Few hairstyles are more chic and trendy than curls. That’s why so many people lean on curling irons, curling wands, rollers, or other curling tools to style their hair up just right. But what if you only have a flat iron?
The good news is that you can definitely curl your hair with this tool.
But you will need to use a specific technique to do so. In this article, we’ll tell you exactly how to curl your hair with a flat iron. We’ll also share how to minimize heat damage, keep your curls fresh, and more. Let’s get right into it!
Table of Contents
- 1 How to Curl Your Hair with a Flat Iron: Step-By-Step
- 2 5 Tips to Get the Best Possible Flat Iron Curls
- 3 Can You Do Flat Iron Curls on Short Hair?
- 4 How Long Do Flat Iron Curls Last?
- 5 How to Make Your Flat Iron Curls Last Longer
- 6 Pros and Cons of Using a Flat Iron to Curl Your Hair
- 7 When to Use a Curling Iron vs. a Flat Iron
- 8 The Best Flat Irons for Curling Hair
How to Curl Your Hair with a Flat Iron: Step-By-Step
Curling your hair with a flat iron isn’t nearly as complicated as some might think. But to get it right, you’ll need to take the following steps seriously and follow them to a T.
1. Get Your Hands on a Good Flat Iron
To curl your hair with a flat iron, you’ll need a flat iron, of course. If you already have one, that’s great. If not, ensure that you get one that’s right for your hair type.
Fine or Damaged Hair
Go for a flat iron that has precise temperature controls. Fine hair (and, of course, damaged hair) is much more vulnerable to heat damage than other hair types.
If you choose a flat iron that doesn’t have a wide selection of heat settings, you might not be able to set the tool to the right temperature. You should also opt for a ceramic flat iron – it is much less likely to burn your hair than tourmaline or titanium flat irons.
Those with coarse hair often find that titanium flat irons are best. They are very strong and durable and are often used by professionals to tackle the thickest, coarsest hair. The plates also get very hot very quickly, so you won’t have to do a ton of passes to style your hair.
If your hair doesn’t fit into either of these categories, go with a tourmaline flat iron. This flat iron type is loved for its ability to impart ions to the hair to lock in moisture. You can also expect good performance from it when compared to other flat iron types.
2. Get Your Other Supplies
In addition to your flat iron, you’ll need several other supplies to get curls with a flat iron. Here they are:
3. Wash, Condition, and Blow Dry Your Hair
Use your usual shampoo and conditioner. If you normally use a leave-in conditioner after your conditioner, you can apply that as well.
Once you’ve done all that, apply your heat protectant and then blow dry your hair as straight as possible. The straighter you can get your hair with the blow dryer, the fewer passes you’ll have to do with your flat iron.
4. Separate Your Hair into 4 to 6 Sections
Use a wide-tooth comb to separate your hair into 4 to 6 sections. The thicker your hair is, the more sections you should make. The point of this step is to make your hair easier to work with.
To keep each of the sections separate, either clip them out of the way or put them in a ponytail with your elastics. If you’d like to apply more heat protectant to your hair for good measure, you can do that.
5. Straighten All of Your Hair with the Flat Iron (Optional)
It can be difficult to do curls on hair that isn’t already reasonably straight. So, if your hair is still pretty textured, straighten it in sections. To do this:
- Release a section of hair.
- Part out an even smaller subsection.
- Detangle the subsection with a narrow tooth comb.
- Clamp the flat iron down on your roots and pull it down to the ends using the chase method. It’s a flat ironing technique where you’ll stick the teeth of your comb near the roots of your hair and then chase it with your flat iron. By chase, we mean to pass the flat iron over your hair behind the comb. With this technique, your hair will be super straight with just one pass of the flat iron.
6. Curl Your Hair with the Flat Iron
With your hair already straight, or reasonably stretched, you’re ready to curl it with the flat iron. The size and shape of your curls is directly affected by how your flick and turn your wrist. Here are a few ways to create curls with this tool:
- For curls with minimal volume at the top: Clamp the flat iron down on your roots and begin to pull it down towards your ends. When you get about halfway down the hair, begin turning your wrist in either direction. The further you turn your wrist, the more pronounced your curl will be. Don’t stop moving the flat iron at any point.
- For hyper-voluminous curls: Clamp the flat iron down on your roots. Go as close to your scalp as possible without burning it. Immediately turn the flat iron and (without returning the flat iron back to a level position) continue pulling it down the length of your hair.
- For Shirley Temple curls: If you want Shirley Temple curls, your wrists will have to work a little bit harder. Clamp your flat iron down on your roots as you’d do with any other curls. As you pull the flat iron through your hair, turn the flat iron one full turn and continue pulling it through to the ends.
- For flat curls: If you’re going for a delightfully disheveled look, hold the flat iron vertically, twist your wrist to create the curl, and pull it downward versus away from your head.
7. Style as Desired
Once you’ve finished creating your curls, you’re free to do some additional styling. That can be as simple as running your fingers through the curls and then misting them with a little holding spray. You can also comb through the curls with a wide tooth comb and fluff them up for a feathered look. It’s all up to you.
5 Tips to Get the Best Possible Flat Iron Curls
Now that you’ve got the basics down, let’s jump into things a little bit deeper. Here, we’ll touch on some tips to help you refine your flat iron curling technique.
- Keep the flat iron moving as much as possible. While you’re learning how to curl your hair with a flat iron, you might find it hard to twist your wrist and move the flat iron at the same time. But it’s essential that you do. The more time the flat iron sits on a specific part of your hair, the higher your chance of burning your hair. So, try your best to avoid letting the flat iron sit on any part of your hair.
- Use even tension when curling your hair. If you squeeze the flat iron too tightly at any point, it could leave a crease on your hair and potentially ruin your curl. It may take ample practice to get used to things.
- Use the right flat iron size. To use a flat iron for curling, you’ve got to have the right-sized tool. Most people use a 1-inch flat iron without any issues.
- Ensure your hair is clean. Dirt and oil can affect how smoothly the flat iron glides through your strands. That’s why when you try to flat iron dirty hair, you’re more likely to get creases. In addition, any residue left on your strands could increase your chances of getting flat iron burns. So, don’t skip the washing step.
- Alternate the direction of the curls. Don’t curl all of your hair in the same direction. If you do, your style won’t have much dimension, and the curls might clump together more than you’d like. So, while you’re curling your hair with your flat iron, twist your wrist in alternating directions. That’ll keep your curls light, bouncy, and full of personality.
Can You Do Flat Iron Curls on Short Hair?
Just like you can create flat iron curls on long and medium-length hair, you can also curl short hair. But before you do so, ensure that your flat iron plates are narrow enough to do the job.
Instead of using a 1-inch flat iron, opt for one that’s a half-inch or even smaller if your hair is shorter than a couple of inches. Other than that, all of the rules and instructions we mentioned earlier apply.
How Long Do Flat Iron Curls Last?
Flat iron curls last just as long as curling iron curls do – sometimes longer. But the amount of time you can expect your curls to last depends on a wide variety of factors, including how you care for them, your natural hair texture, and much more.
But, on average, flat iron curls tend to last anywhere from a day to a few days.
How to Make Your Flat Iron Curls Last Longer
Just because most people only get a few days out of their flat iron curls doesn’t mean you can’t get more longevity out of yours. Contrary to what some may think, there are a few things you can do to make your flat iron curls last longer, and we’ll share them with you in this section:
Be Mindful of the Temperature of Your Flat Iron
One of the main determinants of how long your flat iron curls last is how hot the tool was when you created the curls. If the flat iron isn’t hot enough, the curls just won’t last for long.
Don’t get us wrong; we’re not asking you to set the flat iron temp as high as possible.
We’re saying that you need to set it high enough to create smooth, slick, defined curls. It’s essential to find a happy medium between a temperature that’s too low and a temperature that’s too high.
Note: Setting your flat iron to too high a temperature could leave you with heat damage, sometimes so severe that you could lose your natural hair texture.
Ensure Your Hair Was Sufficiently Prepped
All the preparatory steps we mentioned earlier were not just for show. Prepping your hair not only ensures that your curls come out beautifully, but that they’ll hold their shape well.
Use a Holding Spray
Even if you’re not a big fan of holding spray, you should consider it! It can be the difference between your curls falling immediately and lasting several days.
But don’t use just any holding spray – some of them are known to make the hair crunchy and stiff, and others can even make your hair revert to its natural state (whether it be straight, wavy, or curly).
So, go with a flexible hold hair spray, and try not to overuse it.
Make the Curls More Defined Than You Want
Sometimes, you need your curls to be just right before you walk out the door. But in situations where that’s not the case, curl your hair a little tighter than you need to. That way, when your curls inevitably fall, they’ll still look amazing.
Leave Your Hair Alone
We get it, curls are beyond touchable. But fiddling with your flat iron curls is sure to shorten their lifespan. Do your absolute best to resist the urge to fluff, twirl, or otherwise manipulate your curls.
Set Your Curls
Setting your curls is non-negotiable if you want them to last. When your hair is hot from the flat iron, it’s still malleable. Therefore, whenever you allow your curls to hang right after curling them, they’ll fall and won’t last very long.
You can set your curls to prevent that from happening. Just cup your hand around each of your curls right after curling them and release the curl once it’s cooled down.
Cover Your Hair at Night
If you’ve never covered your hair at night, the time to start is now. It’ll preserve your style by limiting friction as you toss and turn at night. All it takes is for you to put your hair into a high, loose ponytail near your front hairline – most people call this a pineapple.
Then, put on a large bonnet or tie a scarf around the back of your head and tie it in the front. You won’t smoosh your curls if you follow this recommendation. If your curls are super short, throw on a silk or satin bonnet, and you’re good to go!
Pros and Cons of Using a Flat Iron to Curl Your Hair
Have you decided that doing your curls with a flat iron is the best option for you? If not, seeing the pros and cons associated with this curling technique will help you decide. Keep reading for the good, the bad, and the ugly.
- You get to use one tool for multiple purposes. And if you haven’t yet bought a curling iron, curling wand, or another dedicated curling tool, you can save some coins and use your flat iron.
- Some find that flat iron curls last longer than curls done using other tools.
- Flat irons are available in various configurations and at many price points. Everyone can afford a flat iron.
- Flat irons can create curls that don’t look too perfect. Whereas curling iron curls often look artificial. If you want natural-looking curls, flat iron curls might be the better choice.
- It can take lots of practice and failed styles to learn how to curl your hair with a flat iron.
- Flat irons are prone to creasing.
When to Use a Curling Iron vs. a Flat Iron
With all the information above, you’re ready to curl your hair with a flat iron. But you may be wondering whether there are any situations where a curling iron might be a better choice. The answer is “not exactly.”
Believe it or not, a flat iron can be used to create a wide variety of curls.
But you can still use a curling iron if you’re having trouble getting used to using a flat iron for curling. The right tool to use will come down to your skillset, the amount of patience you have, whether you can afford curling tools, and more.
You’ll have to weigh your options.
The Best Flat Irons for Curling Hair
Most of us have a flat iron in our hair tool stash, but if you don’t, it’s wise to be selective regarding which one you choose. Here are a few of the best flat irons for curling hair.
Remington S5500TA 1″ Anti-Static Flat Iron
This Remington flat iron is ideal for both flat ironing and curling the hair. It’s got 1-inch floating ceramic/tourmaline plates for enormous styling versatility, and it goes up to 410 degrees Fahrenheit. On top of that, you get a digital temperature control panel so you’ll always know how hot the tool is.
CHI G2 Professional Hair Straightener
The CHI G2 professional hair straightener is one of the highest-rated flat irons on Amazon. It features 1 1/4-inch ceramic/titanium plates for salon-grade results.
The flat iron goes up to 425 degrees Fahrenheit and has a digital temperature display. What’s more is that the tool won’t snag your strands, so you shouldn’t have any issues using it to curl your hair.
Conair Double Ceramic Flat Iron
Looking for a more affordable option? This Conair flat iron can give you fantastic curls. Its plates are double-coated in ceramic and they sit in a floated formation.
That way, as you glide the tool through your hair, you’ll get even heat and smooth results. The highest heat setting you’ll get with this flat iron is 410 degrees Fahrenheit.
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So, there you have it – everything you need to know about creating curls and beachy waves with a flat iron. We hope that you found all the information you were looking for to create beautiful curls. Happy styling!
Kenneth Byrd holds a BS in Accounting and Management Information Systems and an MBA from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. With over 15 years of experience, Kenneth has been dedicated to hair care since 2008, when he co-founded Curl Centric® and Natural Hair Box alongside his wife. As a team, they promote healthy hair care practices through their comprehensive platform, Curl Centric. Curl Centric is a website operated by a husband and wife team that encourages healthy hair care. At Curl Centric, we aim to help our readers take control of their hair care journey and make good decisions about products, hairstyles, and maintenance techniques. We also have strict editorial integrity; here’s an explanation of our editorial guidelines and how we make money.