Finding the best curling iron can feel like trying to find a unicorn—it needs to be both magically transformative and simple to use, which is not exactly an easy-to-find combination. A good version performs well with your hair type, allows for versatile styling, holds up over time and doesn’t singe your strands in the process. And yes, they do exist.
There are many factors to consider when choosing the right one for you, whether it’s a wand or iron: the material, the temperature settings and the barrel size. With the right tool, you’ll save time and have fewer false starts with uneven, sad-looking curls or waves. What’s more, there’ll be no need to buy extra tools or take trips to the salon, and you won’t sacrifice the health of your hair.
When curating this list of best curling wands and irons, we took several variables into account: hair type and length, the ability to alter temperature, how easy the tool is to manipulate and the looks it helps you achieve—from tight coils to flatiron curls to artfully tousled beachy waves. With these top models, you’ll end up with polished or textured, perfectly styled hair, and will shave minutes off your beauty prep routine (especially if you pair it with a good hair dryer). Here are our expert-approved picks.
Best Curling Iron Overall
A Tool That Gives Voluminous, Long-Lasting Curls Without Damage
Best 1-Inch Curling Iron
Perfect-Every-Time Curls Without Hair Damage
Best Curling Iron For Fine Hair
Long-Lasting Volume For Limp Locks
Best Curling Iron For Thick Hair
A Pick That Keeps Heavy Hair From Falling Flat
Best Curling Iron For Long Hair
An Efficient Styler For Making Waves On Longer Hair
Best Hair Curler For Volume
A Hardworking Styler That Dries And Curls Simultaneously
Best Curling Iron For Short Hair
Effortless Curls On Cropped Cuts And Shoulder-Skimming Lengths
Best Curling Iron For Beach Waves
A Foolproof Pick For Getting Perfectly Imperfect Beach Hair
Best Curling Iron For Frizz-Free Curls
A Tool For A Smooth, Flyaway-Free Look
Best Travel Curling Iron
A Portable, Compact Curling Iron For Styling On The Go
Best Affordable Curling Iron
A Budget Option That Produces High-Impact Results
How We Chose The Best Curling Irons Of 2022
We’ve done extensive research, digging through authentic reviews from professional testers and consumers. We’ve also tested (and loved) many of these curling irons and wands ourselves.
This article is routinely updated so that availability, prices and reviewer ratings and quotes stay relevant and up to date. We also re-evaluate our curling iron picks to ensure that they’re still (in our opinion) some of the best choices in their categories. This story was last updated in June 2022.
What To Consider When Buying A Curling Iron
When it comes to heat level, it’s always best to start low and see how your hair handles it. “One of the most important factors to consider when selecting a curling iron is temperature control so you don’t cause damage to your hair,” says Jordan. “Some of the higher end irons produce even heat throughout and regulate temperature well, and therefore don’t offer specific settings. But if it’s a less expensive model, make sure it has temperature settings, and start with a lower temperature and work your way up so you can see which is the best temp for your hair.”
Curling iron barrels can vary in size, but most commonly range from 1 to 1.5 inches. “You’ll need to decide on a barrel size that works best for your hair,” says Jordan. “If you have short hair, a 1-inch iron will give better results and may help your hair hold the curl longer. If you have longer hair, a thicker barrel in 1.25 or 1.5 inches will work best.”
As a whole, ceramic irons tend to work well for fine or damaged hair because they heat hair from within and typically cause less damage. Titanium barrels work well on thicker or coarse hair, and they distribute heat evenly, fight frizz and hold curls well.
What’s The Difference Between A Curling Wand And A Curling Iron?
While both produce bends, waves and curls, the results can vary between the two. “In general, the most obvious difference between a curling iron and a curling wand is that an iron has a clamp and a wand doesn’t,” says Jordan. “But the kind of curl each produces is also different.”
“With an iron, you’ll typically get more heat [across the section of hair] because it is pulled wider and flatter on the barrel, and you get a more finished curl,” she says. This is often because the clamp curls the section of hair to the very tips. “With a wand, you’ll get a more natural-looking curl with less bend at the end of the hair,” she says. This is because the ends don’t get curled by the clamp and instead are held by your fingers while the rest of the section gets curled.
What Type Of Curling Irons Are Used By Professionals?
There’s no short answer to this because hair professionals use a variety of curling irons depending on hair type and the look they’re trying to achieve. Some prefer traditional curling irons in either ceramic or titanium. Others like using a marcel iron, which has a clamp that is not spring loaded—some say it offers more control of the curl. Others prefer curling wands for more relaxed styles, or even flat irons for creating S-curls or looser waves in hair.