Hair Style Tips

Stylists Share the Exact Curling Iron You Need Based On Your Hair Type

Photo: Getty Images/ iprogressman
Those of us who weren’t born with big, bouncy, Julia Roberts-circa-1990 ringlets have always been grateful for the invention of the curling iron. These tools have helped anyone with poker-straight hair achieve the type of curls we’ve always coveted, from mermaid waves to Old Hollywood-style curls and everything in between. But not all curling irons are made the same, and with a sizable array of options out there, it’s helpful to know which kind (brand and style) is best suited to your specific hair type as well as the kind of look you’re going for.

The first thing to do? Find the appropriate heat setting for your hair type. “Using excessive heat can cause your curls to drop faster since your hair is being overheated and can often lose its shape as it drops,” explains celebrity hairstylist Josh Liu, who has worked with Ariana Grande and Demi Lovato, and is a brand ambassador for T3. “Using the appropriate temperature for your specific hair type, density and texture, will help your curls stay shiny, more voluminous and last longer.”

A good rule of thumb, he says, is using the highest heat settings for medium-thick coarse hair, medium heat settings for fine-thick/medium hair, and the lowest heat settings for thin/fine hair. For colored and processed hair, “stay within the medium or low heat settings (or bump one notch or so) depending on hair type.”

Another helpful tip from Liu is to always curl your hair away from your face as it helps frame your curls around it, which is flattering for all face shapes. To keep them staying bouncy and long-lasting, Liu suggests spraying dry shampoo along with a light or medium hold hairspray, then brushing it through before you curl your hair: “Don't brush your curls out right away; curl your entire hair and let the curls cool down before shaking/brushing them out.”

The best curling irons for all hair types

Keep reading for 15 of the best curling irons, according to hair type and desired style, plus more tips from hair experts to help you get your curl on.

Best curling irons for natural hair

harry josh
Harry Josh Pro Tools 3-in-1 Ceramic Curling Iron — $123.00

Natural and textured hair do best with curling irons that have multiple heat and curling settings in order to avoid breakage, tangles, and dryness, according to celebrity hairstylist and Cantu Beauty brand ambassador, Angela C. Stevens. The Harry Josh Pro Tools 3-in-1 Ceramic Curling Iron is another tool made with nano-ceramic and tourmaline and has adjustable heat settings. “Another tip is, the size of your curling iron should correspond to your desired curl pattern (for looser curl patterns use a larger barrel; for tighter patterns use a smaller barrel),” Stevens explains. She also suggests using a deep conditioner prior to applying heat, as well as a heat protectant like Cantu Thermal Shield Heat Protectant to maintain moisture.

Jamila Powell, founder of Naturally Drenched and owner of Maggie Rose Salon stresses to not overdo it when it comes to using tools on natural hair. “You don’t want to damage your hair with a blow dryer or iron that’s too hot, the wrong flat iron plates, or a hot brush that will snag and tear your curls,” she explains. “Once curls are permanently straightened from heat, it is usually impossible to restore the curl. So you want to use as much tension as possible to stretch the hair before applying higher heat temperatures, and minimize how many passes you use when straightening your hair out with a flat iron.”

Luxy Hair Signature Hair Curler — $105.00

Powell likes the Luxy Hair Signature Hair Curler because it’s made from tourmaline ceramic, which generates negative ions as it heats. “These ions will seal the hair’s cuticles, eliminate frizz, and preserve its natural oils,” she says. The curler comes with 11 heat settings, and goes up to 450°F.

Best largest barrel curling iron

hot tools
Hot Tools Professional 24K Gold Curling Iron/Wand, 2 inch — $47.00

When it comes to relaxed hair, Powell suggests using a bigger curling iron that can go up to 400 degrees. “The bigger barrel will give you volume but looser curls, and you’ll need a higher heat setting to ensure the curls stay,” she says. Bigger barrels are also good for anyone with long or thicker hair, as it can help smooth frizz, bring out body, and create volume. Hot Tools Professional 24K Gold Curling Iron/Wand, 2-inch is an excellent choice, with its powerful heat control courtesy of the brand’s signature Pulse Technology, at an affordable price point compared to other tools on the market.

Best curling iron for beach waves

bed head curler
Bed Head A-Wave-We-Go Adjustable Hair Waver — $33.00

The Bed Head A-Wave-We-Go Adjustable Hair Waver can give that tousled, effortless, I-just-spent-the-day-at-the-beach look you crave. It has multiple settings so it can work with all types of hair, and is made with tourmaline, ceramic technology for less frizz.

Liu shares a couple of great tips when using a curling iron to get waves. “For messy, texturized beach waves, I always recommend alternating directions in which you curl your hair,” he says. “For smooth, brushed-out waves, I always recommend curling your hair all in the same direction away from your face on both sides of your head.”

Ghd 1 1/4" Soft Curling Iron — $199.00

While there are specific waver tools, you can use a regular curling iron, like Ghd 1 1/4″ Soft Curling Iron, to get perfect beachy waves. It features an ergonomic lever that helps define bouncy curls and create volume, and uses proprietary Ultra-zone Technology, which stabilizes the barrel’s temperature and actually adapts to your hair so it won’t overheat (or underperform).

Best curling iron for fine hair

T3 Twirl Convertible Curling Iron — $335.00

For anyone with a fine hair type, Liu recommends the T3 Twirl Convertible Curling Iron. “Fine hair doesn’t always need a clamp—the clamp is great for smoothing as you curl for medium/thick/coarse hair types,” he explains, adding that the curler has wands that are great for fine hair with a total of five heat settings. “I recommend using heat setting 2 or 3, depending on the amount of fine hair you have.”

Conair OhSoKind For Fine Hair Curling Iron — $24.00

Another option to consider is a curler made specifically for fine hair: Conair OhSoKind For Fine Hair Curling Iron. While this one does have a clip, it’s made from slip-free silicone, so it’s gentler on fine hair. It also has five heat settings that are safe for fine, thin hair that can be susceptible to damage.

Best curling iron for thick hair

t3 curls
T3 Curl ID Smart Curling Iron — $249.00

If you have thick hair, you’ll want a curling iron with a bigger barrel, like the T3 Curl ID Smart Curling Iron, which has a 1.25” barrel. But this custom curler is still great for other types of hair, as it can automatically determine what the best heat setting is for you once you input your texture, length, and whether it’s dyed or chemically treated.

beachwaver pro
Beachwaver PRO 1" Curling Iron — $199.00

The Beachwaver PRO 1″ Curling Iron is another smart option—the gold-infused tourmaline helps heat the tool evenly, ensuring that all your strands get enough temp for classic glamorous waves.

Best curling Iron for short hair

BaBylissPRO Nano Titanium Spring Curling Iron — $50.00

Curling irons with a 1-inch barrel are good for “anyone with collar-length, lobs, or bobs,” says Liu. If you have an interchangeable iron (like the T3 Twirl) and you want to have more volume and texturized look, you can always switch the barrel out for the 3/4 inch tapered barrel. Or you can just go for a curler with a small barrel already, like the BaBylissPRO Nano Titanium Spring Curling Iron in 3/4 inch.

Best curling iron for long hair

mr big curling iron
Mr Big Curling Iron — $90.00

Long-haired folks might feel frustrated when a curling iron seems too short for their lengthy strands. A curling iron with an extended barrel is key. With the Mr Big Curling Iron, it’s all in the name (not a Sex and the City reference, just FYI). While it has a variety of barrel sizes, it is meant to curl over 15 inches more hair at one time.

A tip from Liu that long-haired people can use? “A lot of people feel that they have to use the clamp on your curling iron, but you can always open the clamp and wrap your hair around the barrel,” he says. “This technique will give you great voluminous waves.” Another thing that people tend to do is curl from the ends and upward. This puts more of the heat (and stress) on the ends of the hair so the curls end up falling out more quickly. Instead, start curling your hair from the middle of each section of your hair.

Best curling iron for waves

Dyson Airwrap — $550.00

At $550, the Dyson Airwrap is a true investment, but you get serious bang for your buck. If it’s salon-perfect waves you crave, it delivers and then some. The system comes with nine different attachments that will help you achieve practically every type of wave you want, from Hollywood glam to beachy waves, as well as soft or voluminous curls, and even a professional-looking blowout.

CHI Vibes Wave On Multifunctional Waver — $90.00

Another choice is the CHI Vibes Wave On Multifunctional Waver, which aside from its pretty pastel rainbow design, has five temperature settings and a dual styling function so you can style your hair in either loose, wavy curls or crimped.

Best curling iron with triple barrel

insert name hello kitty
Insert Name Here The Waver — $75.00

If it’s mermaid waves you’re dreaming of, a triple barrel curling iron was made just for that. Insert Name Here The Waver, is a super cute, Hello Kitty-themed curler that has 32mm barrels—a bigger size than the brand’s original best-selling tool, for ultra-bouncy, voluminous waves that may or may not make you feel like a ‘90s supermodel.

Amika High Tide Deep Wave Hair Crimper — $120.00

Another great option for getting that California babe look with a triple barrel is the Amika High Tide Deep Wave Hair Crimper. The cool-sounding negative ion technology ensures your hair looks smooth (while carefree at the same time).

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