You may have tried using a curling iron only to be left with tight spirals instead of the soft bouncy curls you wanted. If this is the case, don't give up on curling irons just yet--try the set of techniques outlined here if you want looser, bigger curls that are more like waves than spirals. With just a little practice, your hair can look like a beach babe's or a Hollywood starlet's rather than Shirley Temple's in her childhood years.
Turn on your curling iron and allow it to heat up. Comb your hair to remove any snarls or tangles that will keep your waves from looking flawless and shiny.
Spray your hair with a heat protectant, making especially sure your roots get coated with the product as the ends of your hair are the most prone to breakage.
Take a fine section of hair about 1/4-inch thick, clamping down on it with the duckbill facing upwards. Slide the iron down the section of hair all the way to the ends, rolling the curling iron upward and inward. Be careful not to let the barrel touch your scalp. Release the duckbill after a few seconds and carefully slide the curling iron out from under your hair. You will have to experiment with the amount of time it takes to make your hair wavy the way you want it, since various hair types curl at different speeds. Basically, the longer you keep your hair on the curling iron, the tighter the resulting curl (see Resources).
Repeat Step 3 for your entire head of hair. When you are finished, style your hair with your fingers. Do not use a comb or a brush as this will break down your newly formed curls or give your hairstyle a lot of static. Mist your tresses lightly with hairspray to hold the style.
Invest in the curling iron with a barrel that is the right size for your hair length. If your hair falls to the middle of your back or is longer, you can use a 1 1/4-inch barrel. On the other hand, a 1-inch barrel is more appropriate for shoulder-length hair as curls created with a bigger barrel may appear too loose on shorter hair. The larger the barrel, the looser the curl. Look for a curling iron with detachable barrels in different sizes so that you can wear different size curls or waves in your hair as you please.
Prevent or minimize damage to your tresses by using a ceramic or tourmaline curling iron, especially if you will be using it on a regular basis. Stay away from metal or copper-plated thermal styling tools as these cause the most damage to hair.