July 22, 2020



10 Curling Irons That Turn Fine, Thin Hair Into Bouncy Waves


These won't torch your delicate strands.

My hair type can best be described as "fine, but a lot of it," which essentially means that my hair rarely can be coaxed into holding a curl longer than an hour. Generally, if I curl my hair, it's kind of like a Cinderella situation—at the stroke of midnight (or, like an hour after curling my hair), my hair turns back into a metaphorical pumpkin.

If you are similarly afflicted, know that there's hope. First off, choose the right hair products. A heat protectant is especially important since fine hair can be prone to breakage, Dominick Pucciarello, celebrity hairstylist, says. Second, choose the right curling iron. "The biggest issue with fine hair when you curl it is overdoing it and frying your hair," Pucciarello says. "For fine hair, you don't need a curling iron that gets to 450 degrees—that is way too hot and will burn and damage your hair." (Side note: Oops, I've definitely been frying my fine hair in my quest for curls.)


Dominick Pucciarello is a celebrity hairstylist based in New York who has trained under the likes of Italo Gregorio and Serge Normant. He has worked with Victoria's Secret models; supermodels Alessandra Ambrosia, Doutzen Kroes, Adriana Lima, Ashley Graham, and Natalia Vodianova are among his wide base of clients.

Shelly Aguirre is a hairstylist at Maxine Salon in Chicago. She specializes in cutting, blowouts, extensions, and keratin treatments.

Pucciarello suggests looking for one that's 310 degrees or lower. As for size? It all depends on the look you're going for. "If you want tight curls, go with a small barrel. If you want loose beach waves, go with a bigger barrel," he says. Sounds straightforward enough.

To fight frizz, ceramic and tourmaline technology can help smooth hair and add shine.

Shop our picks of the best curling irons for fine hair, below.

Best Overall: BaBylissPRO Nano Titanium Spring Curling Iron

Temperature Range: Up to 450°F | Size: 1.25"

This 1.5-inch curling iron effortlessly adds body and wave to fine hair. An adjustable heat setting allows you to set it at 310 degrees that's the perfect temp for fine hair, and the titanium/ceramic blend of the barrel delivers negative ions that help smooth hair.

Best Budget: Remington Pro ½-1-Inch Pearl Ceramic Conical Curling Wand

Temperature Range: Up to 410°F | Size: Tapered, 0.5" to 1"

You can control the heat setting of this tapered wand, which, coincidentally, was my curling iron of choice for many years. It's affordable and gets the job done without causing major hair damage. I found that my curls actually lasted longer when using this wand.

Best Budget, Runner-Up: Conair Double Ceramic 1-Inch Curling Iron

Temperature Range: Up to 375°F | Size: 1"

Resist the urge to use the turbo heat setting on this rose gold wand—it'll only do more harm than good. Instead keep it at a steady 310 degrees (reiterating because, as a fellow fine-haired girl, my instinct is to crank up the heat to make my curls last longer); the one-inch non-tapered barrel creates pretty, loose waves.

Best for Beginners: Beachwaver Co. Beachwaver Pro 1.25-Inch Dual Voltage

Temperature Range: Up to 450°F | Size: 1.25"

Pucciarello is a fan of Beachwaver because it's so easy to use. The super-long rotating barrel curls hair at the push of a button (literally, you barely have to do anything), and has an adjustable heat setting so you don't fry your fine hair.

What Our Editors Say

"Before trying this tool, I thought the notion of “effortless beach waves” was a myth. I’d never managed to achieve that fresh-off-the-sand, slightly undone waves without spending a good hour using a traditional curling wand. The BeachWaver, however, gives me perfect beach waves in around 20 minutes or less. The magic lies in the rotating barrel—you just clip it on a strand of hair, press the button, and it does all of the work for you. It’s truly foolproof." — Karli Bendlin, Senior Editor


Best Rotating: Drybar The 3-Day Bender Digital Curling Iron

Temperature Range: Up to 440°F | Size: 1.25"

There's a bit of a learning curve with this rotating curling iron, but once you get the hang of it, it quickly transforms even the straightest of fine hair, like this writer's, into bouncy, full curls. It also has ceramic plates so it's gentle on your hair and ionic technology to smooth frizz.

Best for Short Fine Hair: ghd Curve Classic Curl Iron

Temperature Range: Up to 365°F | Size: 1"

If you have short, fine hair, reach for this classic curling iron. Its one-inch barrel features the brand's patented tri-zone breakthrough ceramic technology, which guarantees even, consistent heating throughout, while its cool tip provides protection when you're styling close to the face or scalp. Plus, for safety, it turns off automatically if left unused for 30 minutes.

Best Splurge: T3 Micro Whirl Trio Interchangeable Styling Wand

[T3 Whirl Trio Interchangeable Styling Wand]

Temperature Range: 260°–410°F | Size: Tapered, 1", and 1.5"

Create a variety of styles with this set of interchangeable barrels. There's a tapered barrel for curls, a one-inch barrel for polished waves, and a 1.5-inch barrel for loose, bendy waves. Each barrel is made with tourmaline and ceramic, which basically means they get rid of frizz and make hair super shiny in addition to curling. Plus, you can adjust the heat setting.

Best Ceramic: Hot Tools 1-Inch Nano Ceramic Salon Curling Iron

Temperature Range: 280°-450°F | Size: 1.25"

A basic 1-inch curling iron that has a clamp, this wand is a bit easier to use right off the bat than some others out there. It's ceramic—aka less damaging to hair— and the barrel is extra-long, which makes styling simple and quick.

Best Portable: Harry Josh Pro Tools Travel Curling Iron 1.25-Inch

Temperature Range: 325°–425°F | Size: 1.25"

Harry Josh's travel-size curling iron is small yet powerful enough to satisfy your styling needs on the go. It's also especially great for fine hair because it has customizable heat settings (from 325 to 425 degrees Fahrenheit)—plus, its fast heat-up time makes it super convenient (30 seconds is all you need) and its nano-ceramic and tourmaline barrel smooths your strands and locks in moisture. Lastly, for added safety, it has a 60-minute auto shut-off feature.

Best for Loose Waves: Bio Ionic Curl Expert Pro Curling Iron

Temperature Range: Up to 430°F | Size: 1"

This wand has natural volcanic rock minerals infused in it, which, in addition to sounding cool, also helps hydrate hair while you curl it. It works exceptionally well at creating beach waves on fine hair.

Final Verdict

When it comes to successfully curling fine hair without frying it, our top choice in tools would be the BaBylissPRO Nano Titanium Spring Curling Iron. It has a 1.5-inch barrel for adding body and wave, and the adjustable heat setting prevents damage to delicate strands. We also appreciate easy-to-use tools that require little effort, which is why we're big fans of the Beachwaver Co. Beachwaver Pro 1.25-Inch Dual Voltage. The rotating barrel creates gorgeous curls at the push of a button, no complicated tool maneuvering required. And while this one may be a bit of a splurge, the T3 Micro Whirl Trio Interchangeable Styling Wand is a great option for creating a variety of different styles. It comes with three interchangeable barrels, all made from tourmaline and ceramic that keep curls shiny and frizz-free.

What to Look For in a Curling Iron for Fine Hair

Ceramic Barrel

When it comes to curling finer hair, hairstylist Shelly Aguirre stresses the importance of choosing a tool with a fully ceramic (read: not just coated) barrel. “You need to have even heat distribution from the top to bottom of the barrel,” she says. “If the barrel isn’t evenly heated, you’ll tend to go over the section more times than necessary because you’re not getting the results quick enough”—thus, leading to heat damage, which is definitely not beneficial to anyone with fine hair, which tends to be much more fragile.

Ionic Technology

To keep fine, limp hair looking healthy and vibrant, Aguirre also recommends looking for an ionic curling iron. “Negative ions will help make the hair shiny and less frizzy due to the simple fact that negative ions close down the cuticle,” she says. “Your cuticle lays like shingles on a roof, so ‘laying them down’ will increase the shine and offer a healthy overall look.”

Temperature Control

Per Pucciarello's advice, those with fine hair shouldn’t be using their curling irons at 450 degrees unless they want fried, damaged locks. Aguirre says that it’s imperative to look for a tool with a temperature control so that you can adjust it to fit your styling needs while maintaining a non-damaging temperature range. “You should keep the heat down to around 325 to 350 degrees so you’re not damaging the hair,” she recommends. “Also, using a heat protectant is absolutely necessary and not negotiable.”


What kind of curling iron is best for fine hair?

As Aguirre mentions above, fine hair is more prone to damage than other hair types, so it’s important to look for a curling that will keep the hair healthy (but, of course, still work). She recommends a curling iron with a fully ceramic barrel to allow for even heat distribution, ionic technology to keep the hair shiny and frizz-free, and temperature control to allow you to style in a non-damaging temperature range.

She also mentions that a quality iron that won’t singe your hair may be pricier, but it’s well worth the investment. “Spending a little more when investing in a hot tool will help in the long run—ask your stylist for the recommendations when it comes to these tools,” she says.

What temperature should a curling iron be for fine hair?

According to Aguirre, those with fine hair should keep their curling irons in the 325 to 350 degree temperature range in order to effectively curl the hair sans heat damage. As Pucciarello warns, do not use a tool heated up to 400+ degrees.

What size barrel is the best for fine hair?

When it comes to barrel size, Aguirre says it depends on how curly you’d like your hair to be. “The smaller the barrel, the curlier the look,” she says. “This is also dependent on the length of your hair and what look you’re trying to achieve. When in doubt, talk to your stylist and get some advice.”