The best curling irons to create every kind of curl and wave

We've tried and tested the best curling irons for every hair type

Selection of the best curling irons from Dyson, ghd, T3, revamp and BaByliss
(Image credit: Dyson, ghd, T3, revamp and BaByliss)

As the key to creating cascading curls, the best curling irons are so worthy of investment and belong in everyone’s hair tool kit. But with hundreds of options on the market, finding the perfect tool isn’t always easy.

We recommend seeking out a curling iron that caters to your hair type and texture while promising to deliver the style that you’re after. The best curling iron for you, much like the best hair dryers and best hair straighteners, depends on the look you’d like. From loose, undone waves to big, bouncy curls or little flicks using curlers for short hair—there’s a hot tool to create every style going and some, like the T3 Whirl Trio, can create them all with their versatile design. 

Your technique, as well as the type of tool, can impact the results, too. After beachy waves? “Use smaller sections and twist wrap the hair,” says Adam Reed, legendary hair stylist, and ghd ambassador. To do this, Reed says “twist the hair first, then wrap it around the tong to create a spiral effect and more definite wave.” For bouncy curls, use a large barrel to hold larger, untwisted  sections of hair like the Dyson Airwrap. 

How to choose the best curling iron for you

Aside from your hair type, there are other things to consider before investing in a curling iron:

  • Curling iron vs curling wand: A traditional curling iron features a barrel with a clamp function that creates long-lasting curls. Irons are versatile and can create classic tight spiral curls as well as loose waves. Most models are easy for beginners to master. A curling wand creates a more freeform, natural curl, and, because there's no clamp, have less risk of denting or ridging hair. Wands are great for S-shaped beach hair waves—some are without a cool tip so wearing a heat-resistant glove is key. 
  • Materials: Ceramic is commonly used as both a coating and full-on material with the best curling irons (the latter is better). Ceramic barrels help spread heat evenly, thus minimizing the risk of hot spots or singing. Tourmaline is best for frizzy hair, as it emits negative ions to smooth tresses and promote shine.  Titanium is the strongest yet lightest natural metal, titanium curling irons are usually higher-end and durable enough for professional use. They heat up quickly and are able to distribute heat remarkably evenly.
  • Heat: Heat protectant notwithstanding, applying direct heat to hair will always incur some level of damage—so with heat settings, it's always best to start low, around 300°F (149°C), particularly if your hair is fine, thinning, colored, processed, or dry and damaged. The healthier and thicker the hair, the higher (and hotter) your hair can withstand, but it's best not to exceed 450°F to avoid damaging or burning your strands. And if you want to avoid heat damage altogether, you're probably best going with a heatless method such as dressing gown curls.
  • Barrel size: The smaller the barrel, the tighter the curl. Smaller barrels (around 3/4") are also great for curling short hair. A 1" barrel gives a standard-width ringlet great for curly hairstyles across the board, while bigger barrels (1.5-2") are best for long hairstyles and those who want a softer, more volumed wave instead.
  • Barrel shape: Curling irons now come in myriad shapes ranging from simple to spiral-, cone-, and bubble-shaped barrels. These are all meant to achieve a specific kind of curl on hair, with a cone or tapered wand giving more natural curls, and bubble and spiral shapes giving tighter, more distinct ringlets.

The best curling irons for every hair type, tested by us

T3 Whirl Trio Interchangeable Styling Wand

(Image credit: T3 )
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1. T3 Whirl Trio Interchangeable Styling Wand

Best overall curling iron

Specifications

RRP: $300/£217
Heat settings: 5
Barrel size: 3/4" - 1.5"
Cord length: 2.7m
Temperature: 410°F (210°C) max
Heat-up time: n/a
Color: White with rose gold

Reasons to buy

+
3-in-1 function
+
Five heat settings
+
Seven different barrels are available
+
Easy to use
+
Reasonably priced

Reasons to avoid

-
Comes in only one color

We rated the T3 Whirl Trio Styling Wand high on our list, and with good reason: This hair tool is interchangeable and all you need is the base, and from there you can mix and match all seven of the included barrels. The set comes with three heads: a 25mm (~1") for undone waves, a 19-32mm (~3/4"-1.25") barrel for tousled waves, and a 38mm (~1/5") option for loose waves. There are also an additional four barrels that can be purchased if desired, making this curling iron a truly customizable pick.

Not only does this curling iron earn the top spot in terms of versatility, but it also rates high on quality. Every barrel features a custom-blend ceramic seal for a smooth and shiny result, also making it suitable for all hair types and textures. Straight, frizzy, curly, thick, and fine hair types alike will find that achieving salon-worthy defined curls and waves is at their fingertips with this styler.

Heat-wise, the Whirl Trio holds up well, clocking a maximum temp at 410ºF, which is at the range recommended for thickest and coarsest hair types. One of its most exceptional features is that it boasts consistent heat for one-pass styling, meaning both your roots, mid-lengths and ends get the same heat treatment in just one go, which, on testing, translated to a flawless, evenly-curled ringlet each time with less risk of damage from repeated passes. Last but not least, all of us nervous Nellies can rest assured with the T3 Whirl Trio, as it automatically turns off after one hour of inactivity. Come for the bespoke barrels, stay for the peace of mind. 

ghd Rise Hot Brush

(Image credit: GHD)
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2. ghd Rise Hot Brush

Best volumizing curling iron

Specifications

RRP: $187/£137
Heat settings: n/a
Barrel size: 1.25" (32mm)
Cord length: 2.7m
Temperature: 365°F (185°C)
Heat-up time: 25 seconds
Color: Black

Reasons to buy

+
Lightweight
+
Heats up quickly
+
Multiple uses possible
+
Good for detangling
+
Reasonably priced

Reasons to avoid

-
Hard to use on long hair

Anyone with a short hairstyle probably already knows why a hot brush made this best curling iron list (spoiler: ease and convenience). The GHD Rise is a saving grace for many short-haired ladies out there looking for a tool to help volumize and zhuzh up their cropped 'do. The Rise opts against the traditional wand barrel and instead goes for a brush feature, but trust us when we say it's just as endlessly beneficial. 

Here, the design is characterized by bristles dotted around a 1.25" (32mm) barrel that heats up when plugged in. We used it in the same way as any hot brush—raked through from roots to ends—and it imparted smoothness and a bouncy, blown-out result. For those battling frizz or flyaways, this streamlined solution is definitely a godsend.

When it comes to temperature control settings, this lightweight option ramps up to 365ºF (185°C), ideal for styling without damage say ghd, and the long swivel cord makes it easier to use.  You can use this hair curler for a big, bouncy blow-dry, loose curls, or even for a wavy hairstyle—the opportunities are endless. Though we do think it's best (and easier) for use on shorter hairstyles, it does take some getting used to at first. Once you find your footing, it's pretty much wash and wear with this easy-to-use option.

Dyson airwrap complete

(Image credit: Dyson)
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3. Dyson Airwrap Complete

Best curling wand to prevent damage

Specifications

RRP: $549/£399
Heat settings: 3
Barrel size: 1.19" (30mm)
Cord length: 2.62m
Temperature control: Yes
Heat-up time: n/a
Color: Fuchsia and nickel

Reasons to buy

+
Powerful dryer
+
Intelligent heat control
+
Creates impressive volume and curls
+
Makes hair fuller and shinier; less damage
+
Works without awkward winding mechanisms
+
Lots of attachment options

Reasons to avoid

-
Expensive
-
May take awhile to learn

You know we're seriously obsessed with this perfect pick and its many Dyson Airwrap attachments. This curling iron and its myriad of add-ons, which opens up the avenue to creating endless styles, certainly lives up to the hype. 

Sure, compared to other curling irons on the market, the higher price point is less than desirable, but when you factor in all that this trusty tool does, it's undoubtedly worth every single penny. The Dyson Airwrap Complete Styler is engineered for multiple hair types and styles. As long as you get the hang of the attachments (our step-by-step guide to how to use the Dyson Airwrap can help with that) users can curl, wave, smooth, and dry with no extreme heat, which makes it ideal for thinner, drier, or more damaged hair. It attracts and wraps strands using only the power of air via the brand's trademark Coanda effect.

It also styles and dries simultaneously and is engineered to style damp hair, combining powerful airflow with controlled heat to dry your hair as it goes. If you're familiar with the genius behind the Dyson Supersonic hair dryer, then you'll appreciate the low-damage tech behind their best-selling curler. Those used to a quicker, more polished curl might find that the Airwrap doesn't give a long-lasting ringlet especially on touch-ups, but we found a way around this once we used it on damp strands. It also impressed us in terms of how healthy our hair looked and felt after use (definitely no fried tresses here), but again, for this price we didn't expect any less than perfection.

ghd Curve Creative Curl Wand

(Image credit: ghd)
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4. ghd Curve Creative Curl Wand

Best tapered curling wand for beachy waves

Specifications

RRP: $199/£144
Heat settings: n/a
Barrel size: 0.9-1.1" (23-28mm)
Cord length: 3m
Temperature : 365°F (185°C)
Heat-up time: 25 seconds
Color: Black

Reasons to buy

+
Best for beachy waves
+
Comes with glove
+
Makes hair look shiny
+
Quick heat up
+
Cool tip
+
Automatic shut-off after 30 minutes

Reasons to avoid

-
No temperature control

Regardless of whether you're dealing with short, medium, or long hair, if you're in the market for textured, beachy waves, then the GHD Curve Creative curl wand is designed for you. This wand contains the brand's ultra-zone technology that guarantees an optimal curling temperature of 365°F which is maintained all throughout the section of hair. This just means it delivers lasting curls that are not only formed fast, but stay locked in while respecting the health of your hair as it curls.

It also has a 0.9"-1.1" tapered barrel that can create textured, natural-looking curls and deep waves for a beautiful tousled beachy effect. We loved the protective cool tip (plus the glove, included in the box), which provides you with a safe place to hold the hair in place while you curl, and the built-in safety stand was definitely handy during styling. Other much-appreciated features include a professional-length cord to allow for flexible styling, automatic sleep mode after 30 minutes idle time (again, our anxiety is grateful), and universal voltage for easy worldwide travel.

If you're looking to create fancy, flirty, festival curls, look no further. It's also good to note that as far as most cone-shaped curling wands go, this was the most premium in look, feel, and performance model we tested. It wasn't particularly hard to get used to even for those new to a tapered barrel. 

ghd Curve Classic Wave Wand

(Image credit: ghd)
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5. ghd Curve Classic Wave Wand

Best curling iron for glam Hollywood waves

Specifications

RRP: $199/£144
Heat settings: n/a
Barrel size: 1" - 1.5" (26mm-38mm)
Cord length: 3m
Temperature: 365°F (185°C)
Heat-up time: 25 seconds
Color: Black

Reasons to buy

+
Oval barrel is great for bigger waves
+
Cool tip
+
Automatic shut off after 30 minutes
+
Long cord, safety stand
+
Reasonably priced

Reasons to avoid

-
No temperature control

Nope, not a typo: This is indeed another version of the previous curler, the Curve Creative, only for more textbook glamorous Hollywood waves. And like its predecessor, the Classic Curve offers the same ultra-zone technology that guarantees 365°F is maintained across the whole barrel, for shiny, long-lasting curls. The difference with this option? Barrel size=curl size. 

This wand has a 1 1/2" - 1" oval-shaped wand that in practise we found created glossy, defined waves and glamorous movement on longer hair. We got a bigger, voluptuous, juicy curl as compared to the beachy tousle of the previous model. Fear not, though, as it also has the prior's safety features, such as a protective cool tip, glove, built-in safety stand, long cord, and universal voltage. For those who want a more classic, old Hollywood glam to their curls, this iconic styler should be first pick. 

Kristin Ess Soft Bend Curling Iron - 2"

(Image credit: Kristen Ess)
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6. Kristin Ess Soft Bend Curling Iron - 2"

Best budget curling iron

Specifications

RRP: $60.99/£44.20
Heat settings: 4
Barrel size: 2"
Cord length: 2.7m
Temperature: 425°F (218°C)
Heat-up time: 1 minute
Color: White and gold

Reasons to buy

+
Suitable for all hair types
+
Titanium barrel enhances shine and prevents frizz
+
Affordable
+
Great for polishing up ends
+
Automatic shut off

Reasons to avoid

-
Bigger barrel isn't as precise for tighter curls

The Kristin Ess 2" Soft Bend Curling Wand is the real deal and offers all the typical bells and whistles you'd expect of one of the best curling irons, while doing so at an extremely affordable price. When you want the trademark soft curves that you typically only get from a professional blowout, this 2" barrel curling iron certainly gets you there. The thicker barrel helps polish the ends and add ultimate subtle texture all throughout hair as well.

We found this to be both quick and similarly efficient to the premium picks on our list. Plus, this curling iron has its own version of temperature-sensing rapid heat technology to help impart even heating throughout the barrel for a consistent, longer lasting curl with integrity.

It also comes with familiar thoughtful features, such as an ergonomic thumb grip, heat-resistant tip, clear temperature pre-sets that allow you to customize based on your hair type or texture, and, yes, an automatic shut-off after 30 minutes. You're hard pressed to find a better option at this price point. 

ghd Curve 1" Classic Curl Iron

(Image credit: ghd)
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7. ghd Curve 1" Classic Curl Iron

Best curling iron for thick hair

Specifications

RRP: $199/£144
Heat settings: n/a
Barrel size: 1"
Cord length: 2.7m
Temperature: 365°F (185°C)
Heat-up time: 25 seconds
Color: Black

Reasons to buy

+
Great for all hair lengths
+
Good for classic curls
+
Easy-to-use clamp
+
Cool holding tip
+
Long cord, safety stand
+
Reasonably priced

Reasons to avoid

-
No temperature control

If it wasn't already obvious, ghd know their stuff when it comes to the best curling irons. This one, the Curve 1" Classic Curl Iron is an ideal middle-of-the-road solution for all hair types and textures because of its democratically sized barrel and works wonders on everything from long to short hair.  

Not only is it capable of clamping and curling through the thickest of hair, it also provides a gleamy, long lasting curl too. You can also be assured of those other standard ghd features, such as a built-in safety stand, cool tip, and uniform heating all throughout thanks to their special tech. We love using this medium-sized barrel on thinner hair too for a more volumized look; on thicker hair it provides just the level of natural-looking tightness, which loosens up naturally as the day goes on.

As this is one of the most common barrel sizes, you might be able to find a cheaper alternative if budget requires—however, the ghd quality really comes through in look, feel, and sturdiness; that long cord alone provides a level of practicality and ease of use we haven't found in similar styles. A two-year manufacturer's guarantee also ensures you receive most bang for your buck.

BaByliss 9000 Cordless Curling Tong

(Image credit: BaByliss)

8. BaByliss 9000 Cordless Curling Tong

Best cordless curling iron

Specifications

RRP: $190/£180
Heat settings: 3
Barrel size: 25mm
Cord length: No cord
Temperature: 160°C, 170°C, 180°C
Heat-up time: 15 seconds
Color: Black

Reasons to buy

+
Cordless design
+
Easy to use
+
Travel-friendly 
+
Good for bouncy curls

Reasons to avoid

-
Heavy

In the market for a pair of cordless curlers? Opt for this hot tool from BaByliss. The sleek and simple design features a 25mm barrel that’s the perfect size for curling medium hairstyles and hairstyles for long hair, delivering beautiful, bouncy curls. 

Once charged up—which takes three hours for full charge—you’ll have 40-minutes of wireless use at maximum temperature. We found that this was more than enough time to style a full head of long hair. Just remember to pack the charger in your suitcase when taking the tool on holiday. 

As for the tech, the wireless wand boasts something called ‘Micro Heating Matrix Technology’ which ensures the heat is evenly distributed across the device for a uniform curl. It also features ultra-smooth ceramic coating which helps create those cascading curls. As well as the curlers, you get a mat, case and heat protective glove included. The only downside is that this tool is slightly heavier than others we tried, which is generally a given with cordless tools, but might result in arm ache after a while. 

Cloud Nine The Curling Wand

(Image credit: Cloud Nine)

9. Cloud Nine The Curling Wand

Best curling iron for bouncy curls

Specifications

RRP: $135/£119
Heat settings: 4
Barrel size: 25mm
Cord length: 2.7m
Temperature: 125-175°C
Heat-up time: 45 seconds
Color: Black

Reasons to buy

+
Can create different curls
+
Variable temperature control
+
Mineral-infused ceramic barrel
+
Swivel cord 

Reasons to avoid

-
No cool tip

For a traditional curling wand, you can’t go too wrong with this classic barrel from Cloud Nine. It’s super easy to use and can create countless styles from big, bouncy curls to softer, laidback waves. And while it doesn’t have a cool tip like other designs, we liked the fact you can curl sections of hair right to the very ends—just be sure to wear the heat resistant glove (included) while styling. 

As well as a heat resistant glove, the box includes a heat resistant style case, a bamboo brush, a heat protection ‘Magical Potion’ spray plus a reusable water bottle. So, while it is expensive, you do get good bang for your buck with all the added extras. In terms of tech, the hot tool features four variable temperatures (auto, low, medium and high) to cater to all hair types and textures. 

The 25mm barrel is infused with the brand’s signature healing minerals that help to seal the hair’s cuticle and lock in moisture for a shinier, healthier look. We definitely saw a difference when using this tool—with glossier, bouncier curls. To boost staying power, we recommend applying one of the best hair styling products to finish.   

Revamp Progloss Tight Curl Stick

(Image credit: Revamp)

10. Revamp Progloss Tight Curl Stick

Best curling iron for tight curls

Specifications

RRP: £34.99 (UK only)
Heat settings: 5
Barrel size: 10mm
Cord length: 3m
Temperature: 120ºC - 210ºC
Color: Black

Reasons to buy

+
Enhances natural curls
+
5 temperature settings
+
Lightweight and easy to use
+
Keratin, argan & coconut infused barrel

Reasons to avoid

-
Not for big curls or waves

Enhance and define natural hairstyles with this super slim curling stick from Revamp that has been specifically designed with tight curls and coils in mind. There are five heat settings to choose from (we recommend going low for fine, delicate or color-treated hair), a cool tip and a 3-metre cable that makes styling hair a total breeze. 

The slim barrel, that measures just 10mm, is infused with keratin, coconut and argan oil for glossy, shiny results. To use, simply wind a small section of hair around the stick in the direction of the desired curl and hold for a few seconds before releasing. We found that alternating directions created a more natural-looking result. 

While this stick is limited to creating tight curls, it is a great tool to have in your kit for whenever you want to switch up your look or enhance your natural curl pattern. Oh, and at this price we think that it’s a total steal with its luxurious design and impressive results that stand up to curlers twice, and even thrice, its price point. 


woman&home thanks Adam Reed for his time and expertise.