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How to Curl Straight Hair for Sumptuous Swirls

BY Felicia Ler

It’s hard not to love straight hair with its low-maintenance nature and ease of styling. But if you have curl-free strands, there are times you probably gaze at your curly-haired counterparts with envy — those vivacious, buoyant curls are just so alluring to the eye.

If you, like many straight-haired folks out there, often wonder about how to curl straight hair, then this guide is for you. We’ll share three ways you can become part of the curly hair club whether you choose heat styling tools or no-heat curling techniques.

1. How to Curl Straight Hair With Heat Styling Tools

Whenever you think of how to curl straight hair, heat-styling tools likely pop into your mind, specifically curling irons and curling wands. Even straighteners like flat irons are potential candidates for the job. But which should you choose? Here’s a quick rundown.

Wands, Irons, and Straighteners

The styling tool you choose all depends on your preferences. Do you want relaxed-looking, beachy waves or tight, polished ringlets? Curling wands will help you achieve the former, while curling irons are better suited for the latter. That said, wands offer more flexibility in curl patterns if you’re someone who likes to switch things up. Their tapered barrels allow you to form different curl sizes with a single tool.

Still, curling irons aren’t without their perks. They work better for those with short hair. After all, it’s harder to wrap short strands around a standard-length curling wand without burning your fingers (#truestory).

You may have also heard that you can use a straightener to curl your mane. For this hack to work, you’ll need a flat iron with round barrels to wind your strands around. The beauty of using a flat iron to curl straight hair is that you can easily straighten the coils if they are too tight for your liking.

Materials and Barrel Size

Whether you set your heart on a curling wand, iron, or straightener, hair experts recommend tools made with ceramic or tourmaline. Ceramic is great for fine hair as it spreads heat evenly to minimize hair damage. Meanwhile, tourmaline emits negative ions to neutralize frizziness and dryness for that smooth, shiny hair texture.

The size of the barrel matters just as much. Because straight hair has a propensity to lose its curls after a while, choose a smaller barrel of one inch or less. This gives you a tighter curl pattern that’s less likely to loosen and fade as the day wears on.

Haircare and Styling Tips

Choosing the right heat-styling tool is only half the battle to attain perfect curls. The other half lies in your haircare and styling routine:

  • Use a volumizing shampoo and conditioner. Let’s face it, straight hair types need all the help they can get for full-bodied curls. So, use a shampoo and conditioner that adds extra oomph to your locks on the regular. (Psst, pick the “volumize” hair goal when you take our hair quiz!)
  • Apply a heat protectant. You’ve probably heard this a million times, but we’ll say it again — always use a heat protectant before you heat-style your tresses. One solid option would be Function of Beauty’s custom hair serum. You can apply it to damp hair to tamp down the heat damage, tangles, and frizz.
  • Choose the right styling products. Not all hair products are made equal for different types of hair. Generally, fine hair needs lightweight products like light- and flexible-hold hairsprays and serums. Meanwhile, thicker strands will do well with curl creams and mousses to help your hair hold its curls better.
  • Adjust the heat setting. Thin hair types are more fragile, so they do better at lower temperatures. On the other hand, coarse strands need higher temperatures to stay curved throughout the day.

2. How to Curl Straight Hair Sans Heat While You Sleep

We all know how much heat our fibers take (literally) with heat-styling. To minimize hair damage, learn how to curl straight hair without heat-styling tools. Bonus: You can curl hair to perfection while you snooze. Talk about beauty sleep!

Here are three popular no-heat curling techniques that you’ll want to try ASAP:

  • Braid it: Tying your hair in braids before you hit the sheets is one of the oldest tricks in the book when it comes to curling straight hair without heat. Best of all, this technique works for hairstyles of all lengths. Short-haired gals can try cornrows and Dutch braids. Meanwhile, those with long hair can get away with any braided style.
  • Try pin curls: For this vintage hairstyle, you’ll need pin curl clips or bobby pins. First, lightly spritz your hair with water. Next, take a small section of hair and roll it around your forefinger. Gently slide the hair off your finger before pinning it in place with a clip. You can pin the curl flat on your scalp for tighter curls or in a standing position for loose waves. Before you go to bed, wrap your head with a scarf to avoid dislodging the pins during slumber.
  • Use soft curlers and rollers: You can easily get soft curlers and rollers at your nearest drugstore. Even though these heatless hair-curling devices come in different shapes and sizes, they are mostly used the same way. All you have to do is wrap a small section of hair around each curler or roller and keep it in place.

To extend the longevity of your curls, follow these easy tips:

  • Start with dry hair. If your hair’s a little oily, sprinkle some dry shampoo on your roots to absorb the excess sebum. If it’s wash day for you, towel-dry your mane to get rid of the excess water and detangle (find out why air-dry doesn’t always do your hair any favors).
  • Before you start braiding or rolling your hair into curls, use a curl-enhancing leave-in product to help maximize your spirals. In need of one? Choose our custom leave-in treatment, a lightweight conditioning cream. Just add the “curl definition” and “anti-frizz” hair goals during the quiz for frizz-free, bouncy curls.
  • When you wake up the next day, free your curls and gently shake them out. Then, spritz your mane with volumizing hairspray to set your swirls, so they are less likely to turn loose and limp before the day ends.

3. How to Curl Straight Hair Permanently

OK, what if you want to have curly hair without spending time using hot tools and hair accessories? There’s always the perm (short for permanent).

Perms use chemicals to alter the internal structure of your hair fibers and create the desired loops. They are mainly categorized into:

  • Hot perms: Commonly known as digital perms, this type of perm uses an acidic solution and is relatively low-maintenance.
  • Cold perms: This perming style uses an alkaline solution. The end result is a voluminous ‘do with more lift at the roots.

Take note that perms are chemical treatments that are more damaging than heat-styling and heatless curling techniques. Also, if you’ve recently bleached or dyed your mane, your hairstylist will likely veto doing a perm so soon to avoid wrecking your hair.

Given that most perms last up to six months and can take a few to several hours for each session, it’s up to you to decide if you want to achieve a curly hairstyle via this method.

Ready, Set, Curl

As you can see, curly hair can be a reality for straight-haired folks — with the right tools, techniques, and hair products.

Many of us may turn toward trusty heat-styling tools like curling irons and wands. But these aren’t the only options in your repertoire. If you’d like to give your strands a break from the heat, try any of the no-heat techniques listed above. And for a more permanent solution, there’s always the perm.

Whichever route you embark on your quest for those tantalizing tendrils, make sure you’re armed with the right hair products. If you need some help in this area, Function of Beauty’s custom haircare range may have just what you’re looking for.