Reverse the Curse of Straight Hair: Curl Your Hair with a Flat Iron

Straight-haired, curly-haired, fine-haired, it doesn’t matter–most women have a bit of hair envy for what they don’t naturally have. Growing up with stick straight hair, I spent most of my teenage years trying various ways to easily create wavy hair that usually didn’t succeed. The solution came way too late in my life, but better late than never: the secret is to use a flat iron to curl your hair into beautiful beachy waves.

What are “beachy waves”, you ask? It’s the hair style that simulates having spent a day at the beach resulting in a wild, naturally tousled wavy look. It’s also the look of choice for a high percentage of women and celebrities, and even superheroes like Wonder Woman. I’d say that’s a good endorsement.

I had given up on my wavy-haired dreams in the past because I didn’t want to spend an hour messing around with hard-to-use hot rollers…and liked not burning my fingers. Then, one magical day, my beloved San Francisco hairstylist showed me how to create waves that actually stick around for an entire day using a flat iron! It doesn’t make sense, I know. I can hear you saying, “Um–that tool is supposed to make your hair straight.” I’m telling you that there’s gotta be some hard core physics at play because I didn’t believe it either. (I did not actually take physics, so no judgement or fact checking on that statement.)

Here’s how to get curly hair with a flat iron:

  1. Use a heat protectant product like my favorite, Living Proof Restore Perfecting Spray on damp hair. It helps with detangling and also has UV protection but isn’t sticky.
  2. OR use a protectant + styling product on dry hair like Schwarzkopf Osis Flatliner Sleek Flattening Iron Serum. This helps reduce frizz too.
  3. OR go crazy and use both. Why not. You can’t get enough UV and heat protection. Using a flat iron can be harsh if you use a high heat setting and do it often.
  4. Brush your hair. Make sure it’s dry or you’ll see and smell lots of smoke!
  5. Take a small section (1-2 inches) of hair and clamp the flat iron about halfway between the head and the ends.
  6. Then, keeping the clamp on that section of hair–read carefully–twist your hand away from your face about 180 degrees.
  7. Then slowly pull the flat iron all the way down to the ends (or leave about an inch at the end free so the curl doesn’t look too “done” and release the clamp. The secret is going slowly enough and keeping the twist the whole time.
  8. You will be left with a perfect tendril that you should definitely mess up with your hands or a blow dryer later. That way, it will look wind blown and not too perfect.

Why I’m obsessed:

  • It’s pretty fast if you get the technique down. I average about 10 minutes total curling time.
  • Easy to touch up if it goes flat later in the day. It’s supposed to look natural, so you don’t have to worry about precision.
  • Adding volume to your hair can be life-changing. I think people started treating me better–which is slightly disturbing–but I won’t question it.


  • It doesn’t matter which size flat iron you use, as long as your hair length fits in the flat iron. I have long hair and I use a standard 1-inch sized tourmaline flat iron from Inverto that has great reviews and has been holding up pretty well for almost a year of every other day use now.
  • Don’t go too fast when you’re pulling the flat iron down and use a high enough heat setting to make sure it curls. For my hair, 370 degrees is good enough but you can go higher if you need more power. You can experiment with the lowest heat setting and go up from there.
  • Using smaller sections of hair gets you curlier hair; larger sections, less curly.
  • I like to twist away from my face for both sides but some people alternate directions for each section. That’s too much coordination for me. 😀
  • Pretend that you’re curling a ribbon for a gift with a pair of scissors. That’s when you take the paper ribbon and hold it over the edge of the a single scissors blade and pull it down the blade until it’s curled.
  • Don’t get discouraged–this takes practice!

Serendipitously, I also discovered this magical technique right before I moved near a Southern California beach, where I suppose I could try to naturally get beachy waves by spending time in the salty air. But that would take lots of time and isn’t practical before going to work. I can fake it.

If you need help, watch this helpful video from a perky blonde named Kayli who gives very simple instructions on how to do it. Good luck with your new hair/life!

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