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A butane curling iron is a cordless curling iron that is built to be powered by butane, a flammable gas. By turning on the butane curling iron, the gas heats the curling iron barrel, enabling the user to curl hair virtually anywhere. These curling irons are often smaller in size than traditional curling irons and are designed to be portable. They are typically easily packed in purses or tote bags and are frequently used by travelers or women who need to style or touch up their hair at work or at school. Hair professionals who may be working in areas where they do not have easy access to an electrical outlet may also make considerable use of a butane curling iron.
Standard curling irons are typically designed to be plugged into an electrical outlet. In many places, this is no hardship as most buildings are equipped with electricity. In some cases, however, an individual may be traveling to a location where electricity is not easily accessed. In addition, some facilities may have electricity but outlets may not be conveniently located. An example of such a location may be an office or school restroom, in which it can be difficult for a woman who needs to style her hair to find an outlet that provides easy access to a mirror. A butane curling iron allows her to style her hair in any place that she wishes.
Old-style butane curling wands typically required users to refill the butane chamber with a can of butane which can typically be obtained at drugstores, supermarkets or hardware stores. The modern butane curling iron, on the other hand, typically uses cartridges which easily snap in and out of the iron. The use of cartridges can minimize the risk of exposure to butane gas and can make it very easy to refill one's curling iron. As of 2011, flyers can generally carry one butane curling wand on airline flights to most destinations, but are not permitted to actually use the curling iron while on the airplane. Carrying extra refill cartridges is not permitted.
The primary criticism of the butane curling iron is that it does not get hot enough to properly curl all types of hair and that, in some cases, the curls may not last. Individuals may find their experiences with different types of butane curling wands vary considerably. As such, users of these portable curling irons may need to try several brands before finding one that gives them the results they desire.