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9 Curling Iron Mistakes You’re Making (+How to Avoid Them)

Let’s talk about the curling iron mistakes you might be making.

Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned pro, mastering the art of curling your hair can be tricky. And overlooking these common mistakes can result in less-than-stellar curls, heat damage, or even burns. 

In this blog post, we’ll uncover some of the most common curling iron mistakes that could sabotage your styling efforts. From choosing the wrong tool to improper curling techniques, we’ll explore how to avoid these pitfalls and achieve gorgeous, voluminous curls every time. 

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Discover the common curling iron mistakes that can ruin your locks and learn expert tips to achieve flawless curls.

#1. Choosing the Wrong Curling Iron

Hair being curled by a curling iron.

Choosing the right curling iron is the first step toward achieving those beautiful curls.

One of the most common mistakes people make is selecting an iron based on what their friend uses or what they saw in a YouTube tutorial. It’s always a good idea to consider your specific hair type and needs when choosing the right type of curling iron.

Curling irons come in different sizes and materials, each suited to different hair types and desired results. The size of the curling iron dictates how big the hair curls will be. For instance, a smaller barrel is best for tighter curls, while a larger barrel is perfect for big, loose waves. 

Material-wise, ceramic irons distribute heat evenly and are great for fine, delicate hair. On the other hand, titanium irons heat up faster and are more durable, making them ideal for thick, coarse hair.

The key is understanding your hair type, considering the desired look, and choosing the best curling iron accordingly. Remember, the wrong choice can lead to subpar results and potential hair damage.

#2. Not Prepping Your Hair

Another big mistake is not preparing your hair before curling it.

This one is crucial for achieving those long-lasting, shiny curls. Just like a painter wouldn’t do work on a dirty canvas, your hair should be clean and dry before using a curling iron.

Starting with dirty hair can cause the iron to stick to the hair, causing potential breakage.

To prep your hair, start with a clarifying shampoo to remove any build-up. Follow up with a hydrating conditioner to nourish your hair and keep it healthy.

After a fresh wash, start by blow drying with a low heat setting. You can even use a volumizing mousse or root lift spray to give your hair extra body and hold.

The goal is to have clean, dry, and untangled hair before you even turn on the iron. This simple step can make a huge difference in your final results.

#3. Curling Your Hair When It’s Wet

There’s a common misconception that curling damp hair will hold the curl better… but that’s just not the case.

Not only will the curl not hold, but you also risk severely damaging your hair.

Applying heat to wet hair can lead to “bubble hair” – a condition where water trapped inside the hair shaft heats up and forms tiny bubbles, making hair brittle and susceptible to breakage.

Always remember, curls love dry hair! And always use a heat protectant spray before applying heat to your hair. 

#4. Holding the Iron in One Place for Too Long

Hair being curled by a curling iron.

People tend to think that the longer you hold the curling wand in one place, the better the curl. But this mistake can lead to excessive heat exposure, damaging your hair and making it dry and brittle.

For most hair types, a 5 to 10-second period is sufficient to create a lasting curl.

If you don’t get the desired curl in this time frame, you could be using the wrong temperature setting or wrong size barrel.

By being mindful of the time, you can achieve beautiful, bouncy curls without compromising the health of your hair.

#5. Not Sectioning Your Hair

Another big error is failing to section your hair before curling. This can lead to uneven curls, missed strands, and an overall messy look. Using smaller sections is a great way to work with manageable pieces, ensuring every strand gets the attention it deserves.

Start by dividing your hair into three sections: the lower bottom layer, the middle layer, and the top layer.

Pin up the top two sections and start curling the bottom layers as you work your way upwards. Only curl one-inch sections of hair at a time. This makes the process easier and helps create a more voluminous, natural look as the curls lay on top of each other.

#6. Using the Wrong Temperature

Another common mistake when using a curling iron is not using the appropriate temperature.

Using too much heat can cause extreme damage, dry hair, and split ends. On the other hand, a temperature that’s too low may not effectively curl your hair, leaving you with lackluster results.

To avoid this, choose the best temperature for your hair type:

  • Damaged or fine hair should be curled at a lower heat setting, typically between 200-300°F (93-149°C).
  • Medium-textured hair usually tolerates a moderate temperature of around 300-350°F (149-177°C).
  • Coarse or thick hair may require a higher temperature, anywhere from 350-450°F (177-232°C).

Remember, start with the lowest recommended temperature for your hair type, and gradually increase if necessary. Many modern curling irons have adjustable temperature settings to easily control the heat level.

#7. Not Letting the Curls Cool Down

Hair being curled by a curling iron.

It’s important to let the curls properly cool, which affects their longevity and shape.

Hot curls are still malleable and can easily lose their form. By letting them cool down, you’re allowing the cuticle to close and the curl to set, ensuring it holds its shape for longer.

After releasing the curl from the iron, hold it in your hand for a few seconds until it cools down. You can even clip the curl up while it cools for a more defined and longer-lasting curl.

#8. Skipping Hair Spray or Setting Products

It’s important to take advantage of hairspray or other setting products.

These products add hold to your hair, ensuring the curls stay intact and voluminous throughout the day. By bypassing this step, your curls may lose their bounce and shape faster, especially in humid conditions or throughout daily activities.

After you’ve curled and cooled your hair, finish with a light mist of hairspray

Be sure not to overdo it, though – too much can make your hair stiff or sticky. Apply it evenly and sparingly for best results.

#9. Not Cleaning Your Curling Iron Regularly

How often do you honestly clean your hot tools? This step is often overlooked. But just like any other heat-styling tool, your curling iron needs a good clean every once in a while.

Over time, product build-up from hairspray, heat protectant, and other styling aids can accumulate on the barrel. This affects the iron’s performance, causing uneven heat distribution and damaging your hair by creating hot spots that overheat and burn your strands.

To keep your curling iron in top shape, clean it after every few uses. Allow the iron to cool completely, then gently wipe down the barrel with a cloth dampened with rubbing alcohol.

Be sure to remove all traces of product residue. If there’s stubborn build-up, a soft toothbrush can help dislodge it. Remember to dry the iron thoroughly before storing it away.

Final Thoughts

Final Thoughts Icon

Mastering the curling iron goes beyond knowing how to wrap your hair around a barrel. It includes understanding and avoiding these common curling iron mistakes.

Remember, using the right products in the correct order, selecting the appropriate temperature for your hair type, allowing your curls to cool down, and regularly cleaning your curling iron can make all the difference in achieving those perfect, long-lasting curls.

It’s all about patience, practice, and care for your hair. With these tips, you’re well on your way to becoming a curling iron pro, ready to create beautiful, bouncy curls with ease and confidence. Happy curling, my friend!

Until next time,

Hollee Wood Headshot


Hollee is a licensed cosmetologist with over nine years of professional experience in the hair industry. With her unique insight and versatile experience, she’ll help you discover the latest hair trends or even crush your next DIY hair project.

Learn more!

🌟 Your Turn: Have you ever made some of these mistakes? Is there anything else I should add to this list? Drop your thoughts in the comments section below! 👇🏼👇🏼👇🏼

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