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How To Curl Hair With a Straightener: It Sounds Crazy But It Works Like a Charm

All it takes is a little know-how and practice to achieve wow-worthy hair with the hot tool

Even though it’s called a straightener or flat iron, this hot tool can do much more than make hair look sleek. Beauty influencers are raving about how they can use the tool to create curls and waves to give hair va-va volume that won’t fall flat. And the results have gone viral on TikTok as videos tagged with #curlswithastraighener have gained over 26 million views. Want to reap the same hair-beautifying rewards? Keep scrolling to learn how to curl hair with a straightener and why you’ll want to use it over a curling iron the next time you curl your hair.

Why use a straightener over a curling iron to curl hair?

“A straightener works better for some types of hair when it comes to curling or waving,” says Stephanie Angelone, a hairstylist at RPZL in New York City. If you have hair that doesn’t hold or tends to drop throughout the day, or hair on the heavier dense side, Angelone points out that a straightener will be beneficial for you when it comes to curling your hair.

Scott Fabian, a hairstylist at Sally Hershberger NoMad Salon in New York City agrees that straightening iron curls are better for someone whose hair doesn’t usually hold a curl. “Using a straightening iron to curl your hair will ensure that both sides of your hair get the same amount of heat,” he says. “Whereas a curling iron is hot at the barrel and warms up the clamp so it doesn’t consistently stay the same temperature.” This sets the curls, giving them more stay power.

A straightening iron for hair on a pink backdrop
Rosendo Serrano Valera/Getty

Additionally, Paul Labrecque, celebrity hairstylist and Creative Director of Paul Labreque Salon and Skincare Spa, says that he likes straightening iron curls in order “to achieve a nice look with curls that are more uncontrived and not so barrel-formed.”

The benefits of curling hair with a straightener

A straightener can create multiple types of curls

“A straightening iron can be used multiple ways,” says Angelone, especially when creating effortless beachy waves that feature straight ends. Labrecque also loves the versatility of a straightener. “With a straightening iron I can lift and straighten the roots while waving the ends or I can make a flipped look by pulling straight and flicking out on the hair ends.”

A straightener can be less damaging to hair

Angelone says that while a straightening iron tends to have higher heat, it also has better heat protection. That’s because most high quality straighteners have ceramic or titanium plates, which are less damaging.

The back of a woman's head of hair that's been curled with a straightener
Galina Kiseleva/Getty

A straightener cuts down on frizz

“Straightening irons are made to decrease frizz in your hair, so when curling your hair with a flat iron your results will be soft curls without frizz,” says Angelone.

Related: Wearing a Sleep Bonnet Guarantees You Wake Up with Frizz-Free Gorgeous Hair

A straightener keeps your luggage lighter

For Labrecque, using a straightening iron means he can carry fewer tools with him — a definite bonus that can also keep you from packing both a straightener and curling iron when traveling.

What to know before curling hair with a straightener

Since you’re not working with a rod like a curling iron has, using a straightener to curl hair isn’t as straightforward. Using a straightening iron can be a bit more tedious and time-consuming, notes Angelone, but the hair-thickening results make it worth it. She adds that “practice makes perfect” so once you nail down a routine, you and your hair will be set.

The key is to work in smaller sections of hair than you would when using a curling iron. This will ensure you’re as precise as possible so you won’t miss any pieces. Also, “the pulling action can harm hair more than a standard round barrel iron would” says Labrecque so it’s best to be gentle when curling hair with a straightener.

Lastly, straightening irons tend to be hotter and more powerful, adds Angelone, so using a heat-protecting spray is important before using the hot tool. Labrecque agrees and recommends applying Olaplex No. 6 Bond Smoother (Buy from Sephora, $30) as a leave-in treatment.

How to curl hair with a straightener

Woman curling her hair after learning how to curl hair with a straightener

There are two tricks when curling with a straightener that work for all hair lengths: “A good technique to keep in mind is to think about the process like taking scissors to curl a ribbon,” says Labrecque. “Slant the iron as you pull out and away from your head.” This will prevent the iron from making unwanted creases in hair. And he also notes to be careful with how much heat protectant you apply as too much product can prevent the iron from easily sliding.

Depending on how long or short your hair is will factor in on the type of curls you can create with a straightener. Below are the best ways for how to curl hair with a straightener based on your hair length.

How to curl hair with a straightener if you have short hair

“With short hair, we can flick out the ends or bangs to provide a more textured, tousled look,” says Labrecque. This technique works well for long pixies and ear-length crops. But for hair that floats above the shoulders, Angelone says her favorite is crimped, undone, waves. “When doing this you place the straightening iron (as you were using it to straighten) and as you’re feeding the hair down the section you bend the flat iron back and forth to creates bends in the hair and the result in a textured, fun, crimped look,” she says.

To see the “crimped” technique in action, watch the below video from YouTuber Dominique Sachse.

How to curl hair with a straightener if you have medium-length hair

For those with medium-length hair, beach waves look amazing, says Angelone. “Start by placing your flat iron on a diagonal and feeding the hair through the iron as if it were a curling iron, flipping the hair around as you work your way down,” she says. “When you come to the last inch and half of your hair, leave those pieces out and straighten as you would to make it straight.” When you’re done with your whole head, gently brush it out and you’ll have the perfect beach waves.

For an easy beach waves tutorial using a straightener, check out the below video from @HeyKayli on YouTube.

Related: The Secret to High Volume ‘Summer Hair’ All Year Long: Sea Salt Spray

How to curl hair with a straightener if you have long hair

Angelone loves a big bouncy look with volume for those with longer hair. When doing this style, she says to start by placing your straightening iron on a diagonal on the section and feed the hair through flipping the pieces as if it were a curling iron. “Do this through the entire section all the way to the ends (so they’re curled) and once you’re done, shake it out and your results will be long lasting big voluminous hair.”

Check out this video from @MelissaInLisbon on YouTube to see how easy it is to create voluminous curls on long hair with a straighter.

For more hairstyling tricks, click through these stories:

How To Create Sock Curls + More Heatless Styles That Add Volume to Fine Hair

The Bowl Method for Curly Hair is the Viral TikTok Hack That Revives Thin, Limp Coils

This Wavy Hair Routine Ensures Hair Looks Thick, Full and Bouncy Longer After Washing

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