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In the world of hot tools, few are quite as versatile as the classic curling iron. Based on a few simple factors such as the barrel size and shape, coupled with your specific technique, you can do everything from enhance natural curls to add new ringlets to otherwise straight hair to create beachy waves and texture. But with so many different options out there, how can you figure out which is going to give you the curls you crave? What size do you need? Clamp or no clamp? Ahead, the top options out there—spoiler alert, there’s something for everyone, even if you’re a curling iron novice—that will fit any and all of your curling needs.
Best Overall: Hot Tools 24K Gold Curling Iron
While they may not be the trendiest or newest curling irons on the block, stylists continuously rave about the Hot Tools curling irons. While many pros use the marcel version (which has an added non-spring clamp), that version can be tricky for the average at-home user. Instead, we like this iron, which makes it easy to create any and every kind of curl, no matter your preference.
The gold plated barrel speeds up heat circulation and distributes it evenly, while patented pulse technology senses heat loss and immediately restores it. Translation: This iron gets hot quickly and stays that way, which is the secret to achieving a uniform look, for any and every kind of curl.
Best Budget Buy: Conair Multi-Attachment Ceramic Wand
Think of this as getting not one, not two, but three different curling irons for a bargain. The trio of various interchangeable barrels can be switched out on the same singular base for all kinds of different looks. Use the one inch for classic waves, the one-and-half inch for glamorous curls, and the one-and-three-quarter inch for beachy texture. Either way, they all heat up within 30 seconds and have tourmaline ceramic technology that helps minimize damage.
Best for Beginners: Beachwaver Pro 1.25
It admittedly requires a certain level of skill—not to mention dexterity—to be able to curl your own hair. That’s why we think celebrity stylist Sarah Potempa’s tool invention is so genius. Known for creating perfectly beachy waves on her A-list clients, she created this iron to make the process totally foolproof; the motorized barrel rotates on its own, doing the hard work for you. Simply push the ‘left’ or ‘right’ button, based on which side of your head you’re curling, and the barrel will rotate accordingly, resulting in totally perfect, yet oh-so effortless looking beachy waves. Adjustable heat settings ranging from 310 to 450 degrees Fahrenheit also let you customize based on your hair texture.
Best for Fine Hair: GHD Curve Creative Curl Wand
Fine hair is more susceptible to damage, so it’s imperative not to go too hot with your hot tools. There’s no risking that with this wand, which only heats up to one temperature. 365 degrees, to be specific, which GHD determined to be the optimum curling temperature for all hair types, helping you create curls without the risk of any damage. Its unique tri-zone technology sensors keep the heat even the entire time, and also help seal in moisture. It also shuts-off automatically after 20 minutes, so you’ll never have to worry if you left your curling iron on.
Best Multi-Tasker: Kristen Ess 3-in-One Flat Iron
Okay, this may be called a flat iron, but—surprise!—it can actually straighten, wave, and curl your hair. Credit the one and one-quarter inch titanium plates with slightly rounded body edges that make this such a versatile tool. Not to mention that it also delivers negative ions to fight frizzies and increase shine, regardless of the look you’re creating. Reviewers love how multi-functional it is, and also comment on how it works just as well as much more expensive tools.
Best for Thick Hair: Paul Mitchell Express Gold Curl
Thicker, coarser hair can take a bit more heat, and may actually require it to create the type of curls you want. With an impressive temperature range going from 280 degrees all the way up to 430 degrees, this gives you the option to crank up the temperature if you do have thicker hair and need a little more heat. But don’t worry, with an extra-long cool tip and insulated thumb grip, you don’t have to worry about scorching your fingers (never any fun), and it also comes with an easy-to-replace spring for added longevity.
Best Wand: Remington Pro Curling Wand
Wands are perfect for creating tousled textures, thanks to their tapered shape. This particular option earns big points for its wallet-friendly price, digital controls, nine (yes, nine) different heat settings, and a mere 30 second heat-up time. The ceramic coating on the barrel also has real silk proteins, leaving your hair, you guessed it, extra smooth and silky. And if you’re worried about using a wand for fear of burning your fingertips, this conveniently comes with a heat protective glove, too.
Our writers spent 4 hours researching the most popular curling irons on the market. Before making their final recommendations, they considered 25 different curling irons overall, screened options from 20 different brands and manufacturers, read over 30 user reviews (both positive and negative) and tested 6 of the curling irons themselves. All of this research adds up to recommendations you can trust.