I'll be the first person to admit that I've never been great at curling my hair. My hair is naturally curly, so I only curl it with a curling iron when I straighten it. But that doesn't mean I don't love doing it. Despite my lack of skills in that department, I love adding a subtle wave or bouncy curls or giving my hair a full-on '90s blowout (to the best of my ability). It's fun and adds some extra oomph to an otherwise straightforward style.
It has taken much trial and error over the years to figure out what works best for my thick hair, but I can confidently say a few curling irons work well. Don't worry. I'm not one to withhold information. I'm sharing what's worked for me plus the curling irons hairstylists and editors love. Keep reading if you're in the market for a new curling iron. We have options for every hair type.
What to Look for in a Curling Iron
Curling irons come in all different shapes and sizes. Typically, if you have longer hair, you'll want to opt for one with a longer barrel. Those with thick hair might also benefit from a curling iron with a long and thick barrel. Those with shorter hair types might like a slimmer barrel, which can help make maneuvering curling easier. If you have curly or coily hair and want to enhance your natural texture, you'll want to look for a barrel size that's close to your natural curl pattern. Keep scrolling for advice and recommendations for each hair type from stylists.
Best Overall Curling Iron: Hot Tools 24K Gold Curling Iron
Key Specs: 1.5-inch barrel, gold barrel, 430℉ maximum temperature.
Pros: Variety of barrel sizes to suit all hair types, has heat settings up to 430℉, is relatively budget-friendly, creates smooth, shiny curls and waves.
Cons: Easy to hit the "off" button while styling.
This Hot Tools iron comes in different sizes, making it suitable for all hair types. Celebrity stylists love it, and it's one of my favorites as well as Who What Wear beauty editor Kaitlyn McLintock's.
"The Hot Tools 24K Gold Curling Irons are my personal favorites and can be used on all hair types and lengths. Excellent for hold, shine, and comes in a variety of barrel sizes ranging from half an inch to two inches." — Mahogany Grace, NYC hairstylist and salon-owner
"If on a budget, you can't go wrong with a Hot Tools iron. Of course, they heat up to 450°F, so be sure to keep your iron at or under 365°F. Hot Tools' Marcel irons always get the job done!" — Laurabeth Cabott, celebrity hairstylist
"Hot Tools not only perform well, but they have the widest range of barrel sizes that will match your natural curl." — Derek Williams, celebrity hairstylist
Customer Review: "Pretty easy to operate after a few tries. Multiple temperature settings let you find the right one for your hair texture. Heats up quickly. Can also smooth as well as curl."
Best Curling Irons for Textured Hair
Key specs: One-inch barrel, preset to 365°F, ceramic-coated barrel
Pros: Ceramic-coated barrel, preset to 365°F for optimal styling without extreme heat, great for all hair types.
Cons: Only one heat setting, expensive.
Grace also loves this classic GHD iron for most hair types—including curly hair.
Customer Review: "Perfect for a medium-size curl that lasts forever. Has the perfect temperature built in to prevent heat damage. The texture of the matte barrel is so smooth, so hair glides through effortlessly. When it says it heats up in two seconds, it's not lying. Love it!"
Key Specs: 1.25-inch barrel, ceramic barrel, 375°F maximum temperature.
Pros: Budget-friendly, variety of barrel sizes, 30 heat settings, designed to create tight curls or touch-up natural curls, turbo heat boost for difficult-to-style areas.
Cons: Easy to hit the "off" button when styling.
This curling iron has a smaller barrel and works well for touching up natural curls or giving them more definition. Williams has a few tips for choosing a curling iron for textured hair. "Irons for curly hair are meant to enhance and define your natural curl pattern, so it's best to find an iron the size of your curl," he says.
Customer Review: "This is a great curling iron, easy to use and does the job...and for a marvelous price! Found out that my hairstylist is using the same one in her home (she raves about it, too)..."
Best Curling Irons for Long Hair
Key Specs: One-inch barrel, titanium barrel, 430°F maximum temperature.
Pros: Features an extended barrel that's two inches longer than most traditional curling irons, made of ultra-lightweight nano titanium for even heat distribution, temperatures can reach up to 430°F, and dual voltage for travel.
"The elongated barrel is super helpful with longer hair, and the titanium plates are excellent for smoothing curly/textured hair." — Grace
Customer Review: "I love this long barrel for my hair and the heat adjustments. Works great!"
Key Specs: 1.25-inch barrel, titanium barrel, 425°F maximum temperature.
Pros: Designed for medium-length to long hair, titanium barrel with rapid heat technology, four heat settings and can heat up to 425°F, dual voltage and auto shut-off for less stress.
Cons: Pulls on the hair slightly while styling.
"The Curling Irons from Kristin Ess are available at all Target stores, are affordable and perform great!" — Williams
Customer Review: "Love it! Works really well, glides through the hair nicely."
Best Curling Irons for Short Hair
Key Specs: 1.25-inch barrel, ceramic barrel, 380°F maximum temperature.
Pros: Features detachable clamps for a variety of styles, can create beach waves or curls, designed with a nano-ceramic and tourmaline barrel to smooth hair, and heats up fast.
Who What Wear Beauty Director Erin Jahns loves this curling iron from Harry Josh, and it's a stylist favorite.
"The Harry Josh Pro Tools 3-in-1 Ceramic Curling Iron works great on shorter hair. Its barrel size and options for using a spring clamp make it customizable for hair with a shorter length." — Williams
Customer Review: "This curling iron is a beast. It heats up quickly, and my curls are so shiny and healthy looking after. It takes me less time to curl my hair now. Use [a] glove or you will burn your hand cause this curling iron is hot! I also like that you can use this abroad as I travel a lot. Has a nice protective case as well."
Key Specs: One-inch barrel, ceramic barrel, 400°F maximum temperature.
Pros: Budget-friendly, adjustable heat settings can go up to 400°F, and a slimmer barrel size works well for shorter hair types.
Cons: Swivel cord can damage easily.
As far as drugstore curling irons go, Grace swears by Revlon irons. This one works well for short or fine hair since it has a slimmer barrel and features adjustable heat settings that go up to 400°F.
Customer Review: "I have very fine and thin hair, and some curling irons that cost way more than this one simply do not hold my hair in place while I curl it. This Revlon curling iron works great with my hair!
It has a wide variety of temperature settings, heats up quickly, and leaves beautiful curls that last all day. It also was delivered quickly. I'm very satisfied."
Best Curling Irons for Thick Hair
Key Specs: 1.25-inch barrel, ceramic barrel, 365°F maximum temperature.
Pros: Great heat distribution, adds volume to your roots, and can create both curls and waves.
"The GHD Curve Iron has great heat distribution. This is great for thicker hair, to make sure your waves are heated and styled evenly." — Williams
"My all-time favorite curling iron is the GHD Classic Curl and Soft Curl Curling Irons. They are both preset to 365°F, so you are keeping any heat damage at bay. The plates have ultra-zone technology, so the plates are heated consistently throughout. I recommend this iron for all hair types. It's my trusty go-to styler!" — Cabott
Key Specs: One-, 1.25-, and 1.5-inch barrels, ceramic barrels, nine heat settings.
Pros: Features three different barrel sizes for a variety of hair types and styles, high-performing ceramic heaters maintain even and consistent heat, and CeraGloss technology keeps hair healthy and shiny.
"This iron is great for thick, fine, curly, or long hair, and I love the fact that it comes with three interchange barrels." — Grace
Customer Review: "Amazing! Works so well and leaves my hair soft and shiny even after multiple uses. I love the easiness of being able to switch from head to head, and it's super functional and intuitive to use. Definitely recommend to anyone who uses a curling tool at least three times a month!"
Best Curling Irons for Fine Hair
Key Specs: 1.5-inch barrel, ceramic barrel.
Pros: Uses SinglePass technology with five digital heat settings to deliver optimum temperature, ceramic heater technology delivers even and consistent heat.
McLintock also loves this Single Pass iron from T3. It uses T3's SinglePass technology, which automatically customizes the heat settings to your specific hair and delivers the perfect curling temperature.
Customer Review: "I'd definitely recommend this curling iron to everyone who loves effortless wavy hairstyles! It's super easy to use, takes only about 10-15 minutes to style (I have quite a lot of hair), and leaves your heart healthy, smooth, and frizz-free. I love that there are five different heat settings and a ceramic barrel. You can definitely feel that the product is super high quality. This product was gifted to me by T3 in exchange for my honest review."
Key Specs: 1.25-inch barrels, ceramic barrels, 410°F maximum temperature.
Pros: Ceramic-coated triple barrel iron creates smooth and textured waves and curls, while the removable handle makes for easy storage and travel.
"The Triple Ripple Jumbo Hair Waver from Mane is great for finer hair. It gives a lot of movement and body, which helps give life to finer hair." — Williams
Customer Review: "Love that it doesn't crease like other wavers I've used! The detachable handle is a great touch, too, since drawer space is always tight for hair tools. 10/10 recommending to friends!"
This article was originally published at an earlier date and has since been updated.