Everything You Need To Know About Curling Irons

Everything You Need To Know About Curling Irons

Fashion trends come and go, but curls never go out of style. The average woman spends a couple of hundred dollars a year going to a hair salon. This is an expense that can be avoided. You can use technological innovations made in the hair care market to your advantage.

Beauty salon services are decreasing in demand as people opt out for in-home solutions. You no longer have to pay exorbitant prices for natural, wavy looking hair. For a price less than one visit to the beauty salon, you can buy professional grade in-home hair care products. So the curling iron that your hair stylist uses is now readily available for consumers.

Woman Getting Her Hair Curled With Curling Iron

It’s great news that hair care appliances, like curling irons, are readily available for purchase. Knowing which curling iron to buy requires thorough research. Most first timers buy the wrong curling iron for their hair, but you can avoid wasting your money.

Continue reading for a detailed informational guide that will help you find the curling iron you’re looking for.

History Of Curling Iron

Let's learn more about the invention of the curling iron and it's change throughout the years.

When Did Curling Hair Become Popular?

Humans have been obsessed with curling their hair for centuries. The design of the modern day curling iron slightly resembles the design of the original curling iron. Thankfully our design includes safety precautions, which is what the original curling iron lacked.

Having curled hair was a display of wealth. Based on carvings dated back to the ancient world, curls were a popular fad amongst the nobility. For example, Egyptian nobles used to curl their hair and beards before a ceremony. Curled hair symbolized the luxurious life of the person.

How Would Humans Curl Their Hair?

Curling irons existed long before electricity came under way. In ancient times, humans would curl their hair using tongs. People used to heat tongs in a fire. This proved to be very dangerous because people were styling their hair in a literal fire.

Three Old Curling Tongs

The tong and fire method doesn’t allow the user ultimate heat control. The lack of control caused many cases of singed hair as well as burnt scalps.

Why Did Curling Irons Change?

As time goes on, hair styles change. Nowadays, tight curls are no longer in fashion. People have ditched tight curls with loose and more voluminous ones. This means the use of tongs as a way of curling hair is no longer necessary.

Also, curling irons are a safer method of curling your hair compared to placing your head on fire.

As technology progressed, curling irons improved as well.

When Was The First “Official” Curling Iron Made?

No documents are stating the original inventor of the curling iron, but Marcel Grateau is given credit. He was also the one responsible for the invention of the straightening comb.

The first person to patent the curling iron was Hiram Maxim in 1866. About four years later, two Frenchmen improved on Maxim’s curling iron. The improved version was able to create Marcel waves. Marcel Grateau, the father of curling irons, was the inspiration for this hairstyle.

How Was It Improved?

The electric curling iron was later invented in 1959 by two Frenchmen. It was then when curling irons began to be widely sold in drugstores. Almost every woman had a curling iron at home post-1960s.

The curling iron designed by Theora Stephens in 1980 is most similar to the ones we use today. She improved on the commercially available design by including a spring as well as a way to control the curling iron’s temperature.

In the late 1980’s, people began to see that high-quality curling irons were only available to professionals. In 1987, the ZeeCurl was available to only hair salons. The invention of the ZeeCurl gave stylists more freedom with what hairstyles they can create. The ZeeCurl was also the first curling iron that suited all types of hair.

Eventually, a consumer version of the ZeeCurl was introduced called FrenZee. People now had the luxury of curling their hair at home with no hassle.

Curling Iron Breakdown

The curling iron has three main elements that work together to give you luscious locks. The three parts are as follows: barrel, handle and cord.


The barrel is one of the most important parts of the curling iron. The heating element is located inside this section. Essential for monitoring the temperature, the barrel prevents you from accidentally burning yourself.

Two Pink Curling Irons With Triple Barrel

Depending on the curling iron you buy, each barrel consists of a different material. Your hair type dictates which barrel material to look for.

The barrel comes in different sizes and shapes. The shape and size of the barrel are congruent to the hairstyle you want. Essentially, the barrel is responsible for allowing you to create an infinite amount of hairstyles.

Barrel Sizes: What Do They Mean?

You may have noticed that each curling iron comes with a different barrel size. The barrel size determines both the size and shape of your curls.

You need to choose a size according to your hair length. For those with short hair, a tiny curling iron with a smaller sized barrel will function fine. People with longer hair can use any barrel size.

Nowadays long, wavy hair is in style. For those with long hair, it’s recommended to buy a large curling iron with a 1-2 inch barrel. This is a sufficient size to achieve that natural wavy hairstyle.

A good rule of thumb dictates that the tighter you want your curls, the smaller the barrel size should be. Barrel sizes ranging from 3/8-1 inch create a tight curl hairstyle.


The handle usually has a protective covering, so you can easily use the curling iron without burning yourself. More modern curling irons have buttons located on the handle that controls the temperature. Handles also come in different lengths, so it’s up to the buyer to determine what size handle they require.

Temperature Settings

The optimal curling iron that suits all hair types has several temperature settings. Some hair types require more heat exposure than others. The buttons located on the handle make adjusting the temperature a hassle free process.

Temperature Settings On Curling Iron

The handle also comes with a clamp that holds your hair section in place while you apply heat. Clamps are a distinct feature of curling irons since curling wands lack this clamp feature.


With the introduction of electricity, cords became an essential part to power curling irons. Each curling iron has different cord lengths. The longer the cord, the easier it is to maneuver the curling iron around your head. Typical curling irons have cords that measure up to 8 feet long. Some curling irons have cords that can swivel 360 degrees, so your wrist experiences less strain.

Curling Iron Material

The quality of the curling iron is congruent with the material of the barrel. Some materials function at a higher level because they work to protect your hair, not damage it.


Titanium is naturally found and known for its strong yet also lightweight features. Titanium barrels heat up at extremely high rates because of the titanium’s ability to absorb heat quickly.

The thicker your hair, the more heat needs to be applied to curl it successfully. As a result, these barrels will properly curl thick hair. If you have thin hair, a titanium barrel will cause damage and dryness.

Since titanium doesn’t have any hair protective qualities, you need to make use of a heat protective spray while curling.


The most commonly used material for curling iron barrels is ceramic. Ceramic curling irons give the user ultimate control of the device. Typically, these curling irons come equipped with numerous heat settings.

Keeping track of the curling iron’s temperature prevents you from causing significant heat damage to your hair. Since ceramic curling irons have multiple heat settings, the device suits all types of hair. Whether you have short, long, or chemically treated hair, ceramic curling irons will work.

Ceramic functions as an ideal barrel material because it works to protect your hair. The material emits negatively charged ions that interact with the positively charged ions emitted by your hair. These negative ions keep your hair’s moisture and oils intact.

Yellow Ceramics On BaByliss Curling Irons

Ceramic's protection prevents split ends from happening. Ceramic is also responsible for decreasing the amount of frizzing that occurs when you expose your hair to heat.


Compared to the other materials mentioned, tourmaline is the newest material being incorporated into curling irons. Tourmaline works similarly to ceramic since it emits negatively charged ions as well.

Studies have shown that tourmaline produces up to six times more negative ions than ceramic. The excessive amount of negative ions interacts with the positive ions of dry hair, which results in a neutral charge. This results in even glossier hair than when using a ceramic curling iron.

Ceramic is cheaper to produce than tourmaline, which is why it’s predominately found in curling irons. Nowadays it's popular to see curling iron barrels containing a mixture of both ceramic and tourmaline. These curling irons tend to be more expensive, but high-quality.

Different Types Of Curling Irons

You can’t go to a store and buy the first curling iron you see. You need to specify the hairstyles you expect from your curling iron. Certain curling irons create specific types of curls. There isn't one general curling iron that can do everything.

Curling Iron

A curling iron is the traditional model people are most accustomed to seeing. A curling iron comes with a clasp which is useful if you’re trying to create polished ringlets. To properly use a curling iron, you have to hold it with the cord facing down.

Curling Wand

A curling wand differs from a curling iron in respect to its design. The curling wand has no clasp so you can’t create tight curls with it. Curling wands are beneficial when you’re trying to create natural waves since it doesn’t lock your hair in tight. If you want tight curls, a small wand curling iron will do the job.

To correctly use a curling wand, you have to hold it with the cord facing up. You use a curling wand opposite from how you would use a curling iron.

Curling Iron Vs Curling Wand

You may want to experiment between using a curling iron and a curling wand. Some people find curling wands to be more user-friendly than curling irons.

Automatic Curling Iron

Not everyone can use a curling iron. It takes a lot of practice to get the hand motions down to create the luscious locks you desire. A curling iron that spins by itself removes the need to know how to use one manually.

Technological advancements have made it possible that an in-home self-curling curling iron exists. Automatic curling irons work with the press of a button. These curling irons have a rotating function designed into its barrel.

All you have to do is section a portion of your hair on the automatic curling iron and press the direction you want the barrel to rotate. Once you’re done applying heat, you just press the button to rotate the barrel in the opposite direction.

Some automatic curling irons emit a sound when you need to remove your hair from the barrel.

Automatic curling irons come with and without clasps. Depending on the hairstyle you want, you can choose between an automatic curling wand or automatic curling iron.

How To Wave Hair With Curling Iron

For those who have never curled their hair, keep in mind that it’s not as easy as your hairdresser makes it seem. The key is not to get frustrated because it does take practice. After a few trial runs, you’ll be curling your hair like a professional.


Make sure you have the right curling iron before you begin. You can expect wavy hair when your barrel size measures 3/8 of an inch. Once you plug it in, set the curling iron to its proper temperature. Once the curling iron is hot and ready, you can begin the curling process.

Do not make the mistake of clipping the curling iron at the end of your hair and then spinning it up. Not only does this crimp your hair, but damages it as well. You’ll see an increased amount of split ends pop up if you start using this technique.

It’s recommended to clip the curling iron closer to the roots. You can then twirl your hair manually through the clamp and press down. Make sure to leave one to two inches of the lower part of your hair untouched by the curling iron. This prevents split ends in the long run.

If you’re looking to create a natural wave look, you should alternate the direction of the curling iron. You should curl the hair strands located in front of your face in the opposite direction. This will make your curls appear more voluminous.

How To Curl Your Hair With Curling Iron

You can curl the rest of your hair in varying directions to achieve that wavy look.


Your hair won’t stay curled all day without any extra support. Hair stylists recommend spraying your curls with a flexible hold hairspray. You can go a whole day with your curls staying intact if you complete this extra step. You should spray about 5-8 inches away from your head, so only a slight amount covers your hair.


The essential part of achieving loose waves is the final step- the flip. After you entirely curl your hair, gently flip your hair forward and backward. Hair Stylists recommend the following, “Always allow your hair to cool down for a couple of minutes so the curl has a chance to set.” Once you're done flipping, run your fingers through your hair to break up any ringlets that are still left intact.

Types Of Curling Wands

Some people prefer curling wands to curling irons because curling wands are easier to use. There is a curling wand for every curl style. A factor that dictates the curling wand you should choose is the curl hairstyle you’re attempting to create.

Pros of Curling Wands

  • No clamps
  • ​Voluminous curls
  • ​Maintains your hair’s shine
  • ​Low amount of hair damage
  • Curls chair up to half an inch from your scalp

Hair care experts are now saying that the curling wand is slowly replacing the curling iron. More and more well-known brands have dedicated their time to manufacturing curling wands within the past decade.

Curling Wands vs. Curling Iron

When using curling irons, people measure their curls based on the barrel size. This method of measurement doesn’t apply to curling wands. It’s a lot more frustrating to find a curling wand to suit your needs because of the diverse amount available.

Tapered Curling Wands

Tapered curling wands have thick lower ends and narrow upper ends. This wand mimics the shape of a cone. The narrow upper-end functions to deliver precise curls that have volume. If you use the thicker end, you can create fuller and larger curls.

The tapered shape gives you more freedom to create diverse hairstyles. In fact, people who buy a tapered curling wand do not find the need to buy other hair curling tools. If you are always in a rush, a tapered shaped curling wand is your optimal option.

Different Types Of Curling Irons

You’ll produce professional-looking curls in a matter of minutes.

Straight Curling Wand

For those who prefer consistency, a straight curling wand creates uniformly shaped curls. Since the straight wand has a uniform thickness, each curl created is equal in shape and size.

The straight wand’s even heat distribution produces curls that look well-groomed and sophisticated. If you’re a fan of the Shirley Temple curls, this curling wand will reproduce that look.

People with extremely straight hair will find the most use out of a straight curling wand. A straight curling wand works with straight hair the best because it’s able to curl the lower part of the hair. Not many curling wand shapes can curl lower ends of extremely straight hair.

Curling Wand With Interchangeable Barrels

Interchangeable barrels are new to the hair care market, but they are increasing in popularity. These curling wands tend to be more expensive but for a very good reason.

Interchangeable barrels give you the freedom to experiment with new hairstyles without the expense of buying a new curling iron every time. Theses curling wands are also effortless to use.

All you have to do is swap one barrel out and lock the one you want into the handle. There are at least five interchangeable barrels that come with one curling wand. The more barrels that come with a curling wand, the more expensive it will be.

Based on the curling wand brand, you can swap out more than just barrels. In fact, it’s possible to switch out a curling wand’s barrel and lock in a flat iron, a rotating brush, and other hair care tools. You can make the most out of your curling wand if it comes with interchangeable barrels.

Curling Iron With Interchangeable Barrels

How To Curl With A Wand

Let's go through the process of curling your hair.


Edward Tricomi, cofounder of the Warren Tricomi salons, says the trick to mastering them is all about how you section your hair.” To give your hair the full curling treatment, it’s essential you section portions of it.

A strand of hair should be no longer than one inch wide. Strands that contain too much hair will undergo uneven heating. The lack of uniform heating will cause limp and saggy curls to form.


Once your curling wand is at the right temperature, you can start the hair curling process. You have to hold your hair by the end and then wrap it around the barrel. You should start wrapping your hair around the barrel’s base if you want uniform heating.

For wavy curls, it’s recommended you keep your hair as flat as possible as you wrap it around the barrel. For tight curls, you should twist your hair strand before wrapping it around the barrel.

Waiting Period

Curling wands work faster than your typical curling iron. You should wait 2-6 seconds to expose your hair to the curling wand. Curling irons take longer to provide the same results that curling wands do.

After you wait the allotted time, you should pull the curling wand vertically down. You might need to repeat this process over with the same strand if you want bouncy curls.


You have the option to spray your hair after your done using the curling wand. Texturizing sprays keep the curls together, which prevents them from sagging as the days goes on. Hairspray won’t hold your curls as well as texturizing spray.

Woman Spraying Curly Hair After Using Curling Iron

Beauty experts say that, "The polymers of hair spray tend to be too heavy for a finished curl and actually create weight, making them droop."


It seems that every modern curling iron is an easy to use curling iron. Nowadays, anyone can curl their hair in the comfort of their home. Paying a professional to curl hair is no longer necessary.

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