Styling Tools for Fine Hair

Flat irons, curling irons and curling wands utilize surface technologies that can make a difference to your fine hair's health, body, shine and bounce. 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 high 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.

A new figure of speech is emerging from the science of haircare and may be the solution for fine, fragile locks that need the help of heated styling, but not its potential thermal damage: Heat from within.

Many styling irons now include features that radiate the longer wavelengths of far-infrared heat. These longer heat waves penetrate the outer layer of your hair (cuticle) and move right to the center (cortex), quickly warming the hair inside and out.

Fortunately, you have great, heat-styling options that add life and dimension to fine and damage-prone hair. Let's look at the options for thin and thinner locks.

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 short heat exposure to keep damage at bay. It also needs help capturing and holding moisture in its fragile strands to keep it 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: Thin hair can be very healthy hair. Its core size, chemical makeup and the styling products applied 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. 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 to give your locks lots of looks. Mixing different tools to address the varying needs of your hair may be a great approach for fine hair. Conair has a variety of styling irons with features that work well.

Curling Irons

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.

Here's a "clampless" curling iron technique to try on thin 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 releases the hair, allowing the curl to expand; this will give 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.

One 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 heat. A wand can prevent that clamp-induced crimp to your susceptible, fine hair.

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 seen under the Curling Iron section.

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.

Keep the plates moving as you iron your fragile locks. Avoid high heat settings; use a flat iron with the gentler infrared heat generated by ceramic plates. Add tourmaline to the ceramics and you'll get the benefit of smooth ionic conditioning to your hair's surface.

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 surface helps your hair shine. Incorporated into the construction of the styling iron, these mineral compounds seem to work like magic to protect hair 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 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 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.