Curling your hair is kind of like riding a bike. Hear me out, OK? When you're a kid, hopping on a two-wheeler feels daunting, and chances are, at first, you'll fall off — more than once. But after you've put in the practice and mastered it, riding a bike becomes second nature. The same goes for curling your hair, which similarly requires you to put time and effort into learning a technique and not giving up until you've got it down. As long as you remain patient and determined, though, curling your hair will eventually become something you can do with your eyes closed.
Before you can become a pro, however, it's helpful to be aware of what you shouldn't do during the curling process. This way you can avoid making mistakes and be on a faster track to styling success. (It'll also keep you from frying your hair, too.) To remove the guesswork, we tapped two hairstylists who curl hair for a living to tell us the most common hair-curling-flubs people make. Check them out below and get one step closer to expert status on your own.
1. Using Hairspray Before You Curl
Sure, it may seem like adding a few spritzes of hairspray prior to curling would help hold your style better — and it might — but not without damaging your strands in the meantime. "Only use heat protectant sprays first," says hairstylist Kirsten Patterson. "Hairspray and heat from the curling iron can really dry your hair out, so it's important to only use it once you're finished styling," she adds. If you're curious, these are a few of our favorite heat protectants, all of which are valued at under $20.
2. Using an Old Curling Iron
If you're using a curling iron that you bought from the drugstore (no shade) in the seventh grade, and it doesn't seem to be cutting it, you're not just imagining things. Wands and irons that are past their prime won't be as effective, according to Patterson. "The iron might feel hot, but it may not be heating the hair correctly anymore, which will likely cause you to go over each section too many times and burn the hair," she explains. If you're in the market for a new one, here are 18 curling irons we swear by at every price point.
3. Holding the Curl on the Iron for Too Long
If your goal is to get super-tight ringlets, then, by all means, hold the curl until it becomes a tiny cue. But if you're looking to create timeless beach waves or loose curls, hairstylist David Babaii says you should avoid holding the curl on the iron for too long. "You want to run the curling iron through your hair section by section for only three to five seconds and then release," he explains. "If you don't release fast enough and hold the iron for any longer than that, your curls will be much tighter." So, listen to the expert and resist the urge to hold for longer than needed. Bonus: This will reduce the damage you're doing to your hair, too.
4. Curling From the Ends Up
Figuring out which way you're supposed to curl your hair can feel like a calculus equation, but here's one reliable tip: Always curl from the roots, down. "The ends of your hair are more delicate and don't need nearly as much heat to curl," says Patterson, who explains that you should always start from the top, working your way downward, for best results. Leaving your ends last will cut down on damage, and give the overall style a more natural-looking vibe.
5. Playing With Your Curls Mid-Process
We get it. It can be extremely tempting to touch and fiddle with your hair while you're between sections, but the curls won't hold up as well if you do this — especially if your hair doesn't like to hold a curl. "If your hair is super straight or doesn’t curl easily, do not even think about brushing or touching those curls until the very end when they have cooled down and the whole head is done," says Patterson. Once they've cooled down and set themselves is when you can use your fingers or a comb to tweak them to how you want them to be.
6. Using the Wrong Sized Iron
Want big waves or voluminous curls? It doesn't necessarily mean you need a bigger iron to achieve it. "Women love this look but they often try to do it by using a bigger iron or wand, when in fact, they really should be using a longer 1-inch iron," says Babaii, who favors this one by n:p beautiful. "Using a smaller, longer iron allows you to get a more defined wave," he adds. Patterson agrees, too: "As a general rule, use a smaller size curling iron than the curl you want because the curl will end up being two to three times the size of the iron."
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