How to Curl Your Hair With a Curling Iron Like a Pro

Tips for Curls That Last

Young woman getting her hair done in salon
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We all seem to want what we don't have. Those with curls want straight hair, and those with straight hair just want pretty curls. Sometimes the thought of curling your hair is exhausting. You spend all that time, only to have it frizz and fro up like a clown or fall after just an hour or two. It can make you want to cry (or scream). Check out these tips to help you curl your hair like a professional and keep the look.

 Here's how:

Choose the Right Size Tool for the Job

The size barrel on your curling iron will make a big difference in the results. Smaller diameter curling irons (1" or smaller) create smaller curls. Larger curling irons (1.5" or larger) create larger waves. The length of your hair in relation to the size of the curling iron will make a big difference in the amount of curl you achieve as well. The more times you can wrap your hair around the barrel, the more curl you will achieve.

Choose the Right Material for the Job

Curling irons come in a variety of materials including ceramic, tourmaline, gold, titanium, and chrome. Ceramic and tourmaline irons are the best choice. You'll get even heat distribution, frizz control, and a tool that's healthier for your hair. Gold and titanium irons get super hot and can deliver a decent curl, but aren't a great choice for heat and frizz protection. Chrome irons aren't a recommended choice, but are inexpensive and can be purchased at just about any drug store.

You may notice curls fall, frizz, and your hair may become fragile after using a chrome iron.

Check out two of our favorite ceramic and tourmaline curling irons:

CHI Air Texture Tourmaline 1.5” Ceramic Curling Iron available on

BaByliss Pro Ceramic Tools 1 1/4" Spring Curling Iron available on

Prepare Your Hair Properly

For those that can't get a curl to hold, this is the step that's often missed. These tips and tricks can help you choose the right products to get your hair to hold a curl all day long. It's important to use a mousse, gel, or curl enhancing cream prior to drying your hair or curl your hair on the second or third day after shampooing for even better results.

Check out a few of our favorite products to prep your hair:

Aveda Be Curly Style Prep available on

Moroccanoil Curl Defining Cream available on

Use a curl setting spray (or hairspray) on each section before curling your hair to help set your curl and protect your hair from getting burned.

Check out a couple of our favorite heat styling hairsprays:

Kenra Thermal Styling Spray on

TIGI Catwalk Curls Rock Amplifier on

How to Curl Loose Waves
I recommend clipping all of your dried hair up except for a 2" section at the base of your neck. This will allow you to curl small sections, working your way up the head. Comb through each small section of hair, mist with a setting spray or hair spray, and then wrap the hair around the barrel of a large curling iron. Hold the curl for 10-20 seconds, release the curl, and then clip the curl in place with a bobby pin or a double prong hair clip.

Buy Diane Double Prong Hair Clips on

Continue until your entire head is curled. Allow your curls to cool completely before unclipping them. For a beachy look, use your fingers to style. For a soft romantic look, brush curls out gently.

How to Curl Smaller Bouncy Curls

The technique for curling smaller bouncy curls is much the same as curling loose waves, except you'll want to use a smaller curling iron. Clip hair up except for the section you're working in. Smaller sections will create more curl. Start at the base of the neck, comb through hair, spray with hairspray, and wrap the hair around the barrel of the curling iron. Hold each curl for 10-20 seconds then release. Clip each curl into place with a bobby pin or a double prong clip. Style by separating the curls with your fingers, a brush, or a wide tooth comb.


  1. Be sure hair is 100% dry before curling your hair. Wet or damp hair should never be curled with a hot tool. Besides the fact that wet/damp hair won't hold a curl well, it can cause serious damage to your hair.
  2. Clip formed curls into place with bobby pins or double prong clips. I highly recommend getting some double prong clips. They are incredibly versatile, inexpensive, and easy to use. Clipping curls into place while cooling, will keep the curl out of your way while you curl the remainder of your hair and allow the curl to set in place.
  3. Allow curls to fully cool before styling.
  4. Style with the right tools for your desired results. Wide tooth combs or finger styling will result in a piecey textured look. Brushing your curls out will give softer curls and waves.
  5. Try alternating the way you wrap the curls on the curling iron. Wrapping the curls forward or backward can give you a completely different look. Experiment with the way you wrap your curls to achieve the look you desire.
  6. Instead of curling your hair using the clip on the curling iron, try wrapping your hair around the curling iron without the clip. The resulting curls will look more natural.
  7. Practice makes perfect. If you don't get the exact look you're seeking, don't give up. It can take a lot of practice to get beautiful curls. Professionals practice a lot before getting it right.