InStyle March 18, 2024



The 9 Best Curling Irons That Make Styling Short Hair a Breeze


We accounted for the most important features.

Whether you've had short hair your whole life or just went for the chop, finding a curling iron that works for your cut always poses a challenge. With less length to work with, you need to pay extra attention to the details, like temperature and rod shape. But most importantly, pick a barrel size that's on the thin side for the best results. If the barrel is too thick, you won't have much success getting any sort of wave or texture.

Even with these aspects to keep in mind, it can still be a headache to pick the best one for you. To help cut through the clutter, we scoured the shelves, put these tools to the test, and chatted with a few hair pros for their expert advice and recommendations. Whether you are looking to save a buck or splurge on something special, we have an option for you.

Best Overall

Hot Tools Gold Curling Iron

What We Love

  • Adjustable heat settings, even heat distribution, and a 360-degree swivel cord in a single, affordable tool? Sign us up.

What We Don't Love

  • Strands sometimes get caught in the clamp.

With high regards from hairstylists and beauty editors alike, this tool earned the top spot for its range of barrel sizes, adjustable heat settings, and oh-so-convenient swivel cord. The gold coating helps even out heat distribution for perfectly symmetrical curls from root to tip. Thanks to the multiple barrel sizes, curls of every size from beach waves to rigid ringlets are within reach.

One note: make sure to keep your strands away from the hinge of the clamp. Sometimes they can get caught.

Barrel Material: Titanium | Size: Seven available from 0.5–2 inches | Temperature Range: 280–430 degrees

Best Value

Remington Pro Conical Curling Wand

What We Love

  • This budget friendly option heats up in 30 seconds flat.

What We Don't Love

  • Be careful when using. It is easy to singe fingertips.

True story: Our tester has used this wand since 2013, and it still works like a charm. Best for creating tousled beach waves, this easy-on-the-wallet option bends your strands without breaking the bank. The cone-shaped barrel heats up in just 30 seconds, making it perfect for anyone with little time to get ready. Even the most stick-straight strands will be curled into submission after a few passes with this pearl-coated tool. Thanks to the slightly shorter rod, it won't be too cumbersome for your short strands.

We recommend employing the heat protective glove when using. It can be all too easy to burn fingertips with this one.

Barrel Material: Ceramic | Size: 1–1.5 inches | Temperature Range: 350–410 degrees

Best Splurge

Dyson Airwrap

What We Love

  • This do-it-all option uses air to style hair, resulting in less damage and breakage after using.

What We Don't Love

  • It goes out of stock quickly. We wish it were more accessible.

Yes, your sticker shock is real and valid. $600 is a lot to shell out for a hair tool, but if that is in your budget, this may be the last hair tool you ever buy. Unlike some of the hair tools in your arsenal (we see you blowdryer), Dyson employs Coanda airflow instead of heat to style hair, resulting in less damage and less breakage. Curling is just one piece of the puzzle. Complete with six attachments (from a dryer to curling wands), this all-in-one dryer, curler, and blowout master offers any and every style.

Barrel Material: Ceramic tourmaline | Size: 1.2, 1.6 inches | Temperature Range: Not listed

Best Titanium

Ion Titanium Pro Curling Iron

What We Love

  • After one hour, this smart tool automatically shuts off.

What We Don't Love

  • While the temperature ranges from 300 - 450 degrees, you can only select four options between those levels.

While this iron is equipped with a clamp — which can be a challenge to correctly use and notoriously pulls hair — it delivers a snag-free style, so you can curl comfortably. Not to mention, its lightweight shape and design make it an easy item to stow away in your carry-on. But our favorite has to be the automatic shut-off after only an hour. Enjoy date night with peace of mind, because even if you didn't shut the curling iron off, it doesn't matter.

Barrel Material: Titanium | Size: 0.75–1.5 inches | Temperature Range: 300–450 degrees

Best Ceramic

Harry Josh Pro Tools Ceramic Curling Iron

What We Love

  • Whether you are partial to a wand, traditional clamp, or professional-style Marcel clamp, this iron offers all three.

What We Don't Love

  • While the extra clamps provide versatility, it can be tough to store.

Celebrity stylist, Harry Josh, is famous for styling every A-lister from Gwenyth Paltrow to Miranda Kerr and his iconic mint green hair tools. This 3-for-1 strand styler offers something for everyone. Hair glides easily through clamps for minimal snagging while the 360-degree swivel cord ensures you won't get tangled up while styling.

Barrel Material: Ceramic | Size: 1 inch | Temperature Range: 190–380 degrees

Best Rotating

Beachwaver Co. PRO 1-Inch Curling Iron

What We Love

  • The rotating barrel makes curling super easy. Simply clamp hair toward the end, press the button, and let the iron do the work.

What We Don't Love

  • For those who have never used before, this iron can require a bit of a learning curve.

Beachy, runway-style waves have never been easier to recreate. Created by celebrity stylist, Sarah Potempa, this tool offers all the perks of a professional tool like high heat settings, a swivel cord, and an ergonomic handle while remaining consumer-friendly. The rotating barrel turns both left and right, and the tiny clamp holds down ends and wraps lengths around for easy, casual curls. Plus, with shorter strands, finishing your entire head won't take very long.

Barrel Material: Ceramic tourmaline | Size: 1 inch | Temperature Range: 310–450 degrees

Best Wand

BaBylissPro Curling Wand

What We Love

  • For everything this wand offers, it is available at an accessible price point.

What We Don't Love

  • Be careful of your fingers when using. They can get burned easily.

In recent years, curling wands have taken over the hair tool industry. Wands are curling irons without a clamp and are ideal for a more lived in look. The ionic technology in this wand helps banish frizz and evenly distribute heat across the iron to ensure long lasting waves. For some, it also can be easier to control. With short hair, you don't have much to work with, so that extra bit of control is key.

Barrel Material: Titanium | Size: 0.75–1.25 inches | Temperature Range: 265–430 degrees

Best for Thick Hair

Kristin Ess Titanium Pivoting Wand


What We Love

  • The barrel bends at a 90-degree angle for easy access to strands at every angle.

What We Don't Love

  • This tool helps create full, voluminous waves, so if you are looking for tighter ringlets, we recommend choosing something else.

A thick head of hair is both a blessing and a curse. While natural volume can be the cause of some serious hair envy, styling can be time consuming and arduous, even at a shorter length. The bendable barrel stretches to a 90-degree angle, allowing easy access at the back of your head. This wand ensures you will never get stuck noticing a stray straight piece after you left the house ever again. This does have a higher heat range than many on the list, so definitely don't skip a heat protectant.

Barrel Material: Titanium | Size: 1.25 inches | Temperature Range: 325–425 degrees

Best for Fine Hair

ghd Curve Soft Curl Iron

What We Love

  • The cool tip on the end of the barrel allows for a safe space for hands to hold when styling without getting burned.

What We Don't Love

  • This iron does not come with adjustable heat settings.

Fine hair is more fragile. Heat styling, tugging, and pulling cause more wear and tear than on coarser strands. While applying heat of any kind to hair causes damage, this iron keeps a consistent burn at 365 degrees, which is gentler on strands than heat above 400. The tip remains cool no matter how long you keep your iron on, but our favorite part is the automatic shut-off after 30 minutes. Not to mention, ghd is so confident you'll fall in love with this iron that they offer a 2-year warranty when you buy.

Barrel Material: Ceramic | Size: 1.25 inches | Temperature Range: 365 degrees

What to Keep in Mind

  • Material: Mainly, curling irons are made out of ceramic, titanium, and tourmaline. There are pros and cons to each of the materials. Titanium is super lightweight, heats up quickly, and holds heat longer than ceramic, so it is preferred by professional stylists. Ceramic and tourmaline distribute heat more evenly and are easier on the hair, making it more popular with at home users. Both materials work on all hair textures and types.
  • Barrel Size: Raven Hurtado, a professional hair stylist at Maxine Salon in Chicago, recommends a simple rule of thumb. "The hairstyle you try to create depends on the barrel size, the smaller the barrel is the tighter the curls will be." For shorter strands, 1-inch and below barrels will create smaller ringlets, while anything larger will create bouncy waves.

Your Questions, Answered

What features should you look for in a curling iron when you have short hair?

According to celebrity hair stylist David Lopez, your iron should depend on your styling capacity. "Are you more comfortable with a wand or a clip iron? Overall, a clip iron is better for coarse or frizzier hair types, and wands are better for fine hair." He thinks the most important thing about the iron is adjustable heat settings. Depending on your hair texture, different heat settings will be most effective.

What size curling iron is best for short hair?

"For short hair, it's best to use a half-inch to a 1-inch curling iron," says Hurtado, "It's easier to maneuver and wrap the hair all the way around." Lopez recommends deciding on what style you prefer. "A 1.25 iron will get you loose texture and bounce, but if you're looking for more texture, a 1-inch iron will be a better pick."

Why Shop With Us

Anneke Knot is a full-time fashion and beauty freelance writer. To find the best curling irons for short hair, she interviewed professional hair stylists David Lopez and Raven Hurtado.