We independently research, test, review, and recommend the best products—learn more about our process. If you buy something through our links, we may earn a commission.
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
Separate on/off switch for easy control
8-foot cord provides full movement
Rheostat control dial with variable heat settings
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
Instant heat recovery
Warms up in 30 seconds
Adds volume to the roots
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
30 heat settings for precise control
Cool tip provides easy, safe grip
Swivel cord eliminates tangles
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
Digital temperature controls allow for custom styling
Has a 60-minute safety shut-off
Three interchangeable, easy-snap attachments for variety
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
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
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
Can also create curls and flips
Automatically feeds hair between rotating crimping barrels
Shuts off by itself in one hour
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
Only takes 60 seconds to warm
Shuts off automatically in four hours
Leaves hair silky soft
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
360-degree rotating cord provides movement
Heats up in 30 seconds
Five temperature settings for different hair textures
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
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
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
Warms up fast
Can reach high heat
Tangle-free swivel cord extends 6 feet
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
Can digitally adjust temperature to your liking
Heats up fast
Velvet handles provides safe, comfortable grip
Tangle-free swivel cord
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
Auto shut-off after 60 minutes
Heats up in 30 seconds
Titanium plates protect hair from heat damage
Has a wet/dry styling indicator
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
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
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.
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.
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 email@example.com and we will evaluate the product ASAP.