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Curling wands live up to their name in more ways than one. Yes, these hot styling tools are wand-shaped, but they can also create a special kind of magic in your hair, from soft, uniform curls to beachy waves. However, because these clamp-free rods come in various shapes and sizes, the problem many of us face is finding the ideal rod for our hair type.
Byrdie Tested & Approved
Our testers selected the ghd Curve Creative Curl Wand as the best curler overall, noting that it's extremely lightweight, versatile, and heats up quickly without overheating. They also called out the Bed Head Curlipops Ceramic Clamp-Free 1/2'' Curling Wand as the best budget curler, which scored high marks for ease of use.
That’s where we come in. At The Lab in Industry City, Brooklyn, we put some of the best-rated curling wands to the test so that you don’t have to. We had four testers with varying hair textures, lengths, and densities weigh in on each wand for its ease of use, styling ability, and curl hold, rating each area on a scale from one to five. We measured everything from cord length to heat-up time, temperature accuracy to durability. Our hope in doing so is that it will make your shopping decisions that much easier.
Keep reading for our collective consensus on the best curling wands out there.
Best Overall: ghd Curve Creative Curl Wand
Quick to heat up
Protective cool tip
Built-in safety stand
Finer ends may get caught near rod’s end
This lightweight wand was a favorite among our testers, and it's easy to understand why. The uniquely flattened taper shape of the rod offers some styling versatility, from a tighter hold to a looser, beach-like wave. “It took about 10 to 15 seconds to achieve a full-bodied curl,” says one tester, "although you can achieve loose waves if you leave this curling wand on for less time.” At a preset temperature of 365 degrees, which we can confirm does not exceed 366 degrees at its core and gets down to 320 degrees near its end, this wand is designed to protect your hair from any heat damage. Its 22-second heat-up time, easy-to-maneuver swivel cord, protective cool tip, and automatic shut-off are also some favorite features that are hard to beat. It does fall on the pricey end of the spectrum (at nearly $200), but we absolutely think it's worth the investment.
Auto Shut-Off: 30 minutes | Heat-Up Time: 22 seconds | Cord Length: 8 feet
What Our Testers Say
"The curl I achieved with this curling wand was amazing. I'm talking Gone with the Wind fabulous. From its design to the condition my hair felt afterward, this curling wand passed every metric with flying colors, especially as someone with natural hair.” —Danielle Ransom, Editorial Commerce Producer
Best Budget: Bed Head Curlipops Ceramic Clamp-Free 1/2" Curling Wand
Simple, straightforward design
No manual temperature setting or digital display
For some of us, simpler is better when it comes to technology—including when it comes to our hair tools. The BedHead's Curlipops Ceramic Wand is no exception with its straightforward design and no-fuss, easy-to-use mechanics of a single on/off button—you’re getting the features you pay for, here. Of course, that’s not to say this wand won’t deliver. Our testers gave it a collective 4/5 rating for curl hold, saying that with just a little extra time spent holding hair around the wand, a defined, bouncy curl was the result—and though it loosened up a bit with time, the shape remained intact. If you don’t want to spend a lot of money and you aren’t looking for anything fancy, this $30 option has got you covered.
Auto Shut-Off: None | Heat Up Time: 2:37 | Cord Length: 6 feet
Best Drugstore: Conair Double Ceramic 1" Curling Wand
Double ceramic barrel for even heat distribution
Hard to read incremental temperature setting
Smell emits with higher temperatures
Not all of us have the ability (or desire, for that matter) to splurge on our hair tools, but affordable options shouldn’t compromise our desired results. The Conair double ceramic curling wand is going to give you even heat distribution for long-lasting curls—and, at under $20, there’s no arguing with that! While the wand can reach up to 400 degrees, you may not need to take it so high, due to its efficiency on thicker hair types. It doesn’t have a ton of bells and whistles, but it does have 30 different heat settings to choose from. Sure, this feature was a little confusing to some of our testers, especially when compared to the straightforward digital displays on other wand options, but it didn’t disrupt the 4/5 styling ability rating and its 4.25/5 rating for ease of use. TL;DR: This drugstore option is a value that’s hard to beat.
Auto Shut-Off: 1 hour | Heat-Up Time: N/A | Cord Length: 6 feet
What Our Testers Say
“This curling iron was a solid choice. It created a defined curl that did not fall and had just the right amount of bounce.” —Kelsey Lentz, Editorial Commerce Producer
Best for Versatility: Amika The Chameleon 5-Barrel Interchangeable Curling Kit
Five interchangeable titanium barrel sizes
Easy to store
If you aren’t someone who likes to wear the same look every single day, the Amika Chameleon 5 Barrel Interchangeable Curling Kit is the wand for you. Don’t be scared off by the price tag on this one, Byrdies—you’re essentially getting five different irons with this kit. Plus, each titanium barrel will heat your tresses quickly and leave you with long-standing hold and a smooth finish. Also, its temperature setting has an easy-to-read (and control) digital display that will reach up to 450 degrees for thicker, more stubborn hair types. All of our testers reported that there was no drop to their curls as time wore on, earning this wand a 5/5 rating for curl retention. Overall, our testers felt that this wand would be a match made in heaven for any hair chameleon and would cater to the needs of varying hair densities and textures.
Auto Shut-Off: 1 hour | Heat-Up Time: 1:58 | Cord Length: 8 feet
What Our Testers Say
"This wand is so versatile and offers tons of flexibility. It will work on so many different hair types and creates a really natural, effortless-looking curl.” —Kelsey Lentz, Editorial Commerce Producer
Best for Long Hair: Bio Ionic Eternity Wand
Comfortable handle grip
Fast, lasting results
Moisturizing heat technology
Heat-resistant glove included
Harder to use on short hair
Having longer hair can often take a longer amount of time to style. If you fall into this hair camp, finding a wand that will offer fast and lasting results can make all the difference—and that’s exactly what the Bio Ionic Eternity Wand can offer. With a 4.7/5 rating for both its ease of use and curl holding ability, this wand was an easy selection for our best-of list. Its auto-shut-off and digital display take it a notch above your basic wand, but it's the moisturizing heat technology in this bio ionic ceramic barrel that’s responsible for the quick results. Plus, the extra-long rod and cord length make it extremely suitable for reaching longer strands. Case in point: one short-haired user claimed, “The barrel felt too long for my short hair and was especially hard to use in the back of my head.” Don’t forget to rely on that heat-resistant glove—it’s included for a reason.
Auto Shut-Off: 1 hour | Heat-Up Time: 3:00 | Cord Length: 9 feet
Best Splurge: Dyson Airwrap Styler
Six interchangeable magnetic attachments
Smooth, shiny finish
Long cord offers range of motion
No readable display
Dyson branched out into hair care back in 2016 and the industry hasn’t been the same since. The band's cutting-edge technology has set a new standard for what we can come to expect in a hot tool, and the Airwrap is no exception. With six interchangeable magnetic attachments—for smoothing, volumizing, and of course curling—this tool does so much more than your average curling wand. If you thought setting the temperature on a digital display was next level for ease, the Airwrap doesn’t even offer a temperature control because it checks itself automatically to keep its internal temperature below 302 degrees to avoid causing any heat damage to your strands. Yes, there is a small learning curve due to its uniqueness, but our testers still gave it a 4.5/5 for styling ability and a 4.25/5 for ease of use.
Another differentiating factor is the fact that this wand uses airflow as its main source of heat, so the results you’re going to get are more similar to the curls from a blowout that loosen up over time, hence the 2.9/5 rating for curl hold. It certainly falls on the pricey end of the spectrum, but this transformational tool will help you achieve a variety of different looks, keep the integrity of your strands, and help speed up your overall styling time. For these reasons, it's a worthy splurge in our books.
Auto Shut-Off: N/A | Heat Up Time: N/A | Cord Length: 8.75 feet
What Our Testers Say
“Using the Dyson wand, I would be done with my hair in half the time!” —Yves-Berthe Saint-Louis, Senior Project Manager
Best for Fine Hair: Gisou Curling Tool
Cute, easy-to-read display
Silky, smooth, frizz-free, long-lasting finish
10 temperature settings
Comes with travel case and heat mat
No built-in safety stand
While testing the Gisou Curling Iron, our fine-haired tester reported that “this wand left the best curls for my hair type.” Not only were they a fan of the rod shape and curl definition, but there was no need to hold the iron against the hair for long periods to get long-lasting, desired results. Plus, its ceramic barrel is a huge perk in terms of protecting finer strands from damage. While our thicker-haired testers also reported impressive results in their styling, their looser-curled finish didn’t get in the way of rating this wand at a collective 4.75/5 for curl hold and 4.5/5 for ease of use. The cute black and pink aesthetic and extremely lightweight grip also made it an easy favorite among our testers.
Auto Shut-Off: 1 hour | Heat-Up Time: 1:36 | Cord Length: 8.2 feet
What Our Editors Say
“If you're more concerned about aesthetics, this is a cute, ultra-lightweight design that gets the job done.” —Erika Reals, Associate Fashion Editor
Best for Beginners: Hot Tools Professional 1-1/4" Nano Ceramic Flipperless Curling Wand
Built-in safety stand and heat-resistant glove
Ceramic barrel with cool tip
Heavier than other wands
Hot Tools is a brand known for its classic, timeless hot tools. The brand's tools, including this wand, always offer a straightforward design that's easy to use for newbies. A heat-resistant glove is included with the Nano Ceramic Fliperless Wand, but it also offers a large cool-tip surface which serves as a great safety net for any beginner. One tester noted that their hair had a healthy, shiny finish with minimal frizz after using this wand, thanks in large part to the ceramic barrel and snag-free surface that offers heat protection to your strands, as well as an effortless glide. Both styling ability and curl hold ratings come in high with a 5/5 for our testers, so even if you aren’t new to the wand search, this Hot Tools wand option is sure to leave you with reliable results you’ll be raving about.
Auto Shut-Off: N/A |Heat Up Time: 2:34 | Cord Length: 8 feet
What Our Editors Say
“I always expect good things from Hot Tools and this didn't disappoint! Despite it being a wand with a bigger barrel I found it super easy to use.” —Erika Reals, Associate Fashion Editor
Best for Bouncy Curls: L'ange Hair Lustré 25mm Blush Titanium Barrel Digital Wand
Titanium barrel with cool tip
Auto shut off
May snag near barrel base
Bouncy and defined is the best way to frame your expectations from the L’ange Hair Lustre curling wand. Its ergonomic design gave our users a comfortable, confident grip for maximum styling control, concluding in a high 5/5 rating for ease of use. Thicker hair types loved the digital display, which allegedly reaches up to 450 degrees, though when we tested it with a meat thermometer, we never saw temps rise above 342 degrees. But that didn’t get in the way of its secure, long-lasting results.
Testers reported that the iron heated up quickly between temperature changes and it was easy to achieve a bouncy curl without holding the wand in place for long. Its titanium barrel helps with quick temperature control, as well as consistent heat throughout the wand. One tester had some minor snagging near the barrel’s base on her first run, which was the only reason its styling ability got down to a 4/5. Otherwise, this wand passed with an almost perfect score across the board, giving all testers a voluminous, bouncy head of curls.
Auto Shut-Off: 1 hour | Heat-Up Time: 1:52 | Cord Length: 6 feet
Best for Natural Hair: T3 SinglePass Wave Professional Tapered Ceramic Styling Wand
Custom interchangeable ceramic barrels
Smart Twist dial
Quick to heat up
Top heavy weight distribution
Curling wands come in either a straight barrel shape or a tapered barrel shape, and this T3 Single Pass Wand comes with both straight and tapered interchangeable barrel sizes. Having this multitude of options, especially in terms of tapered rods, can really help enhance natural hair types with more of a believable finish, because let’s face it: natural curls aren’t always the most uniform. “The hold was impeccable and the definition was unmatched,” said one tester—and with a collective curl hold rating of 5/5, we’d expect nothing less.
The temperature does reach 410 degrees as promised, but even thicker hair types noted some concerns about higher heat levels from this wand. With a very small safety stand holding up this tapered shape, it does tend to fall forward and potentially burn surfaces beneath it, so be sure to use a heat-resistant mat if you have one—and of course, don’t forget your heat protectant spray!
Auto Shut-Off: 1 hour I Heat-Up Time: 1:22 I Cord Length: 8 feet
Overall, every one of our testers agreed that the ghd Curve Creative Curl Wand’s uniquely shaped rod offered a most comfortable grip, tip, and weight—which can make all the difference when it comes to styling. Its fuss-free auto-temperature and speedy heat-up time protects your strands (and your time!) while offering great hold that’s easy to achieve.
If you’re a newbie to curling wands, the straightforward design of the Hot Tools Professional 1-1/4" Nano-Ceramic Flipperless Curling Wand comes with a heat-resistant glove and an extra-long cool tip to help you avoid burns while focusing on mastering your new technique. And if you’re a wand veteran, it’s time you picked up the Amika Chameleon 5 Barrel Interchangeable Curling Kit for titanium-protected, long-lasting curls in a variety of sizes. The durability of these interchangeable rods will safely reach high temperatures without compromising your strands—and though it falls on the pricey end of the spectrum, we think it’s worth every cent.
Meet the Expert
How We Tested
We spent hours researching curling wands, interviewing experts, and reading product reviews to land on the product selection for this story. Once we narrowed down the tools selected, we put each iron to the test. Each curling wand was rated on a scale of one to five for ease of use, styling ability, clamp tension, and curl hold. We tested these attributes on short, medium, and long hair that varied in texture (from thin and fine to thick and straight and from curly coils to relaxed).
During the testing process, we took note of each iron’s temperature in the top, middle, and bottom of the iron barrel. We measured its heat-up time and auto-shut-off time (when applicable) for accuracy and took note of its cord length. We also tested for durability by dropping each iron on the floor to see if any damage would occur. Thankfully, all the irons listed here passed with a 5/5.
Once our data was collected, our editor compiled all the categorical information and finalized the best-of list. All of our testing took place at The Lab in Industry City, Brooklyn.
Other Options We Tested
Revlon Mix Curler Adjustable 2-in-1 Curling Wand
This 2-in-1 Adjustable Wand from Revlon was a close runner-up, with its easy-to-use twist feature at the cool tip that takes you between a 1-inch barrel and a 1.25-inch barrel sans the additional attachment pieces. The reason it didn’t make the cut after our testing period was largely due to concern around heat damage. One tester reported dry, crunchy ends while another hair type experienced some smoking from the wand while curling. Thicker hair types also had difficulty getting a curl to stay intact with this wand, and though it was easier for testers with finer hair to achieve the desired shape in efficient time, they also claimed a pretty quick fall out for their curls.
What to Look For in a Curling Wand
When it comes to selecting the size of your curling wand barrel, taking your hair’s length and desired results should be your top considerations. If you desire looser curls or beachy waves, choose a larger barrel, says celebrity hairstylist Sally Hershberger. A wand that has a tapered end will also give you more of a wave than a curl. For tighter curls or shorter hair length, go for a smaller barrel size, which Hershberger notes, can also help amp up your style’s volume.
Adjustable temperature settings
To avoid heat damage, you want to select a curling wand that has adjustable temperature settings. This customization tool will help you cater to your hair type’s specific needs. “Generally speaking, if you have fine or treated hair,” says Hershberger, “keep the temperature below 300 degrees.” While normal, medium hair types can tolerate a bit more heat, Hershberger notes you’ll need a heat range of 350-450 degrees for coarser, thicker hair.
The material your curling wand is made of will greatly impact the results you desire for your specific hair type and concerns, according to Hershberger. If frizz and/or heat damage are your main concerns, she suggests seeking out a ceramic or tourmaline rod. Thicker hair types that need high temperatures for effectiveness while still wanting to prioritize retaining moisture in their hair should turn to titanium rods. Not only will titanium heat up fast and help retain moisture, says Hershberger, but it will prevent the hair from becoming too dry or brittle with regular use.
Built-in safety stand
Having a bevel built-in to your curling wand for the ease of putting it down on your counter between sections is crucial. This small feature will prevent any accidental burns to your countertop and keep the hot barrel lifted above other items that may quickly catch fire.
A cord that swivels will allow your curling iron to move with ease as you style your strands and avoid getting tangled up or crowding your view as you go.
How do you use a curling wand?
“Always use on 100% dry hair,” says Nikki Providence, a celebrity hairstylist. You can graze over your natural curls with a curling wand to plump them up again or use the wand to completely transform your look for more texture, volume, body, and movement. No matter what approach you take, Providence suggests, letting the hair cool off in the shape you’re going for your style to have more longevity.
Should I use a tapered wand or a straight wand?
Tapered wands can offer a more relaxed, beachy-looking wave while straight rods can provide a more uniform structure to your hair’s movement.
How do you curl short hair with a curling wand?
Start by clipping the top half (or two-thirds if you have thicker hair) up so it's out of the way, then separate the bottom layer of your hair into four or five sections. With the wand pointed downward, wrap a section of hair around the barrel, working toward the tip, then hold it in place for five to eight seconds and release.
How long do you keep the hair on a curling wand?
If you have medium or long hair and are aiming for soft waves, five seconds is usually plenty for a one-inch piece of hair at a high temp, or for slightly tighter curls, add one or two seconds. With shorter hair, you may need to hold it for up to eight seconds.
When and how should a curling wand be cleaned?
“If there’s a lot of product in the hair, that gets on the iron,” says Providence. “If you don’t clean it off pretty much right away, it can get baked on and become impossible to clean.” Providence offers two cleaning solutions: She uses a professional grade all-purpose cleaner called Ship Shape, “or I use straight 71% alcohol on a microfiber [cloth], and clean the iron while it’s warm but not hot.”
How do I know what temperature to use?
According to Providence, starting at a medium-low heat setting is a safe place to begin to gently encourage the hair into its new shape. Finer hair types may experience exposure to damage at higher temperatures, whereas thicker hair types may be more resistant to heat and need to go in at the highest temperature available. Regardless, easing into the right temperature and using a heat protectant beforehand will help give your strands an added boost of protection.
How often do I need to replace my curling wand?
“When the heat becomes inconsistent,” advises Providence. “It’s essential to have good control over your heat because that’s what causes the damage. When the thermostat starts to be uneven, the iron can get too hot for the hair and cause a lot of damage.”
Why Trust Byrdie
Byrdie Contributing Writer Ashley Rubell has more than a decade of experience as a professional hairstylist and seven years of experience as a beauty writer, focusing specifically on all aspects of styling, cutting, and coloring. She extensively tests tools, products, and remedies for hair woes on a daily basis. Rubell also interviewed fellow hair artists in her network for a well-rounded analysis of each tool being researched and additional expert-derived advice for our readers to consider.
For this story, we recruited four testers with varying hair types, lengths, and textures: Editorial Commerce Producer Kelsey Lentz, Byrdie Associate Fashion Editor Erika Reals, Editorial Commerce Producer Danielle Ransom, and Senior Project Manager Yves-Berthe Saint-Louis. Every iron was tested on the same scale for ease of use, styling ability, clamp tension, and curl hold.
Lee Y, Kim YD, Hyun HJ, Pi L quan, Jin X, Lee WS. Hair shaft damage from heat and drying time of hair dryer. Ann Dermatol. 2011;23(4):455. doi: 10.5021/ad.2011.23.4.455