Everything You Need to Know About Curling Irons

Curling irons

monstArrr_ / Getty Images

From ceramic to titanium and wands to triple barrels, there's a lot to consider when searching for a curling iron (which, inevitably makes for overwhelming shopping trips). Much of what you should consider depends on your hair length and texture, as well as the type of curl you're after. Below, discover the best curling iron material for your hair as well as the differences between barrel sizes, heat settings, and curling iron shapes.

Material

While most hair aficionados find themselves choosing between titanium versus ceramic curling irons, there are several other materials available.

Ceramic is the most common curling iron material, as it spreads heat evenly and smooths out the hair. Ceramic curling irons work especially well for thin hair types that can't handle high temperatures.

Hot Tools Nano Ceramic Curling Iron
Hot Tools Nano Ceramic Curling Iron $60
Shop

Made from the stone of the same name, tourmaline curling irons emit negative ions to combat dull, dry, frizzy hair. It's great for thicker hair types that are difficult to manage.

Bed Head Curlipops 1'' Spiral Styling Iron
Bed Head Curlipops 1'' Spiral Styling Iron $30
Shop

Gold-plated curling irons are able to tolerate high heat settings for a long period of time. They're best for coarse or thick hair.

Hot Tools 1-Inch Spring Iron
Hot Tools 1-Inch Spring Iron $50
Shop

Used by professional hairstylists, titanium is the most durable, lightweight curling iron material and is able to hold high heat settings for longer. This material is ideal for thick hair types.

Aquage 1.25-Inch Curling Iron With Attachments
Aquage 1.25-Inch Curling Iron With Attachments $70
Shop

Barrel Size

Curling irons also come in a variety of barrel sizes. Pick one based on your hair length and texture, as well the size curl you want.

A small, 3/4-inch barrel size is used for creating tight ringlets. It's best for those with short hair and fine hair, and can also add definition to curly hair.

Conair Instant Heat Curling Iron
Conair Instant Heat Curling Iron $8
Shop

A 1-inch curling iron is the best all-around and can work for a variety of lengths and textures.

Moroccanoil Everlasting Curl Titanium Curling Iron
Moroccanoil Everlasting Curl Titanium Curling Iron $150
Shop

Long hair is easier to curl with a 1 1/2-inch barrel, as the full length of the hair is able to fit along the length of the barrel and be exposed to even heat. This size is also ideal for achieving loose waves.

Hot Tools 24K Gold Curling Iron
Hot Tools 24K Gold Curling Iron $50
Shop

Heat Setting

Heat is crucial for ensuring your curl holds, but it's important to be mindful of creating a delicate balance in order to avoid frying your locks. Thin or damaged hair requires lower heat while thick hair types can afford to go higher. Whatever your hair type, never exceed 450 degrees Fahrenheit, and always apply a heat protectant beforehand.

  • Fine or chemically treated hair: Never use a heat setting higher than 300 degrees Fahrenheit if you have thin or chemically treated hair, as these hair types are prone to heat damage.
  • Healthy or medium-thick hair: If your hair is virgin or medium in thickness, opt for a curling iron that ranges in temperatures from 300 to 380 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Coarse, curly, or thick hair: Thick hair can get away with using curling irons that have higher temperatures ranging from 350 to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.
InstaNatural Thermal Protector Hair Spray
InstaNatural Thermal Protector Hair Spray $14
Shop

Shapes

Just as there are a variety of barrel sizes when it comes to curling irons, the options for shapes seem endless, too.

Most traditional curling irons feature a clamp that holds your ends in place as you roll the iron up your hair shaft.

BaByliss Pro Nano Titanium Spring Curling Iron
BaByliss Pro Nano Titanium Spring Curling Iron $50
Shop

Unlike a curling iron that has a clamp, a curling wand has no clamp and instead works by letting you wrap a section of hair around the barrel. Wands are ideal for those with dry, damaged ends, as you can keep them from being exposed to high heat by leaving them unwrapped.

Nume Classic Curling Wand
Nume Classic Curling Wand $89
Shop

With a wider base and a narrower end, cone-shaped curling wands create natural-looking waves that are looser at the root and tighter toward the ends.

Paul Mitchell Neuro Unclipped Styling Cone Curling Iron
Paul Mitchell Neuro Unclipped Styling Cone Curling Iron $110
Shop

Featuring two or three barrels, this type of iron creates looser S-shaped beach waves.

Revlon 3 Barrel Jumbo Ceramic Hair Waver
Revlon 3 Barrel Jumbo Ceramic Hair Waver $23
Shop

Related Stories