Top Hairstyles to Do With a Curling Iron

It’s the secret to top hairstyles like Beyonce’s barrel waves, Kim Kardashian’s sexy bedhead look and the glamorous cascade of curls that stars regularly show off on the red carpet. We’re talking about curling irons. “You can change the whole texture and personality of your hair in just a few minutes with a curling iron,” says Mezei Jefferson, a Chicago-based salon educator. “It will also help boost volume and add fullness to baby-fine hair.”

There are a variety of different curling irons that create curls of different size and tightness. Here’s how to find the one that’s right for you.

Spiral Curls
These curling irons have raised ridges on the barrel. To create the telephone-cord curls of Mariah Carey or Sarah Jessica Parker, simply twist your hair around the spiral pattern. The closer the grooves, the tighter the curls. For cascading ribbon curls with volume at the roots, choose a spiral iron with a tapered barrel.


  • Work with diagonal sections of hair to get closer to your scalp and create small bouncy curls.
  • After you curl a section of your hair, pin it to your scalp to keep your curls intact as you continue styling the rest of your hair.

Loose Curls
Megan Fox and “Glee” stars Jayma Mays and Dianna Argon all rocked retro Hollywood glamour at this year’s Golden Globes with romantic, wavy texture. To create this look, choose a spring curling iron with a barrel size of at least 1 inch. The longer your hair, the larger the barrel you’ll want: Opt for a barrel of 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 inches for mid-length hair, or 2 inches if your hair is shoulder-length or longer. Spring curling irons are a great tool for novice curlers; the clip helps you keep a firm grip on your hair as you work.


  • Begin working from the middle of the hair shaft. Roll hair in the direction of your scalp. Then open the clip and feed in your ends.
  • To protect hair, use as little heat as needed. Start with a temperature of 300 F. If that doesn’t give you the hold you want, gradually move on to hotter settings, increasing heat by 25 F at a time.


Double- or triple-barreled curling irons give you that just-back-from-the-beach look you’re craving in the middle of winter. This is the tool to choose if you want the tousled tresses of celebrity hair trends seen on Taylor Swift or Blake Lively.


  • For an authentic beachy look, start with day-old hair rather than just-shampooed locks.
  • Apply a light holding spray before curling, and then work with horizontal sections of hair, rolling up to about 1 inch from your scalp.

Tips for All Types of Curls

  • Apply a silicone-based serum before using the curling iron to protect your hair against heat damage.
  • After curling, apply pomade or a silicone-based styling product. Work through your hair gently, and then finger-comb your hair to separate curls.
  • Keep the barrel of your iron clean. Run a smooth, dry cloth over it when it’s still warm -- not hot -- to remove dust and product buildup.
  • Make sure your hair is absolutely dry before you use your curling iron. Otherwise, you’ll end up with damaged hair and limp, ill-formed curls that will wilt in one to two hours.
  • Always work with small sections of hair and hold the curl around the curling iron for 10 seconds, then release.
  • Spray each section with a light mist of flexible-hold hairspray.

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