Hold Your Hair in the Curling Iron

Remington curling iron
Q: I want to start using a curling iron, but I have no experience at all with this tool. How long am I supposed to hold my hair in the curling iron to get a good curl that lasts? I don’t want to burn my hair!
A: The best way to do research on using a curling iron is the practical kind of research: watch DIY tutorials online. The most important thing that you always need to remember when you apply any heat-styling tools to your hair is that you MUST always apply a heat-protection product to your hair before your start with the tool. This is absolutely a non-negotiable. If you want to avoid incinerating your hair (especially over time), then you’ll use the heat-protection products.
I prefer the creamy lotion sort that you apply to wet hair before you start blow drying. My favorite cosmetics-store bought product is L’Oréal New Studio Silk & Gloss. It really protects the hair from excess heat, but it also seals the hair shaft super effectively, as well as leaving the hair soft and straight.
How long you keep your hair wrapped around the tong depends on a number of factors. How long is your hair? How thick is the structure of your hair (fine, medium, coarse)? How dense is your hair? What color is your hair? Have you got straight/wavy/curly hair? Longer hair takes longer to curl, as there is a greater volume of hair. If you have very fine hair, you’ll have to be careful, as fine hair is more prone to breakage and heat-damage.
With fine hair, make sure that you use enough heat protection, but also spray some keratin-based strengthening treatment on the hair while it’s still wet. I like Schwarzkopf Gliss Ultimate Hair Repair & Gloss Treatment liquid keratin, as it’s super effective and easily available. Medium to coarse/thick hair can handle more heat, but I still recommend the keratin liquid. If you have fine AND little/sparse hair, you need to be especially careful, as this is the kind of hair that burns easily.
Medium to thick hair is less prone to damage, again because of the fact that there is a greater amount of hair that absorbs the heat, making for a more even and balanced heat-distribution. And lastly, blonde hair is more prone to heat damage than dark hair. The naturally darker your hair is, the stronger it usually is. This has to do with the actual make-up of darker hair, which is a whole article in itself.
Take all the above-mentioned information into account, evaluate what kind of hair you have and work from there. The safest bet would be to apply heat-protection and liquid keratin to wet hair. Blow-dry the hair 100% dry, and then use the tong on a medium-sized section of hair for five seconds, on a low-heat setting. If the curl is tight enough, spray it with hairspray and continue with the process. If the curl drops out too loose, repeat the tong-procedure again, for a few seconds longer. Don’t exceed ten seconds though, as this is the danger-zone.
See also:
Heat Styling Basics
A What's What Guide to Curling Irons
Thermal Styling with Curling Irons