Guide to Using a Curling Iron on a Wig (Real and Synthetic)

| Last Updated: January 2, 2021

Hair extensions or wigs are a great way to create length for more versatile styling. Celebrities like Jennifer Lopez, Rihanna, Beyonce and Jennifer Aniston have all been known to wear hair extensions, sporting a whole menagerie of styles with those extensions. Whether you have a full wig or a handful of extensions, understanding how to work your tools on either synthetic or real human hair additions will help you craft a myriad of beautiful styles.

However, it is expressly important to understand that the extreme heat from a curling iron can have adverse effects on wigs and extensions if not properly cared for. While synthetic hair is at risk of melting, real human hair can become frizzy and dry if the proper preliminary precautions aren’t taken. Despite this, with good care routines and by following these steps you’ll be able to create stunning curls without damage.

Tools for Use a Curling Iron with a Wig  

When looking to curl a synthetic wig with a curling iron, make sure that it is 100% kanekalon as other types of plastic will melt. If your wig is another type of plastic, you will need to curl with unheated rollers and not a curling iron. However, real human hair is far more forgiving and can easily be curled with a curling iron.

To do this, you will need to set up a curling station, as it is extremely difficult to curl a wig while it is on your own head. When you’re wearing the wig, you can’t create the tension needed for effective curls.

Before you start, gather all of the following tools to create your work space. You will need a wig stand to place your wig on. This can either be a model of a human head, which is usually easier to pin the wig to, or a metal stand with a curved disk on top. You will need duckbill or crocodile clips and some bobby pins to section the hair so you can focus on one piece at a time. Make sure you have a holding spray to keep the curls firm once crafted. Lastly you will need a comb for separating the hair and for styling at the end.

Using a Curling Iron with Real Human Hair

When curling real hair, whether it be a wig or hair extensions, you don’t have to worry as much as with synthetic hair. Bear in mind the thickness and texture of the hair, as this will determine the heat level you will need. Remember that hair extensions and wigs are no longer attached to a head so they can dry out more quickly.

With this in mind, it is important to protect the moisture within the real hair. When curling extensions or wigs made of real human hair, always condition first. You can do this by washing with moisturizing shampoo and conditioner, and then rubbing a small amount of light oil in, such as grapeseed oil or argan oil. Make sure, as with real hair, that your wig or extensions are completely dry before using a curling iron, otherwise this will cause them to burn, frizz and dry out.

It is best to use a lower heat on your wig or hair extensions first. As noted above, human hair wigs and extensions can dry out very easily. But using a low heat will help prevent flash burn, where the moisture inside heats and evaporates very quickly, bursting the hair and shattering the strand. Use a lower heat at first but if the lower heat has little effect on the hair, up the temperature a little at a time. However, try your hardest to use the lowest setting that can possibly curl the hair.

Try to determine the origin of the hair as Asian natural extensions tend to be harder to curl than European real hair due to the differences in texture, thickness, and shape. Asian hair can withstand higher heat, whereas European hair is most susceptible to heat damage.

Using a Curling Iron with Synthetic Hair

Working with heated tools on synthetic hair can be slightly more difficult. You will first need to determine the type of plastic that the wig or extensions are made from. As said above, your synthetic wig needs to be made of 100% kanekalon if you would like to utilize a heated curling iron. Curling irons are so hot that applying that direct heat to other forms of plastic will cause it to melt. This not only ruins the wig or extensions, it also damages the curling iron as the plastic melts to the barrel and can be near-to-impossible to remove. Also, burning plastic can be dangerous for your respiratory system.

Ensure you make yourself familiar with the manufacturer’s instructions. Generally, you will find material information in here along with restrictions. It is vital to adhere to these instructions and restrictions to protect your hair extensions or wig as well as making sure you don’t void any warranty you may have. If heated tools should not be used, the instructions will highlight this. If you’re still unsure, you can choose a little section of hair that would go unnoticed and test this with the curling iron.

As with real human hair, but perhaps more importantly with synthetics, keep the heat as low as possible. Even with kanekalon, high direct heat can cause damage, compromising the integrity of the material, leading to more easy breakage. Use a spray bottle of water to wet each section of hair before curling it. Conversely to real human hair, wetting the synthetic hair protects it from melting.

To hold the curl, you can use a hair-fixing spray. However, you need to be careful as some of the chemicals in regular hairsprays can cause synthetic plastics to melt. Try your product out on a small section of hair first. When spraying, spray from a distance to prevent wet spots of highly-concentrated hairspray, as this can damage the plastic.

Interestingly, synthetic wigs curled with a curling iron tend to hold the curls for a couple of weeks before losing their structure. Spraying with a holding spray each morning can increase the lifetime of the curl as well.


Curling your wig or extensions with a curling iron is a quick solution and it provides long-lasting results. Due to the very high direct heat it is important that you take precautions and protect against heat damage. Whether that’s moisturizing the real hair or testing the curling iron on a section of synthetic hair, carrying out the protective steps will ensure you don’t ruin your hair extensions or wig and you get the curly outcome you desire.

Take care to understand any other chemicals that could ruin your wig or extensions, such as strong hairsprays or holding products. Always remember to read the manufacturer’s instructions to ensure you understand any restrictions. If you are worried about causing damage, you can use other methods to curl wigs and extensions that don’t use heat, such as rollers or bobby pins.

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Hi I'm Emilia! I like to think of myself as the "crash-test-dummy" of the hair world. Whether that means testing out the newest curling iron or going with fresh hair styles. I like to mix it up. I share my thoughts on Caffe Hair based on my first hand experience!