Flat Iron vs Curling Iron

Debate Between Flat Iron vs Curling Iron: What Are Their Key Differences?

Are you someone like me who’s into playing with their hair utilizing different instruments all the time? Or are you feeling uncertain whether you need a flat iron for your intended hairstyle or a curling iron?

The argument of flat iron vs curling iron should clear out all of your confusions. As I’ve used both of these devices on myself & my clients for many years now, I can point out what they excel at and what are their shortcomings side by side.

Scrolling through their differences will help you understand what you actually require for your specific demands and make a purchase that’s going to be a worthwhile investment.

So what are you waiting for? Stop thinking and start reading to eliminate all your doubts!

Know Them Individually: Flat & Curling Iron

Before we delve deeper into the flat iron vs curling iron debate, it’s essential that we can know what these devices are individually capable of achieving.

Flat Iron

Flat Iron

A flat iron consists of two arms and two heat plates, usually with an adjustable heat setting that aims at straightening your hair strands by breaking the curls into a completely flat result. Having the know-how of using flat iron can create some of the smooth hairstyles while causing minimal damage to your hair!

There are quite a few prominent brands that produce good flat irons. Picking from them has ensured my hair’s safety & health and given me access to getting some fashionable hairstyles!

Curling Iron

Curling Iron

A curling iron is a device that specializes in creating curls or waves to fine-textured hair with the use of heat. With appropriate techniques and sound knowledge about heat settings for particular hair types, you can generate some of the most exquisite curly or wavy hairstyles at the comforts of your home!

Much like flat iron, curling iron too is produced by a lot of companies, but only a handful of brands produce devices that are top-tier and generate premium outcomes without putting your hair in harm’s way!

Flat Iron vs Curling Iron: Which One Do You Need?

While choosing between a flat iron and a curling iron, understanding your purpose and placing it against what each of them can perform is very important. Thus, I’ve put these two devices side by side elucidating on what they can achieve so that you can pick out your preferred iron for styling duty!

Structural Difference

Structural difference

You’ll see the difference in structure between flat iron vs curling iron from the get go. Flat iron is, as the name suggests, a flat device that aspires to hold strands of hair in between the heat plates. On the other hand, the curling iron is often identified as a wand due to its cylindrical shape that allows for wrapping the hair around effortlessly.

There are also further differences in their structures. A flat iron has a pair of clamps for squeezing the hair tightly for a smooth outcome. Curling iron has a spring-lock mechanism to allow the hair to be wrapped firmly for tight curls. The structural differences between the two is a key aspect to generate distinct hairstyles.

Due to the structural variation, I was able to produce a wide variety of hairstyles that would never have been possible using only one device.

Mode of Operation

Both flat iron and curling iron are essentially two devices made for separate reasons. A flat iron generally straightens curly hair, smooths out frizziness and generates a sleek look. Its major focus is on straightening and silk pressing, which people often confuse with the term flat iron itself.

A curling iron does what it says – it curls straight hair. Whether I’m looking for subtle waves or tight curls, this is the device I always opt for since it specializes in such matters. Due to the high degree of heat, the curling iron alters my hair’s properties and seals in the curls it has created for a sizable period of time.

Thus, the purpose we’re using them is completely different and their unique techniques need to be mastered before we are able to style our hair with them perfectly.

Length vs Width

Length vs Width

For the sake of the flat iron vs curling iron debate, understanding their length and width are of utmost importance and it’s a significant distinction between them. Flat iron measurements generally focus on their plate’s size as different widths of plates can achieve certain looks. It’s also a factor that saves time and complies with specific hair types.

While that is the case for flat irons, curling irons however rely a lot on their length & radius. The length, be that 1 inches or 2, determines how much hair you can wrap around at the same time and the radius suggests the size of your curls. Different sized barrels thus ensure your short curls to long waves so some knowledge on this should provide you with better styling potential.

It goes even further where flat irons always contain two heat plates but the number of barrels for curling iron can vary. Generally there’s only one barrel, but some specialized irons contain two, or even three barrels for some exclusive styling endeavors.

Degree of Curls

If you didn’t know already, flat irons have capabilities of curling your hair as well! But it requires specialized devices that will allow you to do it with superior control over your style. However, the degree of curls will always be confining to some extent and will never provide smooth outcomes like a curling iron would.

Also, the procedure is different as well. For a flat iron as a curler, I usually twist my wrist frequently to get the smooth, curly outcome. But using a curler is very straightforward as I can directly wrap a large portion of my hair around the wand and it’s curled within a few seconds!

So curling iron will save you tons of time compared to a flat iron if they’re used for curling your hair.

Doing Particular Styles

There are certain styles that either require a flat iron or a curling iron – there’s no in-between. For instance, silky, smooth style generation is the strongest suit for a flat iron. After a fine silk press, I find my hair to be lighter than usual and fine in nature. Be that layered cut, side-swept style or sleek ponytails, flat iron excels at producing all of these.

But for curling iron, it creates certain wavy, curly or even kinky hairstyles that are fun to carry around. Whether it’s a loose wave, feathered curtains or stacked curls, a curling iron is always essential to achieve these looks.

However, styles like beach waves or curtain bangs can be done using a flat iron as well, but I’d recommend applying these with a curling iron for a superior control over your styling pattern!

Hair Type Preference

Hair Type

In order to differentiate between flat iron vs curling iron, understanding their connection with specific hair types is a must. Flat irons concentrate on hair straightening, which implies you have curly hair to begin with. Thus, flat iron caters better if you have Type 3 or Type 4 hair like myself for straightening purposes.

On the other hand, curling iron aspires to curl one’s hair, so ones having curly hair in the first place will not benefit much from it apart from trying out a few styles. Thus, curling iron serves Type 1 or fine hair the best, and Type 2 or wavy hair to some extent.

It doesn’t mean that you are excluded from using either of these devices if you have a particular hair type. Rather, it’s the difference of providing better service to specific hair type groups by a flat iron and a curling iron.


There are unique restrictions which I have identified in the flat iron vs curling iron argument. Flat irons are made for straightening or silk pressing the hair, but it could quite often be used for hair curling duties as well since it can achieve this to some extent.

Curling iron however is a little restricted in this regard. While it’s a fabulous tool for creating curls or waves into any given style, it comes short during hair straightening. Although curling iron can straighten your hair too if you get the techniques right, it’s never able to produce the fine result that a flat iron can generate.

Regardless, you must remember that the curls made by a curling iron are always going to be superior to the ones done with a flat iron, and vice-versa for flat iron in terms of hair straightening.


I’ll address a few questions that should help you further clarify the talk of flat iron vs curling iron.

Q: Is a curling iron better than a flat iron?

A: It’s a subjective question and depends on what you’re trying to achieve. If you want to curl your hair, then yes, a curling iron is better than a flat iron. It’s the opposite if you’re looking for something to straighten your hair with.

Q: Can you use a curling iron like a flat iron?

A: You can do it to some extent, but still won’t generate the same fine outcome that a flat iron can achieve.

Q: Why can’t I curl my hair with a flat iron?

A: If you’re failing to curl your hair with a flat iron, it’s either because you aren’t using proper methods or your flat iron’s housing isn’t rounded to aid you in this regard.


As we’ve reached the endpoint of this article, you’re probably expecting me to announce a winner in this flat iron vs curling iron clash. But in retrospect, a winner between the two would be highly subjective and completely purpose-driven. Let me explain.

If you have genuine fine hair and often try out different curls or waves, you can close your eyes and pick out a curling iron. As mentioned earlier, curling irons specialize on such matters and are guaranteed to make your life a lot easier!

And if your hair is curly or coily by nature, you’re probably going to want to straighten them out on a regular basis. Thus, a flat iron is going to serve your purpose better than a curling iron, so flat iron is going to be your winner for your intended styles!

I am Emily. I am a hair care enthusiast, and I like writing about it. Reading books and styling hair is one of my greatest passions. I have a knack for creativity, and I find pleasure in making art. I love going out in the field and basking under the sun on a cold day. My life motto is: "you only live once."

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top
Scroll to Top