

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Regardless of the barrel size, the direction you curl your hair also matters. No matter what look you’re going for, it’s always recommended to curl away from your face. This means the clamp is usually positioned at the front of the barrel. “For face-framing curls, you’ll usually want to go this direction,” Lordet says. This technique is typically a pretty safe one to do because the result usually ends up highlighting your face as the center of attention by adding a bit of volume differentiation, meaning your hair isn’t hiding any of your features but enhancing them.

How to Curl Hair With a Straightener

Another complicated feat is trying to master how to curl your hair with a straightener. Even though it looks hard to do, we promise it’s not. “With a flat iron, you can place a strand of hair between the plates, flip your wrist to wrap the piece around it once, and pull down,” Lordet says. “It’s almost like you’re curling a ribbon.”

Additionally, you can also use a flat iron to create that ’90s zig-zag wave pattern by bending the hair towards and away from your face. Think of the movement as flicking your wrist halfway in each direction as you go down the section of hair.
Ideally, having a straightener with curved edges will make this process a lot smoother. The GHD Chronos Flat Iron ($329) is editor-approved and would be perfect for the job. (Read our review of the tool here).

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How to Curl Short Hair

If you have short hair, don’t worry — you can still get in on the fun. “For shorter hair, you’ll need to hold the barrel higher up toward the scalp to get a real, full curl in,” Lordet says. “This differs from longer hair, where you can just curl the length.” For short–shoulder length styles like lobs, a loose, beachy-wave look will never fail you. “Focus the curl up toward the ears and leave the ends a little piecey,” Lordet says.

How to Curl Hair Without Heat

Heatless curlers have become increasingly popular over the past few months, as they allow you to have the curls that you’d like without the risk of heat damage. “They are the most customizable way to create curls of different sizes for different hair types,” Lordet says. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to the heatless curling method that works for you. Still, our PS editors have tested quite a few — you can read about their favorites here.

How to Get Curls to Last

There are some insider tips that you can implement into your routine to extend the life of your curls. “Using a texturizing or curl spray on the hair before you curl, especially if you have fine, straight hair, will help give them some grip,” Lordet says. “Also, spraying each curl individually with a good hairspray will help each of them keep their shape.” Some editor-favorite hairsprays include the Kenra Platinum Hot Spray 20 ($25), the Oribe Superfine Strong Hair Spray ($46), and the Eva NYC Shapeshifter Flexible Hairspray ($15).

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If wash day makes your hair go limp, dry shampoo can help you extend the time between washing and add volume. “Over hours and days, curls will fall, so if you want them to keep their full shape, you’ll need to touch them up in the mornings,” Lordet says. “While all of these products will help them last longer, be conservative with application so hair doesn’t get weighed down.”

If you plan on doing your hair at home, Lordet recommends being conservative with the temperature. “How hot the iron should be depends on how fine or thin your hair is,” he says. “Thinner hair should be at a lower temperature to minimize damage while still getting a curl, and thicker hair will need a higher temperature to get the curl to hold in the first place.” While many hot tools will go up to 400+ degrees, that’s too hot for almost anyone’s hair, so Lordet recommends that your iron stays at a temperature anywhere between 250 – 375 degrees, depending on your hair type. Of course, be sure to also use heat protectant.

At this point, you practically have a certificate in “how to curl hair 101.” The most important thing to note here is that practice makes perfect, so don’t be afraid to do some trial and error with your tools off or buy a mannequin head to really get your technique down. Once you start seeing those perfect ringlets regularly, trust us — it’ll be worth it.

Ariel Baker is the assistant editor for PS Beauty. Her areas of expertise include celebrity news, beauty trends, and product reviews. She has additional bylines with Essence and Forbes Vetted.


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