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Every Type of Curling Iron and When to Use Them

We don’t know about you, but much like our trusty flat iron, we have one designated curling iron that lies under our sink. So when we plop into our hair stylist’s chair and we see five wave-making tools sitting atop their counter, we’re curious how to know which curling iron to use. I mean, don’t they all do the same thing?

Well, apparently not—and we reached out to several pros to not only break down when to use what, but also to provide some personal recs (we also threw in a couple of our own).

Keep reading, and prepare to nail your next wavy look!

how to know which curling iron to use | Mane Addicts

Curling Irons Are Divided Into Two Types

Curling Irons With Clamp

“Traditional clamp curling irons are great for classic waves and volume,” Ulta’s Sr. VP Nick Stenson tells Mane Addicts. “When using these types of irons, I like to prep the hair with a flexible hold spray like Matrix Total Results High Amplify Flexible Hold Hairspray, and set hair in medium sections away from the face, allow to cool and rake through with a large tooth comb. I always finish with the same spray to support the style.”  

Curling Irons That Are a Wand

“Wand irons are awesome for achieving a tussled textured beach wave and maintaining length in the style,” Stenson, who is also the brand ambassador for Matrix, says. “With using this iron, I like to prep the hair with Matrix Total Results Miss Mess Dry Finishing Spray. I work through the hair in medium size, alternating direction sections. After allowing to cool I’ll rake through with my fingers and finish with the Miss Mess spray again to complete the look.”

The Types Are Then Divided Into 4 Main Sizes

1 1/2″

“The 1 1/2′ barrel curling iron is textbook for loose, voluminous curls with a soft finished style,” Stenson says. “If your hair is hard to hold curl, I suggest a smaller iron for a tighter, longer lasting curl.”

(Stenson recommends Hot Tools Professional 24K Gold Digital Spring Curling Iron; We recommend the Sultra Bombshell Collection Clipless Curling Rod)

1 1/4″

“The 1 1/4′ barrel is a fan favorite for the perfect lived-in waves,” Stenson says. “It’s also great for anyone whose hair is harder to hold a curl but still wants to see a loose wave finish.”

(Celebrity hairstylist Emma Willis recommends Hot Tools 24K Gold Marcel Iron / Wand; Stenson recommends the GHD Curve Soft Curling Iron)

1″

“This is great for creating a modern loose wave,” Stenson says. “This is the go-to iron for those looking to achieve the perfect beachy wave.”

(Celebrity hairstylist Sienree Du recommends Paul Mitchell’s Marcel iron; Ruslan Nareev swears by Luxy Hair’s Signature Curling Wand; Stenson suggests the T3 SinglePass Curl Professional Ceramic Curling Iron)

3/4″

“This is great to set deep waves into the hair,” Stenson says. “This iron is your go-to for glam waves.”

(Stenson recommends Hot Tools 24K Gold Curling Iron)

Speaking of curling irons, HERE‘s how to know if it’s time to replace yours!

2 minutes

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