Chi’s Rotating Curling Iron Is Like Nothing You’ve Ever Seen Before
I like to think that I’m the Rodin of hair curling. After several years of practice, I’ve developed a routine that can transform my stubbornly straight, fine hair into sculpted, voluminous curls in an hour, tops. I use a Conair curling wand that I’ve had since high school, on the highest heat setting possible, to manually wind one-inch sections of my hair around the barrel, apply hairspray, and brush out into large waves. New hot tools have come along since the mid-2000s that could presumably make luscious curls in even less time, and without the heat damage I’ve likely inflicted on myself—but of the methods I’ve tried, my curling wand routine is the only one that works.
You can imagine my hesitation, then, when Glamour’s beauty editors whipped out the new Chi Volcanic Lava Spin N Curl in a meeting and suggested I take it for a spin. If Chi’s “Volcanic” curls were what the box advertised—tiny, defined loops that brought “Our Song”–era Taylor Swift and my look for prom in 2012 to mind—I leaned toward passing. The tool’s design only made me question it further (and elicited a collective “WTF” from our edit team): It’s a large red device with no visible curling barrel in sight. “Tulip-shaped” is the polite way to describe the open-mouthed contraption with an internal iron. I was immediately reminded of the Demogorgon’s head on Stranger Things. (I.e., not something I’d want to feed my hair to, even if it meant Karlie Kloss–like waves were waiting on the other side.)
Before potentially endangering my own hair, I did some research with an Instagram deep dive like any self-respecting millennial. I couldn’t ignore the surprisingly attractive results (prom curls they were not), or the semi-ASMR experience of watching the Spin N Curl work its magic on head after head. In brief clips from stylists who got their hands on the tool early, strands of hair are vacuumed into the tool’s curling chamber and wound around an internal rotating iron. Then they’re released as loose, spiraling waves in a matter of seconds. Women with hair types ranging from pin-straight to wavy who were part of these early previews seemed to reach general consensus: This iron looks crazy, but it actually works.
Even after watching others use it with success, I couldn’t come face-to-face with the Spin N Curl on my own without wondering: Wouldn’t this tornado-thingy tangle the hell out of my hair without a seasoned stylist to operate it for me? Despite being terrified at first, I’m happy to report the answer is no. Given my hair’s fine, straight makeup, it didn’t take much coaxing for strands to make it in and out of the tool. I sectioned my hair into one-inch pieces (smaller sections is key) that the iron wound around its internal barrel with the press of a button.
With my curling wand, I needed the smell of a faint burn to tell me my curl had set, but the Spin N Curl emitted four short beeps to let me know it was ready. The barrel automatically released my hair, and I barely had to move it to unleash a neatly wound curl. One fair warning: The thing is pretty clunky. Using it feels like a bit of a bicep workout. You have to feed your hair into the iron with one hand while holding down the curl button with the other to get the barrel moving—and the iron is heavy.
That said, the other features make up for its weight. As much as I’ve relied on a curling wand over the years, I’ve occasionally walked away from styling sessions with burns on my fingers and neck. Thankfully, the design of this iron takes heat injuries out of the equation. Remember that intimidating barrel? It’s actually constructed to protect your fingers from burning: Per Chi, its lava technology curls hair at the lowest possible temperature for your hair type inside the iron, while the outside stays cool. (One stylist maintains that he’ll press the outside of the iron to his face at beauty conventions to demonstrate how cool it stays during styling. I won’t be testing that theory out, but it seems legit.)
The lasting results were what really sold me though. I purposefully tested the iron right before bed to see how the curls would match up against a night of sleep. The next morning I woke up to see that my hair still had modern, thick waves. A few spritzes of hairspray, and I had volume for a full day after—a result not even my beloved curling wand could bring.
Chi Volcanic Lava Ceramic Pro Spin ‘N Curl, $130, ulta.com