How To Curl Your Hair With a Flat Iron

Even if your hair is already curly.
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Rikki Ciminsky
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Even if your hair is already curly.
Miranda Kerr curls

Sometimes—okay, often—my natural curls just don't do it for me. Because let's be frank. Natural curls will never be the perfectly uniform and silky spirals that you get from a hot tool.

I already have a straightening iron (obviously), and I tell myself I can't justify purchasing a curling iron when I already have curly hair. But when I DO try to curl my hair with the straightener, I can never seem to get it quite right.

Turns out, I was making a bajillion mistakes. Charise Bauman of the Aveda Institute and Academy in Toronto broke it down for me, so follow these tips if you've ever wanted to multi-task with your flat iron... or if you're a curly-haired crazy like me who is rarely satisfied with going au naturel.

Step 1: Choose your curl

Decide whether you want your curl to go towards the face, or away from the face.

Adriana Lima curls

TOWARDS THE FACE: "Turning the iron towards your face is more seductress, sex kitten. Think Victoria's Secret models," says Charise. Case in point: Victoria's Secret model Adriana Lima. Ugh, gorgeous.

Kaley Cuoco curls

AWAY FROM THE FACE: Charise prefers this technique for most of her clients. "It opens up the face. It shows confidence because you expose yourself a little more, rather than hiding behind all your hair." Back in 2009, Kaley Cuocototally got this concept. That was before she started making some questionable beauty decisions. We want this Kaley back!

Drew Barrymore edgy curls

EDGY: And if you want something a little more rock 'n' roll, you just straighten out the ends a bit like Drew Barrymore.

Step 2: Less is more!

I thought I needed to divide my hair into a million little pieces, and curl each one individually. But no. Charise curled my hair with, like,  just eight or nine-ish twists of the iron. Mind. Blown.

Divide your head into quarters as if you were drawing a horizontal and a vertical line through a balloon. Each section only needs approximately three to six curls (nuts!!) depending on the thickness of your hair.

Also:

  • Doing it in larger sections leaves less room for error, and ensures that each curl is the same size.
  • You can always separate curled sections post-iron if you want a more piece-y look.

Wow. So true.

Step 3: Curl like it's Christmas!

Sorry, no actual presents here. Just the gift of gorgeous curls... Ha!

Let me explain. Straightening irons aren't made to curl hair. They have edges, so they're not the most ideal shape for creating the perfect curl. For us amateurs, fumbling with continuously twisting the iron all the way down the section of hair tends not to go well. If you pause during that process, you heat up a certain part of your hair while it's pressed against the ridge of the iron, which leaves an awful dent. My biggest mistake was trying to simultaneously rotate and pull down the iron.

The solution: Pretend you are curling the ribbon on a gift!

  1. Grab a section of hair.
  2. Clamp it with the straightening iron.
  3. Twist the iron either towards or away from face.
  4. Pull the iron downwards without rotating it any more than it already is.
  5. Ta-da! Next piece!

Step 4:  Treat your shorter layers differently

When you go to curl your shortest pieces of hair (the ones that frame your face), keep it simple. Since shorter pieces weigh less, curling them from the scalp will give you a "curlicue clown curl." Sad.

Instead, grab the piece only at the bottom and do a small twist.

So, in summary:

1. Pick a look.
2. Do it in just a few sections.
3. Don't get all twisty with the iron.

These were the curls I got from test-driving all of Charise's tips! (Just in case you were curious.)

Rikki curls

Now, you can have your cake and eat it too... or at least, have a straightener and curl your hair too.

Have you ever used a flat iron to curl your hair?
Were you making the same mistakes as me?
Do you curl your hair even though it's already curly?