Perfect curls don’t come naturally to every woman. Many women need help to achieve a voluminous, curly or wavy look. Curling irons are an inexpensive and easy tool to help you receive loose or tight curls. These products help increase your volume and texture if you typically have straight or flat hair. However, not all curling irons are made the same.
A curling iron typically comprises of a long handle and a barrel that conducts heat. The heated barrels are available in different sizes, which result in different types of curls. Smaller barrels produce tighter, more spiral curls, whereas larger barrels create looser waves. Most barrels range from a half-inch to 1.5 inches.
There are a variety of hair curlers that are ideal for your hair type and the type of curl you are after. Spring-clamp curling irons use a clamp to hold hair down as you wrap it around the heated barrel. There is a spring beneath the clamp so it will hold your hair in place as you wrap it. This is one of the easiest and most popular types of curling irons available.
Marcel curling irons are often used by professionals. These curling irons also use a clamp, but you must hold down the clamp manually. Clamp curling irons are ideal for thicker or coarse hair because the clamp holds the hair in place as you rotate the hair around the barrel.
Curling wands are also becoming increasingly popular. These products don’t use any type of clamp to hold down the hair. These are particularly useful if you have thin hair and need extra volume. Thin and fine hair benefits from these devices, because this type of hair typically curls easier and is easier to hold around a barrel. Thicker hair may struggle with this type of device, as it may slide off of the barrel. Additionally, these hair curlers prevent creases in your curl from a clamp, and you’ll have less damage with split ends.
Best Curling Irons
John Frieda Curling Iron
This curling iron was a favorite among our testers. The iron’s clip, combined with the ceramic titanium barrel, produces tight curls, and it distributes heat evenly along the barrel to prevent damaging delicate hair.
The clip holds hair tighter to the barrel than other curling irons, so creating loose curls requires an adjustment in technique. That said, our testers described the results as “the perfect ringlet” and “a good curl.”
Part of the reason this curler scored well with our testers is its wide temperature range. All our testers have different hair types, and the ones with thin hair – usually thin hair is more prone to damage at high temperatures – didn’t have any complaints and liked the curls The John Frieda produced.
Our testers also said this curling iron was comfortable to hold. The thumb trigger for the clip is close to the handle, so it doesn’t take additional hand maneuvering to open it. Other models we tested required some uncomfortable thumb stretching to get to the clip.
The John Frieda has a 7.5-foot cord, so you don’t have to hug the wall to curl your hair. Many others have a 6-foot cord or shorter. The curler also has a cool tip, which makes it easier to maneuver and curl your hair with both hands.
INFINITIPRO BY CONAIR Nano Tourmaline Ceramic Curling Iron
Our testers admired the curls the Conair produced, which is great considering this is the least expensive curling iron we tested.
One of the curler’s advantages is that it heats up quickly. We found it can reach 100 degrees Fahrenheit in less than six seconds, which was the fastest time of the irons we reviewed.
On the other hand, one of the downsides of this curling iron is that it doesn’t have a wide temperature range. In fact, its lowest temperature is over 300 degrees, and that’s too hot for some hair types. Our testers with straight and fine hair found that it simply got too hot.
This curling iron has all the safety features we looked for, including a protective heat shield. The heat shield is placed over the barrel so you don’t touch the hot iron as it cools down. It also features an automatic shut-off. Finally, it has a cool tip so you don’t burn your fingers.
Chi Air Texture Tourmaline Ceramic Curling Iron
This is one of the more unusual hair curlers we tested. What it lacks in safety features, it makes up for in other ways.
For starters, it has a wide temperature range. Since you can adjust its temperature to your hair type, all our testers created long-lasting curls with it.
This hair curler does a lot of the work for you. After you clip your hair, you press a button, and the barrel rotates for you. You can press another button to unroll the hair. Some testers liked this feature; others didn’t care for it. This particular feature is best for those with long, thick hair.
As mentioned, this iron lacks some safety features. The Chi Air Texture hair curler doesn’t have an automatic shut-off. If you forget to turn off your curling iron after use, it creates potential hazards. Also, when it is plugged in, it is on. Unplugging it is the only way to turn it off. Still, it was a top performer with our testing team.
Xtava Satin Wave 5-in-1 Professional Curling Iron
The Xtava Satin Wave is the most versatile curling iron we tested. It has five interchangeable barrels that help you create a variety of styles, with options ranging from loose waves to tight ringlets. The barrels are easy to remove and click back into place, and a heat-resistant glove protects you from burns.
The Satin Wave created the longest-lasting curls of any curling iron we reviewed. We evaluated our testers’ tresses after one, two, five and eight hours, and the curls made with the Xtava held up all day. However, you should use caution with this curling iron if you have fine or damaged hair, as it gets extremely hot. In fact, because its 1-inch ceramic barrel lacks a cool-touch tip, some of our testers burned their fingers. Blisters aside, the Satin Wave has safety features such as an automatic shut-off and a heat-resistant travel sleeve. Xtava backs this curling iron with a two-year warranty.
Remington CI9538 Pro Pearl Ceramic Conical Curling Wand
The Remington CI9538 isn’t a traditional curling iron – it’s a curling wand, which means it doesn’t have a clamp. Curling wands create more natural-looking waves than curling irons. Rather than being a uniform shape like a curling iron barrel, a curling wand’s barrel tapers at the end so you can create curls in varied sizes.
Because curling wands don’t have clasps, you manually wrap your hair around their barrels. The CI9538 is also known as the T-Studio Wide Curling Wand. It has a nonstick ceramic barrel and comes with an insulated bag and styling glove. It has a cool-touch tip to help you avoid burning your fingers as well as an automatic shutoff. The CI9538’s digital display is easy to read, and the curling iron has a fabric-covered, swiveling cord. Remington’s four-year warranty is better than average, and our experiences with the company’s customer service have been excellent.
HOT TOOLS Professional 24K Gold Curling Iron/Wand
The HOT TOOLS Professional is an excellent option for all hair types, and its many features help it stand out from similar products.
The recipient of our top reviews for curling irons is the HOT TOOLS Professional 24K Gold Curling Iron/Wand. This hair curler features high temperatures, five heat settings and a spring-clamp design. In our tests, it received some of our highest scores for its performance and ease of use. Additionally, this curling iron is covered under a five-year manufacturer warranty, which is the best warranty we saw on this type of device.
Which Styling Tools Are Best?
When looking for the best curling iron, you must consider the type of curl you desire, the size of curl and even the type of product you need for your particular hair type. Below are a few additional features you should consider as you determine the curling iron that is best for you, and be sure to check out our articles on curling irons.
Your hair’s ability to hold curls is not determined by the curling iron itself, but by your hair’s thickness and texture. Many of the best curling irons can reach heat up to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. However, temperatures above 350 degrees can cause extensive heat damage and dry out thin and fine hair. The higher temperatures are ideal for thicker and coarser hair. However, most curling irons offer multiple heat settings so you can choose the exact heat for your particular hair type, even if your curling iron can reach high temperatures. The best curling irons offer more than five heat settings, while the best hair curlers offer 20 or more.
Types of Curling Irons
One major difference among these products is the materials the barrels are designed from. Ceramic barrels are popular because they emit negative ions that reduce frizz and prevent static electricity. Metal barrels heat up quickly and can become very hot. However, the high heat can also easily damage hair. Titanium and gold-plated barrels are also common, but they only feature a protective coating over the barrel to protect hair from the excess heat. When the coating wears off, a metal barrel is often found underneath.
Not only are many curling irons designed differently, such as curling wands and spring-clamp irons, but they also come with different design features that set them apart. Look for hair styling products with a long power cord that swivels. This provides you with more flexibility and prevents you from feeling like you are connected to the wall. The swivel cord also makes it easier to reach the hair behind your head.
Many of the best curling irons we reviewed provide a handful of safety features. The high temperatures and easy access to the heated barrel can easily cause burns. Several high-end curling irons automatically shut off if they have not been used for a certain period of time. Other irons allow you to set a sleep timer each time you use the product so it will automatically turn off, but only if you turn the feature on first.
Furthermore, an indicator light is featured on the exterior of many curling irons that alerts you when the hair curler is turned on and hot. Some curling irons that do not offer an indicator light may feature a digital display, which will light up when turned on and tell you the exact temperature of the curling iron.
Some curling irons include accessories that you can use for safety. Look for products that offer a protective heat shield that you can place on the barrel when you’re finished to prevent someone from touching the hot barrel. Additionally, heat-protective gloves are often included with curling wands to protect your hand from accidentally touching the hot barrel.
Help & Support
Look for curling irons with a long manufacturer warranty. The average amount of time many hair curlers are covered is just one year. The best curling irons are covered for five years or more. Furthermore, if you do have any questions or concerns about your curling iron, it is nice to know that help options are available. Look to buy products from companies that offer several customer support options such as email and telephone options.
Our Verdict and Recommendations
Our top three products rose above other curling irons in our rankings because of their high temperatures and numerous heat settings. The Remington CI9538, for example, boasts nine heat settings that range from 265 to 410 degrees Fahrenheit. Additionally, all three products provide a digital display and automatic shut-off capabilities.
The Chi Air Texture curling iron is also a standout for its unique design and heat setting capabilities. This curling iron has a range of 1 to 410 degrees Fahrenheit. It does not have distinct heat settings, but you can choose the exact temperature of the device, a feature we did not see in most of these products. Furthermore, this device does all of the work for you. The barrel twists on its own. You simply clamp down the hair and the iron does the rest of the work.
When you understand your own hair type and what type of curling iron produces the curls you are after, you can easily get the right look without spending time and money and damaging your hair.