'90s crimping irons are making a comeback — but they're way better than before

Dana Oliver
Beauty Director
Crimped hair is having a moment … yet again. (Image: Rapunzel of Sweden)

When I think of crimping irons, I get nostalgic memories of the “sizzling” sound as my hairstylist clamped the grooved heated plates onto my hair to achieve a zig-zag curl pattern. And, of course, the not-so-pleasant burnt smell that lingered for a day or two.

Crimped hair was the hair to have back in the ’90s and early aughts, when it resurfaced from its original ’80s splendor. Then pop princess Britney Spears rocked shoulder-length, spiky crimps while crooning her hits. And who didn’t want to copy D.J. Tanner of Full House or Topanga of Boy Meets World with their all-over crimped locks?

One of the limitations of ’90s crimping irons was that they were often too clunky. My crimper was just as big as the receiver on my see-through light-up telephone, which made it extremely difficult to get close to the hairline. Another caveat was the metal plates, which could cause some serious damage to hair with repeated use over time. Split ends were inevitable!

And yet crimping irons are having another resurgence. According to celebrity hairstylist Patrick Melville, the comeback is occurring because crimping allows for the hair to be less controlled. “Crimping irons create unique texture and volume, which is especially on trend right now,” he tells Yahoo Lifestyle, “whether they are used to create a loose style with undone curls or curls mixed in.”

Models with crimped hair walk the runway at the Alexander Wang Spring 2017 fashion show during New York Fashion Week in New York City. (Photo: JP Yim/Getty Images)

Hair brands drew inspiration from the Spring 2017 Alexander Wang runway, the Fall 2018 Fendi couture catwalk, and professional stylists to reimagine this classic tool. Improvements include: ceramic plates that are gentler on the hair and produce even heat distribution; a smaller and sleeker design to achieve versatility in styling for different hair textures; and swivel cords, because you should be able to crimp your hair without catching a cramp from struggling with short electrical cords.

Varis and Chi crimpers both feature digital temperature control settings, which provides a better at-home experience by letting you adjust heat based on your hair type. Andrea DeLeon, the vice president of marketing for the Kao Salon Division, says that the microcrimper aesthetic of the Varis was intended to bring the plates “closer together to support the creation of volume at the base.” This subtle innovation has a major payoff, as you won’t have to work overtime to make the crimper create a style it simply isn’t designed to do.

A model sports a crimped crown at the Fendi Fall 2017 haute couture show in Paris. (Photo: Patrick Kovarik/AFP/Getty Images)

Developing “new plates that will give you a soft contour in the hair” was a priority, according to ghd senior education manager Janine Jennings. The company’s new crimping iron, ghd Contour, can be used to get “hidden volume.” To do this, Jennings says, add volume at the crown of your hair by taking an underneath section and just crimping at the roots. “For the more daring, contour the full head and create a plumped out braid.” She also likes to crimp the lower length of a sleek ponytail to give it interesting texture.

People with thick, curly hair can work with temperatures between 400 and 450 degrees. However, Melville suggests those with fine hair dial it down to an optimal 350-degree setting for a firm crimp that won’t singe your strands. Prepping with a heat protectant is a major key for overall hair health!

Toss out your old crimping iron and invest in one of these three new and improved crimpers:

The ghd Contour Hair Crimper, $169, ghdhair.com. (Photo: courtesy of ghd)
The Varis Micro Crimper, $175, beautycarechoices.com. (Photo: courtesy of Varis)
The Chi Onyx Euroshine Crimping Iron, $150, loxabeauty.com. (Photo: courtesy of Chi)

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