How to Use a Wave Iron | Master Your 3 Barrel Waver

Thanks to modern technology, we’ve been seeing a lot of the devices we’ve been using for decades get more efficient. This especially applies to hair curling tools which is why it shouldn’t come as a surprise that more and more folks want to learn how to use a wave iron.

Also referred to as hair wavers, deep hair wavers, hair crimpers, and multiple-barrel curling irons among many others, hair wave irons offer another way to curl your locks. It might be tricky to use initially, but once you get the hang of it, it can be the simplest styling tool to operate.

Unfortunately, a lot of people shy away from these tools because of how complex they look. So to help convince you that getting one would make styling your locks easier, we’ve rounded up the basics in using this tool. Get to know this hairstyling device better below.

What is a Wave Iron?

With the popularity and easy availability of curling irons and wands, it’s not surprising that some people don’t actually know what a wave iron is. To be fair, these tools may have been around for decades now but since they look complicated, some people just tend to shy away from them.

If you’re one of the many people who aren’t sure what exactly a hair waver iron is, the most basic thing that you need to know about it is it’s basically a cross between a flat iron and a curling iron. It’s handled like how you would a flat iron but it looks like three curling wands stuck together.

One look at these tools and you’ll see that they are practically made up of three heated barrels. This is also why some refer to them as 3 barrel waver.

The way the three barrels are positioned make it possible for you to curl your hair without needing to wrap them around a barrel. They create the ridges you need to change the shape of your locks by just pressing down on it.

A lot of folks also compare them to the hair crimpers of the 90s. Both feature ridges that create curls, so they’re also referred to as barrel crimpers.

Like other heat styling tools, 3 barrel wave irons also come in different sizes. They can have large or small barrels like your regular curling wands. This gives you ample options to choose from depending on the look you’re going for and your hair length.

In most cases, however, 3 barrel wavers are only recommended for long and medium length locks. You can also find units that will work on short hair but there might not be a lot of options available for this very purpose.

Wavers vs. Curling Irons

Before we go on ahead and tackle the technical aspects of operating waver irons, you might need to learn the most basic thing about them first. Their appearance will already clue you in that they’re different from curling irons and wands. However, you might still need to know just how different the experience will be in using them.

What are the key differences between these curling tools? Here are a few of the most notable examples:

Physical design

Structurally, wavers aren’t too different from curling irons. They use the same technology in styling your hair. The only main difference about them is that wavers are designed specifically to curl portions of your hair by just clamping down on them.

This makes them quite simpler to operate. Since you don’t need to wrap sections of your hair into the barrel, you don’t need to a high level of dexterity to curl your hair with this tool. You need to know how to correctly position the tool along the length of your hair but that can be easily done.


The results you’ll get from a deep waver iron will also be quite different from what you’ll get from a curling iron or wand. Generally, you can get varying sizes of curls from wands and irons so they can offer more versatile results. Depending on the barrel size of your tool, you can achieve corkscrew curls or beautiful beach waves.

But because you’ll work on small portions of hair with these tools, you can’t really expect to get the most uniform curls. The amount of hair your curl in one go and how you wrap your hair around the barrel can be done differently and they can greatly affect your results.

A hair waving iron, on the other hand, will give you more uniform curls. These tools can produce the same waves sported by glamorous old Hollywood stars or the most relaxed beach waves ever.

Sure, you can also achieve those with a curling iron, but it’s way easier to do such with a waver curling iron so it can be a better pick if you love these ‘dos.

As for the quality of the results, everything depends on how compatible your tool is with your hair type. There are the best curling irons for any hair type but there are also select products in this category that will only work with specific hair types. The same goes for triple barrel wavers, so it’s crucial to pay attention to such detail as well when shopping for these devices.

Tangle-Free Styling

Another reason why triple barrelled crimpers are making great waves as of late is the fact that they can create fewer tangles on your locks. Since you don’t have to wrap your hair around a heated barrel to get the curls you want, you don’t have to deal with possible tangles that wrapping too tightly can cause. You also don’t have to worry about being extra careful with the clasp trapping your hair if you curled a huge section.

These make hair waver curlers easier to work with, in general. Of course, it’s arguable that there’s quite a learning curve with these tools. However, once you really got used to operating it, it’s practically as easy as using a flat iron when straightening your hair.

Wavers vs. Curling Machines

Another option you have when it curling your locks at home are curling machines. These are those fancy looking hairstyling tools that come with a bulb at the end of the stick. They look very different from curling irons and waving irons so they’re often lumped together with the latter.

However, they also work in a very different manner and produce different results, so there’s really no reason why you should be torn between the two. Again, waving irons will give you waves while curling machines will give you actual curls. In fact, the longer you leave your hair inside the latter, the tighter the curls will be.

So if you want curls and ringlets on your hair, curling machines would be a suitable choice for you. If you want waves, wavers can be better options instead.

How to Use a Wave Iron: The Basic Steps

Now that you know the basics about three barrel curlers, the next thing that you should learn to help you assess whether to give these tools a shot or not would be how to use a hair waver iron. With this information, you can determine whether it be a great fit for you.

How to wave your hair with a waver? Here are the general instructions:

  • 1. Prepare your locks for heat styling.

If you’re working with freshly washed locks, make sure to dry it before attempting to style it. This is crucial as using heat on wet hair can be damaging to your locks.

If you’re working with dry hair, brush it out to remove tangles. Apply a heat protectant product to further minimize heat damage.

This is a very important step, so don’t even think about skipping it. If you want to achieve the get the most beautiful curls and the softest and shiniest locks, you should make sure to prime your hair for the task at hand.

  • 2. Set up your hair waver.

Plug your 3 prong curling iron then select the necessary settings for your locks. If your device has adjustable heat settings, stick to this guide when choosing the right temperature for your hair type:

  • 300 to 350F or the low setting for fine hair

  • 380 to 400F or the medium setting for normal hair

  • 420 to 450F or the high setting for thick, coarse hair

  • 3. Divide your hair into top and bottom sections.

Like with other heat styling tools, it’s best to curl your locks with a wave iron from the bottom to the top. This will not only make it easier for you but it will also help you achieve better results. You wouldn’t want to put up the hair you’ve already curled just so you can access the locks under them because that will waste your hard work. So it’s just best to put up the top part of your hair and start with the locks that are nearest to your nape.

  • 4. Grab a small section of your locks and clamp down the heated beach wave hair tool.
Hold for five to ten seconds then move down the length of your locks.

Some folks think that the trickiest thing about using wavers is in choosing where to start clamping down along the length of the hair. This isn’t the case, though. If you want to achieve natural-looking waves, you’ll want to start as near to the roots as you comfortably can.

Doing this, especially with the hair at the bottom of your head, will give your locks some nice lift and volume. If you opt to start curling your locks near the roots at the top of your head, you’ll also get a more natural-looking finish. It can give you a more polished look, especially if you’re going for a glamorous ‘do.

The actual tricky part in using wave irons is actually in positioning the tool after the initial curling. Where you clamp down your tool can determine whether you’ll end up with sleek old Hollywood waves or tousled beach waves.

If you want to achieve a sleek, elegant look, you should be careful to re-position the waver right below the first set of waves. You should also try to make sure to get the exact same positions when covering the rest of your hair. This will ensure that you’ll get seamless waves all around your head.

If you just want some relaxed waves, you don’t have to bother much about the positioning. Just be careful not to clamp down on the same spots, though, so you won’t apply too much heat on them and damage your locks.

  • 5. Add some finishing touches to your hairstyle.

To help ensure that your hairstyle will stay in place, you should put some finishing touches to your locks as well. For your glamorous waves, spritz some flexible hair setting spray on your locks. Place your hand at the tip of your hair then gently push it up to really get the product in between the curls. This can further help the curls set in.

For your laidback beachy waves, you can run your fingers through your hair before spritzing some sea salt spray on it. This can further give it the crunch and texture you need to nail the look you want.

As mentioned above, these are only general instructions as triple barrel wavers can have varying controls. These can make a huge difference in their operation, so we just won’t go into details on those. You can just refer to the manual of your unit if you want to correctly learn how to use a wave iron to the T.

How to Use a Wave Iron on Short Hair

As most folks would know, hair wavers are more commonly used on long locks because of their bulky size. Most regular three-barrel wavers would prove to be too big for short tresses, so some folks will tell you to use a curling wand or iron instead if you have cropped hair.

However, there are smaller varieties of these tools which some can double duty as travel tools or hair wavers for short hair. In any case, if they are small enough to only cover a portion of your locks, they could already be good enough for your short tresses.

If you’re wondering how to use a wave iron on short hair, it’s not too different from how you’d use it on long hair. You might just need to be more careful, however, when sliding your locks in between the barrels. Due to the short length of your hair, you might not have enough to hold on to when moving them in and out of the tool. This might hurt your hands, so its best to be cautious.

Choosing the Best Deep Waver Curling Iron

Again, just like any other heat styling tool, not all wavers for hair are made equally. There will be the best 3 barrel curling iron for you and there will be products that won’t work for you at all. This is why it’s crucial to find your perfect match.

If you have experience in buying other heat styling tools, it won’t be too much of a feat to find an excellent three barrel waver that will suit your needs. Just keep these tips in mind and you can be sure to pick the most useful product for you:

1. Look for a tool that will suit your hair type. Various hair types react differently to heat so it’s very likely that some tools will work for you while others won’t. Make sure that you’ll get a hairstyling device that suits your hair type so you can get the best results.

2. Never compromise quality. To ensure that you’ll get your money’s worth and that you’re not risking your hair’s safety, make sure that the tool you’ll get is made of great quality. You can usually count on specific manufacturers for this, as reputation usually precedes brands. Revlon wavers, for example, can promise dependability at an affordable price. But if you can invest in these items, there are also several professional brands that you can opt for.

3. Choose according to your needs and preferences. You should also consider what you’re going to use the waver for and how convenient it would be to use when choosing a product. So if you have long hair and you want large chunks of curls, the Revlon 3 Barrel Jumbo Waver could be a great choice for you. If you want a popular pick among beauty editors, the Bed Head Hair Waver is also a solid choice.

4. Read reviews. These feedbacks will tell you a lot of facts about the product you wish to get. So to make sure that the Revlon 3 Barrel Waver you’re eyeing will suit your needs, look up its user reviews before you commit and make a purchase.


To be very honest, learning how to use a wave iron, i.e. 3 barrel waver, is very easy. They just look intimidating but they can be easier to work with than other hair curling devices. Give them a shot and they might just prove to be the perfect addition to your collection of hair styling tools.