You probably only break out your flat iron when you want to sear your hair into a smooth, frizz-free coif. But like the beauty version of a Swiss Army knife, a straightener can be used to MacGyver your strands into loads of different styles. Want to fake blowout bends? Lusting after old Hollywood waves? Pining for the piece-y texture you’d get from a day at the beach? Grab that iron to create quick curls.
It’s a trick professional stylists have been using for years, including my good friend Mia Santiago, who’s tended to the locks of Mariska Hargitay, Martha Stewart, Christina Hendricks, and Dove Cameron. In fact, Santiago’s kicked her curling iron to the curb—even when she’s working on her celebrity clientele. “I actually use a flat iron more often to create waves and curls because I find the results look more natural,” she tells me. “And I’ve had clients say their texture lasts longer when they use a straightener to curl their hair."
It may sound a little complicated, but Santiago, who's loving the T3 Lucea 1" Professional Straightening & Styling Flat Iron right now, insists that you can use one of three simple flat iron techniques to create a variety of curls—and she shared her simple step-by-step tutorials with me (along with some easy-to-follow videos).
For each, Santiago recommends using a flat iron with standard 1-inch plates on the highest temperature your hair can tolerate and saturating dry (always dry) strands with a heat protectant beforehand (she likes the Philip B. Thermal Protection Spray). Another good rule of thumb: Start with the sections of the hair underneath (nearest to the nape of your neck, for example), working your way to the crown and the hair that rests on top—this way you won’t disrupt the wave pattern you’ve just created by pushing your hair aside to get to another section.
Ready to curl your hair with an iron at home? Here's what to do!
Technique 1: Slide Waves
Whether you’re looking for a casual I-just-woke-up-like-this style or a more polished bend, this method delivers. On 1-inch sections of hair, and beginning a few inches away from your scalp (try to smooth the root with your iron first), clamp your iron and, as you slide it down the length of your hair, rotate your wrist back and forth as if you’re starting the ignition of a car. “When working on the back of your head, I find it helpful to turn to the side and pull your hair out so you can see what you’re working with,” Santiago says.
For a sophisticated look, hold the end of each section gently and create big dips in the hair, going back over any creases with your iron to smooth them and curling the ends under a bit. Then spritz on a shine enhancing spray like Sexy Hair Vibrant Sexy Hair Rose Elixir and run a comb through your locks to smooth flyaways.
A more undone look can be achieved by pulling the hair slightly more taut and running the iron over each section faster so that you’re creating more waves. Finish with a texturizer like Fatboy Tousle & Go Texture Spray.
Craving an even wavier, almost crimped look? Santiago recommends pulling the sections of hair even more firmly and rocking your iron more rapidly to create the highest number of bends possible. Mist on your texturizer and follow up with an enhancer like Santiago’s fave, the Ouai Wave Spray.
Technique 2: "S" Waves
This process is fairly straightforward: You’re essentially bending sections of your hair to create continuous "S" shapes as you clamp your flat iron down the length of each, locking the pattern into place. “This will replicate that look you’d get after you take your hair out of a braid,” Santiago says.
Before you begin, spritz each section with texturizer (“It creates grip that helps your wave pattern last longer,” she says). You can get a more pronounced shape by using smaller sections of hair and weaving the hair through your flat iron in more dramatic, deeper "S" shapes. For that look, spritz on your wave spray and separate your hair with your fingers. Texture spray can be used on the looser style to create soft movement.
Technique 3: Wrap Waves
Feed a section of hair through your open flat iron, clamp the plates down about an inch or two from your roots, and then wrap the section around the iron once, sliding it down the length of the section.
“If you hold the flat iron nearly vertically, you can create big, bouncy coils,” Santiago says. When you’re finished, comb through to soften and then backcomb slightly to enhance the shape, resulting in a polished, glam look. A softer result can be achieved by keeping the iron horizontal and holding the end of each section taut as you slide the tool down its length.
Alter this overall process slightly and you can create beachy waves: Instead of sliding the iron down the entirety of each section after you’ve wrapped your hair around it, you’re sliding it down just a bit, unclamping, and then rewrapping your hair around the tool and repeating down the length of each section. Spritz with texturizer and you’re ready to hang ten.
For more stories like this, sign up for our newsletter.
You Might Also Like