BEST CURLING IRONS | NOVEMBER 2017
Anyone who cares about styling their hair has a curling iron in their arsenal of tools. But curling irons aren't one-size-fits-all -- in addition to the classic clamp-style iron, there are wand curling irons, automatic curling irons, and more. The ReviewLab team considered various styles of curling irons to curate this list. Keep reading for detailed reviews of a variety of curling iron styles. If you need additional guidance with regards to your purchase, check out our handy buying guide, which covers topics like barrel sizing, barrel material, and how to choose a curling iron based on your unique hair type. Read more about our methodology.
The gold-plated Hot Tools Curling iron is a feature rich device that stands out from the rest thanks to its ability to provide premium results at a very affordable price. It's a versatile iron that consistently creates beautiful looking curls for a range of hair types, making it our top pick for curling irons.Read full review.
The Anjou Curling Iron falls right behind our top pick because it lacks a memory function but it's still a solid choice overall. This clamp-style model is another quick heating iron that evenly heats up hair so users can get a uniform looking curl.Read full review.
The Conair Curling Iron is a great choice for those seeking an inexpensive but reliable tool for their hairstyling needs. It’s easy to hold, heats up quickly, and features numerous temperature settings to give users control over the shape of their curls.Read full review.
The Bedhead Curlipops Wand is another paired down budget option for those who want to keep it simple. It’s ceramic wand heats up quickly so users can style their hair fast. It lacks a temperature adjustment dial but still manages to get quite hot and create long-lasting curls.Read full review.
Curling Irons BUYING GUIDE
Curling Iron Types
Choosing the right kind of styling tool for you means taking into consideration the pros and cons of each curling iron type. Traditional clamp-style irons help the user to keep the hair in place while it sets into the desired shape. Curling iron wands offer a bit more freedom. Without the clamp attachment, users simply wrap hair around the barrel. Automatic curling irons may seem intimidating at first but they offer a solution for those who have had trouble with traditional styling tools. Interchangeable irons allow users to switch up their style without having to purchase multiple irons with different barrel sizes. Travel irons are smaller but still offer up the features of full-sized units. Brush-style irons add more volume and body to hair but are not necessarily the best choice for more defined curls.
The material of a curling iron can make a big difference on the results you get. Cheaper materials like metal tend to burn hair and damage it. Gold plated barrels are a better choice for reducing the amount of heat damage done to your hair while curling it. The best options, to help avoid damage and ensure even heating, are ceramic and tourmaline. These types of materials produce negative ions, which can help you to avoid excess damage. Buyer beware, some curling irons are only coated in materials like gold, ceramic, and tourmaline. With prolonged use, the coating will wear off.
Considering diameter is important when deciding what kind of curl you’re after. Most of the models featured on this page are offered in various barrel sizes. Generally, the larger the barrel, the looser the resulting curls. Skinnier irons will produce tight curls. It’s also important to note that larger barrel sizes are usually not appropriate for those with shorter hair. It’s tough to wrap short hair around a 2-inch barrel, for instance. You can usually find barrel sizes available in a range of 0.5-inches to 2-inches.
Your Hair Type
It’s important to take note of your hair type before settling on a curling iron model. If you have particularly fine hair, you want to make sure you can adjust the heat of your selected unit to avoid burning and damaging your hair. Those with thinner hair might also find they need to do a bit of trial and error to see what settings and materials result in a long-lasting curl. Thicker haired users will want to choose an iron that can get really hot. If you have very thick and long hair you’ll also want to consider the weight of the curling iron since curling this type of hair usually takes longer. Anyone who wants to tone down the frizziness of their hair will want to stick with a barrel material that heats evenly, like tourmaline.
The priciest curling irons tend to be professional grade irons made of highly durable materials. These curling irons, usually priced at over $100 are meant for salon use, as they are tough enough to handle daily repetitive use. You don’t need to spend over $100 to get a quality curling iron, though. Many brands offer affordable options below $50 that are made of solid materials like ceramic and tourmaline. The cheapest curling iron options are usually very basic and often lack temperature controls. Some inexpensive options, however, are feature packed and still manage to provide salon quality curling.
FULL product reviews
We research hundreds of products in order to bring you a final, unbiased list of the very best. We also use a proprietary algorithm to score each product in terms of quality, value, and brand reputation. These subscores are then weighted to calculate our overall scores. Read more about how we calculate our scores.
The Hot Tools curling iron steals the spot of best overall thanks to its affordable price point and its ability to curl hair effectively. The Hot Tools unit also sports a variety of features that most people expect in a curling iron from adjustable heat settings to a quick-heating element. The iron gets hot enough to curl even the thickest hair and stays hot while you use it to get ready for work or a night out.
Why We Recommend It
- Ability to memorize your favorite heat setting. When you shut it off, you can turn it back on and not have to worry about remembering what gave you that perfect curl the last time you used it.
- Extra long cool tip helps prevent burns. This iron features a longer cool-tip than other models which helps to ensure you don’t burn yourself while styling your hair.
- Gold-plated heating element is a solid curling iron material. It's the next best thing to ceramic and tourmaline. A gold-plated iron will also ensure that the device remains hot while you use it.
- Heats up quickly and evenly. Reviewers backed up the manufacturer's claim that the iron's heavy-duty heating element reaches the desired temperature more quickly than other models.
- Adjustable temperature settings. The iron can quickly heat up to 428F and temperature can be adjusted using the handy dial.
- Long 8-foot swivel cord. The long cord allows you to easily manipulate the iron as your curl the hair around your head.
- No automatic shut off. This means you’ll have to be extra careful to remember to unplug the iron when you’re done using it.
- Some reviewers pointed out that the clamp is initially very tight. It eventually does loosen up a bit but for the first several uses it may feel stiff.
- Not dual voltage. You'll need a converter if you plan to travel with this iron.
The Anjou Curling Iron is another great option for those looking for the perfect curl. The iron features PTC heating technology and can heat up in no time at all. Its long cord makes the unit easy to handle and a safe automatic shut off helps to give you peace of mind. The Anjou iron also comes packaged with accessories to help you with your morning routine.
Why We Recommend It
- Quick heating tourmaline ceramic technology. This technology allows the iron to heat up fast to a maximum of 410F. Reviewers loved that the iron was ready to go in less than 60-seconds.
- Ceramic coating. This material ensures that resulting curls are frizz free.
- Insulated tip. Reviewers loved that the cool tip on this curling iron kept their fingers protected from potential burns and made handling the device easy.
- 30-minute automatic shut off. This ensures your iron isn’t left on for hours. Keeping you and your home safe.
- 2.5-meter swivel cord. A long cord allows you to easily maneuver the curling iron as your style your hair.
- Stainless steel rest support. This convenient feature lets users set the iron down without burning the surface it’s resting on.
- Comes with useful accessories. Included with the iron are: a heat resistant glove for easy handling and hair clips to help you section your hair as you curl it.
- Dual voltage. Thanks to this feature this unit can be used around the world.
- Lacks a memory function for heat setting. Because of this, you’ll need to choose your preferred setting each time you use the iron.
- Cool tip could be longer. Some reviewers complained that they burned their fingers trying to hold the iron.
The easy to grip Conair Curling Iron is an affordable budget option that offers similar features to that of a more expensive model. Users can easily adjust the heat setting and can rest assured that they won’t have to wait very long to start the curling process. The iron also shuts off automatically just in case you’re in a hurry and forget to do so yourself.
Why We Recommend It
- Adjustable temperature settings. The iron has a total of 25 different heat settings to suit a variety of different hair types.
- 30-second quick heating. Reviewers loved that they could start getting ready in less than a minute.
- Automatic shut off. The curling iron will turn itself off after you’ve left it unused for a set period of time.
- Easy to hold. This unit has a non-slip grip handle so you won’t drop the iron and burn yourself. Reviewers liked that the device was so easy to hold.
- Dual voltage. This means you can easily travel with the curling iron.
- Not always hot enough. Some reviewers complained that the unit was not hot enough to adequately curl their hair. Those with thicker hair will want to select an iron that can get very hot.
The Bedhead Curlipops iron is a basic wand style iron that’s easy to use. The barrel material ensures you get frizz-free curls as you style and the protective glove ensures you stay burn-free. Turn on the wand, wait 30 seconds, and start curling your hair. No need to fuss with dials or buttons or remember which setting you used last time. Just power on and curl.
Why We Recommend It
- Tourmaline ceramic construction. This type of barrel material helps to reduce frizziness and ensures even heating.
- Quickly heats up. Reviewers were pleased to report that the iron consistently achieved the desired temperature in less than 30 seconds.
- Packaged with heat protective glove. The included glove allows you to wrap hair around the wand without burning your hands.
- Attached rest stand. This allows the styling tool to rest upon a surface without burning it.
- Dual voltage. Such a feature makes it possible to use the iron in different countries.
- 6-foot long swivel cord. Move around your bathroom with ease with a long cord that won't limit your reach.
- Temperature is not adjustable. Those with very fine hair will need to be careful when using this iron.
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Best Wand Style Curling Iron
Newly popularized wand style curling irons lack the clamp attachment seen in traditional irons. Hair is meant to be wrapped around the barrel while the user holds the hair in place. Most units of this type come with a protective glove to reduce the potential occurrence of burns. Wand type irons come in various barrel sizes and styles so users can achieve different looks. Thinner wands will result in tight curls while large barreled irons will result in the opposite.
The clampless Remington C19528 Wand is a great option for those who wish to curl their hair unencumbered. The pearl ceramic barrel ensures frizz is kept to a minimum. The wand heats up just as quickly as clamp-style units and it’s easy to wrap hair around the barrel using the included heat resistant glove. The Remington wand also features a handy lock option so you won’t accidentally change your selected settings.
Why We Recommend It
- Pearl Ceramic construction. This type of material helps produce long-lasting frizz-free curl.
- Easy to use wand-style. This kind of iron allows the user to simply wrap hair around the smooth barrel, many reviewers found it easier to use than a classic clamp-style tool.
- Heats up in 30 seconds or less. Reviewers liked the quick-heating barrel and that the device could reach high temperatures of over 410F. Perfect for those with thick hair.
- Automatic 60 minutes shut off. This safety mechanism ensures that you won’t end up burning your house down.
- Temperature locking mechanism. This handy feature keeps the user from accidentally powering off or changing the heat setting during styling.
- Comes with heat resistant glove. Reviewers felt well protected by the glove when wrapping their hair around the wand. The glove protects well against the very hot barrel.
- Learning curve required. Using this type of wand style iron takes a bit of practice but there are plenty of online tutorials to help get you started.
- Smooth wand makes hair prone to slipping. Some reviewers found that with the tapered build hair tended to slide down to the thinner end.
Best Automatic Curling Iron
Automatic curling irons are nearly foolproof and take the trial and error out of curling hair. You simply need to ensure your hair is properly brushed out and detangled before you use this type of device. Some automatic curling irons even come with a steamer function to help reduce hair frizziness and enhance shine.
If you find yourself wishing you could curl your hand and failing each time you try it might be time to try curling with the Natalie Styx Automatic Curling Iron. It takes the guesswork out of curling hair thanks to the automatic roller that essentially sucks up your hair and evenly heats it. You’re still in control of the temperature, direction of the curl, and the length of time the barrel holds your hair.
Why We Recommend It
- Curls your hair for you. Just select a piece of hair, clamp the iron, and voila! The device rolls your hair automatically, heats it up according to your specifications and gives you effortless curls.
- Multiple settings allow for different looks. There are 3 temperature settings, 3 time settings (which specify how long to hold each curl), and 3 direction settings to allow for a highly customizable look.
- LCD display. The display allows you to easily view the chosen settings.
- Iron has an anti-frizz feature. Reviewers liked the accompanying steamer function which effectively smooths out hair for a sleek look.
- Easy to use. Not only does the device automatically roll up your hair, it also audibly beeps to alert you when it’s time to release the clamp.
- Comes with various helpful accessories. A heat resistant glove, a water dropper for filling the steamer, hair clips to help with styling, and a useful storage bag are all included with the curling iron.
- Heavier than a regular curling iron. Some reviewers found it difficult to curl their whole head without arm fatigue. It may not be appropriate for those with weaker arms or persons with injuries and limited mobility.
- Hair may get stuck. If you try to feed the automatic iron too much hair or you try to curl tangled hair, it’s likely the device will jam. The device will automatically stop curling the hair and beep to alert you of a problem.
Best Interchangeable Curling Iron
If you can’t settle on a single look, an interchangeable curling iron set might be for you. These types of sets typically include 3-5 wand attachments of different styles and diameters to help users achieve different looks. A set like this takes up less room than a similar number of full-sized styling tools.
If you can’t decide on what kind of curl you want to achieve the Ohuhu 5 in 1 Curling Wand Set might be a good option. It allows you to swap out different wand attachments depending on the desired style. The device heats up quickly and offers an adjustable temperature setting giving you great control over your hairstyle. Able to achieve high heat, the Ohuhu Curling Wand is suitable for thick hair types.
Why We Recommend It
- Comes with 5 different wand attachments. The versatile curling iron various wands allow for the creation of different types of curls. Included are: two different tapered irons, two sizes of cylindrical barrels, and a unique bubble wand are included in the set.
- Barrel is made of a combination of tourmaline and ceramic. The wands can, therefore, heat up in less than 60 seconds and resulting curls are frizz-free.
- Temperature can be adjusted up to 410F. Two temperature selections allow the wand to be used by those with thick hair and thin hair alike.
- Dual voltage. Because of this, the wand set can be used outside of North America.
- None of the attachments have clamps. Some reviewers found the non-clamp style took a bit of getting used to. However, the included bubble wand attachment is a great way to practice wrapping hair around this kind of curling iron.
Best Travel Curling Iron
Curling irons intended for travel need to be compact and lightweight but they also need to perform as well as regular-sized irons. Various options are available from mini wand irons to smaller clamp-style ones. Generally, travel iron varieties are basic in terms of their functions but some do come with adjustable heat dials. Irons with dual voltage allow you to leave your power converter at home.
The Berta Mini Curling Wand can easily be popped into a suitcase or purse for on the go hairstyling. It provides the same powerful heating that larger curling irons would and with its ceramic construction ensures hair is heated evenly. The miniature wand also features an LED indicator to alert you when it’s hot enough to be used, which should happen in just under a minute.
Why We Recommend It
- Small, compact size. This makes it easy to travel with this iron. Reviewers loved that the wand was small enough to fit inside most cosmetic bags. It can even be stored in your purse for use at the office.
- Ceramic construction. This technology heats up uniformly and gets hot in less than 60 seconds so you can quickly use it on the go.
- LED indicator. This nifty feature lets you know when the device is ready to be used.
- 1.8-foot long maneuverable cord. Reviewers appreciated that the length of the cord was not compromised in the design of this miniature iron. It is still easy to move around while getting ready.
- Not dual voltage. You’ll need to purchase a converter if you plan to travel outside of North America.
Best Curling Iron for Damaged Hair
While any barrel material will do for curling hair, some materials are better than others when it comes to protecting your hair during the curling process. The best protective curling irons for those with damaged hair are made with ceramic and/or tourmaline. These materials evenly heat the hair and are gentler than other materials, like chrome.
If you’re worried about heat damage but you really love the look of curls, then the DSHOW Negative Ion Curling Iron might be a great choice for your hair. Its special negative ion technology helps to reduce the amount of damage done to your locks. It’s also a good option for those with longer hair or extensions because of its extra long barrel. With the ability to adjust the iron’s heat, both thin and thick haired users will get used out of the DSHOW iron.
Why We Recommend It
- Extra long 8-inch barrel. The longer barrel length makes this iron perfect for those with longer hair.
- Protective barrel material reduces the potential for hair damage. Reviewers felt that the nano ceramic barrel material helped consistently produce smooth frizz-free curls.
- Gets hot quick. In about 30 seconds you can start styling your hair.
- Adjustable heat settings. The iron has 5 different temperature settings from 284F to 428F so users with thin to thick hair can find a heat setting to suit their hair type.
- Automatically shuts off after 60 minutes. You won’t have to worry about accidentally leaving your iron on.
- Cool tip. Users appreciated the cool-tip and felt it made handling the iron easier. A handy kickstand also helps protect your vanity or tabletop from heat damage.
- Dual voltage. You’ll need to bring along a converter if you’re traveling overseas.
- Barrel is very smooth and makes it difficult to hold hair in place. Some users complained that their hair easily slipped along the barrel. The clamp should help most people with this problem, although, those with longer hair might still run into some slippage issues.