Review

Top Hair Styling Tools

Although many people think of the blow dryer and the curling iron as the top hair styling tools, there are many implements to achieve special looks and effects from wedding hairstyles to a daring do for a night out clubbing with friends. When you review all the available tools from types of hair curlers to flat irons and crimpers, you may be surprised at the number of options available to you.

What are all these styling accessories?

Almost all hair styling tips mention the use of one or another styling aids. From the type of brush you select to the use of hot rollers or techniques and aids for creating braided and plaited effects, all this equipment and its use can be confusing. In addition, product terminology adds another layer of confusion. For instance, any hair care implement that generates heat to change the shape of your hair is a hairsetter. In product advertising, however, the term is applied most frequently to variations of hot rollers.

Here are some of the major styling accessories and a description of their basic use. Remember that any device that creates heat will dry your hair, especially if it is used daily. These devices make moisturizing your hair an essential part of your hair care regimen.

Flat Irons Defeat Kinky Hair

A flat iron is a hinged device, looking something like a clamp, which generates heat to temporarily straighten hair. Any device that applies heat to the hair should be used with caution. Wash your hair and use a product to control frizz, then blow your hair completely dry on the low setting. Allow the hair to cool before you start to use the iron.

The iron is a very simple device but you may want to practice with it while it is cold just to get used to the weight and feel. Draw thin sections of your hair through the closed jaws of the iron and comb your hair after each pass. Work from close to the roots to the end of your hair and use sections of hair slightly smaller in width than the iron itself. Be careful not to burn your scalp. Move the iron slowly but steadily over your hair. Don’t pause or leave the iron in one place. That’s all there is to it. In the absence of high humidity, your hair will stay straight and sleek for that special occasion.

Flat irons come in a variety of configurations. Generally those lined with a ceramic material are of the best and most affordable quality. Expect to pay $100 or more for a good flat iron. Many irons have variable heat settings, a nice feature to help protect the hair from damage. Some products advertise that they can be used on wet hair but be very cautious. Hair is at its most fragile when wet and the combination of heat and moisture can essentially fry your hair.

Hair Crimpers Create Waves

Hair crimpers are almost identical in appearance to flat irons and are used in much the same way except that the hair is pressed for a few seconds to put waves in instead of taking them out. Many flat irons come with attachments that will convert them into crimpers and it is possible by straightening some portions of the hair and crimping others to create the multi-layered, dichotomous look present in many modern, chic hairstyles. (Crimping can also be accomplished with a curling iron placed across the hair with no rolling. See the discussion of curling irons below.)

Blow Driers Do More than Just Dry

A blow dryer used correctly, can do a great deal more than simply dry your hair. Unlike traditional chair dryers in a salon, a blow dryer used in concert with a brush or comb allows you to dry and to shape your hair in different directions. Begin by rough drying most of the moisture out of your hair. When it is still slightly damp, begin to shape and style the hair.

Put your blow drying on the lowest setting and work on your hair in sections. If you’ve shaped a portion of hair around your brush to provide lift and volume, let the hair cool on the brush for maximum shaping and then release. If you have a problem cowlick ask your hair care professional in what direction you should blow that spot.

Sometimes drying a problem spot in the opposite direction to that in which you want it to lie will make the hair behave more uniformly. But then again, it could just make the cowlick stand up even more! Everyone’s hair is different and you will have to learn what pattern of brushing and drying works best for you. With some curlier heads of hair (unless you’re trying to straighten your locks) it’s better to just use your fingers to shape your hair as you dry it.

There are literally thousands of blow dryers on the market ranging from units under $20 in chain stores to those costing $100 or more in a salon. Always buy a blow dryer that has variable temperature settings and use the high setting sparingly. If you blow dry daily, you will want to find hair care products that protect against thermal damage. Make sure the blow dryer fits your hand and that you will be able to use it comfortably. Blow driers that are too large and unwieldy work against your style not with it.

Many blow dryers come with various attachments to alter the flow of air out of the device. Talk to your hair care professional before spending extra money. All too often those attachments just take up space in one of your bathroom drawers. Chances are that all you really need is a good, basic blow dryer and a brush. Professional blow dryers can be purchased at wholesale beauty supply outlets or from salons and usually offer the greatest amount of temperature control.

Catch a Wave with Curling Irons

A curling iron or tongs is a quick way to add shape and volume to your hair. Work with your hair dry and for additional staying power to your set, spray each section of hair with hair spray before wrapping it around the barrel. Curl close to the root but be careful not to burn your scalp. It is generally best to have a curling iron with variable heat settings and to work at the lowest temperature possible. The larger the barrel of the curling iron the larger the curl or wave it will produce.

If you only want to create waves in your hair, don’t wrap the individual strands around the barrel of the iron, just close the iron over sections of your hair and leave it for several seconds, then move to another section. Some curling irons come with special crimping or waving attachments and it should be noted that a similar effect can be achieved with a flat iron outfitted with a crimping head. Regardless of the tool used, you should be able to see the results of the wave as you work.

When you are finished curling your hair, the amount of brushing and styling you do is up to you. By just running your fingers through your hair with a little gel you’ll have a looser, curlier style. Brushing will add volumes waves that can be shaped.

Longer Lasting Styles with Rollers

Though more time consuming than styling with a brush and blow dryer, hair rollers or curlers are an excellent choice for people who aren’t good at that technique or who want their style to stay “set” for longer periods of time. (Even with curlers you need to be aware that fine hair usually will not hold a set and all you will create are waves.)

As a general rule, if you want to create a volume (to keep the roller in place), your hair must wind one and a half times around the curler. The smaller the curler, the tighter curl it will create. Direct the hair in the direction you want it to follow in the finished style. Don’t place one roller directly behind another, stagger them for a more natural look when your hair is combed out. Allow your hair to dry completely before taking out the rollers or the curls won’t hold.

Thanks to the invention of Velcro, modern rollers don’t have to be pinned in place although that old tried and true method still works quite well. If you’re in a hurry, you may want to use a set of electric hair curlers or hot rollers. As with any heated device, be careful not to roll your hair so tightly that the hot rollers will burn your scalp. (Hot roller sets range from $50 to $150.)

With hot rollers, start with dry hair and apply hairspray all over your head before beginning. Then spray each individual section of hair before putting it on the roller. (Again, point the hair in the direction you want it to follow for the finished style.) Twisting the hair before it is wrapped around the curler will create a spiral look when it is released. Allow the rollers to cool completely.

When you release your hair from the rollers you can simply scrunch it into place with your fingers (with either traditional or hot rollers) or you can style it in place with your brush and comb. The more you brush the more you will work the curl out your hair and wind up with more waves.