There are a wide variety of curling irons and curling wands to give you the overall hairstyle that you really want. Did you want waves? Complete doable! Aiming to create a head full of miniature spiral curls? Not a problem! Voluminous, wind-catching curls? A definite possibility! The key is to have the right tool, and we went through plenty of options to help you decide how to choose the best curling iron for you.
Nearly everyone has had at least one experience with the ever-present hair staple known as the curling iron. As the name clearly indicates what it does is curl hair, obviously, but there are so many different types of curls for so many different hair textures. Even certain natural locks can be curled with the right curling iron and the right heat setting.
There is an impressive number of options out there, including curling tongs, curling wands, bubble wands and good tried and true curling irons. We’ll help you choose one specifically for your hair type, but will also provide you with the right tips and tricks to curl your hair without any fuss at home.
Curling Irons & Wands for Every Hair Type: Contents
- 17 Best Curling Irons & Stylers to Buy
- The Interesting History of Curling Irons
- Curling Iron vs. Curling Wand: Types of Curling Irons & Stylers
- How to Choose the Best Curling Iron/ Wand for Your Hair Type?
- How to Use a Curling Wand to Curl Hair?
- Other Curling Iron Tips & Hacks to Know
It’s amazing the type of versatility we can experience with our hair when using a tool like a curling iron. You can create the curls you want, but the key is to use a curling iron that fits your experience level, comfort level and hair type. It can be excruciatingly difficult to find the right curling iron, but we are here to help. Check out our top 17 curling irons and curling wands below!
1. T3 Whirl Trio Interchangeable Curling Iron Set
The Whirl Trio offers three different sized curling iron barrels that you can switch out and create different looks as you like. A 1″ straight barrel, a 1 1/4″–3/4″ tapered barrel and a 1 1/2″ straight barrel can help you make everything from red carpet curls to easy beachy waves.
The barrels are easy to switch out, and the temperature control works with the tourmaline and ceramic ionic barrels to create perfect shiny and long-lasting curls and waves. Order yours from Nordstrom!
2. Bio Ionic Long Barrel Styler Pro Curling Iron 1″
If you’re looking for a curling iron with the control and precision offered by a clip, this pro curling inch is the way to go. A professional one-inch curling iron has an extra two inches of length, which makes it easier and faster to section and curl large parts of hair and works great on all lengths of hair due to its size.
Curling wider sections of hair with the control of the clip means less time curling and more time enjoying your style. The included Bio Ceramic five second heater ensures consistent heat while styling but the iron is easy to use thanks to the soft-touch handle and cool-touch tip. Order yours from Sephora!
3. Hot Tools 24K Gold Curling Iron
Hot Tools posh appearance is equally designed to look good while making you look good. With this curling iron you have a variety of styles at your fingertips. The shining gold barrel is an excellent heat conductor that evenly distributes the heat for smooth curls that have great staying power. The variable heat settings also assist with maintaining the right level of heat where the sensor kicks in if the temperature of the barrel drops even slightly. You can order yours from Ulta.
4. Conair InfinitiPro Tourmaline Ceramic Curling Wand
Clampless curling wands are definitely quicker to use and perfect for making beachy waves. This ceramic curling wand by Conair has a conical shape bringing the barrel from 1.5 inches around at the base to 1 inch around at the tip.
For those who experience a crimp or crease from improper usage of a curling iron with a clamp, you will find no such issue with this curling wand. The tourmaline ceramic coating eliminates frizz and ensures a smooth, soft curl every time. Just wrap your hair around the barrel, and holding for a few seconds is all it takes to get the curl you want once you order yours from Ulta.
5. BaBylissPRO Nano Titanium Spring Curling Iron
This curling iron has 50 different heat settings and a 1 1/4″ barrel. The variable heat settings help you choose the right amount of heat to give yourself the perfect curls regardless of your hair type or intended final look. The larger size of the barrel means that you can achieve curls or even loose waves. The far infrared heat penetrates into the hair shaft as you curl your hair to further ensure the ideal long-lasting curls that you really want. You can order yours from Amazon.
6. The Beachwaver Co. Beachwaver Pro Line 1.25-Inch Rotating Curling Iron
Designed by celebrity hairstylist Sarah Potempa, this rotating curling iron features a larger barrel width than the original design for a super voluminous look. The temperature is displayed on a clear LED screen built into the ergonomically shaped handle. The clip has a beveled no-kink design to keep your curls looking ideal from top to bottom.
The 1.25″ barrel is made of ceramic and tourmaline infused with gold powder to provide the best and most uniform heat distribution available. The heavy-duty cord is nine feet long and on a swivel to give the greatest range of motion. Order one from Nordstrom for yourself!
7. GHD Curve Creative Curl Wand
GHD’s curling wand is a tapered tool with tri-zone technology designed to guarantee that the optimum temperature is constantly maintained during use. Everything about the wand is designed to promote healthy use of heat in hair without risking damage to get long-lasting, shiny curls. The wand comes with a heat protectant glove and features a 25-second heat-up time. Order one or pick yours up from Sephora!
8. Paul Mitchell Neuro Unclipped Styling Rod 1” Clipless
Paul Mitchell’s curling wand is a clipless, high-performance styling rod that utilizes a premium titanium barrel for picture-perfect curls. This curling iron delivers even heat in a matter of seconds along a clipless wand-style curling iron. The wand heats up to 450 degrees Fahrenheit with a SmartSense microchip that ensures super-fast heat recovery so that there are no cool spots for even, shiny, long-lasting uniform curls. The extra-long barrel and swivel cord make the wand easy to handle when styling your hair. Order yours from Ulta!
9. Drybar The Wrap Party Styling Wand
The Drybar styling wand features a reverse taper-shaped barrel with a no-slip grip to give you the exact set of waves or curls you intended to create, every time. The addition of ionic technology means shinier hair with a lot of bounce. This curling wand features digital temperature control and a maximum temperature of 450 degrees Fahrenheit. The customizable temperature makes this an ideal curling wand for all hair types and levels of thickness. The wand also feels good in hand thanks to the ergonomic shape, which you can get a hold of from Sephora.
10. Harry Josh Pro Tools 2-in-1 Ceramic Marcel Curling Iron
This is the best curling iron great for a practiced hand with a clip for long-lasting, picture-perfect waves and curls. The Marcel iron is spring-free giving you the fluid use of a wand with all the benefits of a clip. The natural motion used with this curling iron eliminates crimps, bends and folds in your curls, which are well-formed, sleek and shiny. The barrel is made from nano ceramic and tourmaline and emits negative ions to further the shine and bounce your curls will have. Order your award-winning curling iron from Dermstore!
11. CHI ARC Automatic Rotating Curler
CHI’s rotating curler makes the process of curling your hair even easier. It rotates smoothly and easily to ensure even tension and for consistent results of bouncy soft curls. The on/ off button is easy to use, and the LCD screen displays the temperature digitally so you don’t burn your hair.
This curling iron includes a rapid ceramic heater that heats up the iron in 30 seconds, with a maximum temperature of 410 degrees Fahrenheit. The rotating barrel can be switched on or off as you need. Order yours from Ulta, the curler even comes with a free hairspray!
12. Vanity Planet Cue 1-Inch Clip-Free Curling Wand
This curling wand is an expert league tool for creating easy waves and loose curls quickly. The rod heats up quickly with a variable heat setting that will let you adjust from 375 degrees Fahrenheit to 410 degrees Fahrenheit with ease. The aluminum rod is ceramic coated for even heat distribution and frizz-free styles. The cool tip at the end of the wand allows you to manipulate the tool with ease and speed without burning your fingertips. You can order one for yourself from Amazon.
13. NuMe Classic Curling Wand 1”
The NuMe curling wand’s barrel can help you accomplish a variety of looks in half the time with a bit of practice. The barrel is made from tourmaline-infused ceramic, which beautifully conducts both heat and negative ions that create the smooth, voluminous curls that you really want. The infrared heat actually heats the hair follicle from the inside out, creating a smoother, more friction-free curl as the head promotes the cuticle of the hair to lay down. These are only available online, but you can order one for yourself from Ulta.
14. L’Ange Ondulé Curling Wand Blush
The 100% titanium curling wand is perfect for thicker hair types because of the higher temperature and the conductivity of the metal. The negative ions emitted by the attractive blush-colored styling wand help to polish coarser and thicker hair with less effort and damage. The heat is emitted throughout the wand as infrared heat waves to make quick work of styling your hair for any event, major or minor, that you are getting ready for. Order one from yourself, they are only available online at Ulta.
15. n:p beautiful Curling Iron
N:p beautiful’s curling iron can give you the carefree boho waves you want one day and the shiny well-defined red carpet curls that you want the next day with no problem. The actual curling iron juxtaposes black matte rubber safety details against rose gold accents for a stylish yet practical-looking tool that gives you the hair you want. Thanks to the even distribution of the right amount of heat along the 1” round tourmaline barrel, each curl is sleek and long-lasting. You can order one for yourself from Revolve.
16. Bed Head Curlipops 1” Tourmaline Ceramic Styling Iron
Bed Head’s curling iron is designed to create lasting shiny curls with the dreamy amounts of volume and movement that you really want. The 1” wand is designed to give you loose, soft curls that last all day. This particular iron is clamp-free and features an on/ off switch with an indicator light. For those giving a wand a try, it even includes a heat protective glove to keep your hands safe as you wrap the hair around the heated wand that also has rapid heat recovery. You can order yours from Ulta.
17. BaBylissPRO Nano Titanium Professional Curl Machine
The BaByliss curl machine uses steam to perfectly form each curl. The curls are created effortlessly and maintain well, created one after the other by machine. While it is not a true curling iron, in the sense of what it does it can be attributed as the same. This machine creates perfectly formed, healthy curls every time with minimal effort on your part. Just section your hair and let the machine give you the curls with the bounce and shine that you really want. Order one for yourself from Amazon!
By the 1960s every woman and a lot of men had either a curling iron or a straightening comb at home, sometimes depending on the texture of the person’s hair. The reality is that curled hair has been a symbol of wealth and comfort (even when the look has been uncomfortable to obtain) for centuries.
The ability to alter the natural texture of one’s hair signified wealth and power but the earliest curling irons were not very good at regulating heat. Many of the very first options lent the wearer burned hair and scalded the skin.
As time passed and technology improved, so did the tools that allowed people to curl their hair into a myriad of styles. There has always been the option to set curls, but using a heated tool to create them was quicker, and progress is often measured by the ease it creates in our lives.
Electric curling irons are credited to two Frenchmen whose 1959 edition was sold in drugstores. It wasn’t until 1980 that a version we might recognize today really appeared.
Theora Stephens, an African American woman, patented a safer and more useable version of the electric curling iron. Her version allowed for better hair health because the temperature was controlled, and the addition of a spring made it easier to use. This version was mostly used by professionals until the ZeeCurl was invented to curl all hair types, followed up by a commercially available version for those at home.
From this point on, it was really up to preference and experience. Stylists typically still use Marcel type curling irons, which have a clamp and no spring with a design that allows the handle to roll with natural hand motions. They use very high heat, but the stylist has been trained to know how much is too much, just enough or too little for the texture and thickness of their clients’ hair.
With these and other options available at home, eventually people became tired of the Marcel style and gravitated to those with a shorter barrel, barrels of different sizes and even wands without clips. Curling irons that have no clip are called curling wands and generally have a taper if not a small dexterous barrel to wrap sections of hair around, hold and release for a looser curl.
I’m going to try to stay away from the horror of repeatedly mentioning the actual sizes of the curling iron. The range starts in fractions of inches just to begin with, but who really wants to deal with that? There must be a simpler way to choose your curling iron right?
Yes! Thank goodness, honestly because actually styling your hair even after getting the right curling iron can be an exercise in frustration. So, how can you easily choose the curling iron you need for the look you want?
• Decide on the look you want. How tight or loose do you want the curls to be?
• Know your capabilities. Can you handle a clip on a curling iron? Does the clip need to have a spring for you to manipulate it smoothly? Would you prefer no clip at all?
That’s all you need to know to start choosing the best curling iron for you. So, which curling irons do what?
Curling wands are the type of curling iron that features no clip. These are the easiest type of curling iron to use. All you have to do is turn it on, let it heat up to the right temperature, section your hair and wrap each section around the wand, holding firmly for a few seconds, then let your hair slide off the wand.
Curling or styling wands make a looser curl than curling irons that use a clip, but the curls are still well-formed, bouncy and soft. These curls are often more natural looking as well.
Styling wands come in different barrel sizes and shapes, which affect the final style, so size is important. There are different types of curling wands, some that create curls, some that create crimps, waves and tight coils, all of which are dependent on the style and size of the barrel.
Bubble wands, double rod wands and other “oddly” shaped wands are designed to create a certain type of curl or wave, so if that is what you are looking for, there are options specifically for this.
Obviously, curling irons curl hair, but it is the clamp style that makes the difference. The clamp ensures a smoother curl that follows through all the way to the ends for a flawless, long-lasting curl.
Additionally, a curling iron with a clamp works on all hair types, textures and densities, and the biggest bonus is the speed that you can achieve your flawless look with. The voluminous, bouncing curls we all want at one point or another are best achieved with a curling iron.
The question of ease of use really comes in with the clamp style. There are shorter clamps designed to only really hold the end of the hair, allowing you to rotate and gather the rest of the section. There are full-length clamps that are the same length as the barrel to ensure smooth, tight uniformity, and these typically come with a spring to aid in the use of the clamp.
Then there are the infamous Marcel curling irons used by the pros. When you want the va-va-voom of vintage curls, a Marcel curling iron is the tool you need.
The Materials of Your Curling Iron
The better curling irons use better materials for your hair. Right now, the best material options for curling irons are titanium, tourmaline, ceramic or a combination of the latter two. Sometimes a bit of gold may be mixed in, as gold is also a good conductor.
Titanium is lightweight but strong and it absorbs heat quickly, which means curling irons and curling wands made with titanium have quick heating barrels. Titanium barrels are not ideal for thin or fine hair, but are great for thicker hair because it will apply higher heat more evenly. Unfortunately, titanium by itself doesn’t have any protective qualities for hair so using a heat protectant prior to styling is a must.
Ceramic curling irons usually have a range of heat settings allowing for a customized experience. As such, ceramic barrels are the most popular type of curling irons. The range of setting options makes ceramic irons good for all hair types and densities because you can choose the right heat setting for your hair.
Additionally, ceramic emits negatively charged ions, which work to keep your hair’s oils and natural moisture locked in as they interact with the positive ions in the hair shaft. This prevents split ends and decreases frizzing.
As the newest material being used in curling irons, tourmaline has benefits that allow it to stand on its own as a great material option. According to several studies, tourmaline has been shown to produce up to six times more negative ions than ceramic, creating a neutral charge when curling hair for a glossier, healthier looking curls.
Tourmaline is a bit more expensive to produce than ceramic, but a mixture of the two can be found in various curling iron barrels, and the two materials work well together without overwhelming your wallet.
The Shape of Your Curling Iron Wand
It’s not just the size and material of your curling iron that you should consider, but also the shape of the wand, each of which produces a different effect.
• Cone-shaped wands have a thicker base and a thinner tip, resembling a cone, but they can also come in the reverse, with a thicker tip and a thinner base. These are pretty versatile curling irons, allowing you to create romantic beachy waves, thicker or thinner curls depending on the size you pick.
• Straight barrels are pretty straight, as the name implies, and they give uniform curls, being especially perfect for fans of coils and ringlets.
• Spiral barrels feature a raised spiral along the length of the wand to ease the curling process. These curling irons are perfect for getting a neat, helix-style curl.
• Pearl or bubble barrels feature balls along the length of the wand, which let creating natural looking curls that aren’t uniform and well-defined.
• Double or triple barrels, also known as wavers, feature two or three barrels resembling fingers. These are the best curling tools for long hair to get the romantic S-shaped wave.
• Smaller barrel irons work best on hair that is shoulder-length and shorter because longer hair will have to be constantly rotated across the barrel, which can be time-consuming and the final effects on longer hair would be massive amounts of volume. Small and tiny barrel curling irons are considered to be ⅜”.
• ½” and 5/8th of an inch produce an enviable amount of volume and tighter, longer-lasting curls. This is also the perfect size range of barrels for naturally curly hair, making it easier to boost your natural coils and curls or get a slightly looser or tighter texture.
• Larger barrels form looser, swinging curls and waves, with the texture getting softer and looser in texture the bigger the barrel gets. A larger barrel curling iron is better for longer hair obviously, as the more passes over the barrel, the better the curl turns out.
All curling wands and irons work the same way. You turn it on, the barrel heats up, you wrap your hair around the barrel and allow the heat to penetrate, thus creating the curl. Take your hair off the iron and allow your hair to cool and voila! You have beautiful curls. But this is the 100-yard overview.
• Make sure you have the right size iron for the look you want.
• Turn it on and wait for it to reach the correct temperature for your hair. Finer hair needs a temperature below 200 degrees Fahrenheit to prevent damage and create optimum curls. Thicker, coarser hair can go up to 300 degrees Fahrenheit as an average.
• Always start working on clean, dry hair. Start curling at the root, not the ends. This is especially true if you are using an iron with a clamp. Clipping the curling iron at the end and wrapping your hair upwards is likely to put a crimp in your hair and ruin the curl. Same with a wand, the curl looks better when it is tighter at the root.
• If you want looser curls, use the iron vertically, but if you want more volume, hold the curling iron horizontally.
• When you are releasing your hair from the curling iron, slide the hair off the iron and hold it a second before letting it loose and take a look at it. There is nothing worse than curling your whole head and later finding a lock or two of hair that has a messed-up curl.
• Once your hair is curled, use a good hairspray to lock in your curls.
• Clean the build-up off your curling iron by letting it heat up, unplugging it to let it cool to being just warm, then immediately wiping the barrel with a moist cloth.
• You can clean a cold curling iron with rubbing alcohol.
• Vertical parts are better for wavy hairstyles and horizontal parts are better for volume.
• The smaller the barrel, the tighter the curl. When choosing one, know that the coils will get tighter and springier the smaller the size of the barrel gets.
• The larger the barrel, the looser the curl. Think beachy boho waves with softer volume as the barrel gets bigger.
• If you feel your curl is too tight after taking your hair off the iron, you can loosen the curl as it cools! Just pull it straight a few times (4-6 pulls max) as it’s cooling to loosen up the curl.
• If you have naturally curly hair, you can use a smaller curling iron to modify a few wayward curls and keep your natural look polished.
• Tighter curls at the root create a more voluminous look, so for shorter, finer hair, curl tighter at the root than the tip.
• If you want your curls to really last, pin each section up as soon as you take it off the curling iron. This will allow your curls to set as they cool and you can continue getting ready.
• For best results, divide your hair into sections that are no wider than the width of the barrel you are using to get even distribution of heat and ideal curls.
• The longer the cord, the easier it is to manipulate and maneuver, and the best cords are a swivel cord over 8 feet, which reduce wrist strain.
• Curl your hair away from your face if you want to create more volume.
• If you can find a tapered wand or curling iron, buy it. You can create a wider range of curls very quickly, which is great if you want a more natural look as you can vary the curl sizes throughout your hair.
• If you want to turn your curling iron into a wand, remove the stand and unscrew the sides of the clip, then just remove the clip.
Photos via @ohuprettythings, @gohar.beauty, @sprinzeminze, @byangelaprice, @hairbyamybee