Most of us mastered using a curling iron around the same time we learned how to drive, but the latest batch of irons isn’t as straightforward. They come with double, or even triple, wands, strange ridges, and bent middles. But what do they actually do? We asked Sebastian Professional’s lead hairstylist Thomas Dunkin to share a few tips and tricks. As with all hot tools, start with dry hair and never hold the iron on your strands for more than a few seconds until you are familiar with the heat levels.
The most popular shape above isn’t new, but it is having a renaissance. Dunkin attributes it to the embrace of texture. “Hair is being worn with a soft wave rather than a curl,” he says. Try Revlon’s Perfect Heat 3-Barrel Deep Waver Styling Iron ($20) for beachy or retro waves. For a ‘40s feel, clamp the iron close to your roots and hold, moving down the length of your hair without leaving any space between the waves. Set with a heavy dose of hairspray (don’t brush!). For a soft, beachy look clamp the iron an inch or two off your roots, quickly release the iron, and rake your hands through the waves once they cool. Finish with a spritz of beach spray, like Oribe’s Apres Beach Wave and Shine Spray ($37) or Not Your Mothers’ Beach Babe Texturizing Sea Salt Spray ($6) for texture. You can leave your new waves down and loose, or twist into a bun like Willa Holland.
CHI’s Digital Ceramic Deep Waver ($130) offers an even deeper wave. It may look like a huge crimping iron, but the results are anything but ‘80s. Try using on just the roots for volume. To start, apply Sebastian’s Form Volupt Spray Gel ($15) on the roots of wet hair before blow-drying. Section off the hair on your crown before breaking out the iron—you don’t want the top layers to be touched. “Only clamp the iron on the first couple of inches nearest to the scalp, but not along your part,” he says. “Then as the rest of the hair is styled you don't see the wave at the roots, but you get a great amount of volume in your hair.”
Classic barrel curls aren’t going anywhere, but don’t you want to try something new? Try TIGI’s Bed Head Hourglass Iron with Glove ($25) to create natural-looking tight curls that are smaller in the center and looser at the roots and ends. To start, hold the iron parallel to the length of your hair, wrapping 1-inch sections around the barrel while holding the ends an inch away from the base of the tool. Set the curls with hairspray to channel Jessica Stam’s Met Gala ‘do or brush through and backcomb the curls with a boar bristle brush for a full look a la Marc Jacobs’ F/W 13 runway.
Sultra’s The Bombshell Oval Rod Curling Iron ($130) is kind of challenging, but it creates a cool zig-zag kink in the hair. “Make sure you take very specific sections around the head to achieve a symmetrical effect,” says Dunkin. Working with 2-inch sections, use the iron like you would the Bed Head rod above. The trick is to be very careful of placement—you want to mirror the two sides of your head. Wrapping the hair in the same direction on each side will also help to keep the look uniform. Or go the opposite direction and use the iron to create messy kinks in the vein of Erin Wasson’s enviable bedhead. Wrap the barrel around random sections only once for perfect texture. Practice makes perfect, and in this case, a perfectly new style.