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Fine hair often gets tons of attention, with lots of products and tools that are designed to address its specific needs. Often it feels like thick hair gets the short end of the stick. But even if you’ve been blessed with full, thick strands, that doesn’t mean that any ol’ styler or hot tool will work for you—thicker tresses need some dedicated attention, too. Take curling irons, for example.
Everything from temperature settings to barrel material to shape can make all the difference when it comes to styling your voluminous locks, whether you’re going for beachy waves or retro, brushed-out curls. When looking for a curling iron to use, you'll want a barrel size appropriate for your thickness and length, as well as a material that heats quickly enough to not cause damage. On top of that, a range of temperature settings is important, as is whether the barrel is a clamp or wand.
Ahead, the best curling irons for thick hair that will give your mane exactly what it needs.
Best Overall: Beachwaver Co. Beachwaver Pro Dual Voltage
This game-changing hot tool truly revolutionized the hair industry when it first came on the scene, with self-spinning technology that makes it possible for anyone to get the beachy waves you see on runways and the red carpet. All you have to do is put a section of hair in the clip and push a button; the iron does the work for you, spinning it in the right direction to create that effortlessly tousled texture. This pro version in particular is great for thick hair, thanks to its larger barrel and adjustable temperature settings.
Best Budget: Hot Tools 24K Gold Curling Iron
Despite the fact that Hot Tools products aren’t incredibly pricey, they feature all kinds of great technology and are a staple among professional stylists. This particular iron touts a patented pulse technology to sense heat loss, immediately restoring it so that your iron stays evenly hot the whole way through—a huge win when you’re curling thick hair that can take quite a long time to get through.
Best Drugstore: Remington Pro 1-1.5-Inch Pearl Ceramic Conical Curling Wand
This affordable option heats up super fast—in just 30 seconds, to be precise—and can reach temperatures up to 410 degrees. Crushed pearl on the ceramic coating makes for evenly distributed heat (which minimizes the likelihood that you need to go over the same section again) and also adds a shiny smoothness to your hair. Bonus points for the tapered wand, which allows for versatility when it comes to the type of curls you can create.
Best Smoothing: T3 Micro Whirl Trio Interchangeable Styling Wand
This beloved hot tool brand uses a custom-blend ceramic on the surface of this iron, which is choice for booth tamping down errant frizzies (a common problem for those with thicker strands) and imparting mega-watt shine. While it’s definitely pricey, consider the fact that you’re also basically getting three separate irons for the price of one. This comes with a tapered wand, plus a 1-inch and a 1.5-inch barrel size, allowing for plenty of versatility. Use the larger ones on the back of your head and the smaller one around your face, where even thick hair will be a little finer.
Best for Long-Lasting Curls: Drybar The 3-Day Bender Digital Curling Iron
As the name suggests, this tool is ideal for those who want to wash and style their hair once…and then not have to do it again for days on end. Ultimately, that’s the best way to minimize heat damage to your hair, something that’s important for all textures. Plus, the rotating clamp helps you create perfectly shaped curls faster than traditional irons—which, again, is a big plus if you have lots of thick hair to get through.
Best for Beginners: Kristin Ess Soft Wave Pivoting Wand
You know why your hair always looks so much better when a pro does it? It’s because they're standing behind you with complete access to every last inch of your hair. That’s not the case when you’re taking the DIY route and have to contort your arms to try and get to all those hard-to-reach spots at the back of your head. Enter this solution: This wand's pivoting barrel can be used either straight, as a traditional wand, but also bends into a 90-degree angle so that you can more easily curl every last bit of hair. And let’s face it, curling thick hair can already be hard enough, so we’ll take whatever help we can get.
Best Ceramic: CHI Lava Spin N Curl
Ceramic is a standout material in the world of curling irons and straighteners—it's one of the most effective at evenly conducting heat and helping to minimize the damage that can come with metal options. This iron ups the ante even further, with a volcanic lava-lined chamber (seriously) to up that heat conductivity. It’s also super easy to use, drawing small sections into the chamber and spinning them. There are helpful pre-set temps and heat-up times based on hair texture, including an option for thick or coarse tresses.
Best Interchangeable: Drybar The Mixologist Interchangeable Styling Iron
This is a go-to tool for Byrdie associate editor Holly Rhue. It comes with three interchangeable attachments allowing for a variety of different looks. There’s a 1-inch wand for more defined waves, a 1.25-inch wand for classic curls, and a three-pronged waver for a tousled, beachy texture. Infrared technology heats up whichever one you choose from the inside out, which is a great way to help minimize damage, and it also reaches up to 450 degrees, which is a huge plus for those with thicker hair.
Best Splurge: T3 Curl ID 1.25-Inch Smart Curling Iron
Pricey? Yes. Worth it? Also yes. This product has some of the coolest high-tech features we’ve ever seen in a hot tool, all of which add up to a totally customized styling experience. How it works: Input your hair profile based on texture, color, and chemical treatments and the tool does the hard work for you, coming up with the exact heat profile you need to score long-lasting, damage-free curls. (There’s also a manual mode you can play around with, should you so choose.)
Runner-Up, Best Splurge: Harry Josh Pro Tools 3-in-1 Ceramic Curling Iron 1-Inch
Hairstylist Harry Josh is arguably equally as well-known for his iconic work as he is his for his eponymous line of amazing hot tools. This three-part wand, a favorite of Byrdie senior editor Lindsey Metrus, is one of those. There’s a clipless wand as well as two interchangeable options, one of which boasts Marcel clamps and one of which features a spring clamp. All of them have a nano-ceramic and tourmaline coating to smooth hair and add body, plus a variety of heat settings that can be adjusted based on your hair texture.
Best for Damaged Hair: Sultra After Hours Collection 1.5-Inch Titanium Styling Wand
A titanium barrel coupled with an ion emitter make for a friction-free surface that won’t pull or tug on the hair. This allows for one-pass styling, which further minimizes the likelihood of heat damage. The clipless rod is also perfect for creating beachy waves.
Best for Thick, Curly Hair: HerStyler Baby Curls Mini Curling Iron
Styling products aside, a curling iron can be a great way to touch up and define your naturally curly texture. Just make sure you’re using the right one; this option fits the bill. The tiny size is perfect for adding smoothness and shape to curls and has the added benefit of being lightweight and portable. It’s a solid choice for curly hair, no matter whether your spirals are fine or thick.
What to Look For in a Curling Iron For Thick Hair
The size of the curling iron's barrel determines how large or small your waves or curls will come out. While it may be tempting to use a mini iron for a headful of tightly curled spirals, if you have thick hair that might turn into more of a time commitment than you're prepared for. Your fastest use iron will be one with a larger barrel, especially if you have long hair that's thick. Save the minis for touch-ups, and use a one- to two-inch barrel for full-head styling.
Tourmaline, gold plate, titanium: Curling irons sounds kind of like jewelry these days! You have numerous options for a material that heats fast and can help mitigate damage from curling. If you have thick hair, titanium is the best choice—but only provided you're a skilled curler. "Titanium plates will heat up much quicker and are great for pros, but they heat from the outside in and, for an inexperienced user, could cause more damage over time," celebrity hairstylist Matthew Collins told Byrdie.
Thick hair can require higher temperature settings in order to curl properly. While thinner hair can get results in the 300-degree range, if you have thick hair that is healthy, you'll want an iron that has higher capabilities than that. Ideally, a range of up to 350, or even 450, will work best—just be sure to work quickly if using the iron closer to the latter temp.
Where once all curling irons had a clamp, in which you placed the section of hair and then twisted the barrel to create curl, curling wands have taken over the curling iron market in recent years. Because your hair isn't placed directly into a clamp, it may experience less heat damage. Wands are ideal for more messy waves, whereas clamps are used often for perfect ringlets.
How do I get my thick hair to hold a curl?
Thick hair may be difficult to keep curled after putting in the effort with an iron, so it's important to facilitate keeping your curls intact. A couple of top tips on creating a lasting curl are to use a mousse and heat protector before drying, to set your curls with clips, and to not run your fingers through your hair.
What should I put on my hair before curling it?
Do you use a curling iron on wet or dry hair?
Not only will damp locks flatten after you curl them, using a curling iron on wet or even damp hair can cause damage. Additionally, the steam created by the contact of heat on damp or wet hair can burn your scalp. Always use curling irons on hair that is fully and completely dry.