InStyle July 12, 2022



Give Some Oomph to Your Curls with the 10 Best Curling Irons for Fine Hair


The design of Alure Three Barrel Curling Iron Wand with LCD Temperature Display provided tons of volume.

As a person with fine hair, one video comes to mind when I think about using a curling iron: The infamous clip of a girl who meticulously walks viewers through her curling routine, until a chunk of hair burns off. I still have nightmares about it, but the thought of that video alone emphasizes the importance of finding a curling iron that won't completely fry fine hair.

Though it may have been difficult to find a fine hair-friendly curling iron when the video came out nine years ago, there are now thousands of options available online. The only challenge is combing through countless shopper insights to find the tool that deserves a spot in your bathroom. So, to make your life easier, we did the legwork — scouring through reviews and consulting with experts to find the best curling irons that are uniquely suited for fine hair. With the right advice, prep work, and tools, you'll have curls for days. The Alure Three Barrel Curling Iron Wand with LCD Temperature Display is our pick for best overall thanks to its three barrel design for volume.

Keep reading for the 10 best curling irons for fine hair.

Best Overall: Alure Three Barrel Curling Iron Wand with LCD Temperature Display

What We Love: The three-barrel design is great for creating effortless beach waves.

What We Don't Love: The size makes it a little cumbersome for travel.

Contrary to traditional curling irons that give you voluminous curls, this one — made with three barrels — is designed to create effortless beach waves. Instead of wrapping your hair around all three barrels, it's meant to be woven and clamped in between them for loose, lived-in waves. On top of the way it makes your hair look, we appreciate some of the smart details like the crystal-clear LCD temperature display, the adjustable temperature setting which goes up to 410 degrees, and the ceramic material that produces negatively-charged ions to help keep your finished look frizz-free. We aren't the only ones who love this iron, though — it's garnered almost 14,000 five-star reviews on Amazon.

Size of Barrel: Three 1-inch barrels | Heat Settings: up to 410 degrees | Barrel Material: Ceramic

Best Value: Remington Shine Therapy Tapered Curling Wand

What We Love: It's infused with Argan Oil and Keratin to increase shine.

What We Don't Love: The barrel doesn't have a clamp.

Though this wand looks like any ordinary curling iron, it's actually designed to make hair shinier thanks to the special ceramic infusion technology. The main feature is the ceramic barrel which is infused with antioxidant-rich Argan oil and Keratin — two expert-loved ingredients that help keep hair looking healthy and glossy. If you like to switch up your curl style, you're in luck, too: The wand is sold in two tapered sizes (0.5-1 inch and 1-1.5 inches) which are both $30 a piece meaning you can have two high-quality curling wands without breaking the bank.

Size of Barrel: 0.5-1 inch | Heat Settings: up to 410 degrees | Barrel Material: Infused Ceramic

Best for Volume: Conair Double Ceramic Triple Barrel Curl Styling Waver

What We Love: There are 30 heat settings so you can find one that's right for your hair type and texture.

What We Don't Love: Because of the smaller middle barrel, it can give hair a more crimped rather than wavy effect.

On days when your hair is falling a little flat, grab this triple barrel wand to boost volume and refresh your style. The unique design from Conair features a smaller middle barrel to create more continuous waves — which in turn makes the style look more natural. The barrels also feature a higher ceramic content than most hair tools for fast heat delivery to cut down on styling time. What's more is it offers 30 heat settings — ranging from one for fragile, fine hair to 30 for thick hair — so you can find the ideal heat for your hair type. And, if you have finicky sections of hair that rarely hold a curl or wave, the Turbo Boost setting increases the temperature by 27 degrees for a burst of heat that can help the style stay.

Size of Barrel: 0.6-inch outer barrels and .05-inch inner barrel |Heat Settings: up to 365 degrees (400 with the Turbo Boost) | Barrel Material: Double Ceramic

Best for Long Hair: Hot Tools Professional 24K Gold XL Curling Iron/Wand

What We Love: The barrel is two inches longer than traditional curling irons.

What We Don't Love: The rotating tip can be difficult to grab on to.

If you have super long hair and have tried to wrap it around a normal-sized curling iron, you know the struggle: Either your hair is too long for the iron, or you wrap it around so many times that it doesn't heat evenly. Hot Tools has come to the rescue, though, with this extra-long curling iron that boasts a barrel that's 2 inches longer than most. The XL wand comes in two barrel sizes, too—a 1-inch version which is ideal for making tight, bouncy curls, and a 1.25-inch option for looser, tousled curls.

Size of Barrel: 1 or 1.25 inches | Heat Settings: up to 430 degrees | Barrel Material: 24 karat gold-plated stainless steel

Best for Short Hair: Infinitipro by Conair Cool Air Curler

What We Love: It utilizes cool air to quickly set each curl

What We Don't Love: If you prefer tighter curls, this might not be for you.

While most curling wands only utilize heat, this tool from Conair uses a combination of heat and air. After curling each section, the barrel emits a burst of cool air to quickly set each curl and prevent serious heat damage — which is crucial for those with fine hair. It's important to note that this curler doesn't have a clamp, but it doesn't really need one thanks to the flat iron-esque split-barrel design that secures your hair in place as you wrap it around. Although it works great for all hair lengths this is a favorite for those with short hair because the iron is shorter than most and doesn't feel cumbersome when in use.

Size of Barrel: 1.5 inches | Heat Settings: up to 400 degrees | Barrel Material: Ceramic

Best Wand: GHD Thin Wand

What We Love: It only takes three seconds to create a perfectly defined curl.

What We Don't Love: This isn't the best option if you prefer loose curls.

It has never been easier (or faster!) to create tight ringlets. All you have to do is wrap a small section of hair around the 0.5-inch wand and hold it for three seconds to get perfectly defined curls. That said, the versatility of this wand is unmatched and also allows you to get more relaxed waves by wrapping larger sections loosely around the barrel. Though it doesn't get as hot as other options, the 365-degree setting still manages to keep hair curled for up to 24 hours.

Size of Barrel: 0.5 inch | Heat Settings: up to 365 degrees | Barrel Material: Ceramic

Best for Waves: Bed Head Rock N' Roller Bubble Curling Wand

What We Love: The unique bubble barrel shape is ideal for creating tousled waves.

What We Don't Love: The kickstand sometimes gets in the way when curling hair closer to your head.

If you prefer the look of lived-in, beachy waves over perfect ringlets, this bubble-shaped curling wand is for you. The unique design allows you to easily create a variety of textured waves and curls, so you're never stuck with just one look. Though wands with clamps tend to offer more control, it's still easy to style your hair with this pick. Plus, it comes with a heat-protective glove, so you don't have to worry about burning yourself while learning to use it.

Size of Barrel: 1 inch at largest and 1/2 inch at smallest | Heat Settings: up to 400 degrees | Barrel Material: Tourmaline Ceramic

Most Accessible: CHI Spin N Curl

What We Love: Its automated design makes it easy for anyone to curl their hair.

What We Don't Love: It's larger than most curling irons making it difficult to store.

This automated curling iron from CHI proves that you don't need two hands to effectively curl your hair. With the advanced technology, all you have to do is insert a section of hair into the curl chamber then press a button — the barrel inside automatically rotates around the hair for a flawless curl every time. Once the curl is set, the iron will beep four times, which is a much-appreciated feature (especially for those with fine hair) to ensure you don't experience any serious heat damage.

Size of Barrel: 1 inch | Heat Settings: up to 410 degrees | Barrel Material: Ceramic

Best for Travel: Phoebe Hair Brush for Travel

What We Love: It's dual-voltage, so you can take it nearly anywhere you jet-set.

What We Don't Love: The heat isn't adjustable.

You won't have to sacrifice good hair while on vacation when you pack this travel-friendly curling brush. Though many smaller curling irons forgo features that make them suitable for fine hair, that's not the case with this brush: It's designed with high-quality nylon bristles that safeguard your hair from direct heat. At just 8.7 inches long, it can easily fit into any carry-on, and, because it has dual-voltage, it can be used at both domestic and international locations.

Size of Barrel: 0.75 inch | Heat Settings: 390 degrees | Barrel Material: Ceramic and nylon

Best Splurge: Dyson Airwrap Styler

What We Love: It styles and dries hair simultaneously without using extreme heat.

What We Don't Love: The curling attachments may be too short to evenly curl and dry longer hair.

Even with the hefty price tag on the Dyson Airwrap Styler, it's one of the top products on the market for fine hair. Rather than extreme heat, the styler uses air to simultaneously dry and style hair. And though it may go against all of the hair care rules you were taught, the brand actually recommends that you style your hair while wet to cut down on heated styling. What's more, is that the tool comes with six — yes six — interchangeable attachments, including 1.2- and 1.6-inch curling wands, so you have the optimal tool for every type of curl at your fingertips.

Size of Barrel: 1.2- and 1.6 inch curling wands | Heat Settings: N/A | Barrel Material: Steel

What to Keep in Mind

Temperature range

No matter how many safety features are put in place on a curling iron, you still need to keep an eye on the temperature — especially with fine hair. Extremely high, direct heat can be very damaging and even singe off your hair. When it comes to fine hair, Celebrity Hairstylist and Co-Founder of Trademark Beauty, Joseph Maine, suggests using an iron with customizable heat settings because "typically, fine hair does not need high heat." Though many irons are programmed to reach 400 degrees or more, he recommends setting your iron between 340 to 380 degrees.

Barrel Size

Because barrels come in different sizes there's no such thing as a standard curl. Consider the look you're going for when selecting a barrel size. Do you want laidback beach waves, loose voluminous curls, or tight ringlets? If you prefer the former, look for larger barrels between 1.5 and two inches. For more tighter curls a smaller .5 to 1 inch iron is better.

And then, of course, shop accordingly. For example, a 1/2-inch barrel will offer up a tighter curl, as you're wrapping the hair around it in a greater number of concentric circles, while a 2-inch barrel will give you a looser curl, as it has the opposite wrapping effect. Raven Hurtado, professional stylist at Maxine Salon in Chicago instructs, "While using the curling iron, curl away from your face keeping the heat on your hair for 5-10 seconds. After curling, let the curls cool down for about a minute then comb with a wide tooth comb and use your favorite spray to set the style."

Barrel Material

You may think that ceramic and metal barrels curl your hair the same, but Hurtado explains that each material affects hair in different ways. "For fine hair, you want to look for a curling iron that has a ceramic barrel," she says. "This material heats evenly and doesn't tug on your hair." Metal barrels are prone to heat unevenly and can be rough on your hair. While some metal barrels have a ceramic coating, a full ceramic plate is better for hair health, she adds.

Your Questions, Answered

Do curling irons damage hair?

Curling irons can damage hair if you use them incorrectly, which is why it's important to read the instructions before use. You should also keep the heat setting in mind, as well as how long you're holding each individual section on the iron. Hurtado says to only curl dry hair as curling wet hair is a recipe for disaster (and you can practically hear the damage you are inflicting as it sizzles). "Make sure to prep your hair with heat protection to avoid heat damage," she adds. "If it's your first time using a curling iron, I recommend starting off with a low temperature setting so you can get used to maneuvering the iron."

How do you protect fine hair from heat damage?

Before you even pick up a curling iron, you should spray on a heat-protectant spray (one of our favorites is the dpHUE Color Fresh Heat Protectant Spray). After that, it's best to keep your heat setting pretty low — between 340 to 380 degrees — to ensure that you don't fry your hair.

Maine also recommends avoiding certain products before using heated tools. "I would avoid using any sticky hair sprays before using the iron," he says. "This can make the hair stick to the iron and the product can sizzle on the hair cuticle. Moisture combusting on the hair cuticle causes damage that can become difficult to repair."

How do you make curls last in fine hair?

The longevity of each curl comes down to how well you set the curl in the first place. Once you curl a section, try pinning it until it cools down. "If you are looking for a long lasting hold, the trick is to allow the hair to fully cool in the desired curl pattern before pulling or disrupting it," says Maine.