Best curling iron

Hair Products

To limit any damage to your hair, always apply a heat-protectant product before using a curling iron.

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Which curling iron is best?

When it comes to curling your hair, you can choose from plenty of tools to get the job done. For many people, the convenience and versatility of a curling iron, which allows you to add waves in an instant, just can’t be beat.

Curling irons are available in various shapes, sizes and materials, so choosing the best option for your hair can be difficult. If you’re looking for a highly versatile, easy-to-use curling iron, the BaBylissPRO Nano Curling Iron is the top choice.

What to know before you buy a curling iron

Curling iron vs. wand

Curling irons have a pretty simple design. They have a stay-cool handle and a heated barrel that you wind your hair around to create the curls. There’s a clamp on the barrel to hold your hair in place. Nearly all curling irons besides travel models have a cord that must be plugged into an electrical outlet. 

You can also find curling wands. They’re similar to a curling iron, but don’t have a clamp or clasp to hold the hair in place. Instead, you loosely wrap your hair around the barrel and carefully hold it in place with your hand. 

If you want tighter, more defined curls, a curling iron is your best bet. For looser, more tousled curls or waves, opt for a curling wand. 

Size

The diameter of a curling iron’s barrel is a crucial detail because it determines how tight or loose your curls will be. 

  • Ultra-small curling irons usually have a barrel between 1/2-3/4 inches in width. They work well if you have extremely short hair or if you want tight, ringlet curls for medium-length hair. 
  • Small curling irons typically have a barrel between 3/4-1 inch in width. They can help define natural curls, create tight curls on medium to long hair or add volume to shorter hair.
  • Medium curling irons generally have between a 1-1 1/2-inch barrel. They work well for creating loose curls or waves on medium to long hair, adding volume at the roots or flipping your ends.
  • Large curling irons usually have a barrel between 1 3/4-2 inches in width. They are ideal for creating loose curls or waves for long or thick hair. These irons can even be used for straightening if you use them properly. 

Barrel material

Curling iron barrels can be made of a variety of materials, each differing in the amount of damage they can potentially do to your hair.

  • Metal: Curling irons with metal barrels are usually the most affordable. However, they can get very hot, so they’re more likely to damage your hair.
  • Ceramic: Curling irons with ceramic barrels are gentler on your hair because they heat more evenly and aren’t as likely to snag or pull on the strands. 
  • Tourmaline: Curling irons with tourmaline barrels also heat evenly and don’t pull on your hair. They can help reduce frizz, also, so they’re not as likely to damage your hair. 
  • Titanium: Curling irons with titanium barrels are highly effective at conducting heat, so they work well for thick or coarse hair. They’re also usually the most expensive models. 

Heat

The way that a curling iron provides heat is an essential factor to consider when shopping.

Most people want an iron that reaches full heat quickly so they can start styling their hair right away. More affordable models can take a few minutes to heat, but higher-end irons often need only a few seconds to reach their max temperature. 

Some cheaper curling irons only offer a single heat setting—the iron is either off or it’s on and only has one temperature. You’ll have more versatility if you opt for a curling iron with variable heat options because it allows you to choose the setting that works best for your hair. Some models have just a few heat setting options, while higher-end irons can have more than 10. 

It’s also important to consider a curling iron’s max temperature. Some only heat to 250 degrees Fahrenheit, which is suitable for fine or thin hair but won’t curl thick or coarse hair effectively. If you have heavier hair, look for an iron with a max temperature of 400 degrees or higher. 

What to look for in a quality curling iron

Barrel shape

While many curling irons have the same cylindrical shape, there is some variation among models.

  • You can find some curling irons with interchangeable barrels. They come with multiple barrels, typically in different sizes, so you can adjust your curls based on the look you want that day. 
  • Some curling irons have a spiral barrel with special ridges that create spiral curls.
  • Wave barrel curling irons feature double or triple barrels that you weave your hair through to get beach-like waves or curls. 
  • Some curling irons have a rotating barrel that clamps your hair like a traditional iron, but rotates to help form bouncy curls.
  • Curling irons with a conical or cone-shaped barrel create curls that can be looser on top and tighter on the bottom or tighter on top and looser on the bottom. 

Cord

Most curling irons have an electrical cord. For the most user-friendly option, look for a model with a swivel cord so you can easily position the iron at the right angle without worrying about pulling on the cord. 

Travel curling irons are often cordless. This makes it extremely easy to curl your hair on the go, but you’ll need to replace the batteries periodically. 

Auto shutoff

For safety reasons, you always want to choose a curling iron with an auto-shutoff feature. It keeps you from having to worry about whether you turned off your curling iron after you’ve left home because it automatically shuts it off after a certain period, typically 60 minutes. 

Heat-resistant glove

Some curling irons come with a heat-resistant glove that helps protect your fingers from being burned while styling your hair. A glove is particularly important if you choose a curling wand without a clamp because you’ll need to hold your hair in place on the barrel. 

Cool tip

To prevent a burn to your fingers or scalp, choose a curling iron with a cool tip. It doesn’t get hot like the rest of the barrel, so you won’t get hurt if it comes into contact with your skin.

Stand

Some curling irons feature a built-in stand, so you can set it down when it’s hot without damaging your bathroom vanity or other surfaces. 

How much you can expect to spend on a curling iron

Curling irons usually cost $10-$100. Those that cost $10 or less typically have metal barrels and a single heat setting, so they are more likely to damage your hair. For $20-$40, you can find a quality iron with variable heat controls. However, if you want a top-of-the-line iron with plenty of features, you’ll generally pay $50-$100. 

Curling iron FAQ

What heat setting should you use to curl your hair?

A. You want to use the lowest heat setting possible to curl your hair to avoid damage. For fine or thin hair, the iron should be set at 200 degrees or less. For thick or coarse hair, a setting of 200-300 degrees usually works well. 

How should you clean a curling iron?

A. Make sure that your curling iron is unplugged and completely cool before you start cleaning. Next, wet a cotton pad with rubbing alcohol or a mixture of three parts baking soda and one part water to wipe over the barrel. Finally, use a damp cloth to rinse the barrel and dry it thoroughly so your curling iron is ready for use again. 

What’s the best curling iron to buy?

Top curling iron

BaBylissPRO Nano Curling Iron

BaBylissPRO Nano Curling Iron

What you need to know: This highly versatile curling iron is made of high-quality materials and can last for years. 

What you’ll love: It heats up extremely quickly. The handle boasts an ergonomic design that’s comfortable to hold. It can create a range of styles, despite having only one barrel. The nano titanium barrel provides even heat and ion technology to reduce frizz. It isn’t the cheapest option, but it won’t break the bank either.

What you should consider: It gets extremely hot, posing a burn risk. Some buyers report receiving irons that don’t work properly, although these incidents are rare. 

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon and Ulta

Top curling iron for the money

Remington CI9538 T/Studio Salon Collection Curling Wand

Remington CI9538 T/Studio Salon Collection Curling Wand

What you need to know: This affordable curling iron offers excellent quality for the price and works extremely well for anyone who occasionally curls their hair. 

What you’ll love: It features a clampless wand design for added versatility. It has a ceramic pearl coating for even, consistent heat that limits damage. It offers a max temperature of 410 degrees, making it a good option for thick, coarse hair. 

What you should consider: It can be tough to get used to the clampless design if you’ve never used a wand before. 

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Worth checking out

Conair Infiniti Pro Nano Curling Wand

Conair Infiniti Pro Nano Curling Wand

What you need to know: This budget-friendly curling iron has all the features you need for smooth, defined curls, though it doesn’t have all the bells and whistles of higher-end models. 

What you’ll love: Its clamp holds the hair very securely. It only takes 30 seconds to heat up. The max temperature is 400 degrees, but there are four other heat settings. It includes a bonus protective heat shield. 

What you should consider: A few buyers feel that the clamp is a bit too tight. 

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

 

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Jennifer Blair writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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