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; 1 1/2-inch; White/Rose Gold
Anjou Curling Iron 1.25 inch with Ceramic Coating, Hair Curling Wand
Conair CD87NCSRRC 1-Inch Instant Heat Curling Iron
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:
If you want relaxed, beachy waves, reach for a larger barrel (1 1⁄4-inch and above). The smaller the barrel, the tighter the curl will be.
There's a lot of debate around whether ceramic or titanium is better for heat styling tools. "We've found both ceramic and titanium curling irons are good conductors of heat," and will work on all hair types.
A curling iron with adjustable temperature is important. Lower temps are great for fine hair for those thinner hairs around the face, while higher temps are great for coarse or hard-to-curl hair.
Our testers love irons with an auto shut-off feature. You'll never have to worry about remembering to unplug your curling iron because it shuts off for you.
Below are our top picks for the best curling irons, from our testers' favorites to stylists' go-tos and beyond:
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.
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)
Hair Straightener Curling Iron 2 in 1 Tourmaline Ceramic Twisted Flat Iron, Aispark Professional Hair Straighteners with LCD Display Adjustable Temperature for All Hair Types
Flat Iron for Hair-Ceramic Hair Straightener and Curler 2 in 1 Inch Multi-Styler with Twist & Curl Technology, Color Care Protection, Champagne
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.
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.
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.
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."
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.
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!
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.
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."
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."