Your complete guide to using hot tools this holiday season

Let's be honest, party season = hot tools season.

Let me paint you a picture: Me, 15, standing in front of the bathroom mirror right before my first winter formal, Pinterest hairstyle guide in hand.

My secret weapon of choice? The flat iron my sister got me for Christmas in the seventh grade (and yes, dear reader, I still use it to this day).

I looked good. Or at least, that's what I thought in the moment. Reflecting back on those pics, well, I don't know if I would classify a half-curly-in-the-front, unfinished-in-the-back look as "good." A classic 'do-saster, the stuff of hair horror stories, was probably more like it.

Thankfully, my technique has improved since then—and my love of versatile hot tools has only grown. So if you're starting down the exciting, yet kinda terrifying prospect of a glam new holiday style, allow me to be your guide...

Revlon, $65,

Blow-dry brushes

What they are: Basically a round brush that blows out hot air from the inside, it creates bouncy blowouts easier and quicker than using a dryer and a brush, says hairstylist Athina Lotito. 
How to use them: Section hair like you would when using a blow-dryer and brush from underneath for volume. Just be extra careful as "hair is prone to breakage when it's damp. It becomes easier to snap when you brush through it," says Maria Illari, hairstylist and owner of 11 AM Salon. Want smooth strands without the curl? Wait until your hair is almost dry before going over each section.
Our pick: Revlon One-Step Volumizer Original 1.0 Hair Dryer and Hot Air Brush, $65,

Bed Head, $30,

Curling wands and irons

What they are: Both wands and irons help curl your hair, but the results they give are a little different. "Curling irons have a clamp and curling wands don't," explains Lotito. "Wands typically create a more voluminous, rounder wave, while curling irons create a more relaxed one." Choosing the right barrel size for your curler depends on the length and texture of your hair, says Illari. "One-and-a-quarter-inch barrel works for most hair types. For short or fine hair, a one-inch barrel creates a tighter curl that lasts longer."
How to use them: Section completely dry hair. If you're using a curling iron, open the clamp and close it down toward your root, without touching your scalp, says Lotito. Then, turn your wrist enough to wrap the hair around the barrel once and hold it there for three to five seconds. Tilt the iron in the same direction and slightly open the clamp to allow the iron to slide down the hair. Keep turning and sliding until you've reached the end of your strands.Using a wand? Wrap the hair around the barrel, starting at the roots. "Make sure you wrap tightly to ensure the hair gets heated properly," says Lotito. Leave some of the ends out so you don't burn your fingers and hold tightly to keep the curl secured around the barrel. 
Our picks: Bead Head Curlipops Clamp-Free Curling Wand Iron, $30, and Hot Tools Pro Signature 24K Gold Curling Iron, $50, 

Conair, $45,

Hot rollers

What they are: These retro tools add tons of volume and bounce. Just put them in your hair and get ready while they work their magic.
How to use them: Separate hair into sections about as wide as the roller itself. Pull hair forward and put the roller behind it at the ends of the section, says Illari. Next, roll hair and the roller together toward your roots. Finally, pin or clip the hair and roller together. Repeat all over your head, then mist with hairspray. Let the rollers cool off completely (about 15 minutes) before unpinning and removing them to let the curls set in place. Then, rake your fingers through your hair to loosen up the curls.
Our pick: Conair Xtreme Instant Heat Ceramic Hot Rollers, $45,

Gold 'N Hot, $40,

Crimpers and wavers

What they are: Like a hybrid between curling irons and flat irons, crimpers and wavers are styling tools with zig-zag plates or S-shaped plates that add a wave pattern to your hair. "The smaller the plates, the tighter of a crimp or wave you will get. The larger the plates, the looser the texture," says hairstylist Samantha Vay. "If you have short hair, smaller plates are best."
How to use them: "Take a one-inch-deep by three-inch-wide section, then starting at the root, clamp down the iron for three seconds, working your way down to your ends," says Illari.
Our picks: Gold 'N Hot Professional Ceramic Hair Crimper, $40, and Mermade Pro Hair Waver, $75,

Conair, $33,

Flat irons

What they are: These tools use two flat plates to sandwich hair as you pull it through to create a straight, sleek look.
How to use them: Section your hair. Take a small piece and clamp down the iron on your hair, close to the roots. Keep it clamped as you pull it through the length of your hair to straighten it. To prevent damage, use narrow enough sections so you don't have to go over the same strands multiple times, says Lotito.
Our pick: Conair Double Ceramic 1 Inch Digital Touch Flat Iron, $33,

'Do No Damage

Illari and Lotito share their top tips for using hot tools without any fuss.

Save your strands.
Damage from hot tools can leave locks dry, broken and dull. Before styling, spray on a heat protectant (we like Living Proof Perfect Hair Day Heat Styling Spray, $28, 

Turn down the temp.
Most people think they need to turn the heat all the way up, but this can be extremely damaging and fry the hair. Our pros recommend using 325 degrees or less on fine to medium hair and up to 425 degrees on coarse or thick hair.

Always brush or comb your hair prior to styling it.
This will ensure the hot tool can create the look that you want without causing damage by pulling at the hair to untangle it.

Set your hair with styling products.
"Spray hairspray after using a hot tool to lock in the style or apply an oil on your ends to help keep them smooth," says Lotito (try Moroccanoil Luminous Hairspray Strong Finish, $26,

Hey, girl! Just wanted to let you know that this story originally ran in our December/January 2023 issue. Want more? Read the print mag for free *today* when you click HERE

Slider image: @itsjennaraine
Header image: @sarahostiguy


by Erin Reimel | 11/20/2022