StyleList June 3, 2011

StyleList Wrap Your Head Around This: Are Clampless Curling Irons Worth the Hype?StyleList

Friday, June 3rd, 2011

Wrap Your Head Around This: Are Clampless Curling Irons Worth the Hype?

By Grace Gold

Hair trends may fly in and out of style in seconds, but hair tools tend to have longevity.

Chances are, that first flat iron you fried your hair with in your teenage search for shampoo commercial shine and sleekness doesn't look too different from the flat iron currently cord-wrapped and stored in your bathroom cabinet.

Yet a new tool has seemingly taken over the industry in recent months: the clampless conical curling iron. From blogs to fashion glossies and the shelf at the local beauty supply store,these baton-like wands are everywhere you look.

But I wondered: Are conical curlers just marketing hype, or do they really perform that much differently from traditional curling irons? And is it worth buying one if you already have a curling iron at home?

After picking up the Sedu Revolution Professional Clipless Curling Iron and feeling more like I was about to engage in a medieval joust than curl my hair, I decided to ask some leading stylists for tips on how to put this curious new tool to the test.

Basically, it all comes down to what look you want to achieve. Clipless curling irons make softer, beachy waves a cinch, while a traditional iron is going to more easily give you a defined, ringlet type of curl.

I photographed my different looks, which I think show the textural difference in results from the two types of irons. However, I want to make it clear that I'm not a professional stylist, but merely just another girl who is trying to coax my hair to do things it doesn't naturally do -- and the photos are my first attempts.

So, just how do you use these things, and what are some tips and tricks to leaping over the learning curve, and instantly rocking results like a pro? Read on to find out -- and be sure not to miss our stylists' secret tricks to turning your traditional iron into a clipless version for free.

Practice with the iron unplugged first. The most damaging aspect of hair tools is not the heat itself, but the cumulative effect of passing a hot iron through the same strands multiple times. Practice your movements on a cold barrel first, so that you get the hang of how to hold the tool and wrap the hair before you're actually working with heat, advises stylist Adam Campbell of LA's Prive Salon.

Point down and wrap. The key move is to hold the clampless iron vertically, facing down. Then wrap a small section of hair around the base, and continue to wrap outwards to the tip. Don't wrap the hair over and on top of itself; make sure every part touches the iron, including the ends. Hold for five seconds, and release. "The main benefit of using a clampless curling iron is to produce a perfect curl from roots to ends without 'fish hooks,' which are those unattractive kinky, frizzy ends that a traditional curling iron can produce," says Amy Ambramite, creative director at Chicago's Maxine Salon.

A protective glove is included for a reason. Chalk it up to my impatience with reading directions -- I first decided to embark on this experiment without taking the time to put on the heat glove that accompanied my Sedu iron. Bad, bad idea. After my fourth or fifth crazy woman cuss, I finally surrendered and put the glove on. Wow! Now that I was no longer burning my hand off, wrapping a section around the iron and holding it in place to set was as easy as pie. If purchasing a clampless curler, check to make sure it comes with that essential heat resistant glove. Not all models do.

Become ambidextrous. I always hold my hair dryer with my dominant right hand. After stubbornly trying to do the same with the clipless iron because I didn't want to swap the glove (since, you know, it takes so long to switch hands), I finally acquiesced to the fact that this is one tool that requires a switch up. Fortunately, the styling motion requires minimal dexterity. Simply hold the iron with the hand that corresponds with each side, and do the wrapping work with the opposite hand. I found that it's well worth the effort, as you'll hit that quality wave on the first try using this method.

Size and grasp determine wave. For subtle and free-flowing beach waves, use longer sections -- about two to three inches -- and wrap slightly loose around the barrel. For a more pronounced wave and richer texture, use a smaller one inch section, and wrap the hair a bit more tightly around the iron, instructs Adrian Castillo of LA's Sally Hershberger salon.

Now, beachy waves were certainly not invented with the advent of the clipless iron; stylists have long achieved the look with traditional curling irons, too.

If purchasing a clipless iron isn't in your budget right now, you can still use some savvy stylist tricks to get the same look with a traditional curling iron that you may already have.

Simply keep the clamp on your iron down, and wrap the hair around the closed barrel as you normally would with a clampless version, says Campbell. Just be careful to keep the wrap looser, or else you'll end up with the indents of the clamp in your hair.

You can alternately try opening the clamp, and winding your section around the barrel, without closing the clamp, suggests Castillo. It's a little tricky to start, but you'll get the hang of it with some practice, and it's a helpful option to consider if caught in a pinch without a conical iron.

Lastly, Abramite says you can even transform a curling iron that you're no longer using into the new generation version. "Save yourself some cash, and create your own clampless curling iron by removing the clamp on a traditional iron with a screwdriver!" says Abramite.

This stylist speaks my language.

But if you want the convenience and instant ease of the new clampless curling irons, excellent options are available at all price points.

If you're looking to invest, the $120 Sedu Revolution one inch barrel version that I used in the pictured photo features ceramic heat technology, adjustable heat settings and a polished barrel that gave me the glossiest and softest waves of all the irons I tried.

For a bargain buy, Infiniti by Conair You Curl can be found online from anywhere from $29 to $39, and also has ceramic technology and a graduated conical shape that gives waves a more natural looking texture and form. Another competitive buy is the $29.99 Remington T-Studio Ceramic Pearl Professional Curling Wand, which is adorably designed in a frosty shade of pink to boot.

(Note: the traditional curling iron photo was taken after use with the $29.95 Cricket Friction Free Tourmaline Ceramic Curling Iron.)

With all these options to choose from, beach waves no longer need be the exclusive domain of Victoria's Secret models. Sexy is yours to have, too!

Think good hair days are impossible, come summer? Not so -- check out these tried and true tips for calling a truce with your strands this season.