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Curling Irons 101

By Amalah

I made it through law school but I cannot use a curling iron.
They always leave a crimped section where the arm part folds over the hair.
I know you must know what I am talking about!
help. me.

Ah, I remember the day my mom taught me how to use the curling iron by myself! The good news is that my forehead eventually healed.
A couple things could be happening here to cause the crimping: the most obvious is that you maybe aren’t getting the ends of your hair COMPLETELY encased in the arm thing. When you close the iron, your ends should not stick out at all. Any stick-outtage will result in a bendy line.
If you’re getting the bendy line ABOVE the iron (like…not your ends…and my GOD this column is extra wordy because there aren’t really specific terms to describe any of this stuff), it’s possible that you aren’t holding your hair taught enough when you curl, or you’re using the wrong size iron or heat setting for your hair.
Unless you’re after ringlets, you shouldn’t use a small-barreled iron. I know some people chose the barrel size based on the length of their hair, but it’s actually all about the style of curl you want. Even if you have very short hair, if you just want a sleek, curled-under look, you should choose the widest barrel you can get your hair to wrap around. If you want tight, small curls, then get the skinnier iron.
I own two irons — a one-inch and a one-and-a-half inch. I use the big one for volume and big, loose waves, and the smaller one for curling my ends under. Anything smaller than an inch is too small for me, since my hair will NEVER submit to ringlets.
And then there’s the heat setting. If you don’t let the iron heat up enough, the heat won’t be even and those little hot spots will cause funky things to happen. If you’re setting it too low, you might end up holding your hair in the iron too long and again — hot spots around the arm, funkage results. My hair is naturally straight and resistant to heat styling, so I set my iron pretty hot. I have a , and a blinking light indicates when it’s still heating up. Once the light stays on, I know it’s ready to use.
(As an aside: I generally stay away from any pre-heat styling products, including hair spray. They DO make the curls last longer, but my hair is just too damn fine. Product + heat + ultra-fine hair = sizzlin’ split ends.)
(Oh, and I’m curious: does anyone reading use a ceramic curling iron? What do you think? Much different than the metal? Better? Worse?)
If you still really can’t get the hang of using a curling iron, remember: there’s no law that says you HAVE to use that arm thing. Just wrap your hair around the entire iron and hold it there. You’ll have to watch your fingertips and the end result will be more of a wave than a curl, but it does work. (And why .)
Also: . They really don’t take much longer to use than a curling iron, but provide lots of volume and long-lasting curls. They also cover a multitude of bad-haircut sins, which is why I currently use them. (Grumble grumble HATE.)

Published April 13, 2007. Last updated April 13, 2007.
About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected].

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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