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Fine hair can be hard to style, to say the least. Products that bring other hair types shine and bounce might make yours look slippery or weighed down. Thin hair can redeem itself for drying quickly, but when you want to add volume by way of a curling iron, well, good luck trying to get your slick hair to hold a curl for more than a couple of hours.
While they might not look a whole lot different to the untrained eye, today's curling irons are actually a lot more effective than their decades-old counterparts. So which barrels and wands are best for the thin-haired camp? We asked some hairstylists for guidance.
"Temperature is key," celebrity hair artist Sally Hershberger tells Byrdie. "Fine hair is more susceptible to heat damage, so finding one that allows you to keep a steady temperature is major—310 F is ideal for fine hair." If you're guilty of cranking up the heat when styling with hot tools, don't sweat it. We scoured the Internet to find the choicest options out there with adjustable temperature settings that won't fry fragile hair.
Ahead, the best curling irons for fine hair.
Best Overall: Hot Tools 24K Gold Marcel Curling Iron
Heat sensor technology
Not ideal for beginners
"I like the Hot Tools Professional 24K Gold Marcel Iron," says Hershberger. "It's lightweight, creates a great curl, and can hold a steady temperature (remember 310 F for fine hair) that won't damage the hair." As its name suggests, this 1-inch wonder is coated with 24-carat gold to deliver optimal shine.
The brand's Pulse Technology senses heat loss and then restores it to the barrel. And unlike traditional spring irons, the marcel-style clamp offers more control when styling. (If you've never used a marcel iron, it'll take a little practice, but before long, you'll be a pro.) Not only that, but Hot Tools backs this iron with a seven-year warranty.
Temperature Range: Up to 430 degrees | Size: 1 inch
Best Budget: Conair Double Ceramic 1-Inch Curling Iron
Moderate heat range
Relatively short barrel
With a moderate heat range that doesn't go above 375 F, Conair's budget-friendly Double Ceramic Curling Iron was designed with fine hair in mind. Though as Hershberger notes, you're wise to keep it around 310 F. The non-tapered ceramic barrel evenly distributes heat while helping to smooth frizzy hair.
Temperature Range: Up to 375 degrees | Size: 1 inch
What Our Editors Say
"This ultra-affordable option has been my go-to curling iron for the past eight years. It heats up quickly and simply works in a way other, more expensive models haven't for me. The double-ceramic barrel protects against damage, and it means you can also use the tool like a curling wand if you don't want to clip in for tight curls." —Kathryn Vandervalk, Editorial & Strategy Director
Best Drugstore: Remington Pro ½-1-Inch Pearl Ceramic Conical Curling Wand
Temperature lock functionality
Digital temperature control
Comes with a protective glove
Limited curling options
This affordable drugstore pick holds its own against fancier devices. Featuring a tapered ceramic barrel, ten digitally controlled heat settings, and an auto-shutoff feature, the quick-heating Remington Pro Curling Wand checks all the boxes. We also like that it comes with a protective glove.
Temperature Range: Up to 410 degrees | Size: 0.5 to 1 inch
Best Splurge: T3 Micro Whirl Trio Interchangeable Styling Wand
Intelligent heating protects hair from damage
High in quality
No clamp functionality included
If you're open to investing in a top-tier versatile tool, you should definitely consider getting the T3 Whirl Trio. This high-tech model comes with a tapered wand and two traditional barrels (1 and 1.5 inches), allowing you to create endless styles. Not only that but the intelligent heating system can be set as low as 260 F, so you won't have to worry about frying your hair.
Temperature Range: 260 to 410 degrees | Size: 1 to 1.5 inches
Best for Beginners: BaBylissPRO Nano Titanium Spring Curling Iron
Even heat distribution
Adjustable heat settings
Can be a bit time-consuming
If you're new to the world of curling irons, the BaBylissPro Nano is an excellent gateway tool. This traditional clamp-style spring iron has a 1.25-inch titanium-ceramic barrel, plus adjustable heat settings that go easy on fine, fragile hair.
Temperature Range: 310 to 450 degrees | Size: 1.25 inches
Best Wand: NuMe Magic Curling Wand
Creates ultimate hold
Far-infrared heat technology protects outer cuticle
Engineering could use some work
NuMe's Magic Curling Wand boasts a clampless, non-tapered titanium barrel, negative ion conditioning technology, and digital temperature settings starting as low as 140 F. You can choose between bouncy ringlets or soft waves without worrying about friction or breakage.
Temperature Range: 140 to 450 degrees | Size: 1 inch
Most Versatile: Amika The Autopilot 3-in-1 Rotating Curling Iron
3-in-1 multi-use design
Negative ion technology seals and smooths cuticle
Hard to clamp when rotator is unlocked
"Think about how comfortable you are with using certain irons. The wand may be easiest to use, or maybe a clamp, which is also fairly easy to use, or a marcel if you're up for a challenge," says New York-based hairstylist Sky Kim of Serge Normant at John Frieda.
With The Autopilot, you'll get the best of all worlds. This three-in-one ceramic hot tool can operate as a traditional clip curler, a rotating barrel curler, or a pro-level marcel wand.
Temperature Range: 320 to 430 degrees | Size: 1 inch
Best for Short Hair: ghd Curve Classic Curl Iron
Automated temperature control provides safe heating
Gets warm quickly
No heat settings
For those rocking a shorter style, we recommend the 1-inch Curve. "GHD adapts its heat temperature depending on the section of the hair and won't go above 365 F, so it's really great for fine hair or damaged hair," explains Kim. Plus, the cool tip helps prevent burns when you're holding it near your face and scalp.
Temperature Range: Up to 365 degrees | Size: 1 inch
Best for Long Hair: CHI Lava Spin N Curl
Doesn't go below 370 degrees
If you have long hair, Kim says to consider styling time. With this in mind, we recommend the Pro Spin N Curl from CHI's Volcanic Lava line. This nifty iron basically sucks up small hair sections into its heated curl chamber, then releases a bouncy 1-inch curl.
Temperature Range: 370 to 410 degrees | Size: 1 inch
Best Barrel: Bio Ionic Long Barrel 1.25" Curling Iron
Extra-long barrel provides ample styling room
Keeps hair conditioned
Easy to hold
Hair may slide out of the clip
Unlike many curling tools on the market, this beauty from Bio Ionic doesn't skimp on barrel length. The Long Barrel Iron is 1 inch wide and roughly 2 inches longer than average, allowing you to create glamorous spirals or modern waves, even in hard-to-reach sections, like the back of your head.
Temperature Range: 250 to 430 degrees | Size: 1 inch
Best Features: Drybar The 3-Day Bender Digital Curling Iron
Long power cord gives range and flexibility
Not ideal for beginners
Drybar's 3-Day Bender pulls out all the stops for at-home styling. This all-star curling iron has a 1.25-inch barrel with a rotating clamp, transforming slick, flat hair into bouncy curls in no time. What's more, it has digital heat settings, an automatic shutoff feature, and a 9-foot power cord.
Temperature Range: Up to 440 degrees | Size: 1.25 inches
Best Rotating: InStyler Max Prime 1.25" Rotating Tourmaline Ceramic Iron
Finishes the job in minutes
Provides four heat settings
Automatically shuts off for safety
Quality has changed a bit
For pro-level curls and voluminous bounce, reach for the InStyler Max Prime. With a 1.25-inch rotating barrel and an ionic bristle brush in place of a traditional clamp, it tackles frizz and leaves visibly shinier hair in its wake. And when you're not in the mood for curls, you can use it to smooth and straighten.
Temperature Range: 285 to 425 degrees | Size: 1.25 inches
Best for Loose Waves: Beachwaver Co. Beachwaver Pro Dual Voltage
Rotating barrel provides convenient movement
Hair stays intact all day
If it's loose waves you're after, your best bet is the Beachwaver Pro. It's got a 1-inch gold-infused tourmaline barrel with a dual-rotation feature that makes easy-breezy hairstyles, well, a breeze. We also like that it has a 9-foot power cord and a specially designed clamp that won't create that dreaded crimp.
Temperature Range: Up to 450 degrees | Size: 1 inch
Best for Travel: Harry Josh Pro Tools Travel Curling Iron 1.25-Inch
Heats up in just 30 seconds
Performance could be better
This small but mighty curling iron from Harry Josh Pro Tools weighs just over 6 ounces and is the best petite size to stash in your suitcase, carry-on, gym bag. We appreciate that it has adjustable heat settings, an ionic barrel, and an automatic shutoff feature. "Plus, it's mint green, which is super cute," adds Kim.
Temperature Range: 325 to 425 degrees | Size: 1.25 inches
Our number one pick for fine-haired folks is the Hot Tools 1" 24K Gold Marcel Curling Iron on account of its pro-level design, wide temperature range, and reasonable price tag. That said, if you're on a budget, you can't go wrong with the Conair Double Ceramic 1-Inch Curling Iron. And those open to splurging on a top-shelf tool should consider the T3 Whirl Trio Interchangeable Styling Wand.
Meet the Expert
Shelly Aguirre is a hairstylist at Maxine Salon in Chicago. She specializes in cutting, blowouts, extensions, and keratin treatments.
What to Look for in a Curling Iron for Fine Hair
When it comes to curling finer hair, hairstylist Shelly Aguirre stresses the importance of choosing a tool with a fully ceramic (read: not just coated) barrel. “You need to have even heat distribution from the top to bottom of the barrel,” she says. “If the barrel isn’t evenly heated, you’ll tend to go over the section more times than necessary because you’re not getting the results quick enough”—thus, leading to heat damage, which is definitely not beneficial to anyone with fine hair, which tends to be much more fragile.
To keep fine, limp hair looking healthy and vibrant, Aguirre also recommends looking for an ionic curling iron. “Negative ions will help make the hair shiny and less frizzy due to the simple fact that negative ions close down the cuticle,” she says. “Your cuticle lays like shingles on a roof, so ‘laying them down’ will increase the shine and offer a healthy overall look.”
Per Pucciarello's advice, those with fine hair shouldn’t be using their curling irons at 450 F unless they want fried, damaged hair. Aguirre says that it’s imperative to look for a tool with temperature control so that you can adjust it to fit your styling needs while maintaining a non-damaging temperature range. “You should keep the heat down to around 325 to 350 degrees, so you’re not damaging the hair,” she recommends. “Also, using a heat protectant is necessary and not negotiable.”
What kind of curling iron is best for fine hair?
As Aguirre mentions above, fine hair is more prone to damage than other hair types, so it’s important to look for curling that will keep the hair healthy (but, of course, still work). She recommends a curling iron with a fully ceramic barrel to allow for even heat distribution, ionic technology to keep the hair shiny and frizz-free, and temperature control to allow you to style in a non-damaging temperature range.
She also mentions that a quality iron that won’t singe your hair may be pricier, but it’s well worth the investment. “Spending a little more when investing in a hot tool will help in the long run—ask your stylist for the recommendations when it comes to these tools,” she says.
What temperature should a curling iron be for fine hair?
According to Aguirre, those with fine hair should keep their curling irons in the 325 to 350 F temperature range to effectively curl the hair sans heat damage. As Pucciarello warns, do not use a tool heated up to 400 F or higher.
What size barrel is the best for fine hair?
When it comes to choosing the right barrel size, Aguirre says it depends on how curly you’d like your hair to be. “The smaller the barrel, the curlier the look,” she says. “This is also dependent on the length of your hair and what look you’re trying to achieve. When in doubt, talk to your stylist and get some advice.”
Why Trust Byrdie
Byrdie contributor Theresa Holland is a seasoned beauty writer specializing in skincare, makeup, and hair. As someone with fine hair, she's experimented with her fair share of hot tools promising volume and bounce, including a plethora of curling irons. From the above list, she has personally tried Conair, T3, Remington, InStyler, CHI, Amika, and GHD. For this story, she interviewed hairstylists, reviewed products from a variety of retailers, combed through user reviews, and made her selections based on the unique needs of fine hair.
According to our Diversity Pledge, 15% of products in our newly-published market roundups will feature Black-owned and/or Black-founded brands. At the time of publishing, we were not able to find any curling irons for fine hair from a Black-owned and/or Black-founded business. If you know of one we should consider, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will evaluate the product ASAP.