Best Styling Tools and Tips for Fine Hair

Flat irons, curling irons and curling wands utilize surface technologies that can make a difference to the health, body, shine and bounce of your fine hair. With ceramic, tourmaline ceramic or titanium surfaces, many styling irons are designed to minimize heat damage. Infrared heat, natural ions and a uniform, evenly heated surface can protect your fine hair while you create a great style.

Do you know the expression lit from within? It means emitting light or radiating warmth from a source seemingly inside a person. “She glowed as if she was lit from within.” More than beauty, we think being lit from within connotes energy, health and happiness combined. That's how you should feel when you look your best, when your fine, lifeless hair has more volume, shine and bounce.

Fortunately, you have great, heat-styling choices that can add life and dimension to fine and damage-prone hair. Let's take a look at those options.

Three beautiful women with fine, damage prone hair.

Why Use Styling Irons on Fine Hair?

Curling irons, curling wands and flat irons bring volume, bounce and a smooth texture to naturally limp locks. They can also tame the kinks and curls that may not be part of the look you desire.

Fine hair needs a short amount of heat exposure to keep damage at bay. It also needs help capturing and holding moisture in its fragile strands to keep them resilient and shiny.

By adding the benefits of ionization, tourmaline, ceramic and temperature control, you'll find that the styling iron is your friend.

The right tools let you control where and how to apply the magic and give you precision where you need it most. Wisps of broken strands are blended back into place. Unwanted curls are tamed to perfection. Flat roots are coaxed to roll with style.

Talk About Fine Hair

Fine hair begins with genetics. The unique structure of your hair results in a circumference that's relatively small compared to medium, thick or coarse hair.

No worries: Fine hair can be very healthy hair. Its core size, chemical makeup and the styling products you apply all affect the resiliency of each strand. It may take some smarts and TLC to keep this hair happy.

You don't want to cause problems while working these locks into a luscious look. Too much heat can damage your fine hair:

  • A too-high temperature causes the hair to burn and break
  • A too-low temperature keeps your hair from doing what you want
  • Heat it for too long and the hair gets dry and even more susceptible to problems

You'll need a styling iron with heat that's gentle yet effective enough to hold a style.

Best Features for Fine Hair

  • Ceramic surfaces, which generate infrared warmth
  • Tourmaline ceramic surfaces, which add natural ionic conditioning to gentle infrared heat
  • Low to medium heat settings (look for a variable-heat model)
  • Barrel size appropriate to style desired
  • Plate width appropriate to length and style desired

Stay Away From These

  • High-heat settings
  • Lingering heat application on strands
  • Plain metal plates and barrels

Styling irons come in all shapes, sizes, lengths and widths, which can give your hair a variety of styles. Using different tools to create different looks is completely possible, and Conair has a wide selection of styling irons and wands with features that work especially well with fine hair.

Curling Irons

The Oh So Kind Curling Iron for Fine Hair
The Conair® OhSoKind™ Curling Iron for Fine Hair (CD950)

While larger barrels create larger, volumizing waves, and smaller barrels create tighter ringlets and curls, you can get great results by mixing barrel sizes with different sections of hair. Those fine wisps around your face may need a different approach than the longer strands toward the back.

One advantage curling irons have over curling wands is the spoon or clamp that holds your hair in place. Fine hair can be slippery hair, and the clamp will secure the strands while you style. The downside is the potential for creating crimps while you clamp. See if you can capture only the very end of each strand in the clamp before you wrap the rest around the barrel.

Conair is creating a line of styling tools called OhSoKind™ which will feature both a curling iron and a flat iron. The curling iron pictured above has a silicone-covered clip to gently hold hair while styling. Soft, flexible edges will ensure a smooth finish every time. Be on the lookout. OhSoKind™ styling tools are coming soon!

There's a "clampless" curling iron technique to try on fine hair:

  • Pinch a strand with your fingers
  • Wrap it around your iron
  • Avoid clamping your hair with the clamp: This avoids crimps and strand compression, which can make your hair look thinner
  • Pinching and winding allows the curl to expand, giving you a thicker and fuller look

Tip: To avoid thermal damage, keep the temperature on the low to medium side and don't let your hair remain too long on the heated barrel.

Curling Wands

A curling wand offers multiple styling options for fine hair. You can wrap hair strands around the tapered barrel to produce fullness at the top and a natural curl toward the end.

A key advantage of a wand is its lack of a spoon or clamp. You can control how tightly the hair wraps around the barrel, thus controlling its proximity to the heat. A wand can prevent that clamp-induced crimp to your susceptible, fine hair.

The Conair® Double Ceramic 1 inch Straight Barrel Curling Wand
Conair® Double Ceramic 1-inch Straight Barrel Curling Wand (CD705)

The wand approach will take practice and a heat-resistant glove to avoid burning your fingers while you coax your fine, slippery, straight hair around the barrel.

Try the pinch-and-wrap approach described in the Curling Iron section above.

Double Ceramic 1¼-inch to ¾-inch Tapered Curling Wand (CD706)

Conair® Double Ceramic 1¼-inch to ¾-inch Tapered Curling Wand (CD706)

Flat Irons

A flat iron is typically used to make your fine hair very straight and silky. It has a terrific effect on fine wisps and broken ends by smoothing them into place.

With a little practice, you can also use a flat iron to create flips and curves. We think one of its great benefits is its ability to add volume at the roots. Flat iron plates have a level, rather than cylindrical surface. Creating curves and lift may take several passes and practice on your part.

The OhSoKind™ flat iron, which will be available from Conair soon, will have almond and aloe vera-infused, ceramic-coated plates to help minimize damage, add shine, and reduce frizz. Rounded edges on the plates won't snag or pull. It will also have 3 gentle heat settings, perfect for fine, delicate hair.

Conair® OhSo Kind™ Flat Iron for Fine Hair

Conair® OhSoKind™ Flat Iron for Fine Hair (CS950)

Keep the plates moving as you iron each fragile hair section. Avoid high-heat settings; use a flat iron with ceramic plates and tourmaline to get the benefit of smooth ionic conditioning for the surface of your hair strands.

Conair makes many flat iron sizes to suit your style. Consider building an arsenal of widths for precise control and hairstyle experimentation.

Styling Iron Features for Fine Hair: What To Look For

Low Temperature to avoid heat damage.

When the difference between dazzling and damaged hair is just a few degrees, a variable-heat setting is the first feature to consider for fine hair. Styling iron temperatures for fine hair should be between 300 and 325 degrees F to minimize heat damage and still set a style. Most styling irons have two or three temperature settings, and Conair offers models with as many as 10 heat-setting choices.

Plate/Barrel Material to effectively transfer heat.

The material used on the plate or barrel surface of styling irons is essential to the success of your hairstyle. Elements with particularly effective heat transferring properties include ceramic and titanium. Tourmaline added to a ceramic coating helps your hair shine. These minerals help smooth hair for better manageability and protect it from damage and breakage.

Some styling irons have interchangeable plates and barrels that allow them to do double duty as crimpers or wavers or go from tight tendrils to loose locks. Many other models, like Conair's Curl Secret®, are ready for some serious specialty styling with their own unique features.

Regardless of its particular profile, a styling iron should be made with heat-transfer material that protects your hair from thermal damage, while giving you the look you want.

  • Ceramic surfaces provide uniform, even heat. This avoids “hot spots” or temperature fluctuations, which can scorch your hair. The ceramic generates a gentle infrared heat that quickly penetrates the hair, heating it outside and in. This can help protect the outside cuticle layer from drying thermal damage.
  • Tourmaline added to the ceramic surface enhances its properties by naturally generating ions for positively smooth results. Tourmaline may be a semiprecious gemstone, but its real value comes from the ionic conditioning that helps smooth your hair's surface.
  • Titanium is a lightweight metal that is stronger than steel. Titanium plates are smooth and stable at high temperatures, making it a good choice for fine hair that is keratin treated. The trick for healthy-looking fine hair is to keep titanium irons at lower temperature settings.

Barrel Size for Curling Irons and Wands to control your look.

The circumference of a curling iron's and wand's round barrels can range from a pencil-like ½ inch to a robust inch-and-a-half in diameter. All of these sizes are suitable for fine hair, and should be selected based on the look you want to achieve.

  • ¾-inch barrel. A good size to use on fine hair that usually doesn't hold a curl. It'll create tight curls that loosen up for a bouncy look throughout the day.
  • 1-inch barrel. This one can give you instant-beach waves if your fine hair holds a curl. Experiment with style-holding products to discover the best way to keep your fine waves beach-ready.

Plate Width on Flat Irons for precise control.

Most flat irons are equipped with plate widths of 1 to 2 inches to straighten fine hair of any length. You can even find them in ½-inch widths for super precision (and portability).

  • Narrow plates let you work with small sections of hair. Plates that are between ½ inch and 1 inch wide offer control for short, fine hair. This size can also put those unruly wisps back into place.
  • Wide plates help you cover more hair in less time. Plate surfaces between 1 and 2 inches wide provide more coverage and get the job done faster, but the wider surface also increases the risk of thermal damage to your hair and, especially for those with fine hair, may not offer the precision your hairstyle needs.

Take a look at the entire selection of curling irons, wands and flat irons on the Hair Care page. For more information on styling fine hair, check out the article Best Hair Dryers for Fine Hair.