The Perfect Styling Tool for the Hairstyle You Want
A gorgeous hair day is just a curling iron, straightener or blow-dryer away. We went to the experts to find out how.
Photo: Getty Images/John Parra
If you want beach waves...
The tool for you: Curling iron, 1/2-to-1 1/4-inch barrel.
Why: The curling iron can give you the control to create the unstructured texture associated with beach waves, says celebrity hairstylist Ted Gibson, who works with stars such as Tessa Thompson and Debra Messing. Although a curling wand might seem simpler, the result will be more like ringlets. Hairstylist Jeff Chastain, whose clients include Frances McDormand and Amber Stevens West, recommends irons that range from 1/2 inch to 1 1/4 inch for beachy waves, but go smaller if your hair doesn't keep a curl very well, because the tight curls will end up falling into the wave you want.
How to get the look: To keep the waves looking natural and modern, take the hair in 1-to-2-inch sections, hold the barrel vertically and stop curling before you get to your scalp so there isn't too much volume at the top of your head. Curl each section with alternating angles by curling forward in a section and then backward in the next section to make the curls look more natural, Gibson says. To complete the unfinished beachy look, Chastain adds, avoid curling the ends of the hair.
Photo: Getty Images/George Pimentel
If you want bouncy curls and you have naturally straight hair...
The tool for you: Straight curling wand, 1-to-1 1/2-inch barrel.
Why: Whereas a tapered wand will make your hair look more "done," a straight barrel creates more natural-looking curls, Chastain says.
How to get the look: When using the wand, take the hair in sections and curl at a horizontal angle to make the curls more voluminous from the scalp down, Gibson says. Start by holding the wand in the middle of the strand and wind the hair up horizontally. This angle will help your hair look as curly at the top as it does at the bottom, Chastain says.
Photo: Getty Images/Jon Kopaloff
If you want bouncy curls and you have naturally curly hair...
The tool for you: Blow-dryer with diffuser, and styling product.
Why: The diffuser will help to prevent your hair from getting frizzy as you dry, Gibson says.
How to get the look: After towel-drying your hair, separate it into 1-to-2-inch sections. Using the blow-dryer with diffuser, dry your hair by moving from the top to the bottom of each section while working your way around your head. Then, Gibson recommends using a styling product for curls that isn't too heavy, such as a foamy mousse, to make each curl look more defined and to add shine (which is beneficial, since curls don't reflect light the same way straight hair does).
Photo: Getty Images/George Pimentel
If you want loose curls...
The tool for you: Curling iron or wand, 1-to-1 1/4-inch barrel.
Why: Whichever tool you prefer (iron or wand), the important thing is making sure it has a large barrel to get a softer, more voluminous wave, Chastain says.
How to get the look: Curl the hair in 2-inch sections (wider than you would use for bouncy curls), since you want the curls to be less structured. Use alternating angles to make the curls look more natural and less done. Then, follow up with a flat brush, brushing through the ends for softness and polish, Chastain says.
Photo: Getty Images/Alberto E. Rodriguez
If you want stick-straight hair...
The tool for you: Straightener, professional grade.
Why: Professional straighteners have a dial that allows you to adjust the heat, so you can change the level depending on whether your hair is coarser or finer, Gibson says.
How to get the look: When straightening your hair, make sure it's completely dry before you start, whether naturally or from a dryer. Then, separate the hair into 1/2-inch sections—"you should spend about 20 minutes sectioning off the hair" in prep for optimal straightness, Gibson says—and take your time flattening each section. Chastain adds that you should start all the way up to the root with the straightener, clamping it and ironing the hair from top to bottom of each section for a dramatically straight style.
Photo: Getty Images/Amanda Edwards
If you want straight hair with some volume...
The tool for you: Straightener, up to 2 1/2 inches wide.
Why: With a really wide straightener, you can smooth out one large section of hair in one pass, Chastain says.
How to get the look: To get a natural-looking texture, Chastain says to "clamp down on the middle of the hair and then just pull it through the ends. Then, curve the ends toward the face so it doesn't get that obviously flat-ironed look."
Photo: Getty Images/Michael Tran
If you want a messy bun...
The tool for you: Curling iron, 1-to-1 1/4-inch barrel.
Why: The right texture is key to taking this popular style to the next level.
How to get the look: Chastain says to alternate the direction of curls throughout your hair with a large curling iron to create texture, making sure to also curl the ends (which will look great once your hair is up). Then, use a texturizing or beach spray and really rough it up before you pull it into a ponytail and twist it up into the bun. You can secure the bun with bobby pins or elastics (preferably both).