Picking a curling iron can be slightly more complex than choosing a hair straightener. “Depending on the curl or wave you’re working with, you’ll need a different iron for each,” says celebrity hairstylist Paul Labrecque. “Barrel size and the iron’s shape are important to curl style, and the curling iron must have a thermostat control.” Whether you’re creating beachy waves, an unbraided look, or a marcel curl for your upcoming Halloween costume, here are the best curling irons to buy right now, according to hair stylists.
Curve Iron Curl
Multiple hairstylists that I spoke with recommended this curling iron by ghd, which is why we ranked it as our best overall. Its ultra-zone technology guarantees even heat throughout the entire barrel, which produces curls in just 5-8 seconds. “The tool has an optimum curling temperature of 365 ºF which can create a great style,” says celebrity hair artist and CEO of Phenix Salons Gina Rivera. Even heat distribution is maintained for tri-zone heat regulation. The spring-activated level makes for ergonomic comfort and ease of styling.”
INFINITIPRO Nano Tourmaline Ceramic Curling Iron
You read that correctly: This curling iron costs only $20, and you can get it at the drugstore! “This iron has been in my kit for years, and has held up to a ton of abuse,” says Hope Russo, a hairstylist in Mobile, Alabama. “I love the variable heat settings and the 30 second warm-up time. It’s a steal at the price.”
BodyWaver 1.75” Styling Iron for Waves and Loose Curls
If you’re looking for thick, bouncy curves, this curling iron delivers thanks to its wide barrel. “I love this iron because I do not need to run it through several times to deliver just the right level of hold,” says Colour Collective Salon owner and hairstylist Cris Baadsgard. “I can also pass it through the hair quickly to help smooth down the frizzy bits while delivering nice volume and lift.” He says that the iron is well-priced for both professionals and his clients for at-home use. Plus, it heats up fast!
Beachwaver Pro Curling Iron
If you find yourself struggling to give yourself salon-style curls at home, then find an iron that curls your hair for you, like the Beachwaver Pro. “There is a tiny clip to put your hair in, then hit the button and it twists your hair around the barrel for you,” says Yasmeen Osman, a hair stylist and colorist on Newbury Street in Boston. “It lets you pick the left and right side of your face, so that your curls go in the right direction.”
Excel Infrared Curling Iron
This hair protectant curling iron features tourmaline and a rotating 1-in. barrel to produce curls without the damage. “It’s amazing because it utilizes nano smart infrared technology which acts to lock the moisture in,” Rivera says. “It’s basically like treating your hair to a spa treatment while you style it.”
Travel Curling Iron 1.25 Inch
If you’re looking to produce tighter curls, this curling iron is for you. “The smaller barrel (1.25 inches) allows me to create tighter curls and the design does a brilliant job to control the iron so I can create cylindrical curls or just pretty curly waves,” Baadsgard says. “The tourmaline plates act similar to ceramic, but I notice a better shine on the hair when I use this tool.”
Yes, some curling irons like this Hot Tools model are actually built like this, and yes, this design can help you create beautiful curls and waves. “The ergonomic design makes for a tool that works with you to create great curly and wavy styles, and the vibrating timer takes out the guesswork,” Russo says. “Hot Tools has been a hairdresser’s secret for years, loved for their durability and price point.”
Hot tools can be damaging to fine hair, but this styling wand by Drybar helps minimize breakage with infrared technology that heats hair from the inside out. The wand’s ionic technology seals the cuticle for less frizz, and it’s been Osman’s go-to for years. “I love that the barrel rotates and the clasp firmly grips at the hair, but is smooth and provides less damage to strands,” she says. “It clips onto fine hair and thick hair, it works on everyone!”
Not only is this curling iron small and light enough to pack away for travel, but it also gives you lasting curls, says Ramona Villanueva, stylist at Boss Hair Group. “This iron heats up to 450 ºF, has an 8-foot long cord, and offers a mix of titanium and ceramic in the barrel for heat protection,” she says. “In addition, it has a booster heat button for hair that needs a bit more heat!”
Another lightweight curling iron, the Pro Tools Express Gold Curl iron is great for bringing on trips because though small, it’s pretty powerful. “This rapidly-heating iron has gold plates to lock in moisture, creating shine,” Russo says. “Retailing at a mid-range price point, this is a solid option for every day home use.”
StyleCraft Style Stix XL Spring Curling Iron
The extra-long barrel in this curling iron by StyleCraft Beauty is perfect for those with long, thick hair or wigs, says hairstylist Nicole Martinez. “As women are wearing their hair longer, this is the perfect iron because I can fit all the hair in it,” she says. “With other irons, I sometimes run out of space, but this iron can curl the longest of tresses.” It also has a tri-plex fusion that reduces frizz and enhances shine.
Sometimes curling irons can get sticky with residue from hairspray and heat protectants, but the Ion Titanium Platinum Pro stays smooth, says Thom. “This iron delivers great heat and shine, and the curls last,” she says. “Also, it leaves neither residue from products, nor does its cord, incidentally, get tangled.”