What is the best curling iron for hard-to-curl hair?

A great rule of thumb is that the smaller the barrel, the tighter the curls will be. That means you should look for curling irons with a one-inch barrel if your hair doesn't hold a curl. No matter what curling iron you pick, holding the it on each section of hair for a few seconds as you curl so strands are heated through (but not burned!) is essential or creating a curl that lasts and won't fall flat. Make sure to set with a strong-hold hairspray for curls that stay put, and use heat protectant before styling to prevent damage to strands.

Conair Double Ceramic Curling Iron

Conair Double Ceramic Curling Iron; 1 1/2-inch; White/Rose Gold

by Conair

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Anjou Curling Iron 1.25 inch with Ceramic Coating

Anjou Curling Iron 1.25 inch with Ceramic Coating, Hair Curling Wand  

by Anjou

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Conair CD87NCSRRC 1-Inch Instant Heat Curling Iron

Conair CD87NCSRRC 1-Inch Instant Heat Curling Iron

by Conair

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Buying Guide for Best Curling Iron

When shopping for a new curling iron, there are a few attributes and features you'll want to look for to ensure you're choosing the right curling iron for your hair type (and needs!). Here's what to consider before you buy:

Barrel size: 

Material:

Adjustable heat settings:

Automatic shut-off:

Below are our top picks for the best curling irons, from our testers' favorites to stylists' go-tos and beyond:

Titanium Pro Curling Iron

Titanium Pro Curling Iron

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The winner of the Beauty Lab's curling irons test, this one-inch model proved to be lightweight, comfy to grip, and snag-free. "I loved how quickly this curling iron heated up," one tester raved.


"It easily clamped my hair and curled it in just a few seconds." It also rated highly for forming smooth, frizz-free curls and has an automatic shut-off feature.

Titanium Pro Curling Iron
Titanium Pro Curling Iron

Main Features

  • Barrel size: 3/4-inch, 1-inch, 1 1⁄4-inch, 1 1⁄2-inch
  • Adjustable heat: Yes, up to 450º
  • Cord length: 9 feet
  • Automatic shut-off: Yes, after 60 minutes
Curling Irons 1 1/4 Curling Iron Women with Long Ceramic Barrel

CAD$

30.99

Curling Irons 1 1/4 Curling Iron Women with Long Ceramic Barrel and High Temperature Warning Rubber Ring, Dual Voltage and Auto Shut-Off for All Types of Hair (270 ℉ to 430 ℉) (Yellow)
by SUPRENT

Flat Iron for Hair-Ceramic Hair Straightener and Curler

CAD$

38.99

Flat Iron for Hair-Ceramic Hair Straightener and Curler 2 in 1 Inch Multi-Styler with Twist & Curl Technology, Color Care Protection, Champagne
by Yiiho

Conair Instant Heat Curling Iron

Conair Instant Heat Curling Iron

You can't beat the price of this one-inch classic curling iron (currently less than $10!), which, despite its eye-popping bargain price, is racking up the five-star ratings on Amazon.


"I love the weight of this curling iron, the way it holds my hair in the barrel as I roll it, and that the controls are in the perfect position," says one reviewer. Don't expect less frills at a lower price: this one still has adjustable heat and auto shut-off.

Conair Instant Heat Curling Iron
Titanium Pro Curling Iron

Main Features

  • Barrel size: 1-inch
  • Adjustable heat: Yes, up to 400º
  • Cord length: 5 feet
  • Automatic shut-off: Yes, after 60 minutes
The Beachwaver Curling Iron

The Beachwaver Curling Iron

Created by hairstylist Sarah Potempa, this time-saving, automated curling iron use myself "It rotates away from your face, taking the guesswork out of curling hair," she says.


"All you have to do is clamp a section of hair at the bottom, press the button, and watch as it winds around the curler. Hold for a few seconds, release, and you have a perfect loose curl." It also comes in two sizes: One-inch for tighter curls and 1 1⁄2 inch for looser waves.

The Beachwaver Curling Iron
Titanium Pro Curling Iron

Main Features

  • Barrel size: 1-inch, 1 1⁄2 inch
  • Adjustable heat: Yes, up to 410º
  • Cord length: 8 feet
  • Automatic shut-off: Yes, after 30 minutes
Signature Series Gold Curling Iron

Signature Series Gold Curling Iron

This gold standard curling iron is a professional hairstylist go-to. "I use Hot Tools for all of my styling irons because they last and you can get them in different barrel sizes and designs," says Stephanie Schempp-Steinsdorfer, a hairstylist at Avanti Salon in Ramsey, NJ. "I like that you can adjust the temperature setting on it and it heats up fast." Amazon reviewers also love Hot Tools Professional 24k Gold Extra-Long Barrel Curling Iron.

Signature Series Gold Curling Iron
Signature Series Gold Curling Iron

Main Features

  • Barrel size: 1-inch, 1 1⁄4-inch, 1 1⁄2-inch
  • Adjustable heat: Yes, up to 430º
  • Cord length: 6 feet
  • Automatic shut-off: ​No

InfinitiPRO by Conair Nano Tourmaline Ceramic Curling Iron

Infiniti Pro by Conair .75" Curling Iron

BIO Long Barrel Styler Pro Curling Iron

BIO Long Barrel Styler Pro Curling Iron

This one-inch barrel tool works especially well for longer hair thanks to the extended length of the barrel. Fans love that their style lasts for hours, with one reviewer saying her "curls last the whole day and I still can have loose curls the next day."

Bio Long Barrel Styler Pro Curling Iron
BIO Long Barrel Styler Pro Curling Iron

Main Features

  • Barrel size: 1-inch
  • Adjustable heat: Yes, up to 430º
  • Cord length: 9 feet
  • Automatic shut-off: Yes, after 60 minutes

Nano Titanium SteamTech MiraCurl

An innovative twist on a typical curling iron, this tool wraps sections of hair into a special chamber, where the curl is set with heat. If you can get past the initial fear of letting your hair enter a "curl chamber," you'll love it just as much as many Ulta shoppers do.


Multiple five-star reviews note that it's a major time-saver once you get the hang of it, which many say is surprisingly fast.

Nano Titanium SteamTech MiraCurl
Nano Titanium SteamTech MiraCurl

Main Features

  • Barrel size: N/A
  • Adjustable heat: Yes, up to 450º
  • Automatic shut-off: Yes​
Harry JOsh Travel Curling Iron

Harry JOsh Travel Curling Iron

You don't have to sacrifice efficacy for travel size: A top seller on Dermstore.com, this mini 1 1⁄4-inch barrel version of the now-iconic Harry Josh curling iron has all the features of the original, just in a more portable package.


It heats up in 30 seconds, has a swivel cord and adjustable temperature settings, and weighs only about half a pound!

Titanium Pro Curling Iron
Harry JOsh Travel Curling Iron

Main Features

  • Barrel size: 1 1⁄4-inch
  • Adjustable heat: Yes, up to 425º
  • Cord length: 6.6 feet
  • Automatic shut-off: Yes, after 60 minutes
Dyson Airwrap Styler

Dyson Airwrap Styler

Our Beauty Lab was impressed by Dyson's latest release: Like a hair dryer and curling iron in one, this high-tech styling tool uses six powerful streams of hot or cool air to magically style your hair from damp to dry.


"I admire the genius air jet design, which makes hair strands, as if by magic, wrap themselves around the curler attachment,” says Birnur Aral, Ph.D., Director of the GH Beauty Lab.


The result: Bouncy bends that rival a professional blowout. "It gives salon-level styling using lower heat, which can minimize damage as well," she explains.

Dyson Airwrap Styler
Dyson Airwrap Styler

Main Features

  • Barrel size: 1.2-inch, 1.6-inch
  • Adjustable heat: Yes, 3 settings
  • Cord length: 8 feet 9 inches
  • Automatic shut-off: ​No
GHD Curve Classic Curl Iron

GHD Curve Classic Curl Iron

One of the best-selling curling irons on Amazon.ca, this sleek one-inch model has universal voltage and earned dozens of raves with reviewers, including those with thin hair.


"I have fine hair and it is wonderful to find a curling iron that actually does what I need it to," one said. "Fine hair is so hard to curl and then actually have it hold during the day without falling limp...but this is just perfect."

GHD Curve Classic Curl Iron
GHD Curve Classic Curl Iron

Main Features

  • Barrel size: 1-inch
  • Adjustable heat: No
  • Cord length: 8 feet 4 inches
  • Automatic shut-off: Yes, after 30 minutes
Nano Titanium Spring Curling Iron

Nano Titanium Spring Curling Iron

Another professional hairstylist favorite, this curling iron earns raves for forming curls that stay. "This iron heats up quickly and creates an even curl that lasts all day," says Tara Conway, a hairstylist at Depasquale The Spa in Morris Plains, New Jersey.


"I also use it to achieve effortless waves by switching up the direction I curl in and leaving an inch or two of the ends of hair out as I curl."

Nano Titanium Spring Curling Iron
Nano Titanium Spring Curling Iron

Main Features

  • Barrel size: 3/4-inch, 1-inch, 1 1⁄4-inch, 1 1⁄2-inch
  • Adjustable heat: Yes, 50 settings up to 450º
  • Cord length: 8 feet​
  • Automatic shut-off: ​No
10 Best Curling Irons for Women Reviews & Buying Guide
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