Curling Iron vs Flat Iron: Which One Do You Need?

I used to find styling hair to be a massive pain in the neck.

Work or errands? I’d throw my hair into a bun or ponytail. At home, I’d braid my hair to get it out of the way. Going out for the evening? Believe it or not, I’d just stick to a slightly nicer bun. Heat styling tools were just too much of an effort.

curling iron vs flat iron

Until I splurged on a blowout before an event. Turns out, styling tools can turn you from a frazzled girl next door to a bombshell with the tiniest bit of extra work at home.

If you haven’t really dabbled in these scary heated styling tools, you may be confused about which to get. I was too and after a good deal of research, I believe I have the answers.

This article will look at the curling iron vs flat iron debacle and help you decide which one is more suited for your needs. And if you want to curl your hair, this will be a treat for you!

Curling Irons or How to Turn Heads Wherever You Go

curl hair with flat iron

Put simply, curling irons are heated rods that wrap sections of hair around to create a variety of curls and waves. These devices are easy to use and form thick ringlets and spiral curls when used correctly. Hair spray is spritzed liberally so that the curls hold their shape for longer.

Curling irons have a clamp that holds the hair in place, so it gives beginners more control over the nature of the curls. This also creates curls that are precise and a little more ‘polished’ looking. 

You can use curling irons to create tight corkscrew curls, or looser beachy waves, depending on your mood. Curling iron beach waves are great, low-maintenance hairstyles and create a more natural, Bohemian look. This makes them pretty versatile as you can use your curling iron for many different hairstyles.

But many people prefer a curling wand instead. This is a heated rod that doesn’t have a clamp. Since there is no clamp, there is less tension when wrapping hair around the wand, so the curls are loose and more natural-looking. 

Using a curling wand is gentler on your hair, and is best for people who prefer more casual S-shaped curls and wavy hair.

Want to hit the shops and get yourself a curling iron, or a wand? The Conair Double Ceramic Curling Iron is a fan favorite with an affordable price tag. You can use it to create different types of curls. 

The Revlon Salon Long Lasting Medium Curls Curling Iron is another great option for loose, everyday curls.

If you prefer lighter waves in your hair, go for the Remington Pro Pearl Ceramic Conical Curling Wand or the Conair Double Ceramic Curling Wand.

Yays and Nays of Curling Tools:

So far so good, right? But before you go ahead and make your purchase, bear in mind that there are some pros and cons of curling irons.

The Good Stuff:

  • Curling irons create very defined and uniform curls, which adds character and depth to your hair.
  • Curling wands make more natural, relaxed waves and loose curls that look more laid-back.
  • These curls will last for a long time, especially when finished with hairspray.
  • Both curling irons and wands let you control the size and shape of your curls.
  • Curls and waves will look smooth, with no frizz and stray flyaways.
  • These styling tools last a long time and sometimes come with replaceable barrels.

The Not-So-Great Stuff:

  • Heat styling is bound to damage your hair over time and cause breakage, frizz, and split ends.
  • Curling hair takes a lot of time, effort, and attention.
  • It can be difficult to curl short hair.

Flat Irons or the Most Common Styling Tool Out There

how to make curls with a flat iron

Using a flat iron for the first time is a rite of passage for most girls. Flat irons are as their name suggests. They are also known as straightening irons.

They have two flat heated plates that are made from metal or ceramic. One or two-inch sections of hair are placed between the plates, pressed and then the plates are run down the length of hair. 

You can choose the temperature or heat intensity depending on the texture and thickness of your hair, although lower temperatures are best for damaged hair. Straightening hair will smoothen frizz and make hair sleek and easy to manage.

This article is a detailed dive into how you should flat iron hair.

Pin straight hair has been a beauty standard for ages, so it is easy to see why this styler is so popular. But guess what? You can even curl your hair with a flat iron一more on that later!

A good example of a reliable flat iron is the Conair Double Ceramic Flat Iron. This is affordable and great for regular use. But if you want something a little fancier, give this detailed Ghd Classic Flat Iron Styler Review a peek.

Yays and Nays of Flat Irons:

On the fence about getting a straightening iron? Maybe sounding off the pros and cons will help you make up your mind.

The Good Stuff:

  • Flat irons are easy to use and don’t have much of a learning curve.
  • You can straighten your hair in 10-20 minutes and be out the door.
  • Most flat irons are very affordable and easy to find everywhere.
  • They reduce frizz and roughness, making hair smooth and manageable.
  • They are lightweight and portable; you can easily pack them in handbags.
  • You can use flat irons to create waves and curls as the styler is very flexible.

The Not-So-Great Stuff:

  • Frequent straightening will weaken hair and make it frizzy and brittle.
  • Flat irons that cause less damage are very expensive.

Curling Iron vs. Flat Iron: How are They Different?

Here are just some of the ways in which these two styling tools differ:

  • Curling irons are a rod, while flat irons are two plates.
  • You can use a straightener to curl hair, but you can’t straighten with a curler.
  • Curling irons are made from Teflon, ceramic, or Titanium.
  • Flat irons generally have metal or ceramic plates.

What Kinds of Curls Does a Curling Iron Create?

Depending on the size of your curling iron, you can create different sorts of curls. Most people use a 1-inch iron, which will give you spiral curls with medium tightness. A two-inch iron will result in loose, voluminous waves.

On the other hand, ⅝-inch irons create taut corkscrew curls, while ⅜-inch ones will make very tight, springy-coiled curls.

Curling Hair with a Flat Iron

As I said before, you can curl hair with flat iron tools. A loose curl with flat iron stylers is the look most people go for, but you can get more defined curls as well.

This little guide will show you how to make curls with a flat iron:

What You Need:


  1. Begin with clean, slightly damp hair and apply some kind of heat protectant down the length of your hair.
  2. Hold the flat iron vertically one inch away from the root, and slightly tilted away from the face, and press down on a 1-inch section of hair.
  3. Half-rotate the iron and turn it away from your face.
  4. Maintain the tautness and hold the ends of the hair as you run the iron halfway along the length.
  5. Rotate the iron another half, turning it away from the face again, and pull the rest of the way using lighter tension.
  6. Repeat this on the section if you have to, and then on the rest of your hair to create supple, bouncy curls. Complete the look with some hair spray to hold everything in place.

This video will make it easier to get the hang of it.

Curling Irons Made Easy for Beginners

If you haven’t mastered the curling iron yet, this will change things. While it is best to curl medium-length hair with a curling iron, you can also use this on longer hair.

What You Need:


  1. Start by holding the curling iron vertically with the clamp facing forward. 
  2. Then clamp down a 1 or 2-inch section of hair about an inch or so from the ends of your hair.
  3. Curl the hair out and away from your face, all the way up to the roots. 
  1. Hold down the clamp for 7-10 seconds depending on your hair texture. 
  1. Curl most of the front pieces away from your face, but for the rest of the head alternate the direction of the curls for a more natural look.
  1. Once done curling, fluff your roots gently with your fingers to give your hair some volume, and then spritz your hair with hairspray to keep the curls in place.


Below you’ll find answers to questions often asked about curling irons and flat irons.

01. What Sized Curling Iron Barrel is Best for Short Hair?

A ⅜ or ⅝ inch curling iron is the best for people with short hair like bob and pixie cuts.

02. What Size Curling Iron Do I Use for Beach Waves?

A 1.5 or 2-inch curling iron is better for loose, beachy waves as it balances definition and volume.

03. Which is the Best Serum for Heat Treated Hair?

If you find yourself using a curling or flat iron often, make sure you use a serum that can repair damage and prevent frizz, like the Briogeo Farewell Frizz Blow Dry Perfection & Heat Protectant Cream.

In Summary

In the curling iron vs. flat iron debate, I must say that the flat iron comes out the winner. After all, it is the ultimate versatile styling tool: you can use it to straighten, curl, and make waves in your hair. 
But whichever tool you choose to get, make sure you give your hair a break once in a while and use an oil like Olaplex No.3 or No.7 to prevent heat damage and breakage.