Don't Make These 8 Common Curling Iron Mistakes

by Miki Hayes

Curling hair seems pretty basic. You heat up a curling iron, wrap your hair around it, and you're done. Unfortunately, there are plenty of curling iron mistakes you could be inadvertently making that could damage your hair or prevent those darn curls from lasting all day — no matter how much hairspray you use. You might think that higher heat or longer curling is the answer, but it's not. In fact, there are some details that can make or break your curls (and your actual hair, for that matter).

Remember that video of the poor girl who burned her hair off with a curling iron? While that was more on the freak side of accidents, there are a couple of ways to make sure that never happens to you. The first is to make sure that you're not using an outdated curling iron. Older irons might not be made of the best materials that more current ones are. And if an older one was just, for example, ceramic-coated, keep in mind that those coats can wear off over time. Either way, your hair could be more susceptible to damage, and the iron more susceptible to shorting out.

The second way to ensure that your hair doesn't burn off is to make sure that it is completely dry before it touches any hot tool. When hair is wet, it is much more vulnerable to damage and breakage. And finally, make sure you know what products you're using in your hair. A product that adds too much moisture or alcohol to the hair before curling is a recipe for disaster. But having the right curling iron and making sure your hair is dry is not enough. Here are eight common mistakes to avoid to make sure your curls last all day and that your hair doesn't suffer unnecessary damage.

1. You Don't Use A Heat Protectant

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Always, always, ALWAYS use a heat protectant before curling your hair (or blow drying, or straightening, or using any other hot tool, for that matter). This will make sure your hair incurs minimal damage from styling.

2. You're Using The Wrong-Sized Barrel

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Yes, larger barrels will generally create larger waves while smaller barrels will create tighter curls. But depending on the look you're going for, you might want to try larger sections of hair with a smaller barrel, or smaller sections of hair with a larger barrel. Here's a handy guide for finding the best size for you.

3. You're Curling In The Wrong Direction

While there's no real wrong direction to curl your hair, for the most natural look, face-framing pieces should be curled away from your face. You can continue to curl sections toward the back, away from your face, for a homogeneous head of curls, or you can alternate directions with each section of hair for a more beachy, messy look (or if you have shorter hair).

4. You're Using The Wrong Heat

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Just because a curling iron maxes out at 450 degrees Fahrenheit doesn't mean you have to use it on that setting. To keep your hair from becoming too damaged (especially if you're a frequent curler), always use the lowest setting that will work for you. This isn't to say only use the lowest setting available; some hair types will not hold a curl at 200 degrees. But especially if you have fine or thin hair, try out lower heat settings to stave off damage and breakage.

5. You're Curling For The Wrong Amount Of Time

It should never take more than 10 seconds for each section of hair to curl. And really, holding hair on a curling iron for too long can be dangerous, because your hair cannot only break, but can also burn. So to make sure your locks are safe, don't spend too much time on each section of hair.

6. You're Curling the Wrong Amount of Hair

Slightly larger sections of hair will provide looser curls than smaller sections. But go too big, and the heat from your iron will not evenly distribute. Try to grab one-inch sections of hair for more even curls that will last longer.

7. You're Misusing The Clamp

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There are different ways to use the clamp on a curling iron, depending on the look you're going for. For more glamorous curls, make sure the tip of your hair is under the clamp. If you prefer a messy look, you can leave the ends out. And for a natural look, forego the clamp and wrap your hair around it and the barrel, like you would for a curling wand.

8. You're Not Cooling Your Curls

If you just let your curls fall as soon as you take them off of the iron, they will be looser than you might have intended. To keep curls tighter, release them into your hand (be sure to wear a glove if you use higher heat), or pin them with a setting clip while they cool. Cooling in a curled shape will not only give you tighter curls, but they will hold their shape longer as well.

Images: Miki Hayes