Glamour January 8, 2024



The Best Curling Irons for Creating Every Kind of Wave, According to Hair Stylists


We tested dozens of options to narrow it down.

There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to finding the best curling iron. With these hair tools, the size (and shape) make a world of difference in achieving the type of curl you’re looking for—and so do factors like your hair type, hair length, the products you use, how hot the barrels get, and even how you hold the tool. To make your journey easier, we asked hair experts for tips on how to get the perfect curl (or wave, depending on your preference) and curated a list of the best tools on the market, according to our editors who put them to the test and stylists who use them every day.

What to look for in a curling iron

Curling Iron Musts

  • Material: The most common curling irons have ceramic barrels that tend to spread heat evenly to ensure smooth, shiny results. They're a great pick for people with finer hair, celebrity hairstylist Joseph Maine tells Glamour. Those tend to be less damaging on hair, while the adjustable temperature allows you to tailor the heat to your hair type’s needs for lasting results. Professional stylists, however, tend to gravitate toward titanium irons, especially for thicker hair, since the material is more durable and able to style curls at higher temps for longer. Tourmaline ceramic is another material that’s a solid pick for people with frizzy or damaged hair; it emits negative ions that react with the positive ones in your hair to minimize dullness and frizz.
  • Heat: Thin or fine hair requires less heat than thick hair, Maine says. The ideal temperature for thin hair is no more than 300°F, while thicker or coarser hair textures can handle high heat, from 350°F to 450°F.
  • Size: “For those with long hair, find a long barrel length,” Maine recommends. Barrel width also makes a difference, says Maxine Salon stylist Raven Hurtado. Slimmer attachments (0.5- to 0.75-inch) mean tighter curls, while thicker ones (1.5- to 2-inch) lead to looser curls or waves. These days you're not limited to one choice, though. There are plenty of curling irons with interchangeable barrels, so you can wear your curls in various sizes and hairstyles (think bouncy curls, tight ringlets, beachy waves).

Honest reviews from hair experts

  • Joseph Maine, a celebrity hairstylist in Los Angeles
  • Raven Hurtado, a hairstylist at Maxine Salon in Chicago

Ready to curl? We asked the experts, pored through reviews, and tried tons of options for ourselves. The result: the definitive roundup of the best curling wands and tools for every hair type and style. (You’ll even spot a few Glamour Beauty Award winners in the mix.)

Best Overall Curling Iron: Dyson Airwrap Multi-Styler Complete Long

Like the Supersonic—Dyson’s bestselling hair dryer—the Dyson Airwrap is expensive. But if you’re looking to invest in a tool that’s truly luxe and lives up to the hype, it’s your best bet. The Airwrap dries and styles simultaneously without burning your hair to a crisp, and its six included attachments allow you to achieve pretty much any hairstyle.

Pros: Six attachments, two-year warranty; dries and styles at the same time
Cons: Expensive
Heat settings: Three
Barrel size: 1.2 inches
Material: Aluminum
Hair types: All hair types
Best for styling: Smooth curls with limited heat
Tried, tested & the honest review: Not to be dramatic, but my life changed when I tried the first-generation Dyson Airwrap. At the time I had just gotten curtain bangs, and the interchangeable attachments made it so easy to switch according to my styling needs, delivering salon-level smoothness and blowouts in less than half the time. I wasn’t alone in my obsession—you’ve probably seen the viral TikTok videos and marveled at its eye-popping price tag. But the styler is completely worth it, and the latest model only drives the point home—it’s got a whopping 13 styling attachment options and game-changing features like an airflow switch, flyaway-smoothing attachment, and extended curling barrels for long hair. And so my Airwrap love affair is still going strong. —Ariana Yaptangco, senior beauty editor

Best Value Curling Iron: Conair Double Ceramic 1-Inch Curling Iron

You don’t need to shell out more than $20 for a great curling iron. This classic doesn’t have all the bells and whistles of the more expensive options, but it gets the job done—especially if you’re a newbie to styling your hair at home. Plus, basically every reviewer notes that this thing heats up quickly and won’t keep you in the bathroom for any longer than you need to be.

Pros: Affordable; multiple barrel sizes, 30 heat settings; heats quickly.
Cons: Short cord
Heat settings: 30
Barrel size: 1 inch
Material: Ceramic
Hair types: Fine hair
Best for styling: Bouncy curls
Tried, tested & the honest review: I’ve never quite mastered the art of curling my hair—especially since my chin-length waves are usually tucked into some sort of three-day-old bun or claw-clip type of situation. But I realized the beautiful, beachy waves I so desperately wanted (and constantly went to the salon for) could be done at a fraction of the price and time with this Conair ceramic curling iron. Perhaps when I get much better at this and my hair doesn’t look like it came out of a Shirley Temple machine, I’ll invest in a high-tech curling iron, but for right now I love how beginner-friendly the Conair one-inch barrel is. Plus, it’s on Amazon. —Ana Escalante, contributor

Best for Fine Hair: The Beachwaver Co. S1 Dual Voltage

If our Beachwaver review is any indication, this rotating curling iron is just as good as social media claims it is. Its moving barrel makes it ideal for beginners, since you don’t need salon-level expertise to get started; just clamp in a section of hair and let it work its magic. Beachy waves have never been so effortless.

Pros: Easy to use, curls hair quickly
Cons: Might not be durable
Heat settings: 290°F–410°F
Barrel size: 1.75 inches
Material: Ceramic
Hair types: All hair types
Best for styling: Controlled curls
Tried, tested & the honest review: The TikTok-viral Beachwaver is worthy of the hype: It’s really the only curling iron I can actually use. The barrel rotates, meaning that it’s as easy as 1-2-3: One, clamp a section of dry hair at the end; two, press the arrow button facing away from the face; and three, allow your hair to wrap as it revolves, and release the wrapped hair after about 10 seconds. Et voilà: Your hair is curled! Plus, its user-friendliness doesn’t mean it's any less effective. My Beachwaver-styled curls stay put for days. —Danielle Sinay, associate beauty editor

Best for Curly Hair: GHD Curl Thin Wand

This slim wand heats up to 365°F in just 30 seconds, offering quick, lasting results. It’s just half an inch thick, a perfect size for tight ringlets. While it’ll work well with any hair type, it’s especially great for defining and smoothing already curly hair—and it’s long enough for nearly any length.

Pros: Heats up quickly; great for tight curls; long swivel cord.
Cons: Only one heat setting
Heat setting: 1
Barrel size: 0.5 inches
Material: Ceramic
Hair types: Straight, wavy, and curly
Best for styling: Tight curls
Tried, tested & the honest review: This is a versatile iron. I have fine, kinky, curly hair, and I loved that the lower temperature setting reduces my risk for breakage. My curls were long-lasting, and I was able to comb out the tight curls for a gorgeous wavy look that lasted almost two days. Since I’m a busy physician, the rapid heat-up time was a game changer for my schedule. —Michelle Henry, contributor

Best for Thick Hair: Paul Mitchell Pro Tools Express Gold Curl Marcel Curling Iron

Thick hair is no match for this titanium curling iron, which goes up to 430°F to tame even the most unruly manes. The secret is its marcel attachment, which (unlike a spring clamp) gives you complete manual control; it’s the style many professional hairstylists use. It’ll take a bit of a learning curve, but it’s worth the extra effort if nothing else has worked for you.

Pros: Multiple heat settings, ergonomic handle
Cons: Might not be durable.
Heat settings: 6
Barrel size: 1.25 inches
Material: Titanium
Hair types: Thick hair
Best for styling: Shiny, long-lasting curls
Tried, tested & the honest review: My hair is really thick and has a lot of volume, but because it’s also so straight, I have a hard time finding irons that’ll hold a curl—except for this. Thanks to the titanium barrel, which helps distribute heat evenly, it was the quickest, easiest experience I’ve had in doing my full head of hair. The iron has a second flexible handle, which made it easier to style one-handed. And no sizzling or excess steam came off my hair, even at 430°F, its highest heat setting. I was able to give myself the exact look that I would have gotten if I had paid a professional stylist: natural, loose curls. —Smriti Sinha, contributor

Best for Tight Curls: Mint Tools Professional Series 3/8-Inch Curling Wand

Whether you prefer tighter curls, have long hair, or fall into both categories, Mint’s skinny curling wand is about to become your best friend. While there are multiple barrel widths available, this one is especially great at creating tiny, defined ringlets that still manage to look completely natural.

Pros: Great for long hair; included glove
Cons: Only one heat setting
Heat settings: 1
Barrel size: 0.37 inches
Material: Ceramic
Hair types: Thin, medium, and thick
Best for styling: Tight curls
Tried, tested & the honest review: The number of times I’ve seen stylists whip this iron out on set is well into the dozens. That’s because nothing helps define tight spirals and coils like it. The ceramic barrel heats up quickly, the wand comes with a styling glove to prevent burns, and because the wand is extra long, it’s great for working with both cropped and longer lengths. —Lindsay Schallon, contributor

Best for Beachy Waves: Amika High Tide Deep Waver

This crimper turns out beach-ready waves in mere seconds. Just add a section of hair, wait a moment, and slide the tool away to reveal perfectly low-key locks. It doesn’t do curls, but if waves are your preferred texture anyway, you’ll be pleased with the results

Pros: Works quickly; great for beginners.
Cons: Not ideal for wavy hair
Heat settings: 120°F–390°F
Barrel size: 0.7
Material: Ceramic
Hair types: Straight, wavy, curly, and coily
Best for styling: Beachy waves
Tried, tested & the honest review: As someone who came of age in the early aughts, I never in my life would think that I’d let something called a crimper near my head again. But this wand doesn’t leave you with the awkward zigzags you remember. Instead it creates the most effortless, boho, ’70s-style waves that look like you truly woke up with them. The trick is to start a few inches down from your roots—right at your ear line—so your waves look lived-in and not poufy. —L.S.

Most Versatile Curling Iron: Drybar The Mixologist Interchangeable Styling Iron

This Drybar bestseller offers three attachments (waver, wand, and clamp iron) that you can easily swap to create everything from beach waves to classic curls. It’s simple and incredibly versatile, and using it might just be easier than making a hair appointment.

Pros: Interchangeable barrels, auto shutoff, temperature control
Cons: Reviewers say the device doesn't heat up properly and may break easily
Heat settings: 15
Barrel size: 1, 1.25 inches
Material: Plastic
Hair types: Straight, wavy, curly, and coily
Best for styling: Classic curls, natural curls, and beach waves
Tried, tested & the honest review: I always love options, and I’ve got plenty with this set from Drybar. I’m sometimes a little skeptical of hot-tool sets because the options often don’t work equally well, but that’s not the case here. Each one is easy to use and heats up to the perfect temperature to keep my waves set for an entire day. As long as I pair it with a good heat protectant, my bleached, highlighted hair stays in healthy shape. —Sarah Y. Wu, contributor

Best Oval Barrel Curling Wand: GHD Classic Wave Oval Curling Wand

While an oval barrel takes a bit of getting used to, it’s a great option for natural, undone waves, adding volume without sacrificing length. GHD’s pick has an optional spring clamp and a shutoff feature that kicks in after half an hour of nonuse—no more worrying that you left your curling iron plugged in. Just note that it’s preset to 365°F, which might be a touch hot for finer hair.

Pros: Heats quickly; automatic shutoff; great for loose waves.
Cons: Only one heat setting
Heat settings: 1
Barrel size: 1.5 inches
Material: Ceramic
Hair types: Straight, wavy, and curly
Best for styling: Loose, textured waves
Tried, tested & the honest review: I typically curl my hair with a straightener. My last attempt at using a curling iron (years ago) ended in burning out a huge chunk of hair and a lot of tears. But this iron, which comes at the recommendation of dozens of celebrity stylists, was a 10-out-of-10 experience for me. It’s straightforward to use, and it’s got even heat and a cool and touchable tip. On day one I attempted a “normal” curling iron experience by using the spring lever. My hair was shiny, and the curls were perfect; a girl stopped me on the subway to gush and ask whether I was genetically blessed. On day two I used the iron as a wand without the clamp to even greater results: There was a wonderful unfinished quality about the curls, and my hair was so voluminous. As great as that intense heat is, though, it’s tough on your hair. Invest in a heat protectant. —Meg Adams, contributor

Best Multi-Barrel Curling Iron: Hot Tools Pro Artist Gold 3-Barrel Hair Waver

Like a crimper for laid-back waves, this three-barrel gem is one of the easiest ways to add texture and volume without frizz. There are multiple temperature settings to work with any hair texture, and the tool is so big that it might only take minutes for you to work through every single section.

Pros: Heats quickly; automatic shutoff; easy to use.
Cons: Bulky
Heat settings: 300°F–450°F
Barrel size: 1 inch
Material: Titanium
Hair types: Thick, coarse hair
Best for styling: Natural waves
Tried, tested & the honest review: I absolutely love this waver for second- and third-day hair. If I wake up with sections that need a little boost, I just give them a refresh with this tool. It’s like a crimper, but it gives you soft waves without the creasing. And it revives waves in seconds. —E.R.

Best Rotating Curling Iron: Chi Volcanic Lava Ceramic Pro Spin ’N Curl

If you’re even somewhat interested in hair care, there’s a good chance Chi’s rotating curling iron has come across your TikTok For You page. It draws hair into a rotating chamber, timing each section for consistency. There’s also an auto-off feature and an 11-foot cord—plenty of length for any home user.

Pros: Great for beginners; adjustable temperature; works quickly.
Cons: Not ideal for thick hair
Heat setting: 1
Barrel size: 1 inch
Material: Ceramic
Hair types: All hair types
Best for styling: Bouncy, shiny curls
Tried, tested & the honest review: This thing looks intimidating as hell, but it’s surprisingly easy to use. All you do is section your hair into one-inch pieces (smaller sections are key), feed it into the chamber, press a button, and boom—curls. It’s a little heavy and clunky-looking, but the design is great if you’re someone who always burns yourself, since the outside chamber stays cool. The lasting results were what really sold me, though. I purposefully tested the iron right before bed to see how the curls would match up against a night of sleep. The next morning I woke up to see that my hair still had modern, thick waves. —Halie LeSavage, contributor

Most Gentle Curling Iron: Harry Josh Pro Tools 3-in-1 Ceramic Curling Iron

Marcel irons are definitely not for the curling iron novice, since they require more coordination to use. But on the flip side, hairstylists love them because they give you more control to manipulate your hair exactly how you want it. If this isn’t your first rodeo, go with this three-piece tool that works as a wand, marcel, and curling iron all in one. Plus, you can adjust the heat between a gentle 190°F and a more intense 380°F, ensuring you’ll get the right temperature for your hair type.

Pros: Multiple heat settings, versatile design, automatic shutoff; gives long-lasting curls
Cons: Not ideal for beginners
Heat setting: 190°F–380°F
Barrel size: 1.25 inches
Material: Ceramic
Hair types: Fine hair
Best for styling: Defined curls, beach waves, natural waves
Tried, tested & the honest review: This iron, designed by Gisele Bündchen’s mane man, gives you the best of both worlds. The clip detaches easily from the barrel, making it easy to experiment with both to see which delivers your favorite curls and waves. Bonus: The longtime fave recently underwent a makeover and now delivers more even heat throughout, so your curls will hold longer. —S.Y.W.

Best Single Pass Curling Iron: T3 SinglePass Curl 1.25" Ceramic Long Barrel Curling and Wave Iron

T3 and waves are pretty much synonymous at this point. The brand’s curling tools help all hair types achieve effortless waves and curls in minutes. This 1.25-inch barrel gets the job done with just a single pass—no touch-ups required. It's suitable for all hair types, whether fine and straight or coarse and coily—delivering consistent and defined curls every time.

Pros: Works on all hair types; designed to be used in one pass.
Cons: Expensive
Heat settings: 5
Barrel size: 1.25 inches
Material: Ceramic
Hair types: Straight, wavy, curly, and coily
Best for styling: Voluminous curls
Tried, tested & the honest review: This curling iron has the perfect 1.25-inch barrel to create the imperfect waves I’m looking for. And I love that it has multiple heat settings so I can use the middle temperature without frying my hair. —Elizabeth Denton, tester

Best for Quick Styling Beachy Waves: Mermade PRO Hair Waver 1.25"

Get beach waves all year round with Mermade’s clamping hair curler. It has three barrels in one, and doesn’t require you to turn it or flip it to get results. You simply work your way down by clamping your hair in sections and watch the magic happen. This triple-barreled curling iron is a particularly good bet for those with long hair, since it styles quickly and with minimal effort.

Pros: Auto shutoff, heat protection glove; beginner-friendly, crimp-free
Cons: Not ideal for shorter hair
Heat setting: 176°F–410°F
Barrel size: 1.25 inches
Material: Ceramic
Hair types: Long hair
Best for styling: Big, bouncy waves
Tried, tested & the honest review: Before I had short hair, I had a thing for mermaid waves, especially in the summer. I had never tried one of these multi-barrel curlers, but I love that all I had to do was sandwich my hair between the clamp, instead of turning my hands like I would with a traditional curling iron. —Andrea Navarro, commerce writer

Best Automatic Curler (Hands-Free): InfinitiPRO by Conair Curl Secret Auto Curler

Unlike most curling irons, this one does all the work for you. All you have to do is simply place each strand of hair through the barrel, and once turned on, it’ll spiral each piece to leave you with a bouncy, voluminous twirl. It's a great option for newbies, since the tool will deliver consistent curls without much effort on your part. We love that it's suitable for all hair types too.

Pros: Easy to use, good for beginners, tangle-free; works on all hair types
Cons: Bulky
Heat settings: 5
Barrel size: 1 inch
Material: Ceramic
Hair types: All hair types
Best for styling: Defined, loose, and wavy curls
Tried, tested & the honest review: It’s so much fun to play with this custom curler and I love that you can switch it up in different directions with just the press of a button. Because the barrel is clear, you can actually see the magic happen. —E.D.

Best for Touch-Ups: BondiBoost Clever Curler

This 1.25-inch curling iron is known for heating up super quickly, which is great if you're in a hurry or need a quick touch-up. Even people with super-straight hair praise it for developing curls that don’t fall flat. It's great for people with color-treated or damaged strands too. Infared heating allows curls to set at a lower temp than your standard curling iron. Plus, ionic technology works to tame frizz for shinier, bouncier curls.

Pros: Heats up quickly, styles waves and curls, minimizes frizz.
Cons: Not beginner-friendly
Heat settings: 4
Barrel size: 1.25 inches
Material: Unavailable
Hair types: All hair types
Best for styling: Shiny, frizz-free curls
Tried, tested & the honest review: If I ever leave the salon with curled ends, they fall flat in a few hours. Since I often need touch-ups I like having this curler at home for a quick fix before heading out for the night. It heats up quickly and curls the ends of my bob easily. —A.N.


How to Use a Curling Iron

Like flatirons, using a curling iron is a relatively basic heat-styling technique, but a few tips can help ensure best results. First, your hair should be dry before curling, Maine says. He also suggests using a heat protectant both while the hair is wet and once it’s dry.

Techniques and barrel sizes differ depending on the look you’re after—again, smaller barrels mean tighter curls. “To style while using any size curling iron, place the hair in the middle of the clamp and curl away from your face to achieve a standard formal curl,” says Hurtado. For triple-barrel options, you simply clamp down in the same way, but don't have to rotate the wand—more like a crimper. For automatic options, it's even easier: Clamp down on the hair and press a button to send hair whirring through, revealing the perfect curl.