A great curling iron takes the pressure off of a rushed early-morning routine: It’s light in the hand, easy to maneuver (even for true curling dummies), creates a curl that won’t drop by lunchtime, and doesn’t fry your hair. We know there are a lot of them to wade through, though, which is why we turned to a dozen hairstyling professionals to get their opinion on which curling wands are really worth investing in. Here, we’ve assembled a range of options — from the drugstore-budget range to some heavy hitters that professionals use to make waves on famous clients.
Best overall curling iron
The clear favorite among the hairstylists we polled for this story was a one-inch curler from GHD, with everyone mentioning how intuitive this iron is at minimizing hair damage — it maxes out at 365 degrees. “They have done extensive studies into the correlation of heat against elasticity of hair, which concluded in the GHD irons not going above 365 degrees,” says New York–based hairstylist Helen Reavey. “The material allows heat to distribute evenly, creating the perfect wave without damaging your hair.” It’s her top recommendation for serial curlers, and others — like stylists Benjamin Muller and Nunzio Saviano — tend to agree. “The temperature is perfect, the hair never smokes or smells like burn, and the curl is perfect after four to five seconds from root to end — shiny and elastic,” says Saviano.
Best curling iron with high heat limits
The devilish appearance of this FHI ceramic iron might give away the fact that it can be scorching: Temperatures on this curling iron range from 140 degrees Fahrenheit to 450 degrees Fahrenheit, which celebrity hairstylist Tym Wallace — whose clients include Taraji P. Henson and Mary J. Blige — deems perfect for his curling needs. “Thus far, its the hottest curling iron I have used.” He likes that it also has three layers of ceramic plates infused with tourmaline-producing negative ions that seal in moisture, repel humidity, reduce frizz, and help eliminate static. “It makes the hair shiny and holds good curl memory for all hair lengths and styles. Also, it travels light in my kit.”
Best curling iron for minimizing heat damage
Celebrity hairstylist Kendall Dorsey uses this iron regularly on his clients, which include Solange, Yara Shahidi, and Justine Skye. In addition to using tourmaline plates (which seal in the hair’s moisture and minimizes frizz), it also uses what they call “an exclusive Infared Smart Technology,” which apparently infuses the hair with “micro-moisture particles to prevent the damaging effects of high heat tools.” We can’t speak to the micro-moisture particles, but Dorsey feels it’s the best iron on the market when it comes to preserving hair health.
Best ionic technology curling iron
Cassadi Currier, a stylist and extension specialist at Pembly Joon, loves hot tools with ionic technology because it makes the hair super-shiny. She has previously recommended a flat iron to us that uses negative ion technology to seal the hair’s cuticle, and this curling iron “works by using nano ionic technology which breaks the water molecules down into small particles so moisture can penetrate the hair, which leaves you with silkier, shinier, more conditioned hair,” she says. All of Bio Ionic’s hot tools use this technology, but she likes this model specifically for its size. “I love their extra-long barrel curling iron because I do a lot of hair extensions, and have hair extensions myself, so having an extra two inches really helps for a quicker curl.” And if you’re someone who typically uses a wand, this curling iron might be a good transition tool. Currier says lots of her clients use wands, because it takes a little coordination to open the clamp and curl at the same time with a traditional iron, but those who she has converted to this curling iron say that even though this one has a clamp, it glides through the hair very easily.
Best rotating curling iron
If you’re an occasional curler who doesn’t want to splurge on an expensive curling wand, Reavey suggests this Marcel Iron from Hot Tools, because it’s particularly easy to use. “The handle, which rotates, allows you to wrap hair around the iron with ease.” Its 24-karat-gold-plated barrel also means that it heats up superfast, and it has ten heat settings (and goes all the way up to 430 degrees).
Marcel irons are the go-to for celebrity hairstylist and author of Stunning Braids Monae Everett because they’re easy to use and get hot from the base of the barrel to the tip, which is key for creating an even curl and reducing frizz. This curling iron is also a favorite of hairstylist and founder of A Curl Can Dream Daryce Brown-Willis, who likes how light it is. “It doesn’t hurt my wrist with continuous use,” she says.
Best marcel and clip curling iron
Launched in August, this three-in-one tool offers you three different clamp styles for less than the price of our single-style best-rated pick. “It’s got your classic curling iron spring-loaded clip, and you can replace that with a marcel clip, which offers a different dexterity, and then you can take it off in general and just have a wand,” says Jessica O’Keeffe, a stylist at Hawthorne Studio. She’s only used it a week but says it has quickly become her favorite. In addition to the versatility, it comes with a sleeve, which O’Keeffe calls a “game changer.” She explains, “While it’s heating up, it can sit in this protective sleeve — I can’t tell you the number of combs I’ve melted with curling irons.”
Best curling iron for textured hair
Dorsey recommends the Hot Tools 24K Gold Curling Iron for textured hair because it gets hot quickly (it only takes a few seconds to reach 430 degrees, he says), maintains its temperature for the duration of styling, and has a gold barrel, a material he feels works best on textured hair. Although the iron comes in a variety of barrel sizes (three-eighths of an inch, three-quarters of an inch, an inch and a quarter, an inch and a half, and two inches) Dorsey prefers the one-inch curler, which he says works well on a wide range of lengths and creates “beautiful, natural-looking curls.”