The best curling irons you can buy

Insider Picks writes about products and services to help you navigate when shopping online. Insider Inc. receives a commission from our affiliate partners when you buy through our links, but our reporting and recommendations are always independent and objective.

best curling ironsdimid_86 / iStock / Getty Images Plus / Business Insider

  • With the right curling iron and a little bit of practice, you can get gorgeous beachy waves or tightly curled ringlets with ease.
  • The Xtava 5 in 1 Professional Curling Wand and Curling Iron Set is our top pick because it can give you any kind of curl you want for less than $50.
  • But there are a few others you might want to look at before deciding.

Out of all the heat styling tools you can use on your hair, the curling iron is the one that requires the most practice to see what type of curl and look you like.

However, the results you can achieve are just as reliant upon the type of curling iron you choose.

Whether you have fine hair, thick hair, or something that falls in-between, you won't be lacking in choices when it comes to finding the perfect one. Fine hair is especially prone to breakage, so it's important to find an iron that offers low heat - and well as the ability to control those settings. Ceramic barrels, or barrels made with a combination of ceramic and tourmaline, are best for even heating to prevent any unexpected hot spots that can also damage hair.

For thick, heavy hair that may need a little help when it comes to holding curls, an iron that offers higher temperature settings will help create styles that won't fall flat in a matter of hours. A coated barrel will also prevent naturally textured hair from sticking or pulling while you style.

We've done the research scouring the Internet for articles and recommendations, reading the product reviews, and even testing it on our own hair to find the best curling irons for every budget and hair type.

Here are our top picks for the best curling irons:

Updated 6/18/19 by Jada Wong: Updated copy, formatting, links, prices, and swapped in Dyson AirWrap as our best high-end option.

Keep reading to learn all about our top picks for the best curling irons.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Find all the best offers at our Coupons page.

Disclosure: This post is brought to you by the Insider Picks team. We highlight products and services you might find interesting. If you buy them, we get a small share of the revenue from the sale from our commerce partners. We frequently receive products free of charge from manufacturers to test. This does not drive our decision as to whether or not a product is featured or recommended. We operate independently from our advertising sales team. We welcome your feedback. Email us at insiderpicks@businessinsider.com.

{{}}

View As: One Page Slides

The best curling iron overall

The best curling iron overall
The Xtava 5 in 1 Professional Curling Wand and Curling Iron Set has a temperature display, auto shut off, a 360-swivel cord, and five curling attachments.

Beauty tools that provide style versatility are major wins for anyone who likes to be able to switch up their look and save space. Want to achieve tight, polished curls one day, and loose textured waves another? The Xtava 5 in 1 Curling Set allows you to do just that without having to own multiple curling irons.

The set comes with a base that has five detachable barrels — two wand and three clip styles that range from 0.3 to 1.25 inches in diameter. The variety of curling attachments makes this set ideal for both long and short-haired styles. The 8-foot cord has a 360-degree swivel function so you have plenty of length for styling.

Those of you with fine, easily damaged hair will appreciate the ceramic tourmaline barrels that provide even heating, and the low-temperature options. If you have thick hair and want to style at higher temps for extra hold, you won't be disappointed either. The curling iron has nine different heat settings and can heat up to 410 degrees Fahrenheit. With all heat styling tools though, you'll definitely want to use a heat protectant spray first.

If you're afraid that you'll forget to shut off this high-powered styling tool before leaving home, don't worry — it comes with a 60-minute auto shut off function. The Xtava set offers dual voltage and a handy traveling case too if you choose to take your styling tools with you on your next vacation or work trip.

Be aware that none of these barrels have a cool tip, so you will need to use the heat-resistant glove that comes with the set to prevent burned fingertips. For some reviewers who disliked using the glove, the lack of a cool-tip was a definite downside of this curling set.

That doesn't seem to be a huge issue though as more than 80% of the reviews gave it a 4-star rating or higher. One reviewer says, "I like the fact that you can choose and pick which barrel to attach to the base, depending on what look you want. Even the morning after I curled my hair, it remained nearly the same with the curls intact. Great product!"

The variety of styles you can create is a favorite among reviewers, who praise this set as "a great product at a great price!"

Pros: five different barrels for multiple style options, digital temperature display, nine heat settings, 8-foot cord with 360-swivel feature, automatic shut-off, dual voltage, comes with travel case and heat resistant glove

Cons: None of the barrels have cool tips

Buy the Xtava 5 in 1 Professional Curling Wand and Curling Iron Set on Amazon for $39.99 (originally $39.35)

The best curling iron for thick hair

The best curling iron for thick hair
The Hot Tools Professional Curling Iron with Multi-Heat Control heats up rapidly to as high as 430 degrees, so even thick hair can get curls that hold all day.

Thick hair tends to be heavier, which means it can have trouble holding a curl without falling flat halfway through the day. It also means more hair to curl and a longer amount of time needed for styling.

The Hot Tools Professional 1102 Curling Iron conquers all three of those challenges by heating up quickly, allowing you to style your hair at a higher temperature and helping curls stay in place.

The 24k gold plated barrel is designed to speed up the circulation of heat and provide even heating the whole time you're styling. While this iron can heat up to 430 degrees Fahrenheit, it's important that you start with a lower temperature and only increase heat as needed to prevent heat damage.

This curling iron features a rheostat dial for more precise temperature adjustment, and an extra-long cool tip to keep the heat away from your fingertips. The separate power switch allows you to keep the dial set to your ideal styling temperature, so all you have to do is turn it on, let it heat up, and start styling.

The 8-foot 360-degree swivel cord will give you plenty of room to work with, and the spring clamp will securely hold each section of hair in place while you curl it without snagging. As an added insurance, two replacement springs are included with every curling iron to help extend the life of the clamp even further.

It also comes with a safety stand, so you can set the curling iron down when needed without damaging any surfaces. Unfortunately, one feature it doesn't come with is auto shut-off, so you'll have to remember to turn it off before leaving home.

The clamp-style curling iron works best with longer hair lengths. However, if you do have shorter hair, reviewers at Bustle suggest going with the 1 ¼-inch model. If you do have long hair and you want to create large, tumbling curls, the 1 ½-inch model will be your best bet.

Overall, the Hot Tools Professional 1102 Curling Iron has received positive reviews, getting an overall rating of 4 out of 5 stars at Ulta and a 4-star rating on Amazon as well. One Amazon reviewer on Amazon says, "It gets hot enough to curl my thick hair, and best of all, my curls stay all day! I love the mermaid waves I can do with this one!"

Pros: Heats rapidly, goes up to 430 degrees, 24k gold-plated barrel provides even heating and smooth release, spring clamp style for a secure hold, 8-foot cord with 360-degree swivel feature

Cons: No automatic shut off, not as ideal for those with short hair

Buy the Hot Tools Professional 1102 Curling Iron with Multi-Heat Control on Amazon for $39.99 and up (originally $29.68 and up)

The best curling iron for fine hair

The best curling iron for fine hair
The Xtava Twist Hair Curling Wand won't damage fine hair, thanks to a ceramic coated barrel for even heating and 22 temperature settings that give you lots of control.

The Xtava Twist Hair Curling Wand is ideal for those with fine hair looking for a styling tool that will produce perfect waves or tousled curls without damage.

The barrel has a ceramic and tourmaline coating for fast, even heating so you won't have to worry about any damaging hot spots. The temperature setting starts at 200 degrees and ranges to 410 degrees Fahrenheit. The temperature can be increased in 10-degree increments, allowing for 22 temperature settings that are shown on the LCD screen.

Those with thicker hair can also use this curling wand with success, but the starting temperature of 200 degrees is lower than most curling irons, so it might not hold a curl for long. The barrel works best for creating waves or voluminous curls, with its widest part starting at 1.5 inches and then tapering down to 1-inch in diameter.

If you want tighter ringlets, you may want to look for a smaller sized barrel, but you can create more defined curls by wrapping smaller sections of hair around the barrel. Curling larger sections of hair will create looser waves.

By double-clicking on the bottom temperature control button, you can activate the lock feature, which will lock in the temperature while you're creating your desired look. For those with fine hair, this is especially useful. The last thing you want is to accidentally turn the temperature up on your styling tool without meaning to, creating the potential for hair damage you could have avoided otherwise. The lock function eliminates this error from the styling equation.

This Xtava model does have a cool tip at the end of the barrel. A heat-resistant glove is also included for use with the curling wand, so both your fingers and your hair can be spared from heat damage. The nearly 9-foot cord allows you plenty of freedom for styling, and the 360-degree swivel feature will keep all that length from getting tangled.

The 60-minute auto shut-off function will provide you with extra peace of mind. If you're planning on dashing abroad anytime soon, this curling wand can go with thanks to its dual voltage power and heat-safe travel case.

Most buyers love this curling wand for creating loose curls and waves that last. One reviewer says, "Finally a curling product that works on my hair! I have super straight, fine hair that would never hold a curl for more than a couple hours. With this curling wand, my curls last throughout the day and into the evening."

Others love the beachy waves the barrel can create, the numerous heat settings that are easy to adjust to the type of hair you have, and its ability to keep up with high-end tools for a much more affordable price.

Pros: Ceramic and tourmaline coating for even heating, 22 heat settings starting at 200 degrees, easy to read LCD digital display, long cord with 360-degree swivel function, auto-shut off, comes with heat resistant glove and travel bag, dual voltage, affordable

Cons: Not ideal for creating tight curls

Buy the Xtava Twist Curling Wand on Amazon for $28.90 (originally $28.99)

The best curling iron on a budget

The best curling iron on a budget
The Infiniti Pro by Conair Ceramic curling wand heats up quickly and evenly, features auto shutoff, and delivers natural looking curls and waves for less than $20.

Can't see the point of sinking a significant amount of money into a curling iron you'll only use occasionally? Or simply on a tight budget? The Infiniti Pro Tourmaline Ceramic Curling Wand will give you the same results as a high-end curling iron at a fraction of the price.

While you're right to be wary of some hair tools on the cheaper end of the cost spectrum, Conair doesn't skimp on quality and this curling iron won't fry your hair to a crisp if it's used properly. The ceramic coating on the barrel is combined with tourmaline, which helps reduce frizz and prevent heat damage.

The curling wand excels best at creating beachy waves and natural looking curls. The barrel of the Infiniti Pro is conical shaped, tapering from 1 inch to half an inch in diameter. The tapered shape helps curls look more natural instead of perfectly uniform, which is great for achieving those effortless-looking beachy waves.

It heats up to an impressive 400 degrees Fahrenheit and is suitable for most hair types. However, it should be noted that it starts at 310 degrees, which may not be a low enough styling temperature for those with fine hair, and it only has five heat settings.

The Infiniti Pro heats up in a mere 30 seconds and has an auto shut-off feature. The cool tip at the end of the barrel prevents burnt fingertips, and the lengthy cord provides ample room for styling with ease. An insulated glove also comes with this curling wand for added heat protection as you style.

Perhaps most importantly, this is a high-quality yet surprisingly affordable tool. Overall, reviewers are happy they took a chance on the Infiniti Pro curling wand, loving how quickly it heats up and styles, how easy it is to use, and how long their curls last. One reviewer says, "this works so well I don't see how a higher priced product could produce better quality."

Pros: Affordable, auto shut off, heats quickly, reaches high temperatures, long cord, insulated glove included

Cons: Only five temperature settings, heat might be too high for fine hair

Buy the Infiniti Pro by Conair Ceramic curling wand on Amazon for $15.99 (originally $14.65)

The best high-end curling iron

The best high-end curling iron
While other curling irons in this guide rely on high heat to style your hair, the Dyson AirWrap Styler uses air for damage-free curls and waves.

For damage-free styling, the Dyson AirWrap Styler is your new best friend. Similar to the Dyson SuperSonic Hair Dryer, the AirWrap uses hot air to coax your hair into curls and waves instead of extreme heat.

There are currently three different sets — the most expensive and versatile one is the $549 Complete Set, which has the main base, a storage case, and six attachments for various hair types. That's not a typo, the price really is that expensive — more on that in a second.

The base has a power switch and heat buttons with various levels to customize your desired settings, as well as an attachment release. There are eight attachments – two different sets of barrels, three different brushes, and one mini dryer.

Before you start curling though, you'll need to figure out which set of barrels to use — the 1.2 or 1.6 inch — because the engine inside the base only rotates air in one direction so you'll have to switch between a left and right to curl both sides of your head. This is a complaint for many reviewers because it requires switching between styling and bringing an additional item while traveling.

To use the AirWrap, just hold a small section of hair by the barrel when it's on and it'll basically vacuum your hair and wrap it around the base — or what the brand calls the Coanda effect. Pull the barrel closer to your face get the curl higher up on your hair, hold it for a few seconds, switch to cool air for a few more seconds, and then power off to release the curl.

The brand says that the tool goes up to 302 degrees Fahrenheit while traditional ones go way higher, so this is actually a really great way to style your hair without damaging it. There's still some heat involved so definitely use a heat protectant.

Some shoppers, including editors from Elle and Glamour, say that their curls dropped, but some actually didn't mind because it gave them more natural waves. Some also mention that the two barrels are on the larger side so this wouldn't be the right choice for those looking to define tight coils or create ringlets; the Xtava 5 in 1 Professional Curling Wand and Curling Iron Set would be better in that scenario.

As for the high price tag, because this one uses innovative air instead of what's essentially a hot rod, and because it has a ton of attachments to dry, curl, and straighten hair — including a mini dryer which suspiciously looks and dries like the SuperSonic, but the brand doesn't say if it actually is — it's not to bad once you break it down. It's still objectively expensive, but if you're going to buy a curling iron, straightening brush, and blow dryer, the AirWrap might end up being cheaper overall.

One Sephora shopper said, "I crossed my fingers that this product would be terrible and not live up to the hype so I could return it and get my $500 back. But unfortunately it is as amazing as everyone says, and now I am out $500." — Jada Wong

Pros: Doesn't use extreme heat that can damage hair, comes with eight attachments and a storage case, has cooling air to hold style, power and heat settings can be customized to your hair type

Cons: Expensive, curls might not hold as long compared to heat styling tools, takes time getting used to new technique

Buy the Dyson AirWrap Styler on Sephora for $549

How to curl your hair

How to curl your hair

Curling irons can create a ton of versatile looks. It comes down to technique and choosing the right type of barrel. For soft, tousled waves that say, "I just spent a day at the beach" you'll want a barrel that's at least 1 inch in diameter. To achieve runway quality waves (big, loose, and voluminous), try using a larger barrel or curling wand that's more than 1 inch in diameter.

While waves are trending, don't be afraid to be a trendsetter. Those tight curls and big hair of the '80s can be brought back to life with a smaller barrel. If you have natural hair that's prone to those tight ringlets anyway, help it do its thing. Some looks really are timeless, and flirty curls are no exception.

Hair curling 101

A high-quality curling iron is a must to achieve an equally high-quality hairstyle, but there's technique involved here as well. Below are some useful tips to help you start curling like a pro —

  • You should always use a heat protectant on your hair before using any heat styling tools. This will protect it from any heat damage, minimize breakage, and keep your hair looking and feeling healthy. Read our guide to the best sprays you can get here.
  • Keep the temperature of your iron at 400 degrees or less help prevent heat damage. Depending on your hair type, if you go much higher than this, you'll risk burning your hair.
  • Curling the hair that frames your face in the direction away from your face creates a more natural look.
  • If you have short hair, facing the tip of barrel downward can help you curl your hair more effectively.
  • Have long hair to curl, but in a rush? Once dry, put it in a high ponytail, split into sections, curl, and then let your hair down for voluminous and wavy hair.
  • Generally, the smaller the barrel of a curling iron is, the smaller and tighter your curls will be. The larger the barrel is, the bigger and looser the curls will be.
Add Comment()
Comments ()
X
Sort By:
Be the first one to comment.
We have sent you a verification email. This comment will be published once verification is done.