Ditch the Curling Iron! Learn How to Curl Short Hair With a Flat Iron Instead

Written by Dahvi Shira

We’re all about consolidation over here. If we can do everything with one tool, consider us sold. Especially when it comes to traveling—the less we have to pack, the better. A skill we’ve had on our brains lately is learning how to curl short hair with a flat iron. Yes, we mean putting our curlers, wands, and curling irons to the side completely. If curling hair with a flat iron confuses you as it is, don’t get even more discouraged by the length. After all, that’s what the experts are for, regardless of your hair type!

White hairstylist showing how to curl short hair with a flat iron | Mane Addicts

We reached out to Utah-based hairstylist, educator, and salon owner Emily Pinegar, who breaks down how to curl short hair with a flat iron. Before we get into her pro hair care and styling tips, she suggests reaching for any of the BaBylissPRO Nano Titanium irons. This straightener is often considered the best flat iron on the market, making it a favorite for those with natural hair, dry hair, fine hair, and even thick hair. “The reason I love these irons so much is because they’re flat inside, however, the outside edge has a slight roundness and gets hot like a curling iron does on the outside,” she explains. “It also has a heat controller on it. I am obsessed with this flat iron and the fact that it has a 24-month warranty. I've been using mine with no issues for years.” Keep reading for Pinegar’s step-by-step hair styling tips.

About the Experts:

Emily Pinegar is a hairstylist, educator, and owner of salon M + suites in Cedar Hills, Utah.

Marilisa Sears is a celebrity hairstylist, expert spokesperson for Cake Beauty, and Artistic Director for Marc Anthony hair care.

How to Curl Short Hair With a Flat Iron, Step-by-Step

Avoid Curling on Freshly Cleansed Strands

While we do love wash day, when it comes to holding curls, squeaky clean strands are not our friend. And Cake Beauty hair expert Marilisa Sears agrees. “Best case scenario for me is second-day hair with little to no stylers already in the hair from before,” she says. “You want a bit of that texture second-day hair has without a ton of product or dirt buildup. If your hair needs a rinse, I suggest doing it at least one day prior with a voluminous shampoo and conditioner. You’ll want a bit of volume for this look as it helps it move easily once done.”

Get Your Products Ready

“Kicking things off with a heat protector is a must, of course. Also, some setting cream will help you create that curl or wave,” says Pinegar. This is a crucial step if you want to prevent heat damage. “I am a fan of Evo hair care products. When creating flat iron curls, I use Evo Icon Welder and Liquid Rollers Curling Balm. After applying the product, I like sectioning the hair off starting at the bottom of the nape. I take four sections to curl at the bottom, then repeat section after section.”

Go From Roots to Ends

Pinegar says to “run the flat iron quickly over every hair strand from root to end. This is going to help with any kinks or frizz.”

Alternate Directions

You’ll then want to apply a few light spritzes of hairspray (Sears recommends Cake Beauty’s Hold Out hairspray), and start alternating the direction of the waves you create. “The reason for switching directions is because it helps the hair move,” Sears explains. “While going through this process, not only is speed important but so is fluidity. If you stop the flow, you’ll get a bump from the edges of the iron.”

Put a Twist in It

To get the curl, there’s a signature technique to pull off. “Bring the flat iron to the top of your roots with a slight twist like you would with a curling iron,” Pinegar notes. “Go around one time and then pull through keeping it turned. For a tighter curl, twist that flat iron around a couple of times. Curl all curls in the same direction for a more traditional curl look.” Whether you're going for a defined curl or loose curls, this versatile technique helps you to create your desired look easily.

Use Your Fingers

“Once you’ve pulled it through, take your finger and twist the warm hair with your finger creating a ringlet,” encourages Pinegar. This will help keep the curl in place after the fact.

Keep It Straighter

“If you desire to have a little flatter or straighter end, undo your flat iron, straightening it out so it's not in a curling motion as you get close to the ends of your hair,” she shares.

Repeat Until All Sections Are Curled

“Bring your next small section down and repeat these steps” until your entire head is curled the way you like it, creating beautiful curls.

Setting Spray Time

“Once all sections have been curled, spritz with a setting spray,” Pinegar says. She notes that she loves Evo Shebang-A-Bang Dry Spray Wax.

Get a Lil’ Handsy

To finish things off, Pinegar says to “let your hair fully cool and then take either your wide-tooth comb or fingers and separate your curls.”

Bonus: Flat irons are also great for styling bangs! Check out our guide on how to style curtain bangs with a flat iron to complete your look.

Curious about which flat irons to put to the test? HERE are the ultimate best picks, according to experts.