Looking for the right curling iron can be overwhelming — there are literally hundreds you could choose from. You have to consider your hair type, the kind of curl you want, ease of use, price, material, and more just to find a product to style your hair.
First let’s talk size — because size actually does matter when it comes to styling your hair. Curling irons range from creating tiny spirals to big, loose curls. Liana Le, a celebrity stylist at Marie Robinson Salon in New York, New York, told us via email that she prefers a one-inch barrel size to achieve a beachy, undone look, and a 1.25-inch diameter for a softer, pulled-out wave look. For tighter curls you should opt for a three-quarter-inch iron or smaller. If you’re unsure of what size you want, a one-inch curling iron is a safe bet for most hair types and lengths.
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Your hair type can determine which curling irons will best work for you. If you’ve got thin or fine hair, you’ll want an iron with low heat settings so as to not burn your hair. You might also want to consider a more traditional curling iron as your hair might slip out of some of the self-rotating options, especially the ones without a clamp. For those with thick hair, you’ll need a curling iron with higher heat options to ensure your locks get hot enough to hold their shape.
A one-inch curling iron is a safe bet for most hair types and lengths.
If you have short hair, some of the more innovative curlers might not work for you. They typically need length to create the right effect because you can’t bring them as close to your scalp as traditional curling irons. Curling wands (AKA rods with no clamps) usually work with all types and lengths. If you have short hair though, you’ll definitely want to wear a heat-resistant glove because trying to hold your shorter pieces around the barrel can result in burns to the hand.
In addition to the classic round-barrel curling irons, some brands offer different shapes in order for you to create certain textures. Straight, round barrels are great for creating timeless curls and loose waves, but if you want more unique textured looks, there are other options.
Now that you have the information to help you determine what kind of curling iron will work best for your hair and desired look, it’s time to actually choose one. We put together this list based on recommendations from professional hairstylists and user reviews. You’ll find curling irons for different hair types and styles at a range of price points. (Pro tip: Use the gray arrow in the upper right to expand each card and read our full take on each of these curling irons and hair wands.)