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Did you know you can create gorgeous curls using only your flat iron? Here, we’re breaking down everything you should know before you begin styling.

How To Get Effortless Curls and Waves Using a Flat Iron

Did you know you can create gorgeous curls using only your flat iron? Here, we’re breaking down everything you should know before you begin styling.
How To Get Effortless Curls and Waves Using a Flat Iron

Despite its name, the flat iron (a.k.a hair straightener) is one curling tool you don’t want to overlook. Sure, its primary purpose is to smooth and straighten your strands, but with the right technique, this versatile styling tool can create some impressive curly styles. Whether you prefer beachy waves or defined curls, a flat iron is a must-have if you’re looking to add variety to your styling routine.

Ahead, we’re breaking down how to curl your hair with a flat iron step-by-step using L'Oréal Professionnel’s Steampod Flat Iron & Styler. Plus, we’ll also give you the lowdown on some of the best heat protectants and styling products to keep your strands looking and feeling their absolute best.

Curling Iron vs. Flat Iron Curls: What’s the Difference?

Flat irons and curling irons are both great options for creating curly hairstyles. However, certain styling tools may be better suited for creating specific looks. Read on to learn more about these styling tools and how to choose the right one for your needs.

Curling iron

Curling irons (and curling wands) are designed specifically for creating curls and waves. With curling irons, hair is wrapped around a cylindrical heated barrel to form the curls. These styling tools come in a variety of sizes and can be a great option for crafting very defined, uniform curls—like ringlets or voluminous, big bombshell curls.

With curling irons, the size of your curl is determined by the size of the barrel. Since many curling irons don’t come with interchangeable barrels, this can leave you limited to only one curl size. At the same time, beginners may find it easier to start out with a traditional curling iron, as this curling technique is generally easier to grasp for many people.

Flat iron

Flat irons are primarily used to straighten hair. They use two heated plates that sandwich your strands, smoothing flyaways and frizzy, unruly strands in the process. However, depending on how you hold them, flat irons can also create a variety of waves and curls. They’re often the preferred choice for creating messy beach waves and loose, effortless-looking curls.

Good hair day by @beautybybrittw_.

Is Curling With a Flat Iron Better?

Curling with a flat iron isn’t necessarily better than other curling methods—it all depends on your skill level and the hairstyle you’re trying to achieve. Flat irons are generally more versatile in their styling options, because they can be used to create both straight and curly hairstyles. This versatility makes flat irons a convenient, jack-of-all-trades option when it comes to styling your tresses. Just think, you can use a flat iron to curl your ends while simultaneously smoothing out bumps and flyaways around your roots.

Good hair day by @yaa_asare.

How To Curl Your Hair With a Straightener

Now that we’ve covered the basics, you’re ready to begin styling. Keep scrolling for a complete tutorial on how to use a flat iron to create flawless curls for any occasion.

Step 1: Start with second-day hair

Second-day hair has just the right amount of grit to keep your curls from falling flat. With that said, you can still create flat iron curls if your hair is freshly washed—just reach for a few styling products to help mimic the look and feel of second-day hair. The goal is to add a bit of hold without going overboard with styling products.

For hair that’s a bit too clean, try adding a few spritzes of a texturizing spray or dry shampoo. We recommend L’Oréal Professionnel’s Tecni.Art Next Day Hair Dry Texturizing Spray for beachy, tousled looks, and Pureology Style + Protect Refresh & Go Dry Shampoo for subtle, lightweight texture.

Step 2: Apply a heat protectant

Before you begin curling, be sure to apply a heat protectant. One of our favorites is Redken Acidic Color Gloss Heat Protection Leave-In Treatment, which features an acidic pH-balanced formula and Invisible Shield Technology for heat protection (up to 450° F) and shine. On top of heat protection, this leave-in treatment spray hydrates strands while detangling and helping to seal in color.

Step 3: Detangle and create your sections

Detangle your hair with a boar bristle brush to avoid any snarls while you’re styling. You can use a detangling product to help gently remove knots, like Biolage Professional All-In-One Coconut Infusion Multi-Benefit Treatment Spray. Once your hair is knot-free, use a clip to pin up the top half of your hair. Split the bottom half of your hair in half and decide which side you’d like to start curling your hair on. Gather a 1-inch section of hair, starting at the back of your head, and grab your flat iron.

Good hair day by @hannahjeanbeauty.

Step 4: Create your first curl

Clamp the flat iron down at the base of the 1-inch section of hair. You’ll want to hold the flat iron horizontally (at about a 45-degree angle), guiding it down the section slowly until you reach the point where you want to begin curling. Once you reach this point, you’re going to twist the flat iron upwards, flipping the section of hair up and around the outside of the flat iron.

Once the hair is locked in place, slowly guide the flat iron downward, using light tension to pull the wrapped hair toward your ends. If your hair is on the longer side, you may need to twist it a second time as you get closer to your ends. Use your other hand to help guide the hair through the iron. Keep going until your ends make their way through the flat iron, and release.

Pro Tip: If you have straight hair or want tighter curls, try using bobby pins or metal curl clips to secure each ringlet in place while it cools.

Step 5: Continue curling

Continue using the same technique to curl the bottom half of your hair in 1-inch segments. We suggest starting at the back of your head and working your way towards the front. Once you’re finished, release the top layer of your hair and repeat the same steps. For a variety of curl or wave patterns, try alternating directions—curl one piece inward towards your face and the next one outward away from your face.

Pro Tip: For a more relaxed, natural look, curl larger sections of hair, then gently run your fingers through your hair while it’s still warm to loosen the curl.

Step 6: Complete the look

Once your entire mane is curled and your curls have cooled, it’s time to finish the look. Remove any clips or pins (if using them) and gently shake your head to loosen the curls a bit. You can use your fingers to sculpt and define your curls as desired. For a loose, fluffy effect, comb through your hair with a bristle brush.

Or, if you’re going for natural waves, try using only your fingers or a wide-tooth comb to loosen and separate curls. Lastly, don’t forget to lock in your look with a few spritzes of hairspray. One of our go-to picks for the job is Redken Shine Flash Spray—this anti-frizz shine spray provides instant shine for glossy, glass-like strands. Double down with a strong-hold hairspray (like L'Oréal Professionnel Tecni.Art Infinium 4 Hairspray) if your curls tend to drop quickly.

Good hair day by @gabie.godfrey.

There can be a bit of a learning curve when it comes to curling your hair with a flat iron. So, if previous attempts at flat iron curls haven’t worked out, you may just need to brush up on your skills. The most common technique for creating flat iron curls is to clamp a section of hair between the plates, twist the flat iron away from your face, and gently guide it down the hair shaft—curling it as you go until you reach your ends.

Besides your technique, it’s also possible that you weren’t using the right flat iron for your hair. Flat iron plates are made with different materials, such as ceramic, tourmaline, and titanium. Those with fine hair may prefer the gentleness of ceramic, while anyone with thick, unruly strands may benefit from a tourmaline or titanium hot tool. When searching for flat irons, we recommend researching which straightener is best for your hair type, length, and concerns.

Pro Tip: One flat iron that works for all hair types is the L'Oréal Professionnel Steampod Flat Iron & Styler. The steam-powered device delivers two times smoother and two times faster* results with less damage. The tool’s steam technology infuses water into the hair cuticle with each pass, allowing you to retain moisture as you’re styling. The Steampod also helps protect salon color and adds shine to your tresses.

*Compared to Steampod heating plates alone

Good hair day by @nextsalon1992.

3 of Our Favorite Wavy and Curly Looks To Create With a Flat Iron

For even more flat iron styling ideas, check out our tutorials below.


S-waves are perfect for anyone seeking a glam wave style that works for any occasion. For this look, you’ll need a 1-inch flat iron, boar bristle brush, heat protectant (like Biolage Professional Thermal Active Hair Spray), and the above tutorial. Choose a 1-inch section of hair to start with and grab the section with your fingers (about two inches down).

Next, bend the section slightly inward to create a wave and, with your other hand, grab your flat iron and clamp down on the wave. Release the flat iron and create another wave in your hair, this time bending it in the other direction. Clamp down again with your flat iron, and release. Continue repeating this process down the length of your hair—you should notice an S-shaped pattern forming as you go. Allow each section to cool without separating them to help your hair retain the S-shaped wave pattern.

Blow-Dry Curls

It’s hard to go wrong with bouncy, salon-worthy blow-dry curls. To get the look, section your hair and begin creating loose waves with your flat iron. Next, use your fingers to curl each section of hair upwards and secure with a pin or hair clip (so it can cool in place). Once your entire head is done, use hairspray to set the curls, take out the clips, and gently brush out the curls for a soft, voluminous blowout look.

Flat Iron Twists

If messy, beachy waves are your thing, try flat iron twists using the above tutorial. This look is done using a super simple technique where you twist sections of hair (approximately 1-inch) and clamp your flat iron down repeatedly down the length of each section. Use your fingers to gently separate the twists and use a texturizing cream to create even more volume. We love using Redken Texture Paste for this look, as the moldable formula is perfect for high-texture hairstyles with flexible control.

Next Up: This ‘Finger Wave’ Hack Defines Your Curl Pattern With Way Less Damage

Interested in more expert styling tips? Use our salon locator to book an appointment at a salon near you.

Header image credit: @nextsalon1992

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