Curling hair with a straightener can create full, bouncy curls that won't look like ringlets. It takes a little practice, but once you get the technique down, you will look amazing and practically red-carpet ready. Follow along to learn how to get the beautiful curls you've always wanted – without using a curling iron.
1. Start with clean and dry hair. Make sure to start with completely clean and dry hair. Wet hair won't curl at all and damp hair won't curl as well. Even if you have one of those magical wet-to-dry hair straighteners, it’s best if you have dry hair. Dirty hair also won’t hold its shape very well, so make sure you’ve washed it in the past 24 hours. If you're blow drying your hair first, use mousse. The extra volume will keep your hair from looking too flat as you curl it.
2. Use a thin flat iron. Your straightener should be about 1 to 2 inches (2.5 to 5 cm) in width from plate to handle and have rounded edges, otherwise it won’t form smooth curls. A flat, paddle-style iron also won't do curls. It’ll be much harder to hold and wrap if you have this kind of straightener and the hair won’t want to stay in the right place. Make sure you’ve got a good quality flat iron. The best work faster, make your hair smoother, and do less damage than poor quality irons. They can have a big impact on things like shine and the consistency of curls. Heat the iron up to the minimum temperature you need for your hair. If your hair is fine and thin, stick to the low end of the dial at below 300 degrees. Normal hair can be ironed at 300 to 380. You can turn it up to 350 to 400 if your hair tends to be thick, coarse, or frizzy.
3. Apply heat protectant. Applying a heat protectant or a thermal spray creates a protective barrier between the hair and the iron so that the hair doesn't "frizzle" and burn. Spray all over your hair – no need to comb, as it should mist on and dry quickly. If you have thick hair, spray it on each section before you tackle it. If you just spray it on the top of all your hair, it won’t hit the bottom layers.Also be sure to comb out any tangles in your hair before applying heat.
4. Part your hair into sections. You'll have better luck curling your hair if you section it instead of trying to attack the whole mess at once. In general, the thicker your hair the more sections you’ll need to do. Tie up the hair above your ears and put it in a bun on the top of your head. It needs to be out of the way.Start at the bottom of your scalp, close to your ears and neck. Leave down as much hair as you can work with for your first "layer" of curls. A good rule is to work with 1 to 2 inch sections at a time. Pin up the rest. Once that layer is done, you'll unclip your hair and let down another layer. Again, clip up what you can't curl right now. Keep curling in layers.
5. Alternate flicks and curls. Flicks and curls are simply two slightly different ways to curl your hair with a flat iron. Try both to see what you like.
Flicks: Start half-way down the length of hair, clamp the iron closed and turn it back on itself in a half turn. You should now have created a U-shape with the hair and the iron. Keeping the iron on that half-turn angle, slowly move it down the hair shaft to the end of the hair. The faster you move the iron, the less pronounced the curl/flick will be. If you like big soft flicks, slow down your iron.
Curls: Starting fairly close to the scalp (but not close enough to accidentally burn it), clamp the iron closed and turn it back on itself a half turn (the same as with flicks). Run the iron slowly down the hair shaft to the end. Again, the slower you move the iron, the tighter the curl. The faster you move the iron, the gentler the wave.
6. Make more pronounced curls by turning the straightener a full turn, instead of a half. With flicks and curls, you just rotated the hair straightener a half turn. If you want more ringlet-y, complete curls, rotate the straightener a full turn, turning the hair over onto itself, sort of creating a loop.Find out what your hair tends to do between the half and the whole turn. You may find that half is enough, or that a three-quarters turn is more ideal for you. What's more, certain days may be half-turn days, and other days will feel like full-turn days. It's up to you!
7. Experiment with turning your straightener under and over. When you rotate your flat iron, whether it’s a half-rotation or a full-rotation, you’re confronted with a decision to make: to turn under and around or over and around. Neither is incorrect, though the curl will reverse with the change in angle. Which looks best on you? Try to be consistent. It's easy to curl one way on one side and then when you switch arms to inadvertently switch directions, too. If you do wind up accidentally doing this, you'll probably be the only one who notices your curls in are different directions. On the other hand, alternating directions can also look great. You just have to be sure to use a consistent pattern throughout.
8. Try flat waves. Once in a while, it feels high time to bring back 1995. Clamp your flat iron down on your hair and turn it up a half of a turn. Then, clamp it on the next bit of hair and turn it down a half of a turn. This technique will give you flat waves, almost like a finger wave. Repeat this process down the length of your hair.For these flat waves, you're clamping down on every bit of your hair. For curling, you simply curl at the top and slowly drag it down – kind of like curling ribbon on a gift or balloon.
9. Add some hairspray. If your hair doesn’t curl easily or doesn’t hold a curl, put hairspray on sections immediately before you curl them. If you want your curls to hold their shape just how they immediately fall from the straightener, spritz a tiny bit of hairspray on the hair right before you curl it. Be sure to use a non-aerosol working spray for this. Aerosols will create a sticky mess.Don’t use too much hairspray, as well. Then it becomes stiff and crunchy, which is not the look you’re aiming for.
10. Grab the section of hair you want to curl. How much hair you include in each curl is up to you, but here are a few points to keep in mind:Smaller sections make smaller, tighter curls, as well as more of them. If you want a look that's closer to ringlets, keep your sections less than two inches wide.Larger sections result in bouncier, looser curls that look a little more natural. Use sections that are wider than two inches for big curls. Mix it up. You don't have to stick completely to one size or another. For instance, you could do larger curls close to your face and the top of your head to create lift and volume, and tighter, more delicate curls underneath for support. Try it a few different ways and see what you like best.
11. Use one of the above techniques. The above methods share the same basic principles: turn your hair straightener over itself, and lightly and slowly drag it down your hair. Clamp lightly keeping the hair on the straightener plates – not so hard it's difficult to move and not so lightly that the hair escapes.The variables you can switch up? Where you start on your hair (towards your scalp or towards the ends), how slowly you move the flat iron, and how much you rotate the flat iron. Experiment with these three variables to find the perfect look for you. You don't have to curl all your hair, either. A few strands that are straighter or just wavy can give you a natural, beach-y look.
12. Finish up. You can leave your hair as-is when you're finished curling, or you can add an additional touch to wrap up the style you want. For looser curls: Gently run your fingers through your hair and tousle it. You'll get a little more volume, and a relaxed, natural look. For more hold: Put a light mist of hairspray all over your curls to keep them sleek and tight throughout the day. If you live in a really humid area, consider using an anti-humidity spray as well.