If you’re fed up of lack-luster curls or deflated waves, it might be because you’re using the wrong tool. Learning the difference between a curling wand versus curling irons and how to use a curling wand/iron can ensure you get the perfect look every time.

What’s the Difference Between a Curling Wand and a Curling Iron?

The main difference between a curling wand vs iron is the finished look you can create using each. A curling iron is made to produce classic, bouncy curls, whereas a curling wand curls as well as creating a variety of beautiful wavy styles.

Curling Iron

A curling iron is distinctive by the clamp that holds hair flat against the heated element. This curling iron clamp ensures every curl is polished, precise, and long lasting. By adding tension to the hair as you style it, you’ll be able to achieve tighter and more defined spiraling curls.

If you want a looser curl or wavy look, you can achieve this by using a curling iron with no clamp or by wrapping the hair over the clip. This removes the tension that creates tighter curls and allows you to create a more relaxed look.

What’s more, a curling iron can also be used as a hair straightener if the curling iron clamp extends the full length of the barrel (the heated element).

Stylist curling hair for young woman

Curling Wand

A curling wand is like a curling iron with no clamp, meaning you need to manually wrap and twist your hair around the hot barrel and hold it in place with your fingers while styling. Because there’s no tension on the hair, curling wand curls tend to be softer in appearance and provide a more relaxed, natural look.

Curling wands are also a better choice if you don’t want to curl your whole head, as you can start twisting your hair mid-strand without any awkward kinks. This means your hair can retain more natural texture.

This also means that a curling wand is better for naturally curly haired individuals, as you can fine-tune your natural curls better with a curling wand versus curling iron, and don’t need to curl the whole head.

The downside to a curling wand vs iron is that it can be fiddlier to use. The curling iron clamp means you don’t need your fingers so close to the heat as you’re styling, whereas a curling wand has no clamp and requires both hands to get the perfect results. But while a curling iron vs wand means less risk of burning fingers, it can cause more damage to the hair due to prolonged exposure to heat. So, if you have damaged hair, a curling wand is probably going to be your best option.

Hairdresser doing curls

When to Use a Curling Iron?

Curling irons are best for achieving defined, uniform curls. They’re suitable for all hair types, textures, and lengths, and generally produce more long-lasting curls than a curling wand.

How to Use a Curling Iron

1. Section your hair into two-inch segments, no wider than the width of your curling iron barrel. Start at the front.

2. Take the first section of hair and use the curling iron clamp to take the hair near the roots. The clamp should be pointing down and facing you in the mirror.

3. Slowly pull the curling iron down the length of your hair to create tension, then roll upward, holding the curling iron horizontally and wrapping your hair around the barrel as you twist away from your face.

4. Once you’ve wrapped the first section of hair around the iron, hold it for 10 sections, then turn the iron so it’s vertical.

5. Gently open and close the curling iron clamp, then pull the whole tool down your hair.

6. Release the curling iron clamp and free the first section of hair. Allow it to cool and set, then repeat the process on the next section of hair until you’re satisfied with your curls.

girl using curling wand

When to Use a Curling Wand?

Curling irons are the best way to create beach perfect waves or to touch up naturally curly hair. They work best on medium-long hair and are perfect for messy, undone waves on any hair type or texture.

The benefit of a curling wand is that the hair doesn’t need to be as tightly wrapped around the heating element, so there’s less risk of damaging the hair while styling. However, because they have no clamp, a curling wand can be trickier to get the hang of vs curling irons.

How to Use a Curling Wand

1. Section your hair into two-inch segments no wider than the width of the heated barrel. Start at the front.

2. Hold the curling wand vertically with the tip of the wand pointing down. Start at the root (or wherever you want your curls/waves to start) and wrap the first section of hair around the barrel. Be sure to leave around an inch at the end of your hair free to hold onto while you style.

3. Hold your hair twisted around the wand for 10 seconds, then pull the tool vertically upwards to release.

4. If your hair doesn’t curl well, let the hair cool off and set in the palm of your hand before releasing and moving onto the next section.