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.
- Angela C. Stevens, Angela C. Stevens is a celebrity hairstylist, author, entrepreneur, and Cantu Beauty brand ambassador.
- Jamila Powell, Jamila Powell is the founder of Naturally Drenched and owner of Maggie Rose Salon.
- Josh Liu, Josh Liu is a celebrity hairstylist who's worked with Ariana Grande and Demi Lovato, and is a brand ambassador for T3.
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 18 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 iron for natural hair
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.”
Best curling iron for curly hair
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 curling iron for relaxed hair
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 fine or thin hair
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.”
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 straight hair
The Drybar digital curling iron has dual ceramic heaters to help create curls in as few as 60 seconds, and make sure they last (a problem anyone with straight hair has come to known). the ionic technology decreases frizz, and the digital temperature control allows you to select the exact heat you want. And the rotating clamp makes it easier to reach the back of your head without contorting your arms into weird positions.
Best curling iron for extensions
This oval curling wand ensures consistent, even heat across the barrel (365°F) to ensure smooth, long-lasting waves without heat damage. The wand heats up in as little as 25 seconds and the ceramic coating means you won’t have to deal with any snags as you use it.
Best curling iron for thick hair
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.
Best curling iron for short hair
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 medium-length hair
With a barrel that’s not too short and not too long, the Bio Ionic styling iron is great for those with medium-length hair. It has moisturizing heat to keep hair healthy, and gives you three different options for ‘dos: curls, loose waves, and straight hair.
Best curling iron for long hair
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
At $600, 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.
Best curling iron for beach waves
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.”
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 big waves
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.
Want to be the first to hear about the latest (and greatest) SHOP product drops, custom collections, discounts, and more? Sign up to have the intel delivered straight to your inbox.
Loading More Posts...