The 10 Best Curling Irons Of 2023, Tested And Reviewed
Maximum Temperature: Not listed | Barrel Size(s): 0.5, 1.25, 1.5 inch | Barrel Material: Ceramic
The 11 Best Curling Irons for Every Style, from Bouncy Waves to Ringlets
Shop expert-approved picks available at every price point.
Despite its name, a curling iron can do a whole lot more than curl. Actually, it’s a versatile styling tool that can give you a variety of looks and works on all hair textures. If you have naturally straight hair, a curling iron can create tight ringlets, beachy waves, or a voluminous blowout-style look. Those with naturally curly hair textures can use a curling iron to give their hair more definition and bounce. But choosing the right curling iron for you is key: First, “the barrel size will great effect your result,” says Meredith Kirkland, national education manager at GHD. For big, voluminous curls, you’ll want a medium to large barrel. For tighter, more defined curls that last, you’ll want a small barrel.
The 10 Best Curling Irons Of 2023, Tested And Reviewed
EnJanae’ Taylor is a contributing writer who has written for Basic Magazine, The Everygirl, and more. The New Orleans native is a long-time shopper and writer for over four years, specializing in all things fashion and beauty.
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For everything from big, bouncy curls to tight ringlets, curling irons remain the preferred tool among many Southern women. But using the wrong curling iron can have disastrous results, as anyone who has experienced burnt, crimped hair can attest. Many factors play a role in choosing the right curling iron, including material, heat settings, and the clamp. But according to Anna Sullivan, event and celebrity hair stylist in Dallas, “the most important thing to consider when you’re picking out a curling iron is the barrel size.” Choose the wrong barrel size, and you’ll get the wrong results.
To determine the best curling irons, we tested 14 models both in our Lab and at home over a two-week period, evaluating each based on ease of use, heat settings, extra features, heat up time, effectiveness, and more. Sullivan also weighed in with expert tips for choosing the right curling iron for every hair type and achieving the perfect waves and curls.
Best Overall Curling Iron
Hot Tools Pro Artist Black Gold Digital Curling Iron
- This mid-priced curling iron heats up in seconds to form long-lasting curls.
The curls from this iron lasted all day, which is especially impressive given its reasonable price point. It works great on different hair textures and heats up in just seconds, allowing you to create smooth curls in less time.
This curling iron was easy to use and comfortably rested in the palm of our hands. Out of all the irons we tested, this one was the easiest to adjust, with a rotating temperature dial at the bottom of the barrel for easy access. You can change the temperature in 10-degree increments and lock in your setting using a button on the side of the barrel, and the iron makes a beeping noise to let you know when it’s at temperature. Plus, the large digital display makes it easy to read the temperature setting. The 9-foot swivel cord also made using it a breeze and kept us less tethered to our outlet.
When it comes to the clamp tension, there was a bit of slipping, but curls were still easily formed. The “pulse technology” ensured that the iron stayed hot during use. It also comes with a power indicator light, two-hour automatic shut-off, and universal dual voltage for international travel. It comes in four different barrel sizes, so you can choose which is best for your hair type and desired results. Overall, the easy-to-adjust temperature settings and long-lasting curls make this mid-priced iron a salon-quality pick.
Price at time of publish: From $51
Maximum Temperature: 455 degrees Fahrenheit | Barrel Size(s): 0.75, 1, 1.25, 1.5 inches | Barrel Material: Ceramic-titanium finish
Best Budget Curling Iron
Conair Double Ceramic Curling Iron
- This budget-friendly iron heats up quickly and comes with a turbo mode for hard-to-curl areas.
- The curls didn’t last more than a couple hours.
Extra features like the cool tip, auto shut-off, and dual voltage make this curling iron user-friendly for almost anyone. The curls from this iron lasted a couple of hours, but not all day. Instead of exact temperatures, this curling iron comes with 30 heat settings—Conair provides recommendations based on different hair types, ranging from Low for fragile or fine hair all the way up to Maximum for coarse, thick hair. We found this system a little confusing, requiring some trial and error to find the right temperature.
This curling iron also includes a turbo setting, where you can turn up the heat by up to 27 degrees Fahrenheit for hard-to-curl spots. The iron didn’t take long to heat up, with a 30-second heat-up time, and the clamp didn’t snag hair either. It comes in five different barrel sizes, but we found the smaller barrels produced the best curls, with the 1.5-inch barrel barely curling the hair at all. Overall, it’s easy enough to use with a decent cord length (5 feet) and is perfect for someone on a budget.
Price at time of publish: From $18
Maximum Temperature: 375 degrees Fahrenheit | Barrel Size(s): 0.5, 0.75, 1, 1.25, 1.5 inches | Barrel Material: Ceramic
Best Curling Iron for Fine Hair
InStyler Cerasilk 1-Inch Curling Iron
- The clamp-free design helps to avoid crimps, and the barrel is designed to reduce heat damage.
This curling iron is unique because it has silicone bristles instead of a clamp. Simply insert your hair and the end and roll up the barrel for one-handed, clamp-free curling—although this does take some practice to get the hang of. The curls created by this iron were soft and silky and stayed for days.
It’s suitable for hair types 1-3, and the CeraSilk barrel is meant to reduce heat damage for fine, fragile hair. There are four heat settings, but they are only indicated by small lights, not by exact temperature (although the manufacturer specifies that the dots correlate to 300, 350, 375, and 400 degrees Fahrenheit). It did heat up rather quickly, and the iron felt lightweight in hand. Plus, it comes with an auto shut-off function for peace of mind.
Price at time of publish: $125
Maximum Temperature: 400 degrees Fahrenheit | Barrel Size(s): 1 inch | Barrel Material: Ceramic
Best Curling Iron for Thick Hair
ghd Classic Curl 1-Inch Curling Iron
- It creates long-lasting curls, even on thicker hair.
It can be hard for thick hair to hold a curl, and it’s not easy to avoid heat damage when trying to get a nice hold. The ghd Curve Classic has a 365 degree Fahrenheit standard heat setting that works well on thick hair. According to the brand, this is the optimal temperature for heat styling, but some may still prefer to have options. The spring-activated hair clamp held hair without slippage, but we wish the cooling tip was bigger for safer use.
The iron heated up extremely fast and was so lightweight it made using it a breeze. The cord is a good length, but the barrel was a bit on the shorter side for people with long hair. This tool gives nice bouncy curls that last all day, even for those with thick hair.
Price at time of publish: $205
Maximum Temperature: 365 degrees Fahrenheit | Barrel Size(s): 1 inch | Barrel Material: Ceramic
Best Curling Iron for Beach Waves
Harry Josh Cordless Ceramic Curling Wand
- It produced a defined, beachy wave on multiple hair types.
- Although the cordless design is convenient, the battery life is somewhat limited.
Like the InStyler Cerasilk Curling Iron, this wand is meant to be used one-handed, with silicone bristles at the top that hold onto the hair—no clamp necessary. But unlike the other curling irons we tested, this one is completely cordless, so you can use it from anywhere.
The barrel of this wand got nice and hot and produced a defined beachy wave on multiple hair types. It comes with three temperature settings—320, 355, and 400 degrees Fahrenheit—each of which is indicated with a small light. It also beeps to let you know when it’s at your desired temperature, which took less than a minute each time. The curls lasted a long time, but we can’t say the same for the battery. A backup battery is sold separately if you’d like to extend your styling time.
Price at time of publish: $325
Maximum Temperature: 400 degrees Fahrenheit | Barrel Size(s): 1 inch | Barrel Material: Tourmaline ceramic
Best Curling Iron for Short Hair
BaBylissPRO Nano Titanium Spring Curling Iron
- It comes in several different sizes for varying hair types, and the clamp holds hair in place without being too tight.
With four different barrel sizes, this model from Babyliss can achieve anything from tight curls to loose waves, depending on which size you purchase. The 0.75-inch size is ideal for short hair. We liked the clamp on this curling iron, which holds hair in place without being too tight and has a thumb rest with grooves to prevent slipping. It comes with multiple heat settings that you can adjust using the temperature dial, although it can be difficult to set it to a precise temperature. It also features a TurboHeat button that instantly increases the temperature for hard-to-curl sections.
It lacks features like a temperature display and an automatic shut-off, but it’s a good starter curling iron for anyone who may not be as skilled with doing hair. The 8-foot fabric swivel cord is strong and wasn’t easily tangled. The main downside is the barrel is on the shorter side, so it’s not great for long hair.
Price at time of publish: $60
Maximum Temperature: 450 degrees Fahrenheit | Barrel Size(s): 0.75, 1, 1.25, 1.5 inches | Barrel Material: Nano titanium with ceramic-coated barrel
Best Curling Iron for Long Hair
Bio Ionic Long Barrel Curling Iron
- The extended barrel makes quick work of styling long hair.
- For the price, we wish it came with interchangeable barrels.
Curling long hair can take twice as long, but a longer barrel can go along way in cutting down on styling time. The barrel on this ion is 2 inches longer than that of a typical curling iron, allowing you to curl long locks in less time. We found that it was able to hold long sections of hair securely without pulling them too tight and creating clamp marks. The cord is also long at 9 feet, so it doesn’t get in the way while you work. The curls from this iron lasted for hours and stayed bouncy and beautiful. It comes with variable heat settings up to 430 degrees Fahrenheit, which are easy to adjust by using the plus and minus buttons. Additional features include universal voltage and a one-hour automatic shut-off.
Price at time of publish: $149
Maximum Temperature: 430 degrees Fahrenheit | Barrel Size(s): 1, 1.25, 1.5 inches | Barrel Material: Nanolonic mineral-infused ceramic
Best Curling Iron for Beginners
Conair InfinitiPro Digital Curling Iron
- It has a detachable clamp so you can use it as a curling iron or a wand.
Styling your hair isn’t the easiest thing in the world. That’s why we love this Conair curling iron for beginners. You can remove the clamp and use it as a wand, making it a great way to experiment with different curling methods. It comes with five heat settings to choose from with a maximum of 400 degrees Fahrenheit and a digital LED display, so the temperature is easy to read. It heats up in just a few minutes, which is not the fastest of those tested but not the slowest either. The 1.25-inch barrel created soft, somewhat loose curls that lasted through most of the day (but not all). If you prefer a tighter curl, it’s also available in a 1-inch version.
Price at time of publish: From $26
Maximum Temperature: 400 degrees Fahrenheit | Barrel Size(s): 1, 1.25 inches | Barrel Material: Tourmaline ceramic
Best Interchangeable Curling Iron
T3 Switch Kit Curl Trio
- Adjusting the temperature settings is not very intuitive.
It is always nice to have options. This set kit comes with a 0.5-inch wand barrel, a 1.25-inch wand barrel, and a 1.5-inch clip barrel. Event and celebrity hairstylist Anna Sullivan recommends a 1-inch barrel for curl-resistant hair, shorter hair, or beachy curls, while a 1.25-inch barrel is her go-to barrel size for big curls or waves. She uses a 1.5-inch barrel for a classic blow-out look.
Changing the temperature on this tool is a bit tricky, but it does heat up rather quickly. Unlike some other clamps, this one doesn’t cause slippage or tugging. There are also a ton of features on this tool. There are nine temperatures to choose from, so no matter how thick your hair is, you’ll be able to get a defined curl. The tight twist feature allows you to lock the barrels in place. The rapid heat IQ feature allows for advanced heat precision and the ion generationer prevents frizz. The curls lasted all day long and there was a nice variety with the types of curls that were produced.
Price at time of publish: $300
Maximum Temperature: Not listed | Barrel Size(s): 0.5, 1.25, 1.5 inch | Barrel Material: Ceramic
Best Curling Iron for Volume
Revlon One-Step Blowout Curls
- It gives you maximum volume along with nice curls.
- The curls aren’t super long-lasting without hairspray.
This tool makes it easy to achieve big, Southern-style curls. It’s meant to be used on damp hair for one-step blow drying and curling. There is a 360-vented barrel, so you get a blowout as you curl your hair. The bottom has a wheel where you can adjust the settings and turn it on and off. There are four temperature options, which makes it simple for beginners. The curling iron heated up quickly and the cord was a nice length. The clamp holds hair nicely, and there was no slippage. If you love the look of a blowout but want to add curls, this product is for you. It gives you a ton of volume, but make sure to use a holding spray because on its own the curls don’t last too long.
Price at time of publish: $75
Maximum Temperature: Not listed | Barrel Size(s): 1.25 inches | Barrel Material: Tourmaline ceramic
The Bottom Line
Our top pick, the Hot Tools Pro Artist Black Gold Digital Salon Curling Iron, gives you bouncy curls that last all day long. Plus, it heats up in seconds and allows for precise temperature control. For a more budget-friendly option, the Conair Double Ceramic Curling Iron is also quick to heat up, and it comes with a turbo mode that amps up the heat for hard-to-curl sections of hair.
Our Testing Process
We put the 14 curling irons to the test in our Lab and then again at home over a two-week period. For our Lab tests, we used each curling iron to curl hair types 1-4, evaluating the lasting power of the curls by inspecting them after the one- and six-hour marks, and again after sleeping on them overnight. Once our Lab tests were complete, we sent each curling iron home with three different staffers who incorporated them into their regular styling routines over a two-week period. Each curling iron was evaluated based on ease of use, temperature settings, heat-up time, and the shape and longevity of the curls it created.
Tips for Choosing the Right Curling Iron
Most curling irons have ceramic barrels, which help prevent damage and frizz by distributing heat more equally across the barrel. If you have fine or fragile hair, a ceramic curling iron is one you’ll want to use. Titanium heats up very quickly, making it excellent for those with coarse, hard-to-curl hair. Tourmaline is a material also commonly used, often in conjunction with ceramic or titanium to produce smoother and shinier results.
Some curling irons come with multiple barrel options. The bigger the barrel, the looser the curl or wave. How high the temperature is on the curling iron, the length of your hair, and how long your hair holds a curl will determine which size barrel you should choose based on the look you are wishing to achieve. For instance, if you use a 0.5-inch barrel on thin hair on medium heat, it will produce tight curls that will most likely hold for a long time. A 1-inch and 1.5-inch barrel are the most common and typically produce nice waves and a loose curl.
Some love it, some hate it, but the clamp on a curling iron can be helpful. More classic curling irons include clamps, while wands typically only have the barrel to wrap the hair around. A clamp can help hold your hair in place and produce a nice smooth curl. The InfinitiPRO by Conair Tourmaline Ceramic Curling Iron has a detachable clamp, so you can use it as a wand or a traditional curling iron.
The thickness of your hair and how well it holds a curl will help determine what heat setting to use. Some curling irons have simple settings with three heat options, and more advanced tools like the T3 Switch Kit Curl Trio on our list, have nine heat options. People with fine hair will want to avoid using a very hot temperature so they don’t burn their hair. “For thin, fragile, damaged, or color-treated hair, start at 280 degrees [Fahrenheit],” says Sullivan.
Thick and textured hair typically needs to use a higher setting for curls to stay. “Thick, coarse hair might need more heat for curls to hold and can handle higher temperatures like 380-400 degrees [Fahrenheit]. If your hair is somewhere in-between thin and thick, 350 degrees [Fahrenheit] is a good go-to temperature to use,” says Sullivan. Remember, it’s always important to use heat protectants before using heat on your hair.
More Curling Irons to Consider
Tymo Cues: This is a lower priced alternative to the T3 Switch Kit Curl Trio and comes with three interchangeable barrels. The 360-power cord and temperature control system makes it easy to use. However, the curls it created weren’t as long-lasting as those of the T3.
Drybar The 3-Day Bender Digital Curling Iron: This curling works on all hair types and can produce everything from tight curls to loose waves. It comes with a rotating clamp, so you don’t have to turn your wrist as much as you curl. But there was a bit of a learning curve involved in using this method, and it may not be everyone.
Questions and Answers
What is the difference between a curling iron and a curling wand?
“A curling iron is a heated hair tool that has a clamp attached to the barrel. A curling iron is best for when you want a more polished and sleek curl. It’s also best for hair textures that you would like to smooth down as well as curl since the clamp of the curling iron allows you to defrizz the hair using tension,” says Sullivan. “A curling wand is a hair tool that is used by wrapping the hair around the barrel. A curling wand is perfect for getting undone, more voluminous curls or waves. Some people find this tool easier to use since wrapping the hair tends to be an easier technique vs. using a curling iron with a clamp.”
How do you clean a curling iron?
“I use a damp towel to remove any hair product from the tool first, and then I wipe the barrel and handle of the tool with rubbing alcohol to sanitize it. Make sure the tool is unplugged and cool to the touch before cleaning,” says Sullivan.
How do you protect your hair while using a curling iron?
“I use a heat protectant on my hair when using any hot tool. I love Incommon Beauty’s Magic Myst Universal Elixir spray because it’s lightweight, smells amazing, and it protects my hair from heat, frizz, and UV rays,” says Sullivan. “My favorite part about it is that I can use it on wet or dry hair when I just need to restyle.”
Why Trust Southern Living
This article was written by EnJanae’ Taylor, contributing commerce writer for Southern Living who has written shoppable content for various publications for over three years. We tested 14 curling irons in our Lab and at home to determine the best curling irons on the market. EnJanae’ also spoke to event and celebrity hairstylist Anna Sullivan who weighed in with expert hair styling and care tips.