October 20, 2021 6 min read 1 Comment
While our parents’ generation was forced to experiment with hot rollers and dryer hoods, modern day heat styling has improved beyond those methods. Now, there is a wide array of curling wands available that give you greater control over the types of curls you can make. However, with greater ease of use, comes greater responsibility: You don’t want to fry your hair by exposing it to too much heat or using the wrong wand. There are two ways of controlling the heat when curling your hair: use a curling iron with temperature control or if you're using one with fixed heat, limit the amount of time you hold it on the barrel.
So, what is the best heat setting you should have for your hair type when curling and which methods will give you the desired results? Read on this curling wands 101, as we are going to look at the factors that determine the best tools and heat settings that each individual should use for their hair type.
To help you better understand hair types, below is a helpful chart for identifying your hair type:
The first step in this curling wands 101 is understanding your roots (literally). Knowing your natural hair type is only half the battle. If you have processed your hair in any way, that also affects what level of heat you should be using. This means that a natural 1B and a bleached 1B would not necessarily use the same heat setting.
Once you have determined your hair type, it’s also important to understand the condition of your hair. If you have what is referred to as “virgin hair” (a.k.a. completely natural, unprocessed hair), you have less to worry about when it comes to damage or breakage. Color treated hair is going to be more fragile than un-dyed strands, particularly bleached hair. Processed hair is also in a precarious state when heat styling. All of this is to say, that hair that has been chemically treated in any way is more prone to heat damage and breakage. Before people with untreated hair get big heads: keep in mind that even if you have completely natural hair, you need to consider if it is dried out. Dry hair with split ends will need more careful consideration when heat-styling.
If you haven’t already read this post on the types of materials used to create the heating elements of styling tools, I suggest that as the ultimate starting point. Though styling tools may have similar heat settings, different plate materials will produce different results. Choosing the barrel material that works best for your hair and your skill is a great place to start. The options for curling wands are: Titanium and Tourmaline Ceramic.
The smaller the barrel, the smaller the curl. If you are looking for tight ringlets you will want a wand with a half-inch diameter. On the other end of the spectrum, glamorous Old-Hollywood waves can be achieved by using a 1.25 inch barrel.
When it comes to protecting your hair from both short-term and lasting damage, the quality of the tool matters. While everyone has a budget, it’s important to keep in mind that a curling wand is an investment. If a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is! It’s an investment in the sense that a quality product is going to protect your hair from excessive damage. Less expensive wands are probably going to be made from aluminum or will be tourmaline-plated aluminum; this means you won’t get the even heating and moisture-locking negative ions of a pure tourmaline wand. A suspect tool will always produce questionable results.
The good news is, unlike straighteners, temperature controls are not standard, nor are they necessary for curling wands. While it isnice to have that extra bit of control over the outcome of your style, most wands won’t have a temperature dial or digital readout. So, if you have trouble finding a wand with temperature settings, don’t despair: This is not one of the factors that determines the quality of your tool!
Ultimately, you must remember that you get what you pay for and if you don’t pony up, it could cost you the health of your hair.
How you curl your hair is a major factor in your results. When curling your hair with a wand, you need to consider horizontal vs. vertical sectioning and the size of the section you have created. Horizontal sections will help with volume, while vertical sections are good for looser waves. The size of the section will determine how long the heat is applied to your hair. You could have virgin hair and the best curling wand on the market, but if you don’t consider sectioning and size of the sections, you won’t achieve your preferred style.
Though nothing is stopping experienced at-home hair care experts from using a titanium wand, those with fine or chemically treated hair should use a tourmaline-ceramic wand. The negative-ion-producing material will give bleached, dyed, or processed hair added smoothing and frizz-fighting benefits. If you regularly color or process your hair, the less trauma you can put your hair through, the better. The healthier your hair, the more likely it is to hold a style, which is why it is important to create as little damage as possible on already weak strands. Make sure the barrels are pure and not plated (again see this post for an in-depth explanation). Try to use smaller, half-inch sections of hair, so you won’t have to hold the wand in place for long (5 seconds or so should do the trick). If your curling wand comes with a heat dial or digital temperature display, set it to 300℉ maximum, as anything else could potentially compromise the health of your hair.Setting it to 300℉ should give you the heat to get the job done, but not enough to fry your hair. If it doesn’t have a temperature control option, be mindful of how long you’re holding your hair on the barrel. Try setting a curl with a 5 second hold, if that doesn’t work, you may try holding the wand in place for up to 10 seconds, without risking damage.
Those with virgin, average density hair can use titanium, tourmaline-ceramic, or ceramic tools. Choose the one that best suits your needs: If your hair is silky and well-maintained, titanium will get you the results you want with less time and effort. If you have drier strands, opt for tourmaline-ceramic or ceramic. Since your hair isn’t fine or chemically treated, there is less risk in setting your tool to a higher temperature and using larger sections. That said, you don’t need to crank the heat, as you can achieve desired results at a lower setting. Thus, you may set your heat dial to 300-380℉. This range of heat should allow you to curl your sections in a single pass and allow for less heat damage.
For those with dense hair, titanium is going to give you quick, intense heat. This is great for cutting down on your time sitting in the mirror. However, if your hair is on the coarser end of the spectrum, you will want to opt for a ceramic or tourmaline product. Ceramic and tourmaline wands will help lock in moisture and give you the extra shine you’re craving. Either way, you have quite the undertaking ahead of you. For this reason, you can create larger one-inch sections and set your wand within the 350-400℉ range. If you have it set to the right temperature for your hair, you will be able to create an ideal curl in five seconds or less (even with larger sections).
So, who gets to set their wand to 450℉? The most truthful answer is: Professionals! If you are not a professional stylist, you risk long-term hair damage by styling at such a high temperature. Experience is the key when it comes to heat styling by knowing the best heat setting according to hair type and it’s always best to err on the side of caution.
The beauty industry has come a long way since our parents’ and grandparents’ days. While the innovations can often seem overwhelming, by combining the above factors, you will be able to determine the best heat setting based on your hair type. So go forth, choose your tools wisely, and remember that the goal is to achieve your chosen look, while maintaining healthy hair. Say goodbye to the dreaded fry!
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