Unless you’re a seasoned pro in the styling department, we’re pretty sure you’d agree that curling irons are one of the most hard-to-master beauty tools. It’s not only a headache figuring out how to properly work them, but the process that goes into finding the best one for your needs isn’t that intuitive. There are a ton of different curling irons on the market that vary in size and shape — heck, some of them even rotate!
As arduous as it may be, the difference between a stellar barrel and a so-so one can drastically change your curl result. Luckily for us, brands have been stepping up their tool game over the past couple of years — introducing more modern, high-tech, and easy-to use contraptions that help address specific preferences. Translation: These aren’t just carbon copies of the irons you’ve seen in the past. The latest and greatest offer better heat control, handling, and results!
To help you find the right one, we had three women — with varying hair types and curl wants — test out some of the best-reviewed irons on the market. Click ahead to see which ones fared best. And, while you’re at it, check out some of our tricks to master curls. (But, whatever you do, don’t be this girl.)
At Refinery29, we’re here to help you navigate this overwhelming world of stuff. All of our market picks are independently selected and curated by the editorial team. If you buy something we link to on our site, Refinery29 may earn commission.
Who: Cortney Riles Curler Contender: Bio Ionic StyleWinder Rotating Styling Iron Hair Type: “Thick, soft, naturally curly.”
“I’ve always worn my hair natural(never permed, dyed, etc.). I vary between styles often, so my hair is used to being styled with and without heat. When I curl my hair, which tends to be once or twice a month, I use a hot curling iron or a flat iron (for looser curls). I’ve dabbled with wands a bit and I like them, but don’t always have the time to curl my entire head. That usually takes an hour, and a good amount of patience that I don’t have — I’ve rushed a couple times and have burned the crap out of my hands!
“I tend to wear my hair straight, but in the summer I wear it curly. My hair’s pulled back often, because I work out three to five days a week and as soon as I sweat, or any kind of moisture hits my head, my hair gets wavy or curly instantly.”
Photographed by Alexandra Gavillet.
“The biggest thing for me, when it comes to my hair, is health and comfort — that’s why I change my styles fairly frequently. Too much heat isn’t good, but neither is too much product, so I try to find a happy medium, and pay very close attention to the kinds of products and tools I’m using.
“My experience [with the Bio Ionic iron] was okay. It took a while to just TRY and get curls. And, once I did, they weren’t the best — at least not how I’m used to curling my hair. I was somewhat satisfied with the look at the end, but I also knew my curls could look better. Although my usual curling iron does have a clasp to hold your hair, I didn’t like the clip on this one. It seemed to make it harder to get the curls, especially even ones. I wouldn’t use it again, and I wouldn’t recommend it to friends with a similar hair type — I’ve simply used other products that work better for my hair. Although, I’m sure it would work wonderfully for other [hair types].”
Bio Ionic StyleWinder Rotating Styling Iron, $62.89, available at AmazonPhotographed by Alexandra Gavillet.
Who: Hayley SquireCurler Contender: GHD Curve Classic Wave Wand Hair Type: “Somewhere between wavy and straight, short, and thin.”
“Three years ago, I walked into Sally Beauty Supply with the intention of buying my first curling wand. Just a few minutes later, I walked out with the cheapest curling wand I could find. It was bright-pink and had one setting only: on/off. I still use it to this day.
“I recently cut four inches off of my hair and am still trying to figure out the best way to style it. My hair, no matter the length, has always been on the thinner side with frizzy waves when I let it air-dry (not so cute). I typically use my curling wand about three to four times per week (depending on how many times I wash my hair), and it takes me no more than 15 minutes to get the style I like.
“The curling iron I was given to try was the GHD Classic Wave Wand. My first impression of the wand was that it was the sexiest hairstyling tool I’d ever seen: all-black, so sleek, and coated with ceramic. I pretty quickly figured out that this was much nicer than my $30 pink curling wand from 2012.”
Chinti & Parker Melange Sweater Rosy Pink Melange, $450, available at Chinti & ParkerPhotographed by Alexandra Gavillet.
“The one thing I noticed right away was that it was an oval barrel instead of the typical circular or cone shape that I’m used to. I couldn’t wait to see how my curls would look with the different shape. The wand took about five seconds (no joke) to heat up and as soon as it was ready for use, a light and a sound indicated that to me. The entire experience took a little longer than usual because the wand only heats to 365 degrees, whereas most hot tools heat to over 400 degrees. However, the fact that it doesn’t get as hot — meaning it’s much healthier for my hair — is something I really can’t complain about.
“In the end, my curls came out looking like deep, undone waves rather than tight curls, which isn’t a look I could achieve with my old curling wand — and I loved it. The only complaint I have was that the waves didn’t last as long as I would’ve liked. The next morning, my curls were gone and I had to go over my hair with the wand again. This might be attributed to the fact that my hair is on the shorter side, but with my old curling wand, I could leave my hair alone for up to three days without my curls falling too flat.
“I’ll definitely be using this new wand again, when I’m looking for the beachy-waves look, and I would absolutely recommend this to anyone who likes that look as well.”
GHD Curve Classic Wave Wand, $199, available at SephoraPhotographed by Alexandra Gavillet.
Who: Rebecca SmithCurler Contender: T3 Twirl 360 Motion-Sensing, Auto-Rotating 1.25’’ Curling Iron Hair Type: “Lots and lots of long, medium-thick hair. Seriously, A LOT of hair.”
“My hair is naturally really straight, but I don’t feel put-together unless it has some curl to it — I blame all of my years dancing. Part of the mandatory costume was BIG, curled hair. Yet, somehow I missed the lesson on how to use a curling iron. I used to steal my mom’s hot rollers to get my desired look. By high school, I was curling my hair with a hair-straightener at least twice a week. What is the secret to having great hair three or four days after a shower? Dry shampoo, lots of curls, hairspray, and minimal brushing.
“Since I normally use a flat iron to curl my hair, I initially had hesitations about using a curling iron. I was pretty sure I was going to end up with that crimped end-tail of using a curling iron, or awkward curls. But, using the T3 was easier than I ever imagined. Once you clamp your hair in, there is a button on this model that brings the curler up your hair — seriously, the curler basically does all the work for you! Normally, it takes me about 25 minutes to curl all of my hair. It only took me 15 minutes with the T3. Plus, it looked great.”
Photographed by Alexandra Gavillet.
“I loved the curling iron. I was even debating throwing my hair-straightener away. But, the next day the curls were gone. What is the point of styling your hair if there isn’t even good second-day hair? I tried again a couple of days later. Same results. Beautiful curls at first, but they were falling out by the end of the day (and nothing else changed about the routine — same shampoo, hairspray, and lack of brushing).
“I still love how easy it is to get a head of curls, and I would definitely recommend it if you only want one day of curls. I will keep using this model, but I am not ready to throw away my hair-straightener quite yet.”
T3 Twirl 360, $230, available at T3Photographed by Alexandra Gavillet.
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