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What is a Crimping Iron?

By Bethany Keene
Updated May 21, 2024
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A crimping iron is a heated styling tool used for creating small, tight waves in the hair. It works the same way as a flat iron or curling iron, using heat to manipulate the look of the hair, and is used on dry hair to create a finished style. Crimped hair was particularly popular in the 1980s and early 1990s.

A crimping iron is designed with two ridged paddles on either side. A small section of hair is placed between the paddles, and they are then pressed down for a few seconds and released to give hair that crimped look. It is important to only press hair between the paddles for a few seconds to avoid burning and damaging the hair. The paddles are often made of metal or ceramic; ceramic paddles tend to be gentler on the hair.

Crimping irons come in varying sizes, with different sized ridges on the paddles. Paddles with larger ridges will provide larger crimps in the hair, more like waves, whereas a crimping iron with smaller ridges will create smaller crimps that are closer together. Some crimping irons come with interchangeable plates for the paddles, to create different crimping styles with one tool.

To use a crimping iron, it is generally a good idea to completely dry the hair, and straighten it as much as possible with the hair dryer and a brush. Mist the hair with a heat-protective spray or add a heat-protective gel using the fingers; this will help to prevent damage to the hair from the high heat of the iron. Next, separate the hair into small sections, and begin crimping. It is particularly important to section the hair when using a crimping iron so that the style looks uniform over the entire head; different-sized pieces of crimped hair will really stand out.

Do not brush the hair after it's been crimped, as that can loosen the crimps. Instead, just run the fingers gently through the hair to make it appear more uniform. Another option is to flip the head over and just shake the hair out.

It is also possible to get the look of crimped hair without using a crimping iron. This can be done by washing the hair and, when it is still wet, braiding it. The braids may be tight or loose depending on the waves desired. Allow the hair to dry in the braids, then take them out, and run the fingers through the hair. Though it will not have that tight, uniformly crimped appearance, hair will appear naturally wavy, and the results can last much longer.

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