Curled hair has been worn throughout history, but never before have we had the range of tools that are on the market today. Achieving effortless waves or tight springy curls is now within everyone’s reach - if you know which product to buy, that is.
We’ve rounded up our favorite curling irons available right now so that you can make sure your money is well spent. When making our selections, we considered: price, ease of use, how long the curls stayed, how quick and consistent the heat, and any special features. We also tried to ensure a range of options to suit every hair type, every curl preference, and every budget.
Here’s some quick guidance if you’re unsure what might work best for you:
Larger barrels will produce bigger, looser curls; smaller barrels will result in a tighter style. Thicker or coarse hair can handle (and might need) higher temperatures, so look for irons that can go to 400F and up. On the reverse side, thin or damaged hair should be wary of such heat and so you should be looking for irons that provide either temperature range or a maximum of 365F.
Note: Some irons come with heat protectant spray or a protective glove, which are all helpful safety accessories when styling your hair. However, these are easily purchased separately (often at higher quality) so we focused our selections on the irons themselves. Novices are recommended to take the precaution of a heat-styling glove - curling iron burns are no joke.
1. Best Buy for Amateurs: Beachwaver Pro 1: $199, Amazon
Both the experienced and the novice can use - and fall in love with - the Beachwaver Pro iron. Yes, it’s expensive but you pay for the convenience: it’s automatic, which means that all you need to do is section your hair and position the barrel, then it will do the rest. With handy settings for the left-side and right-side so that your finished look is always natural and balanced, this is the easiest way to get a perfect head of curls. The Beachwaver Pro has all the features you want from a curling iron: automatic shut-off after 30 minutes; 360-degree swivel cord and nine feet of length; incredibly quick heating up to 450F; three different barrel sizes. But it’s also made with tourmaline that’s infused with gold powder to ensure uniform heating of your hair and unparalleled shine.
2. Best Buy for the Experienced: Bio Ionic Long Barrel Styler Pro Curling Iron: $140, Sephora
The choice of hair stylists in salons across the US, Bio Ionic makes reliably professional products and this curling iron is no exception. It has an extra two inches in length, making it perfect for long hair or those who simply want a looser curl. The cool tip helps prevent accidental burns (a sadly common feature of heat-styling) and there’s even a lock feature on the buttons, to ensure a smooth styling experience. A huge plus of the Bio Ionic iron is also how quickly it can curl a whole head of hair - perhaps it’s the heat recovery time, or maybe it’s the barrel length, but you can easily be finished in 15 minutes. You know a product is invaluable when it makes a chore into a pleasure and this is honestly the case with the Bi Ionic Styler Pro.
3. Bed Head Curlipops Curling Wand for Loose Curls 1”: $14.99, Amazon
That’s right: for under $15, you could add this curling iron to your toolbox. If your priority is getting the best bang for your buck, then you can’t go wrong with the Curlipops Curling Wand. Part of their vibrantly-colored range of curling irons, the 1” wand is perfect for creating big relaxed curls. There is only one heat setting, so damaged hair might not want to risk it, but it reaches up to 400F so there’s no need to worry about insufficient power. $15 also includes a heat-protectant glove, which is a little basic but gets the job done - and for that price who’s complaining?
4. T3 Whirl Trio Interchangeable Styling Wand: $270, Amazon
On the other end of the spectrum, you have the T3 Whirl Trio. Yes, the price-tag is high, but this could be worth the splurge if you take your hair styling seriously. With three separate detachable barrels, this curling wand really can do it all: tight curls, bombshell waves and everything in between. The tourmaline technology keeps hair shiny and smooth, while the five different heat settings allow you to pick the right temperature for your hair. As the winner of Allure’s Best of Beauty Awards in both 2016 and 2017, it has industry approval and, let’s be honest - it looks beautiful. The white and rose-gold finish stands out among the sea of clunky black and grey tools that flood the market. If you’re someone who regularly dedicates time to achieving the perfect curl, this is a great investment that will look as good on your dresser as your hair looks after using.
5. Kiss Instawave Automatic Curler: $49.99, KissUSA
For those who want the ease of an automatic curler but don’t want to shell out $200 for the Beachwaver Pro, this is a great alternative by KissUSA. Particularly appealing to those of us who don’t curl their hair that often but still want to have the option, the Instawave allows you to create a professional-looking style even if you’re minimally skilled with a curling iron. It also has left- and right- functions, so you don’t need to worry about that when placing the barrel. Once you’ve played around with the patented Curl Dial, designed to catch your hair and twist with a click of a button, you’ll be styling a full-head of curls in no time at all. This tool is great for all hair lengths and types, although longer hair will result in a looser curl.
6. NuMe Love Wins Curling Wand: $99, NuMe USA
Yes, the wand on this iron is rainbow. But no, it’s not a gimmick. A great mid-price option if you’re looking for big soft curls, the Love Wins Curling Wand is easy to use (and pretty to look at). The chromatic titanium barrel has infrared technology and negative ions to keep hair evenly heated and shiny, and also comes with a head-protective glove, so you can style safely! Although the wand comes in three different sizes, the most popular style seems to be the larger, looser waves created by the largest barrel (32mm) which look natural and stay in shape for hours after use. Unfortunately, there is only one heat setting, so those with damaged or especially thin hair might be better off with a different iron, but we found no issue with temperature when used on thicker hair.
7. Neuro Unclipped Styling Rod Curling Iron with Neuro Protect: $89.99, Paulmitchell.com
Long hair is especially well-suited to curls, but it can be a pain to work with if the iron isn’t designed to accommodate all that length. That’s where this Neuro Unclipped iron really comes into its own. Sure it has adjustable temperature control and a heat range up to 450F, but the main draw is the extra-long barrel which leaves no inch of hair unstyled. It also has a SmartSense microchip, designed to improve heat recovery, making this the perfect tool if you’ve got a lot of hair to style and don’t want to compromise on the finished result.
Bonus: it comes with dual voltage, should you want to take your iron overseas, and if you buy it through Paul Mitchell you’ll get a free Neuro Heat-Control hairspray.
8. DryBar The Wrap Party Curling and Styling Wand: $165, DryBar
Known for their blowouts, you might not be aware that DryBar also sells hot tools - but you’d be missing out. Wrap Party is a great choice if you’re looking for natural looking curls that could be fresh out of the salon. The reverse-tapered shape ensures you get volume at the root and beachy waves at the bottom, so you don’t need to worry about flat, misshapen curls. Although not best-suited for short hair lengths, mid-length and longer hair is turned into a lovely relaxed curl in minutes; it heats up and recovers heat especially quickly. Amateurs might want to invest in a protective glove for their first few tries, but the 9ft cord does allow maximum movement and maneuvering.
9. Anjou Curling Iron 1.25”: $29.99, Amazon
Buying budget doesn’t have to mean a lacklustre product and this curling iron by Anjou is a case in point. It has many of the features you’d expect from a more expensive product: cooling tip, temperature control settings, a range up to 410F and a 360-degree rotating power cord - yet all for under $30! The iron comes in both gold and gradient colors and three barrel sizes, so you can customize it into the exact product you want. And don’t worry about dents created by the clamp; unlike many of the other cheaper brands on the market, Anjou ensures a light enough grip to keep your hair crease-free.
10. Ghd Curve Soft Curl Iron: $149.25, ghd
If you have damaged hair or simply want to keep your locks in top condition, you don’t have to give up heat styling altogether. Enter the Ghd Soft Curl. You might associate Ghd with flat irons, but it turns out they know how to do a whole lot more. If you want to treat your hair with a more gentle heat but still want curls that last for days, then Ghd is a great choice with products that have a uniform temperature of 365F. The slightly larger-than-average barrel (1 ¼ inches) produces a lovely relaxed wave and the Soft Curl is a perfect choice if you want something a little more subtle. Their patented tri-zone® breakthrough ceramic technology is the source of the iron’s reliable heating throughout, so you’ll only need a light touch for perfect results.
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