Tight, springy curls or loose, beachy waves—no matter what look you’re trying to capture, this hair guide will help you pick the perfect curling iron.
If you’ve ever shopped for a curling iron in a big box retail store, you’ll see that there are dozens of different types of curling irons—big ones, small ones, ones with clips, ones with gloves, super-high heat, and more. It’s daunting and the price ranges are even more vast.
Then add to that the options you have available at specialized hair care products and what’s available online... How will you ever choose the right curling iron for your desired outcome and your hair type?
That’s where we come into play. Our team of ShopOwl researchers put together this quick guide to help you choose the right curling iron, so you can have the terrific hairstyle you want.
Curling irons use heat to break down your hair’s hydrogen bonds and natural oils so you can shape it around the barrel of the iron. After a little while the hair’s bonds begin to reform into the barrel shape and will temporarily stay that way.
One curling iron will probably not create all the looks you want to wear, which is why having two or more in your beauty kit is not uncommon. There are curling irons with interchangeable barrels that might work for you, but not if you need to use more than one at a time.
When you’re picking a curling iron, you need to know what type of look you want to create and which wands are best at creating that look. It also helps if you understand your hair type and characteristics. Some curling irons are better at forcing thick, curly hair to behave and some help thin hair hold their curls.
It’s a confusing landscape and picking the wrong curling iron can leave you frustrated, not to mention giving you lackluster locks or even causing permanent damage.
It’s true that you need heat for a curling iron to work and depending on the curl you’re creating, you might need a lot of heat. But too much heat is bad for your hair.1 It can literally burn it off. You never want to use a curling iron with its heat set at 450° or higher. In fact, some experts suggest you never go higher than 400°.
Some hair types require a little more heat, a gold-plated curling iron, or adjustable heat to get the desired amount of curl. No matter what hair type you have or what look you’re going for, add a heat protectant to your beauty routine to protect your hair from damage.2
You’re ready to create that red carpet worthy look for a big night out, but you still aren’t sure what curling iron to use. These factors are key to getting it right.
While the size of the barrel determines the tightness of the curl, your barrel choice may also be related to your hair length. Big barrels that are 1½” or larger are great for creating waves and for long hair. Skinny barrels that are 1” or less are best for tight ringlets and for shorter hair.
How long you hold the iron on your hair can also affect the type of curl you end up with. So feel free to experiment a little until you know the ins and outs of your hair and your new curling iron.
Make sure to check with the ShopOwl algorithm before purchasing a curling iron, so you can get a clear understanding of what other customers liked and didn’t like. This will help you make a more informed purchase.
Spring-loaded clip irons are a pretty traditional tool with a thumb lever that lets you roll up your hair and then trap it under the clip. This is convenient, comfortable, and typically easy for anybody to control, but it can leave a little crimp mark where it touches the hair.
Wand style barrels have become very popular for creating beach waves or putting wave in just a segment of hair, rather than the whole shaft. These super-heated wands do not have a clip, so you need to hold the hair in place.
Most of clipless curling irons come with a glove that will protect your hand from heat, but if yours doesn’t have one, then you should make that separate purchase. Curling irons can create nasty burns with long-term scarring.
After our algorithm searched over 5,000 data points and analyzed 52 variables, Revlon Salon Long Lasting Medium Curls Curling Iron received a high score for its quality.
Our algorithm didn’t find any fraudulent or suspicious reviews.
Considering the strong quality score and perfect review rank, we’ve determined this product has a A- purchase value.
After our algorithm searched over 5,000 data points and analyzed 52 variables, the Conair Double Ceramic Curling Iron received a high score for its quality.
Our algorithm flagged about 4% of reviews as being fraudulent or suspicious.
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After our algorithm searched over 5,000 data points and analyzed 52 variables, Bed Head Curlipops Curling Wand for Loose Curls received a strong score for its quality.
Our algorithm took a deep dive into the reviews and found roughly 12% of the reviews to be either fraudulent or suspicious.
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After our algorithm searched over 5,000 data points and analyzed 52 variables, HOT TOOLS Professional 24k Gold Extra-Long Barrel Curling Iron received a strong score for its quality.
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After our algorithm searched over 5,000 data points and analyzed 52 variables, the Hot Tools Professional 1110 Curling Iron received a higher than average score for its quality.
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