These Irons Are the Secret to Perfectly Crimped Hair

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Byrdie / Chloe Jeong

Whether 80s and 90s hair is a thing you lived through or just something you've seen pictures of on the internet, you might be excited to hear many throwback styles are having a comeback. One notable look is crimped hair—the zigzag crinkle effect you can only get from tight braids, plastic clamps, or hot hair tools.

If you ask us, the latter is the easiest and most effective way to nail this nostalgic do. Today's crimping irons can offer everything from retro sawtooth crimps to large, deep waves. Short, long, thick, fine, natural, or curly—no matter your hair type, there's a crimper out there for you.

These are the best hair crimping irons for the ripples you crave.

Best Overall: Hot Tools 1" Micro Crimper

Hot Tools Professional Micro 24K Gold Crimper
What We Like
  • Separate on/off switch for easy control

  • 8-foot cord provides full movement

  • Rheostat control dial with variable heat settings

What We Don't Like
  • Could be more durable

For a classic crimp, reach for the Hot Tools 1" Micro Crimper. The small metal plates have tiny grooves for creating a perfect zigzag texture, whether you crimp your entire mane or just a few sections.

New York-based hairstylist Sky Kim of Serge Normant at John Frieda says she uses this crimping iron on clients with short, long, thick, and coarse hair. "The heat does go up to 430 degrees, so it'll style your hair very efficiently, and you won't have to leave it on for too long," she tells Byrdie.

Temperature Range: 280 to 430 degrees | Size: 1 inch

Best Budget: Bed Head Little Tease 1" Tourmaline Ceramic Crimper

Bed Head Little Tease Hair Crimper
What We Like
  • Instant heat recovery

  • Warms up in 30 seconds

  • Adds volume to the roots

What We Don't Like
  • Doesn’t reach the highest temperature

  • Hard to tell temperature on setting indicator

Hair tools aren't as cheap as they were in the 80s, but if you want something a little more budget-friendly, we suggest Bed Head's Little Tease. This crimping iron heats up within seconds to an impressive 400 degrees. And the narrow ceramic rippled plates make it easy to get a perfect crimp.

Temperature Range: Up to 400 degrees | Size: 1 inch

Best Drugstore: Revlon Salon Long Last Waves Deep Waver

Revlon Pro Collection Deep Waver Iron

 Courtesy of Amazon

What We Like
  • 30 heat settings for precise control

  • Cool tip provides easy, safe grip

  • Swivel cord eliminates tangles

What We Don't Like
  • Doesn’t feel hot enough at highest setting

Revlon's take on the crimping iron is this sleek waver tool. The ceramic grooved barrel delivers more of a bouncy, beachy wave, but you'll still get plenty of definition. It reaches up to 400 degrees with evenly distributed heat, though you can set it to a lower temp for a softer look.

Temperature Range: Up to 430 degrees | Size: 0.75 inch

Best Splurge: Drybar The Mixologist Interchangeable Styling Iron

The Mixologist
What We Like
  • Digital temperature controls allow for custom styling

  • Has a 60-minute safety shut-off

  • Three interchangeable, easy-snap attachments for variety

What We Don't Like
  • Pricey

The Mixologist is a bit spendier than your average hair tool, but this all-star styler is a curling iron, curling wand, and waver in one. Hook on the waver attachment to add some beachy volume to your mane, and pump up the heat to the max 450 degrees when you want a little more definition.

Temperature Range: Up to 450 degrees | Size: 1.25 inches

Best Pro-Level: ghd Contour Professional Performance Crimper

ghd contour® professional crimper
What We Like
  • Automatically shuts off after 30 minutes

  • Preset to safer-for-hair 365-degree temperature

  • Rounded barrel sculpts full-bodied curls

  • 360-degree cord eliminates tangles

What We Don't Like
  • Pricey

Hands down, one of the best things about this crimping iron is that it automatically switches off after 30 minutes—meaning you won’t find yourself in constant stress over whether or not you turned it off. Boost your volume and texture without damaging your hair thanks to advanced ceramic technology. One user recommends crimping the roots for instant volume—no back-combing necessary. 

Temperature Range: Up to 365 degrees | Size: 1 inch

Best for Fine Hair: Ion Automatic Crimping Hair Iron

ion Automatic Crimping Hair Iron
What We Like
  • Can also create curls and flips

  • Automatically feeds hair between rotating crimping barrels

  • Shuts off by itself in one hour

What We Don't Like
  • Could be more durable

For our fine-haired friends, we recommend this Ion crimper. It automatically feeds your hair through the rotating rippled plates, saving you time and energy. You can use it to tease thin tresses or create a fuller look by adding volume at the roots.

Temperature Range: Up to 420 degrees | Size: 1 inch

Best for Thick Hair: Gold 'N Hot 2" Ceramic Crimping Iron

Gold 'N Hot Professional Ceramic 2" Hair Crimper Iron
What We Like
  • Only takes 60 seconds to warm

  • Shuts off automatically in four hours

  • Leaves hair silky soft

What We Don't Like
  • No temperature control markings

All you need is a minute to get this crimping iron ready to go. Two-inch gold plates with various heat levels instantly heat your hair to your desired style. Fans of this hot tool rave that it doesn’t take them long to style their hair—just press down onto the section of hair for a second or two and you’ve got textured waves. Bonus: The 6-foot-long cord conveniently swivels—ideal for those just-a-tad-too-far outlets.

Temperature Range: Up to 450 degrees | Size: 1 or 2 inches

Best for Curly Hair: DSHOW 4-in-1 Hair Ceramic Iron

DSHOW 4 in 1 Hair Crimper Hair Waver Hair Straightener Curling Iron
What We Like
  • 360-degree rotating cord provides movement

  • Heats up in 30 seconds

  • Five temperature settings for different hair textures

What We Don't Like
  • Iron plates hard to take off

This four-in-one tool is ideal for curly-haired folks. Its interchangeable ceramic plates include a flat plate for straightening plus three different crimpers: one with four teeth, one with six teeth, and one with eight teeth. If your hair has a natural curl, straighten it first, then snap on a crimping plate to create a defined ripple effect.

Temperature Range: Up to 220 degrees | Size: 1 inch

Best for Natural Hair: Amika High Tide Deep Waver

amika hair crimper

Courtesy of Sephora 

What We Like
  • Automatically shuts off in 30 minutes

  • Heat-resistant, nonslip handle is comfortable

  • Negative ions seal cuticle to smooth hair

  • Can digitally adjust temperature for custom styling

What We Don't Like
  • Pricey

Curly, coily, kinky—this volumizing hot tool works wonders on any hair type. Three tourmaline ceramic barrels help create crease-free and flawless curls, all while sealing the cuticle to keep strands smooth. One user raves that despite being a hair tool newbie, she found this crimper extremely easy to use—no practice needed.

Kim is also a fan. "I love that this comes with an extra-long cord with 360-degree swivel, so you can really work it around you, plus negative ion technology that smooths hair and a 30-minute turn-off feature," she says.

Temperature Range: 120 to 390 degrees | Size: 0.70 inch

Best for Short Hair: Bed Head Waveaholic 2'' For Tight Waves

Bed Head Waveaholic 2'' For Tight Waves, Volume & Crimp Like Texture
What We Like
  • Warms up fast

  • Can reach high heat

  • Tangle-free swivel cord extends 6 feet

What We Don't Like
  • Technically waves more than crimps

If you're working with short hair, your best bet is a waver tool like Bed Head's Waveaholic. The 2-inch rippled plates are just the thing for achieving beachy, crimp-adjacent texture that doesn't stick straight out. It heats up to 450 degrees and uses tourmaline ceramic technology, meaning you can style your hair fast without worrying about damage.

Temperature Range: Up to 450 degrees | Size: 2 inches

Best for Long Hair: Trademark Beauty Babe Waves Limited Edition

Trademark Beauty Babe Waves The Hair Waver
What We Like
  • Can digitally adjust temperature to your liking

  • Heats up fast

  • Velvet handles provides safe, comfortable grip

  • Tangle-free swivel cord

What We Don't Like
  • Doesn’t warm up enough

  • Lacks a long style hold

For long-haired humans, we recommend Trademark Beauty's Babe Waves. The standard size has three 1-inch barrels, and the jumbo size has three 1.25-inch barrels. Either way, this waver makes it easy to cover a lot of ground in a little time. Plus, it heats up quickly and can be set up to 450 degrees, depending on how much definition you're going for.

Temperature Range: Up to 450 degrees | Size: 1, 1.15, or 1.25 inches

Best Time-Saver: Remington 2" Wet2Waves Styler

Remington Wet2Waves Styler
What We Like
  • Auto shut-off after 60 minutes

  • Heats up in 30 seconds

  • Titanium plates protect hair from heat damage

  • Has a wet/dry styling indicator

What We Don't Like
  • A bit awkward to handle

Going from damp hair to gorgeous waves takes just one tool with this time-saver. The combo of ceramic and titanium plates—and their unique steam vents—can heat damp strands without damaging them. Because it’s a blow dryer and styler in one, it truly cuts your styling time in half. Before styling, make sure to towel-dry your hair and remove excess water, then detangle your hair with a brush. Section your hair as you normally would, and then style.

Temperature Range: Up to 425 degrees | Size: 2 inches

Final Verdict

If you want a classic crimped look, you can't go wrong with the 1" Micro Crimper from Hot Tools (view at Amazon). The small plates and zigzag ripples make it easy to create all-over texture or tease just a few sections. That said, Bed Head's Little Tease Hair Crimper (view at Amazon) is slightly more wallet-friendly, and it has similarly narrow, rippled plates.

What to Look for in a Hair Crimping Iron

Plate Shape

The most important feature of crimping irons is the plate shape. For a true crimp with a distinct crinkled look, opt for small, sharply angled ripples. If you want a more subtle effect, look for plates with larger (and usually fewer) ripples. For softer waves, you'll want a tool with multiple barrels or smoother, less angular grooves.

Plate Material

Unlike stylers from the 80s, the best hair crimping irons of today typically have ceramic plates. These protect hair from heat damage while creating a shiny effect with minimal frizz. Some are made with tourmaline ceramic, which helps seal in and smooth hair cuticles.

Heat

To achieve a high-definition zigzag effect, your crimping iron should reach at least 400 degrees, though some can get as high as 450. If you want a more subtle style, look for an option that can be set to a lower temp.

Speaking of heat, we also appreciate crimpers that automatically shut off after 30 or 60 minutes. This means you'll never have to frantically wonder whether you remembered to turn it off when you're out and about.

Why Trust Byrdie?

Theresa Holland researched and wrote this roundup. Having dabbled in crimping and waving over the years, she's partial to Bed Head's hair tools. Theresa has been writing for Byrdie since 2020. You can find more of her work on MyDomaine and The Spruce.

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 crimping irons from a Black-owned and/or Black-founded business. If you know of one we should consider, please email us at contact@byrdie.com and we will evaluate the product ASAP.

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