11 of the Best Curling Irons, According to Hairstylists

As seen in Self | September 24, 2020
By Tiffany Dodson 

The best curling irons are versatile enough to produce a number of unique up dos and down dos—from Shirley Temple–style ringlets to flowy beach waves. Beyond the size of your curling iron (which can size up from a skinny wand to a thicker barrel, depending on how tight or flowing you want your curls to look) and the style of the hot tool (i.e., whether you want to use a curling wand or traditional iron with a clamp), hairstylist and Ulta Beauty Pro Team member Danielle Keasling tells SELF that you have to think about your hair type itself.

“Before styling any hair type, I recommend assessing information like the elasticity and density of your hair, as well as its ability to hold a curl,” she explains. “Your product choices will play a factor in the longevity of your style as well, but for hair types that drop curls quickly, I suggest using a smaller-size curling iron to start.”

For looser, more relaxed hairstyles, experts recommend looking for a curling iron with a larger barrel for a shorter amount of time. “As a general rule, if I’m using an iron as a wand and doing a wrapping technique, then I’ll go with a one-inch barrel,” says celebrity hairstylist Clariss Rubenstein. “I control the amount of wave seen in my clients’ hair based on the length of time I hold sections of it around the curling iron. If a section has gotten a little too wavy, I typically shake it out with my fingers, then tussle the piece while giving it a quick blast with the blow-dryer.”

Although the size of the barrel can play a role in how well your curls will hold, other factors can also come into play, like how you wrap your hair to preserve a style, the amount of time you hold a hot tool in your hair, and external weather conditions. And while it may be tempting to add new curls to your hair every day once it starts to lose its bounce, professionals advise being mindful of using too much heat too.

Oribe educator Adam Livermore tells SELF that it’s okay to curl your hair a couple of times a week if you’re limiting the number of hot tools used per styling session, incorporating a heat protectant, and making sure you’re not cranking the heat up on your curling iron. To help your curly look last even longer, stylists suggest finishing with a light hairspray to set the curl and securing it with hairpins and a satin bonnet or scarf before bed to avoid frizz.

For a short list of the best curling irons available for peak hair volume and body, we talked to hair professionals to find out which ones are actually worth buying. Here, 11 must-have curling irons that hairstylists stand by and keep in their kits, from brands like Hot Tools and Dyson.

1
Hot Tools 1.25” Professional 24K Gold Regular Barrel Curling Iron

A great, affordable option is the Hot Tools 1.25-inch curling iron, which is made with a temperature dial that makes it easy to customize your chosen amount of heat and offers even conduction that minimizes frizz. —Kali Ferrara, professional hairstylist

My favorite curling irons are definitely all from Hot Tools, and particularly the 1.25-inch. This iron is easy to use and heats up quickly, which makes curling a client’s hair even faster. Plus, when I’m looking to switch up the size of a curl, the brand has all the barrel options a hairstylist could ever need or want. —Gabrielle Corney, celebrity hairstylist

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2
GHD Curve Creative Curl Wand

The GHD Curve is honestly a great product for anyone, but especially for the curling obsessed. It maxes out at 365 degrees and distributes heat very evenly, which helps minimize the potential occurrence of heat damage. —Clariss Rubenstein, celebrity hairstylist

My go-to curling iron is absolutely the GHD Curve, as it creates long-lasting voluminous curls and has a cool tip that makes it easy to handle once the wand heats up. —Yusef Williams, celebrity hairstylist

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3
Hot Tools NanoCeramic Curling Iron

My favorite budget-friendly iron is the Hot Tools NanoCeramic curling iron. This tool creates shiny, long-lasting waves and curls and has an adjustable heat setting that services a wide variety of hair types and textures. —Danielle Keasling, professional hairstylist

I love the NanoCeramic curling iron from Hot Tools. It heats up quickly and stays at an even temperature while I use it. It also has a handy dial for more or less heat depending on what hair texture I’m working with. This one is my all-time favorite budget-friendly iron—it lasts forever and delivers great results, whether you’re a professional or not. —Maria Elizabeth, professional hairstylist and salon owner

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4
Bio Ionic 1.25” Long Barrel Curling Iron

I love the longer barrel of the Bio Ionic 1.25 inch iron—it’s great for longer hair. The barrel is about two inches longer than standard curling irons, which makes it easy to curl the entire length of your hair in a single step. —C.R.

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5
T3 SinglePass 1” Curl Professional Ceramic Curling Iron

This curling iron was named the Single Pass for a reason: It works so quickly. When curling my clients’ hair, I rarely ever need to go over a section twice, and I’m able to curl an entire head in no time at all. —C.R.

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6
Hot Tools 1 1/4″ Professional Ceramic Titanium Professional Curling Iron

I use my Hot Tools curling iron a lot. I love how easy it is to control its temperature, especially since my clients have a number of different hair types. Since the iron is ceramic, it helps guard against heat damage, plus it stays consistently hot throughout the duration of my hair appointments. —Candace Witherspoon, professional hairstylist and salon owner

I’ll forever be a fan of Hot Tools’ 1 1/4 curling iron. It never lets me down when styling hair, since it’s super easy to use, especially for more classic curls or waves. —Rubi Aguilar Jones, celebrity hair stylist

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7
Mint Tools 3/8” Curling Wand

A less popular and definitely more readily needed curling wand size is the 3/8 inch. I love using this one from Mint Tools to create small curls and coils, and it’s great for working with natural hair. Plus its wand has a barrel that’s extra long and actually ideal for working with extra length. —Monae Everett, author and celebrity hairstylist

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8
CHI 1” Texture Tourmaline Ceramic Curling Iron

CHI’s one-inch curling iron heats up fast and leaves clients with bouncy, shiny curls. For my clients with fine hair types, the iron’s ceramic technology is especially ideal, since it’s heat is evenly distributed, eliminating the need for additional passes. —Isaac Davidson, celebrity hairstylist

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9
Bio Ionic Stylewinder 1” Rotating Styling Iron

When I reach for a traditional curling iron, the Bio Ionic Stylewinder is usually my first choice. It’s very easy to use, especially since it has rotating clamp technology and a swivel cord that make it super flexible when I use it on clients. —Michelle Cleveland, celebrity hairstylist

I love the Stylewinder from Bio Ionic because I can curl my clients’ hair lightning fast, plus it’s easy for them to use at home. The technology in this iron is great because it helps keeps the hair hydrated, and curls ultimately healthier. I also love how easy it is for me to control the curling iron’s temperature with its built-in digital switch. This hot tool is a game-changer—once you use it, it’ll be difficult to go back to a regular iron! —Stefanie Savino, VaultBeauty member, stylist, and salon owner

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10
T3 Twirl Trio

My go-to curling irons right now are the T3 Twirl Trio (more like a traditional clipped curling iron) and the Whirl Trio (which includes a variety of curl wands). Each of these irons is great because they heat up quickly and include three interchangeable barrels for a wide variety of looks. —K.F.

I prefer to use the T3 Convertible iron, which has seven interchangeable heads that offer so much versatility. The iron’s adjustable heat settings make it easy to use on a number of hair types, from fine to thick. It also gets superhot, so the curls I create on my clients with thicker hair textures usually don’t even need the highest heat setting. —Loretta Wollner, celebrity hairstylist

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11
Dyson Airwrap Complete Styler

When curling my long hair, I always reach for the Dyson Airwrap, which attracts and wraps hair on the wand using air and controlled heat. I also love recommending this set to my clients because of its versatility (it comes with five different attachments) and general ease of use, since it doesn’t require any extras to create the perfect curl. —D.K.

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