Flat Iron vs. Curling Iron

by HSI Professional | May 11 2017

When it comes to choosing a flat iron or a curling iron, it is best to know what you want and what style what you are striving for. Each tool serves a specific purpose, so it is wise to know what you are aiming for before you choose your tool. Are you looking for long flowing curls or short, straight bangs? Each difference in style will determine which tool is best suited for your needs. If you are looking to cut costs as well, it is wise to invest in a curling set or a hair straightener that serves more than one purpose.

How are curling irons different from hair curler wands and professional flat irons?

Invented in 1872 by a French hairstylist named Marcel Grateau who initially used a set of hot tongs to create the first Marcel wave on a client’s head, the curling iron is a hand-held device with a handle and a long heated metal end called a barrel. The barrel is round although, there is usually a spring-loaded piece on the bottom called a clip that is used to clamp the hair while it is being curled – this clip can be controlled with a small lever. The curling iron is plugged into an outlet and heats up. An inch-wide section of hair is gathered up and separated from the rest of the hair on the head. It is placed in the clamp and pulled taunt.

The curling iron is turned so that the hair is in essence spun around the barrel. The hair is held wrapped around the barrel for 8-10 seconds and then slowly unraveled. If executed correctly, the product should result in beautiful, flowing waves. A hair curling wand works similarly, however, the barrel is typically called a rod and most modern professional curling wands are often made of ceramic to give the curls a silky, sleek look. Curling wands are far more versatile and are also designed to produce tighter, curlier curls whereas the curling irons yield waves.

The angle at which the wand is held and tilted gives a different look, texture, and curl as well. Most curling wands do not have a clip like the curling irons do which make the curls look more natural. The user simply separates individual inch-wide sections of hair from the rest of the hair and wraps it around the barrel of the wand. Again, holding the hair in place for 8-10 seconds should produce very nice, tight curls. A professional hair straightener is very simple in the way that it has two heated plates between which the hair is pulled. If done correctly, this should yield shiny and sleek, straight strands.

hair straightener

What do the different wands do compared to professional flat irons?

It’s time to break down the types of wands, and be clear on what purpose each serves. It is such a common mistake among women to use the wrong type of wand for the wrong style. As mentioned before, curling irons give nice waves but no real curls - and the waves do not look as natural.

The Marcel Wand, named after the French hairstylist who invented the curling iron, is believed to be the most versatile curling tool. Unlike most of the curling wands, this Marcel wand looks like a hybrid between a curling iron and a curling wand – it has a clip but it is not spring-loaded – this means that it can be maneuvered and manipulated easier than most curling tools. It rarely leaves kinks or “fish hooks” in the hair and the results look natural, but the technique can be a tricky one to master.

A Bubble Wand is generally very easy to use and would be good for a curling-novice. It has a textured/bumpy rod to help the user determine placement of the hair when curling. It “sifts” or guides the hair between the bubbles to yield a nice, even pattern of curls.

The Double-Barrel Iron is an interesting invention as the user wraps their hair in a figure eight pattern around the rods. Only an option for those with mid-length hair, a ripple like pattern develops, looking like hair does when released from a tightly wound braid.

The Spiral Iron creates yet another interesting look. With metal spirals looping around the metal rod this curler gives hair a type of vintage look – bigger curls that lead into smaller ones. Hair straightening irons, however, come in few varieties and simply straighten your hair.


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