Business Insider October 27, 2021

Business Insider

Beauty & Personal Care

The best curling irons, according to professional hairstylists


  • With so many types of curling irons on the market, it's can be tough to know which is best for you.
  • To narrow down the search, we asked professional stylists to share their go-to tools.
  • See the best curling irons for every hair type and budget according to the pros.

Similar to straighteners and blow dryers, curling irons are not all created equally. This can make finding the best option for your hair type and desired look tricky if not tedious. To save you from trial and error, stylist Shelly Aguirre of Maxine Salon in Chicago tells Insider there are three features to consider when shopping for hot tools: adjustable heat settings, the size of the barrel, and whether or not the iron is ionic and ceramic. 

The next step is to cross-check what the tool offers and if it meets your specific needs. For example, if you have shorter hair, Aguirre recommends a shorter-sized iron "so the hair is able to go around the iron at least 1.5 times." And if you're a novice, Aguirre suggests using an iron with a clamp as opposed to a wand, as the latter requires more experience. 

Needless to say, before you commit to a curling iron, it's best to do your research. However, because there are so many options cluttering the market, it's helpful to have expert insight, so we asked a few professional stylists to list their best recs below.

The best curling irons in 2021, according to hairstylists:

The best curling iron overall

Babyliss Pro Nano Titanium Spring Curling Iron

Barrel size: 1 inch, 1.25 inches, and 1.5 inches
Maximum temperature setting: 450 degrees Fahrenheit

When asked about the best curling iron for all hair types, stylists flooded my inbox singing the praises of the Babyliss Pro. International makeup artist and hairstylist Fernanda Celidonio commented that the Nano Titanium Spring Curling Iron's titanium and ceramic barrel is "super lightweight and it heats up pretty quickly — up to 450°F." Los Angeles-based stylist Fae Norris agreed, adding that the tool's heat dial is especially helpful when working with coarse, fragile, and colored hair, all of which require a cooler setting. "[The curling iron] is a bit more expensive up-front," Norris says, "but pays for itself over time."

The best curling iron for beginners

GHD 1" Classic Curl Curling Iron

Barrel size: 1 inch
Maximum temperature setting: 365 degrees Fahrenheit

For bouncy, buoyant curls, Jana Rago of Jana Rago Studios recommends beginners use the GHD 1" Classic Curl Curling Iron. Its special features include a ceramic barrel that, according to Rago, "creates a smooth curl without dents," as well as GHD's Ultra-zoneTM technology that monitors heat distribution to ensure equal distribution across the barrel. "The temperature does not exceed 365 degrees which helps prevent damage to the hair shaft and color-treated hair," Rago tells Insider. "I also love that it automatically shuts off after 30 minutes of non-use."

The best curling iron when you're in a time crunch

Triple-Barreled Trademark Beauty Babe Waves

Barrel size: 1.1 inches
Maximum temperature setting: 450 degrees Fahrenheit

Short on time? Trademark Beauty's Babe Waves curling iron cuts down the minutes you'd normally spend in front of the bathroom mirror thanks to its triple-barrel design. Aguirre raves the quick-heating curling iron creates the perfect wavy texture without too much effort on the user's end, and because it features a digital dial and LCD display that lets you adjust and monitor the temperature settings, it makes for an excellent beginner tool.

The best curling iron for long hair

Bio Ionic Long Barrel Curling Iron Nanoionic MX

Barrel size: 1.25 inches
Maximum temperature setting: 430 degrees Fahrenheit

Because Bio Ionic's curling iron is 2 inches longer than the average styling tool in its category, stylist and owner of Jade Beauty Co. Morgan Thomas says it's an especially remarkable tool for curling long hair but is suitable for all hair lengths and types. "With a variety of temperature settings, it makes it easy to get perfect, long-lasting curls for any hair texture," Thomas tells Insider. Plus, she notes "it has outlived all of my other irons by a long shot."

The best curling iron to splurge on

Dyson Airwrap Complete Styler

Barrel size: 1.2 inches and 1.6 inches
Maximum temperature setting: 302 degrees Fahrenheit

If you're looking to invest in a curling iron built to last for years to come, look no further than the Dyson Airwrap Complete Styler. The set includes a pre-styling dryer, a 1.2-inch barrel, a 1.6-inch barrel, three brushes (one for smoothing, a second for firming, and a third for volumizing), plus a storage case, so you really do get what you pay for. And beyond styling, the Dyson Airwrap can dry and style hair simultaneously "by combining moisture in your hair with powerful airflow and controlled — not extreme — heat," Aguirre explains.

The best curling iron for personalized styling

T3 Curl ID

Barrel size: 1.25 inches 
Maximum temperature setting: 410 degrees Fahrenheit

T3 curling irons are best known for their salon quality, but the T3 Curl ID is the first curling iron of its kind, says Nine Zero One stylist Sierra Kener. Through advanced HeatID technology, the tool intelligently adjusts to one of nine heat settings based on your hair profile. In other words, it "reads" your hair and customizes its settings based on details like your hair texture, color, and chemical treatments. The result? Less frizz and a sleeker and smoother finish.

The best curling iron under $25

Remington Pro Pearl Ceramic Conical Wand

Barrel size: .5 inch to 1 inch
Maximum temperature setting: 410 degrees Fahrenheit 

Don't let its low price tag fool you: According to celebrity hairstylist and Pinterest creator Ursula Stephen, the Remington Pro Pearl Ceramic Conical Wand can help you achieve professional looks at a fraction of the cost. "This unassuming curling wand works well on all hair types helping to recreate that beach wavy texture we all love and gives natural textures frizz-free curls," Stephen tells Insider. "It heats up quickly and the ceramic material is very gentle on the hair and is very easy to use."

The best curling iron under $50

HOT TOOLS Professional 24K Gold Marcel Iron

Barrel size: 1 inch
Maximum temperature setting: 430 degrees Fahrenheit 

According to Julien Farel of the namesake salon in New York, the Hot Tools Professional 24K Gold Marcel Iron is an exceptional tool for beginners and professional stylists alike. With its even heat distribution, adjustable rheostat control dial, and touch guard protector that keeps the neck and face safe from burns, the tool can help you achieve virtually any look, from old Hollywood glam to beach waves. However, Kener adds that while affordable, you do get what you pay for. "They don't last very long so I suggest them for clients at home that don't use heat on their hair very often," she tells Insider.

The best all-in-one curling iron

Harry Josh Pro Tools 3-in-1 Ceramic Curling Iron

Barrel size: 1 inch
Maximum temperature setting: 380 degrees Fahrenheit

Harry Josh Pro Tools are considered elite, and that includes the brand's three-in-one ceramic curling iron. "It has an incredible amount of versatility," NYC-based hairstylist Devin Toth with Salon SCK tells Insider. "You can use it as a marcel iron like professional hairdressers sometimes do. You can use it as a wand and wrap hair around it for loose, undone waves. Or you can just use it as a typical spring iron." Plus, if you're not a pro, your purchase comes with a heat-resistant glove so you can stay protected from potential burns.

The best curling wand

Sam Villa Artist Series 2-in-1 Marcel Iron and Wand

Barrel size: 1 inch and 1.5 inches
Maximum temperature setting: 380 degrees Fahrenheit

Field education leader at Hair Cuttery Salons Gregory White tells Insider the Sam Villa Marcel Iron and Wand is "as close to a magic wand as it gets." The tool comes in either 1 or 1.5-inch barrel sizes and can be used as either a traditional curling iron or wand. It's the "Swiss Army knife of curling irons," White says. "The wand feature is particularly great for curling longer hair, and has a rotating handle so that you can spin your hair around the barrel with less strain on your wrist."