Quick… tell me a more timeless hairstyle than beautifully curled hair! I’ll bet you can’t… it’s the one look that never goes out of style.
But how do you get curly hair when your hair isn’t naturally curly? Obviously, you should use a curling iron. But did you know that there are several different types of curling irons available for your choosing?
Some have clamps, some don’t. Some damage your hair, while others lock in shine and reduce heat damage.
So what is the best type for your hair? I guess you’ll have to keep reading if you want to find out…
*This post contains affiliate links meaning that if you make a purchase after clicking the link, I earn a small commission at no additional cost to you. This helps me provide the best possible content on this site for free. Keep in mind that I only link to quality products that I use myself and feel would be beneficial for my readers. Please read my full affiliate disclosure for more information.
The Different Types of Curling Irons
First things, first… we need to discuss what the different curling iron types are and how they differ from each other. It’s an important step in choosing the best iron for your needs.
The Basic Spring-Loaded Curling Iron
The traditional spring-loaded curling iron is the most common curling iron type. In fact, it’s probably what you’ve been using for years.
The clamp makes it easy to hold your hair in place while you manually rotate the curling iron to wrap your hair around the barrel. Because the clamp is spring-loaded, it closes shut and locks your hair in place.
These are probably the easiest type of curling iron to use, but the clamp could leave an indentation in your hair. Yikes.
A marcel iron is similar to a traditional curling iron, but also completely different.
It clamps the hair in place, but the clamp isn’t spring-loaded. This means that if your hand isn’t holding it shut, it will just open and let the hair out. The handle that holds it shut also rolls in place.
These types of curling irons are tricky to use and require some practice. In fact, I had to use these all the time in beauty school, and they were frustrating at times, to say the least.
However, many professionals feel that you get a lot more control with this set-up. You also don’t get the indentation that you’d get from a spring-loaded clamp.
Professional hairstylist, Abraham Sprinkle, states that “this iron gives the stylist the most control and versatility. Because there is no spring, it’s up to the stylist to manipulate,” Sprinkle explains, comparing the technique to trying chopsticks for the first time. “With a marcel, you start at the root of the hair and manipulate it all the way to the ends. You will see almost all session stylists using a marcel in their kit due to the multitude of curl and wave patterns that can be created.” (Source: InStyle)
Since the technique is kinda hard to explain, let me just show you instead. Here’s a video from Modern Salon that shows you how to use a marcel iron.
It’s also worth noting that there isn’t a plastic tip on the end on the barrel shaft, which also makes it easier to burn yourself. Please exercise caution when using a marcel iron.
Curling wands have become increasingly more popular over the past ten years. They are basically just a hot barrel that heats up, with no clamp to hold your hair in place.
You manually wrap your hair around the rod and hold in in place until it’s done setting. These types of curling irons typically come with a heat-resistant glove to protect your fingers from burns.
Curling wands are better for loose, beachy waves, and they also leave your hair without an unsightly crease where the clamp would go.
Another benefit to using a curling wand is that they come in different shapes, and different shapes produce different types of curls.
Tapered barrels make the curls smaller as they go down the hair shaft. Bubble wands give the curls a unique, unpredictable shape. The possibilities are endless with this curling iron type.
Most people think that flat irons are only used to straighten hair, but they’re really quite versatile. You can actually curl hair with any type of flat iron, but these days, they’re usually designed to make curling easier.
The benefits to using a flat iron to curl your hair:
- It’s a versatile tool that can do many different things. There’s no need to buy separate tools.
- It can be a lot quicker than curling your hair with a curling iron.
- You can easily combine different types of curls for a natural, versatile look.
Some other things to remember:
- It takes practice to nail this technique.
- You need to keep the iron moving through the hair to prevent the hair from being burned or creased.
- The speed at which you move the iron through the hair determines how tight the curls are.
TYME shows you how incredibly easy it is to do once you get it down.
These types of curling irons aren’t as popular, but they’re beneficial for creating certain styles. It’s basically a curling iron with brush bristles attached to it. This allows the iron to comb through the hair and smooth it while curling.
The result is a looser, less-defined curl. However, it also adds more volume and bounce than a traditional curling iron.
The bristles also hold the hair around the iron, which means that a clamp isn’t necessary. Again, this prevents unsightly creases in the hair.
The downside is that the bristles could get caught in the hair, resulting in tangles.
This video by Kelly HongLe shows you exactly what to expect when using this type of curling iron.
Rotating Curling Iron
Rotating curling irons are a fun, new way to curl your hair in a fraction of the time. There are several different models, and they all do different things.
In the most general sense, a rotating curling iron rotates, so you don’t have to. In other words, just put your hair in the iron, push a button, and it does all the work.
The Beachwaver Pro is one of the most notable irons of this type, and it pretty much revolutionized curling your hair. To use this iron, just clamp your hair in like you would when using a normal curling iron. Then, just push the button to rotate it one way or the other.
Miranda Maheri shows you how easy it is.
Again, the main benefit of using a rotating curling iron is that it saves a ton of time when curling your hair.
Spinning Hair Curler
A spinning hair curler is really similar to a rotating curling iron but different.
The hot barrel inside the contraption rotates, sucking your hair up inside it. Once it’s done “cooking,” the iron beeps, letting you know that it’s time to release.
Hair goes in… a perfect curl comes out. It’s that easy.
I guess I made it sound kinda scary, but it’s really pretty cool. Here’s an awesome demonstration from Amanda Bellantoni:
The Conair Curl Secret works similarly, but for a fraction of the price.
Hot Air Brush
This isn’t really a curling iron per se, but hear me out.
First off, I recently bought one of these bad boys, and I am in LOVE with it. It dries your hair, smoothes it, straightens it and gives it a bit of curl… all in one step. It basically gives you a salon-quality blowout at home.
But here’s the thing… the ceramic-coated barrel heats up when the hot air comes out. As it heats up, it acts like a curling iron and changes the shape of your hair.
See what I mean from this video by Vidal Sassoon Electrical.
Spinning Brush Iron
This is another unique type of curling iron that leaves you with softer, less-defined curls. Basically, the hot barrel spins, which pushes your hair through the brush bristles to smooth it out.
The result is smoother, voluminous hair. It also cuts down on heat damage and style time, can be used on damp hair and could even be used to straighten frizzy hair.
Here’s an example of how to create perfect waves by Chloe Boucher.
Triple-Barrel Curling Iron
Last, but not least, we arrive at one of my favorite hot tools of all time. A triple-barrel curling iron is a fun way to wave out your hair.
There are three curling iron barrels, parallel to each other, and your hair weaves in and out of them. It works similar to a crimper but results in a larger, more-defined wave.
Here’s one last video by Kristy Gallirhir to show you how it’s done.
What To Look For In A Curling Iron
Now that we’ve covered the different types of curling irons available, I want to quickly go through some other factors you should pay attention to when purchasing a new curling iron.
The diameter of the barrel will determine how big your curl is. If you want big, bouncy curls, go for a large curling iron. If you want tight, ringlet curls, choose a smaller option.
Some common sizes are:
- 3/4″ – 1″ – Perfect for short hair.
- 1″ – 1.25″ – Better for medium lengths.
- 1.25″ – 1.5″ – The best choice for long hair.
It’s crucial to pay attention to what material the iron is made of.
Cheaper irons tend to be made of cheaper metals that don’t heat evenly. Uneven heating results in sections of the hair that don’t get curled, and even worse… can damage to the hair.
Some common materials are:
- Ceramic – Most modern curling irons are made of ceramic as it heats evenly and emits negative ions to lock in moisture. Ceramic irons can be used for any hair type or length.
- Tourmaline – Tourmaline is a mineral that is being added to curling irons these days. It’s similar to ceramic but produces way more negative ions than ceramic, resulting in healthier, glossier hair. It’s common to see both ceramic and tourmaline used together.
- Gold – These types of curling irons emit high, even heat, making it ideal for thick, coarse hair types.
- Titanium – Like gold, titanium irons reach high heat levels and are better-suited for thick, coarse hair types. Since it has no protective qualities, a heat protectant is necessary.
You need to determine what temperature to use on your hair based on how fine or coarse your hair is. Typically, fine hair needs lower temperatures, as it’s more susceptible to damage. On the contrary, coarse hair is more resistant and needs higher heat.
- Under 300° – Ideal for fine and chemically-treated hair.
- 300-380° – Ideal for medium/normal hair.
- 350-450° – Ideal for coarse, curly and thick hair.
Let me tell you a quick story. One time, my mom went to Europe and went to curl her bangs when she first got there. Because she wasn’t using a dual-voltage curling iron, it got so hot that it melted off her hair. The end.
The moral of the story is that you should look for a dual-voltage curling iron if you plan on traveling to other countries. Otherwise, you could have a similar story of your own.
Hot curlers are another great way to curl your hair, but they aren’t considered a curling “iron,” which is why they aren’t in the above list.
To use them, just roll your hair in hot curlers first thing in the morning. Let your hair set while you do everything else you need to do to get ready. When you remove them, you’ll have perfectly curled hair.
They’re more versatile and create different looks than curling irons. They also cause less damage than pressing your hair between two hot plates. Give them a try!
If you want curly hair, and weren’t blessed with natural curls, you’ll have to purchase a curling iron.
Since there are so many different types of curling irons to choose from, it’s imperative that you know what you’re looking for. The curling iron type you use, the material it’s made of and the size and shape are all important factors to think about.
I’m just sayin’… if you’re gonna have the best hair on the block, you’re gonna need the right tools. But don’t worry… I gotchu covered.
Until next time,
YOUR TURN: Do you have any questions that I didn’t answer? What’s your favorite type of curling iron? DROP THEM BELOW! 👇🏼👇🏼👇🏼