How to Curl Medium Length Hair with a Flat Iron

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Figuring out how to curl medium length hair with a flat iron can be a pain, especially since most guides on the topic assume that you have a curling iron at your disposal. Even worse, every guide that covers how to curl your hair with a flat iron (like the FHI Flat Iron we reviewed here) assumes that you either have extremely long or short hair.

What if I just want to curl my medium-length hair with a flat iron? We’ve put together this guide to show you how it’s done. Today, we’re going to look at a few different techniques that you can use to curl your medium length hair with your flat iron. This will ensuring that you don’t have to go out and get a curling iron instead (see curling iron vs flat iron for more details).

Along with our advice on curling your hair using a flat iron, we’ll also discuss how you should practice doing it before you try a live run. This will ensure that you don’t end up ruining your hair!

We’ll also discuss some precautions you should take to ensure that you don’t damage your hair with the heat from your flat iron. Let’s get started!


How to Practice With Your Flat Iron

Hot Tools Ceramic Flat Iron

When you read the following techniques, the last thing you should do is go ahead and attempt them without a dry run. A dry run is when you practice the technique with your flat iron without it plugged in. This will ensure that anything you do won’t alter the shape of your hair.

Yeah, this may seem like a waste of time. But it’s a great way to get used to new curling motions without being locked into a bad hairstyle if you make a mistake. This is especially crucial if you’re a newbie to using a flat iron, or if you haven’t used it in a long time. You may end up damaging your hair if you make a mistake.

Don’t Burn Your Hair!

For example, you can burn your hair or generate some major frizz if you hold your flat iron in a single place for too long! And you may not even realize that you’re making this mistake. When you practice your curling motion with your dry run, be sure to always keep moving the flat iron through your hair to ensure that this doesn’t happen.

Along with burning your hair, you can also burn yourself with your flat iron, so make sure that you keep it well away from your skin and your scalp while you’re using it. When you finally feel confident enough using your flat iron (don’t get impatient!), you can turn on the heat and do it for real.

Preparing Your Hair for the Flat Iron

BW Curly Hair

Before you decide to start curling your hair with a flat iron, you should do what you can to prepare your hair and ensure that the heat doesn’t damage it. The most important thing to use is a heat-protectant spray that will allow you to curl your hair at high temperatures without those very same temperatures damaging the hair follicles.

Flat Iron Heat Protectant Spray

While this may seem like an unnecessary extra expense, you’ll be happy that you purchased some heat protectant when your hair stays hydrated (especially if you’ve colored it or bleached it)and doesn’t lose its color after you’re done curling it.

We don’t have any particular recommendations for heat protectant spray, but the HSI Professional Argan Oil is fine and not too costly.

At What Temperature Should I Curl My Hair?

Sultra The Bombshell Flat Iron for Curls

When using a flat iron to curl your hair, you’ll want to make sure that you never exceed 392 degrees F. If you go beyond this temperature, then you can start permanently damaging your hair. One of the main issues with curling your hair at higher temperatures is that it tends to lose its color.

The Sultra the Bombshell flat iron shown above, which we reviewed here, maxes out at 395′, when used on thick hair. Most flat irons max out at around this temp, but you should be aware if you start to go over it.

This issue is especially prevalent if you dye your hair, as it will look like much of the dye was leeched out of it if you curl your hair at temperatures over 392 degrees.

Keep in mind that there’s nothing wrong with curling your hair at a lower temperature. Yes, it may take a little more work on your part to curl your hair with your flat iron set below 392 degrees. But you will still get the same results, just a little bit slower.

In fact, curling your hair more slowly will give you a better degree of control over how your curls end up.

Most professional stylists use this slow and steady approach to give their clients the best possible curls, so it’s a good idea to form the habit of taking your time with your flat iron.

What You’ll Need to Curl Your Hair With a Flat Iron

Curly Hair Smile
  • A flat iron
  • Heat-protectant hair spray
  • A detangling comb
  • A styling brush

Your flat iron is a great hair-curling device. You’ll want to be sure that you get a quality, professional flat iron like the BaByliss Pro Flat Iron we reviewed here, but any high-quality one will be fine.

IF you go with a cheaper iron, you will run into uneven heating across the iron that can dramatically alter the results you get when curling.

Your comb and styling brush will be necessary to create the exact shape you want in your curls. Once again, we’d recommend getting salon-level combs and brushes to ensure that you get the best possible results, but the quality of these two isn’t as crucial as using a high-quality flat iron.

Finally, we’ve already discussed the importance of using a heat-protective spray to keep your hair in the best possible condition.

How to Curl Medium Length Hair with a Flat Iron

There are a few different types of curls that you can create using a flat iron. The two that we’re going to be looking at today are the ribbon curl and the push wave. Both of these curls are relatively easy to create since flat irons are so easy to use, though we’d argue that the ribbon curl is a little easier.

Flat Iron Ribbon Curls

Ribbon Curls

The ribbon curl is the more common type of curl that people are used to creating when using a flat iron. This type of curl is relatively similar to the ringlet curl which is only possible with a curling iron. So if you’re looking for a more traditional kind of curl, then this will be the one for you.

These types of curls tend to last for a few days, so they’re great for people who don’t want to spend a bunch of time curling their hair every day. As an added benefit, ribbon curls will gradually become beach curls as time goes by, so your hair will keep looking good, even without protracted maintenance.

Here’s a short video showing how ribbon curls are made with a flat iron.

Creating Ribbon Curls

Ribbon curls are created by diagonally sliding the flat iron into the part of the hair that you want to curl before closing the flat iron around that section. With the iron closed around the hair (be sure to do this quickly not to burn your hair), you’ll want to rotate the flat iron half a turn and then slide it down through the hair.

Performing this half turn and sliding the iron down the length of your hair is what creates the curl in the first place, so be sure to practice this motion so that you can get it down as fluidly as possible. 

When creating ribbon curls with a flat iron, you’ll want to start with your flat iron somewhere around the middle of a hair section. Each section should be about 0.5 inches thick when you’re curling it, and be sure to take your time curling these sections.

If a section of your hair is too thick, then your ribbon curls won’t come out looking good, so it’s important not to get impatient when you’re doing the fold-and-twist curling motion.

When you’re done curling your hair, take your comb and styling brush to work through the ribbon curls, accentuating them even further.

Flat Iron Push Waves

Push waves tend to be a little more understated than ribbon curls, giving your hair a bit more of a naturally wavy appearance. Flat irons are ideally-suited to creating push waves, as you only have to tap your flat iron over the waves to lock in their shape.

Here’s a short video showing how it’s done:

Start near the scalp when creating push waves, and work small sections of your hair into an “S” shape. Practice getting this “S” shape down before using your flat iron, as this is the shape that you want your hair to remain in when you press it between your flat iron.

When you’re confident that you have the shape down, use your flat iron to tap down the “S” shape into a wave. Be sure to keep moving your flat iron in the same direction (away from the root) as you tap the wave into place. As you move down the hair shaft, alternate the direction of your “S” shapes, with one wave going left and the next going right.

Repeat this for each section of your hair until your waves are locked in.


These two styles are some of the most popular ones that you can create using a flat iron on medium length hair, proving that you don’t need a curling iron to create curls. If you’ve got shorter hair, check out our article on how to curl short hair with a curling iron.

Thanks for taking the time to read through our guide, and good luck on getting those perfect A+ curls!

Written by Kayla Young

Kayla is the founder of LuxeLuminous. She has worked professionally in the tanning industry for years. She has been interested in esthetics since childhood, and has tried every hair, skin, and makeup product ever produced (more or less).