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The 16 Best Curling Irons For Creating Every Kind of Curl

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There are endless YouTube hair tutorials and TikTok hacks out there showing you how to create perfectly bouncy curls and beachy waves. But when it comes to creating beautiful coils, it isn’t just about technique— the tools you use are just as important. There are a lot of factors to consider when choosing the right curling wand for your hair. For example, when curling your hair, are you aiming for textured, beachy waves, or bouncy, loose curls? Do you have fine hair or thick hair? Short hair or long hair? Do you plan on styling your hair on a daily basis, or just once in a while? If you’re feeling bogged down by all of these questions, don’t stress–we’ve got your back. Read on for our guide to the best curling irons–from nano titanium to ceramic barrel coating–for every hair type, hairstyle, and need. When in doubt, just remember, there’s a curling iron out there with your name on it.

Want to learn how to create mermaid-like beach waves with minimal effort? Check out this easy beach wave tutorial:


About the Expert:

Tina Malhotra is a master stylist at Mia Wagner Hair Salon in New York City.

Which Curling Iron is Right for Me?

The key factors to pay attention to when selecting the best curling iron (or any styling tool, for that matter) are: barrel size, material, heat settings, and automatic shut-off. Style, size, and other extra features are fun to look out for, too.

  • Barrel Size: However small or large the barrel size of your curling iron corresponds to the kind of curl you’ll end up with. Smaller barrel sizes yield more constricted, ringlet-style curls, particularly with fine hair types. Larger barrel sizes result in more relaxed, loose waves. If your hair is especially long or thick, a large barrel size (1 ¼ inch and above) should work best for you. Folks with shorter hair will likely fare well with a one-inch barrel or smaller. “Depending on your hair length, it will affect the barrel size you want to use to achieve the best looking waves. As a general rule of thumb, 1 inch or 1 ¼ inch works on almost all hair lengths,” says Tina Malhotra, Master Stylist at Mia Wagner Hair Salon in New York City.
  • Materials: When it comes to the barrel material, titanium and tourmaline ceramic are both known to conduct heat equally well, so it’s up to you which feels better on your hair.
  • Heat Temperature: Temperature-wise, fine hair types should go for hair tools with lower temperature settings, while thick or hard-to-curl hair types can handle higher heat. Lastly, having an auto shut-off feature may help put your mind at ease when you’re already out the door and can’t remember if you turned off your curling iron or not.

Before you curl, keep these pointers in mind: “Always use a heat protectant and try to be as quick and efficient as possible to keep the iron on the hair for the shortest amount of time. Always let the curls cool (at least 5 minutes on each side) to ensure the waves set properly, before combing through or using your fingers to break the curls,” says Malhotra.

Curling blonde hair on a large diameter curling iron on a pink background

Photo by Evgeniya Sheydt / Getty Images

The Best Curling Irons for Your Hair Type and Needs

1. Best for Any Kind of Curl:

HOT TOOLS Professional 24K Gold Marcel Iron/ Wand 1 ¼”

HOT TOOLS Professional 24K Gold Marcel Iron/ Wand 1 ¼”
Courtesy of HOT TOOLS

This baby is suitable for any and every hair type, and creates everything—from tight curls to spirals and loose waves—with ease. Stylists love this wand for its rotating barrel, which prevents wrist fatigue while you style, and its gold curling iron barrel that heats up lightning fast. “ I love the HOT TOOLS 1 ¼” 24K Gold Marcel Wand. It gives me the best amount of control and heat to create the exact waves I want, every time,” Malhotra tells us.

2. Best for Fine Hair:

LUMIELINA BIOPROGRAMMING HAIRBEURON 4D Plus Curl

LUMIELINA BIOPROGRAMMING HAIRBEURON 4D Plus Curl
Courtesy of LUMIELINA BIOPROGRAMMING

While this luxe tool may have a hefty price tag, it's adored by stylists for its ability to create gorgeous curls without damaging fine hair.” I use my Marcel on fine hair too, but I do love the Bioprogramming Hairbeauron Iron for damaged or super fine hair because its technology is incredible and so gentle on the hair,” Malhotra says. This wand uses its “bioprogramming” technology to boost shine and moisture while curling hair at lower temperatures.

3. Best for Tousled Waves:

BABYLISSPRO Nano Titanium Spring Curling Iron

BABYLISSPRO Nano Titanium Spring Curling Iron
Courtesy of BABYLISSPRO

There’s a reason BaByliss has pretty much become a household name when it comes to hair tools. Besides lasting for what seems like forever (seriously, we think this tool has 9 lives), this 1 1/4” barrel curling iron features an easy-to-use wand that helps create the summery, beachy, tousled waves you’ve always wanted. This wand heats up to 450 degrees, helping create effortless curls on the thickest hair types while a ceramic-coated barrel boosts shine and smooths unruly strands. Here’s a quick beach wave how-to from our pro. “Section the hair and split into two sides. Starting from the bottom take about 1 inch sections and starting about 2 inches from the root use the twist and pull method, or wrap the hair around the iron without overlapping your hair to create waves. End the wave about 2 inches from the ends and just simply pull the hair through the iron to give it a quick heat seal,” says Malhotra.

4. Best for Speedy Styling:

T3 SinglePass Curl 1.25” Professional Ceramic Curling Iron

T3 SinglePass Curl 1.25” Professional Ceramic Curling Iron
Courtesy of T3

We’re hooked on this styler for creating quick, on-the-go curls that look like they took serious time. With its “Single Pass” technology, this wand comes with five adjustable heat settings, plus a smart microchip that helps prevent fluctuations in temperature, making it great for beginners. The result? Gorgeous waves and sleek spirals in virtually no time.

5. Best for Date Night Waves:

GHD Soft Curl 1.25” Curling Iron

GHD Soft Curl 1.25” Curling Iron
Courtesy of GHD

If you’ve ever reached for your curling iron with the hopes of creating soft, romantic curls, only to be faced with hard, crunchy ones, we feel your frustration. The solution? This gentle-on-hair tool actually senses each strand of hair and adjusts to an even 365 degrees across its entire barrel for silky, soft curls that aren’t extra crispy.

6. Best for All Hair Types:

DRYBAR 3-Day Bender Rotating Curling Wand

DRYBAR 3-Day Bender Rotating Curling Wand
Courtesy of DRYBAR

It’s easy to underestimate the importance of a curling wand with a rotating barrel, but trust us—it’s a game-changer. The rotating clamp on this hot tool helps create everything from bouncy curls to sleek S waves, to beachy bends on fine, thick, curly, wavy, and straight hair with ease, and it's easy on your wrists. It’s made with Ionic Technology, which helps seal the hair cuticle for less frizz, more shine, and style that lasts for the long haul.

7. Best for Style Options:

T3 Whirl Trio

T3 Whirl Trio
Courtesy of T3

This multitasker lets you create pretty much any style you crave, from tight curls to bombshell waves without taking up real estate in your bathroom. All you have to do is swap the barrel out from its universal base. You’ll get three interchangeable wands with five heat settings and built-in “SinglePass” technology for speedy styling.

8. Best for Travel:

FOXYBAE HAIR Mini Travel Curling Wand

FOXYBAE HAIR Mini Travel Curling Wand
Courtesy of FOXYBAE HAIR

Vacation and travel don’t mean you have to put your daily hairstyling routines on hold. Exhibit A: this travel-friendly styling wand from FOXYBAE. It fits effortlessly into a carry-on but is just as effective as the full-size version. This 19mm inch curling iron is ideal for short and fine hair types looking for choppy beach waves or tight curls, however, it will work for any hair type. A 360-degree swivel cord makes it easy to use, no matter where you are. Plus, with a marble handle and a rose gold barrel (made of tourmaline ceramic), it looks just as fresh and stylish as your curls will.

9. Best for Frizz-Free Curls:

THEORIE Classic 1.25” Curling Wand

THEORIE Classic 1.25” Curling Wand
Courtesy of THEORIE

Wake up your bedhead in the morning with this clip-free (that means 100 percent crease-free) THEORIE curling iron. Thanks to its titanium-coated barrel, this wand helps smoothes out frizz, locks in moisture, and polishes each curl to look soft and shiny. With an automatic shut-off feature, you can head to work stress-free knowing there’s no risk of accidentally leaving your curling wand plugged in. Add some heat protectant and hairspray for the ultimate frizz-free, salon-level curls.

10. Best for Barrel Curls:

SLEEK’E 32mm Titanium Curling Wand

SLEEK’E 32mm Titanium Curling Wand
Courtesy of SLEEK’E

To all our fellow long-hair curlers out there, this tourmaline-infused titanium tool is for you. In five seconds max, the titanium barrel heats up to almost 400 degrees, so you’re in and out of the bathroom with curly hair in no time. Negative ion technology eliminates frizz and a cool ensures your long hair is perfectly curled without overly coiling and drying out the ends. A swivel cord and heat-resistant protective glove make styling as simple and safe as possible.

11. Best Ceramic Wand:

EVA NYC Healthy Heat Clip-Free Curler

EVA NYC Healthy Heat Clip-Free Curler
Courtesy of EVA NYC

Ceramic curling irons and titanium curling irons are two of the most popular hot tools professionals use, but one benefit of ceramic is its ability to distribute heat evenly, which minimizes the potential for hair damage and breakage. Our top pick for ceramic curling wands is this clip-free option from EVA NYC. Not only does it have a pastel marbled handle, but it also has a one-inch barrel that’s fabulous for short and long hair of all types. Negative ions help smooth frizz, while a cool tip and protective glove keep your hands and countertops safe and sound.

12. Best for Curls With Body:

DYSON Airwrap Styler

DYSON Airwrap Styler
Courtesy of DYSON

If you’ve spent more than 30 seconds on social media, you’ve come across the magic that is the DYSON Airwrap. Besides being the coolest piece of hair curling technology we’ve ever seen, this wave maker uses airflow technology to wrap hair around its barrel creating curls and waves of all shapes without causing heat damage to your hair.

13. Best Interchangeable Wand Set:

HARRY JOSH Pro Tools 3-in-1 Ceramic Marcel Curling Iron 1”

HARRY JOSH Pro Tools 3-in-1 Ceramic Marcel Curling Iron 1”
Courtesy of HARRY JOSH

Anything Harry Josh makes, we’re absolutely here for, and that includes this mother of all multitaskers. It comes with an interchangeable set that works as a wand, marcel, and curling iron to create everything from tousled curls, to glam waves, to tighter curls, and ringlets, along with a 40-second heat-up and 60-second automatic shut-off.

14. Best for Beachy Bends:

BEACHWAVER S1.25 Dual Voltage White Rotating Curling Iron

BEACHWAVER S1.25 Dual Voltage White Rotating Curling Iron
Courtesy of BEACHWAVER

BEACHWAVER has a cult following—and for a good reason: This brand is the G.O.A.T. when it comes to creating carefree, tousled beach waves that take minimal effort. Reach for this curling iron if you want to create sexy, loose bends that look like you’ve spent the day lounging by the ocean.

15. Best Budget Buy:

CONAIR Tourmaline Ceramic 1-inch to ½-inch Curling Wand

CONAIR Tourmaline Ceramic 1-inch to ½-inch Curling Wand
Courtesy of CONAIR

What we love about this curler is that it delivers fast, effortless curls without breaking the bank or singe-ing our strands. This clamp-free wand features a barrel that tapers towards the tips, allowing you to create gorgeous curls that vary in size minus any crimps or creases.

16. Best for Loose Bends:

KRISTIN ESS HAIR Nano Black 1 ¼” Curling Iron

KRISTIN ESS HAIR Nano Black 1 ¼” Curling Iron
Courtesy of KRISTIN ESS HAIR

Not only do we love how sleek this tool looks in our bathroom, we’re also hooked on how easily it weaves soft, romantic “undone” waves into varying hair lengths. This curling iron features negative ion technology (which we know is amazing at eliminating frizz), along with a super smooth barrel that cuts out any chance of creases, kinks, or snags, for waves that are polished, shiny, and healthy-looking.

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Article Last Updated March 9, 2023 12:00 AM