How Styling Tools Work for Normal to Thick Hair

With today's styling tools, you can achieve diverse looks for your locks. Tousled one day, refined the next, your tresses can easily reflect your mood. Your hair is prime territory for experimentation—with the right curling irons, curling wands and flat irons, you’ve got plenty of opportunity for hair play without harm. Read on to better understand which heat and surface technologies are optimal for your thick and coarse hair type.

Surface Coatings and Heat Give You the Hairstyle You Want

Whether you want curls, waves, texture, body or super-straight hair, heat is what allows your locks to shift their shape. By weakening the hydrogen bonds that form between keratin proteins in the cortex of each strand of hair, heat allows you to mold its shape as new bonds form along the contours of your styling iron.

Three beautiful models displaying their full, thick hairstyles.

Thick and hard-to-curl or hard-to-straighten hair needs plenty of heat to form the new bonds. The trick is to get high heat into the cortex without damaging the outer, or cuticle layer. The faster the heat travels into the keratin/hydrogen zone, the better. Styling irons with titanium provide intense, even heat that allows you to move the iron along at a good clip, smoothing and sculpting while avoiding damage to the outer, or cuticle layer. Normal hair is often easier to straighten or curl than thick hair, though its surface may be prone to damage from a high-heat metal surface. You'll want a gentler heating approach.

Ceramic surfaces deliver even, uniform heat without damaging hot spots on the barrels and plates. When heated, ceramic generates infrared waves, which quickly penetrate the cuticle, moving to where they'll be the most effective. Your strands heat up from both the inside and out with less risk of thermal damage. This creates the perfect condition for your tresses to transform according to your direction.

Tourmaline ceramic surfaces bring naturally occurring ions to your hair. These ions can reduce uncontrollable static electricity and help your hair feel smooth by keeping the frizz from taking over. Many people report that their strands look shinier with tourmaline added to the mix.

The Right Temperature for Your Hair Type

The temperature of your styling irons has everything to do with their effectiveness for your hair type. Variable heat settings give you more control over the different zones of your head. As you use the irons, see how your hair responds to a lower setting and increase it, if necessary. Iron smaller sections of hair before you try raising the temperature. Never set the temperature above 400 degrees! See where you fall in our hair type chart below.

Select the Best Temperature for Your Hair Type

  • Extra thick and hard-to-curl/straighten hair: 325–400 degrees F
  • Thick hair: 330–360 degrees F
  • Normal or average hair: 310–360 degrees F
  • Over-processed or color-treated hair: Start at 250 degrees F and carefully work up

The idea is to balance high heat with short duration. Your ideal temperature allows you to get results quickly. You'll find the sweet spot as you practice.

Styling Tool Features for Normal to Thick Hair

  • Ceramic barrels and plates for gentle, infrared warmth
  • Tourmaline for natural ions
  • Titanium surfaces distribute heat evenly for thick, hard-to-curl, hard-to-straighten or coarse hair
  • Variable heat settings for medium to high heat

Science aside, let's figure out the best styling irons to give your normal to thick locks lots of looks.

Curling Irons

Curling irons have varying barrel sizes to create everything from large waves to tight curls. With your full head, you can get some great looks by mixing barrel sizes. Choose a 1 to 2 inch barrel for loose waves and a ¾ to 1 inch for precise curls.

Conair Double Ceramic 1-inch Curling Iron
Figure 1: Conair® Double Ceramic™ 1 inch Curling Iron

The clamp on your curling iron holds your hair in place. Normal to thick hair can typically clamp without crimping. Start with a small section and carefully clamp its end before wrapping the length along the barrel.

Because your hair sits directly on the curling iron's heated barrel, don't linger as you style. The thickness of your hair will determine how long you need to hold the curling iron in place. Start with the less-is-more philosophy and move on from there to achieve the looks you love.

Curling Wands

Curling wands are like curling irons, but they have no clamp. They come with tapered barrels and non-tapered barrels. With your normal to thick hair, short or long, you can have some fun with this tool. The tapered barrel will give you a more carefree curl—loose waves that you might associate with beachy waves.

InfinitiPRO by Conair Rose Gold Titanium 1¼ inch to ¾ inch Curling Wand
Figure 2: InfinitiPRO by Conair® Rose Gold Titanium 1¼-inch to ¾ inch Curling Wand

With a tapered barrel (Figure 2), wind a section of hair with the thick end on top to create fullness at the roots. Carry on to the narrow end and find yourself with natural curls at the ends. The straight or non-tapered barrel (Figure 3) gives a more uniform and neat looking wave, closer to what you get with a curling iron that clamps your hair to the barrel.

InfinitiPRO by Conair Rainbow Titanium 1 Inch Curling Wand
Figure 3: InfinitiPRO by Conair® Rainbow Titanium 1 inch Curling Wand

A wand can help tame frizzy and wiry hair, smoothing your locks as you go. If natural waves are what you want, the wand is your answer. It provides a less polished look than the curling iron, giving a more random, casual result.

Flat Irons

Flat irons work wonders on normal to thick hair. The hot surface smoothes the outer layer and penetrates into the shaft to help you find new form. Frizzy hair, curly locks and wild waves will straighten out their act with the help of this wonder tool. Keep the hair moving between the plates to avoid heat damage and achieve a straight silhouette with plenty of shine.

InfinitiPRO by Conair 1 inch Rainbow Titanium Flat Iron
Figure 4: InfinitiPRO by Conair® 1 inch Rainbow Titanium Flat Iron

You can add some curves and root height to straight hair with simple gestures and the right flat iron plate size. Flat irons are equipped with plate widths ranging from ½ inch to 2½ inches. Thick hair is more quickly styled with the wider plates, and average/normal hair can achieve the look with mid-range plates. The length of your hair also affects how wide or narrow you should go.

Mid–Narrow plates let you style bangs and short hair. Plates that are between ¾ inch and 1½ inches wide offer control for thick/normal shorter hair. This size can also put those singular curls and frizzies back into place.

Wide plates help you cover more hair in less time. Plate widths between 1½ and 2½ inches are great on luscious, thick hair and healthy, average/normal locks.

Specialty Styling Iron Features

  • Interchangeable plates and barrels that allow you to crimp, wave or add tight tendrils.
  • Others come with oil infusion packs (e.g., argan oil) to further condition your hair and add shine.
  • Motorized curlers like the InfinitiPRO by Conair® Curl Secret® automatically draw your hair in and whirl each strand into submission, with no wrapping and winding on your part.

We think you'll be impressed by Conair's selection of styling appliances that use heat and surface technology, along with a variety of plate and barrel sizes. There are several choices for every type of hair.

Additional suggestions for thick and coarse hair can be found in the article, Styling Tools and Tips for Thick Hair and Natural Hairstyles. Check it out!