You Have To See What This Weird New Curling Iron Can Do

Photographed by Benjo Arwas
The humble curling iron has come a long way since its groundbreaking debut some 2,000 years ago. In just the last century, it's morphed from what looks like a torture device into the electric gadget we know today, upgraded countless times with new bells and whistles.
But we bet no one in the Roman Empire could have predicted the biggest modern advancement would look quite like this. Enter: the CurlBar, Hot Tools' brand-new, L-shaped iron available at beauty supply and mass retailers, like Ulta Beauty. The design might look strange, but that unique bend is what gives it the power to style hair easier, faster, and with less arm strain.
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Just ask L.A.-based celeb hairstylist Ian James, the man behind Chloë Sevigny's curls and Mila Kunis' beachy waves. For a crash course in mastering this bizarre tool, James created three everyday looks that anyone can copy — without so much as raising your arms past your shoulders.
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The Basics
Let's address the elephant in the room first: that wacky L-shape. No, it's not a gimmick or a travel-friendly version. The wand is actually bent like that to reduce elbow, arm, shoulder, and wrist strain. It's also just plain easier to maneuver, since it keeps your arms out of the way when looking in the mirror or curling the back of your head. Remember what Artis did for makeup brushes? This is the hair version of that.

The iron comes in two sizes, 1-inch and 1.25-inch, which we alternate through this shoot. It heats up to 450 degrees and features a rotating dial that controls a built-in vibrating timer. (Did we mention the iron also vibrates?) The grip is soft and comfortable, the cord swivels like a dream, and it comes with a heat-resistant glove, if you're into that kind of thing. (Be careful out there, folks.)

Admittedly, it takes some getting used to — "Honestly, I didn't like it when I first tried it," James confesses — but quickly converts even the most stubborn, established artists. (We even spotted Danilo, a 30-year beauty industry veteran, carrying one in his kit.)
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Photographed by Benjo Arwas.
The Look: Easy Bends

Sure, you can create waves and curls with this iron, but it's also the perfect shape to master French-girl bedhead, which is incredibly easy — if you know what you're doing. "This process is all about bending the hair," James explains, "You do not want to create curls or waves."

Start with straight to slightly-wavy dry hair. (This style works well on air-dried strands or a slept-on blowout, but those with curly hair will need to smooth things out a bit.) Don't worry about getting your hair perfect, the iron will help with that.

Ready? Let's get started.

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Create an off-center part and divide the hair into manageable sections based on your texture — clipping the top layer up and out of the way. Starting at the front of the hairline, wrap a small section of hair around the larger (1.25-inch) iron just one rotation. Hold for a few seconds, then release.

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Move an inch or so down the same hair shaft, this time wrapping the hair the opposite way. Tip: The easiest way to keep track is to wrap the hair under one time, then over the next. Repeat until you hit the ends, which you'll leave straight for a casual look.
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Mist a volumizing or texturizing product over your waves for grit and hold. (Dry shampoo is great for fine to medium, straight hair; Spray wax works well for medium to thick, textured hair).

James used Acure Organics Dry Shampoo on the roots of model Yumi's hair, then lightly massaged it in with his fingers for added volume. Then — and this is important — he lightly misted each section with a light hold, flexible hairspray to ensure these gentle bends lasted. He used Paul Mitchell Super Clean Spray.

Release the top section and repeat until you've bent all the hair.
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Once you have all your bends in place, you can go back in and polish up any lank or flipped out areas — or anything that just looks wonky. "Don't worry about wrapping the hair completely around the iron," James explains, "Sometimes I just gradually bend the hair on the iron, almost like you're making a series of alternating indentations."
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Once the hair is fully cool, flip your head over to loosen the bends before "lightly combing through the hair to separate and relax it a little bit," James says. This is best done with your fingers, but if you have thick hair you can use a wide tooth comb.
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Tip: To refresh the style throughout the day, or before going out that evening, just flip your head over and shake the hair with your hands, James says. You can even scrunch in a styling cream, which gives it a little shine and separation.
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The Look: '90s Supermodel Waves

Big, bouncy, shiny waves never go out of style — and this iron makes them easier to achieve than ever. But unlike the lived-in hair of today, this one pays homage to glossy '90s supermodel waves. For this look, James actually created tight curls, then stretched them into waves with his fingers. How'd they get so damn shiny? Styling cream, friends.

James alternated between the two irons for extra dimension, but the choice is up to you. The smaller iron is great for hair that doesn't hold a curl easily; the larger size is ideal for long hair or those who want looser waves.

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Starting with dry, smoothed out hair, grab a 2-inch section and hold the barrel of the iron parallel to your face, which keeps the curls uniform. Wrap the hair fully around the iron, leaving out the last inch or so. Release the curl, then pull it straight for a few seconds with your hands. "This softens the curl," James explains.

Repeat with the next section of hair, only this time wrap it in the opposite direction. (Otherwise you'll end up with S-waves, more on those later...) Heed James' advice once you get to the top sections: Start the curl a few inches from the roots at the temples. This draws the eyes to the cheekbones, and keeps the waves from looking too ringlet-y.

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Once you're finished, mist the hair with a light hold hairspray.
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When the hair is fully cool, flip your head over and shake it out. "If it's too curly or wavy, you can comb through with your fingers or use a wide tooth comb to separate the curls," James says. "But shaking the hair out tends to be enough for most people."
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Gently massage a little dry shampoo or volume spray into your roots.
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"The trick to this style is to go through the hair with styling cream, coating random sections," James says. "It creates shine, texture, and adds to the randomness — making it almost a little beachy." He used Andalou Naturals Smooth Hold Styling Cream.
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Time for last looks: "There may be certain pieces you need to re-curl around the face, or perhaps a few stubborn curls that need to be combed through," James explains.
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The Look: Polished Waves

Classic S-waves get a modern update thanks to a sharp center part and a curl that starts lower at the ears. It's best to start on straight, very smooth strands, so allow time for a blowout or pass your flatiron over your hair first, if needed. Dirty hair works well, too, since a bit of oil will help strands lay smooth.

The tighter the curl, the better, so James used the 1-inch iron for this look.

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First things first: Brush your hair and draw a precise part using a rat-tail comb. Smooth a little (less is more) styling cream over the top of the hair, then secure with two styling clips.

Tip: If your hair tends to fluff up, or if you have naturally wavy or curly hair, James suggests spraying a hair brush with firm hold hairspray and brushing hair before pinning it into place.

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"The ends should have a little bit of curl," James notes, but they shouldn't be curly, per se. Luckily, because you're using a wand, this takes care of itself, since you have to leave an inch or so off the iron or you'll risk burning your fingers. (Now is a great time to break out the included glove.)

Keeping the iron pointed downward, wrap a 2-inch horizontal section of hair around the iron like Yumi is here. For this look, you'll want to be sure to wrap the hair the exact same direction every time.
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Slide the iron out and carefully pin the curl against the scalp. Repeat across this half of your head, keeping the top curls parallel to the temple and leaving the front for last.
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Release the clip that was holding the front section and start this curl near your eyebrow, which will sit higher than the rest, but will eventually settle into a flattering place that highlights the cheekbones and eyes.
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Repeat the curls over the entire head, always wrapping away from the face and down. (This means the curls at the center of the back of your head will be facing each other.)
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Text, tweet, watch a TV show, whatever you need to do to make sure the curls fully cool.
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Release all the curls, triple checking to make sure they're all cool. (Can you tell this step is important?) Mist with a firm hold hairspray — James used Aubrey Chia Hairspray Strong Hold.
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Brush through the hair with a wide tooth comb (great for fine to medium weight hair or strands that don't hold a curl well) or a boar-bristle paddle brush (great for most textures). "Curls can act strange, and be finicky, so it's all about brushing the hair it into a shape that you like," James says. "Be patient and keep brushing until the curl lays in an attractive manner."

Stop when the curls form a smooth, uniform wave. (Don't worry, just keep brushing and you'll see what we mean.) "First hair will be very springy, then it will start to settle," James says.
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Mist with shine spray or warm a little hair oil in your hands and smooth it over just the top of hair. James likes Giovanni Shine Of The Times Finishing Hair Mist.
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That's it! (And don't your arms feel great?!) Tuck your hair behind one ear — a final, modern touch James loves — and you're done.

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