The 21 Best Curling Irons of 2022 | By PEOPLE

2022-11-27 09:04:56 By : Mr. Kirk L

Madison Yauger is commerce writer at PEOPLE, covering beauty, home, travel, and other lifestyle topics. Her background includes news, lifestyle, and commerce journalism for publications like Food & Wine, Real Simple, Health, Martha Stewart, and more. Prior to writing for Dotdash Meredith, she worked for a human rights news agency in Cape Town, South Africa, reporting action around the city as it unfolded. When not working, Madison enjoys spending time with family and friends, voraciously reading thrillers, and befriending every dog in Manhattan.

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The 21 Best Curling Irons of 2022 | By PEOPLE

Curls have a way of adding volume, texture, and definition to one’s hair, but not everyone comes by them naturally — that's where curling irons come into play. With an assortment of barrel sizes, heat technologies, and attachments, there’s a curling iron out there for any kind of curl, from loose, beach-y waves like Blake Lively to tight coils like Gabrielle Union.

Using insights from several celebrity hairstylists as well as our own research, we’ve rounded up the 21 best curling irons that you can use to create gorgeous styles for different types of hair. Proceed with caution because these tools are hot.

This curling iron is ideal for all hair types, including curly hair.

It might not work as well for international travel since it doesn’t have universal voltage.

“The T3 Single Pass Curl 1.25 Ceramic Curling Iron is one of my favorite curling iron options because it's three irons in one that offers five different heat settings for ultimate versatility,” says Nick Stenson, senior vice president, store, and service owner of Ulta Beauty. The specially-designed ceramic barrel will help transform your hair, giving the ultimate smoothness and style. The ceramic heaters work to streamline the styling process using microchip technology so you can curl your hair with one pass of the iron in each section. 

Roszak loves that this ceramic iron makes curls that hold better. “I’ve been loving my T3 SinglePass ceramic curling iron,”  celebrity hairstylist Mara Roszak tells PEOPLE. “The hair is shiny and not overheated.” With a heat range up to 430ºF, this curling iron can work even the curliest of curls, creating a frizz-free finish. But it also has lower temperature settings that work well for fine hair. “The T3 SinglePass curl is great if you have more natural textured hair, and you like the extra heat as it goes to a hotter setting if that's what you need,” celebrity hairstylist and founder of Arkive Headcare Adam Reed tells PEOPLE. “The key is to master whether you want a curl or wave  — each different result requires a different technique.”

Plus, the size (1.25-inch) allows for a wide variety of curls — large and loose curls, more defined curls, and even softer beach-y waves. “My personal favorite curlers and irons are from T3 Micro,” celebrity hair specialist Joseph Michael tells PEOPLE. This curling iron in particular is ideal for medium to long hair, especially if you have naturally curly hair, but we think the price, features, and backing by experts make this curling iron an excellent choice for best overall. 

Price at time of publish: $169.99

Temperature: Up to 430ºF | Barrel Size: 1.25” | Material: Ceramic

This is good for creating loose, everyday curls for a variety of hair types.

It’s not good for forming tight curls or very loose beach waves.

If you’re balling on a budget, this ceramic curling iron from Conair creates beautiful curls without a steep price tag. With sizes of 1, 1.25, and 1.5 inches, this curling iron can work on different lengths of hair, and form several types of curls. The temperatures go up to 400ºF, so be cautious when clamping the ceramic plate over your hair so you don’t burn your finger (though the tip stays cool as a safe touch point). 

While it does get hot, there are 30 unique heat settings on this curling iron, so it’s versatile for different hair types and textures. For instance, if you have fine hair and want to use a lower heat setting, you could set it to 250ºF versus if you have super thick hair, you might want to use the higher settings like 375ºF or even 400ºF. It only takes 30 seconds to heat up (with dual voltage settings), so this hot tool can also save some time in your morning beauty routine. And if you get nervous about accidentally leaving your curling iron on, this one has an automatic shut-off function.

Price at time of publish: $26.99

Temperature: Up to 400ºF | Barrel Size: 1”, 1.25”, and 1.5” | Material: Ceramic

This set is perfect for someone who doesn't mind taking their time on their hair or want to have the option of multiple attachments for different types of curls.

Since it’s quite a bit pricier than other options on our list, it wouldn’t be good for someone on a tight budget.

Our splurge pick is the famous Dyson Airwrap — a hot tool with several attachments for trying different types of curls as well as blow drying and styling your hair. “I have been a fan of hot rollers and curling irons all my life, and I've also been using the same set of rollers and the same curling iron for... almost all my life, so it was time for an upgrade,” PEOPLE senior commerce editor Erin Johnson says. “I received the Dyson Airwrap set as a holiday gift, and it was so beautiful that I was a little intimidated to actually use it. I watched a YouTube tutorial, and then I just started experimenting with the tools.”

Using Coanda airflow instead of extreme heat, the Dyson Airwrap collects your hair and wraps it around the barrel — effectively curling it using air pressure. “I got the hang of it quickly, and I can't believe I didn't invest in something like this sooner,” Johnson says. “This set gives my hair volume, yet it also keeps it smooth (which is a rare thing because I have very dry hair).” 

“The Dyson Airwrap is very interesting to me, and I recommend it to clients for at-home use,” says Roszak. “It seems like a game-changer for clients with finer hair that want an easy blowout with some waves,” says the stylist who works with clients like Zoe Saldana, Olivia Wilde, and Grace Van Patten.

The set comes with a dryer, two Airwrap barrels, two smoothing brushes, and one volume brush. And while this tool is designed for medium to long hair lengths, there’s also a sister product designed for short hair.

“Most importantly, it creates really perfect curls that don't fall out,” Johnson adds. “When I'm done using the Airwrap, I look like I just got a blowout. I know the price tag is high, but if you can afford it and you know you'll actually use it, this set is worth the money.”

Price at time of publish: $599.99

Temperature: Up to 302ºF | Barrel Size: 1.2” and 1.6” | Material: Steel

This set works well for someone who likes to play around with different sized curls.

Someone who wants tight ringlets.

Using five heat settings that go up to 410ºF, this curling iron set works on a wide range of hair types and textures. It heats up quickly, and shuts off automatically after an hour so you don’t have to stress about whether you left it on or not. The tip stays cool to avoid any finger burns, and it has a nine-foot cord for maximum mobility whether you’re a professional or curling your hair at home.

Michael is one such hairstylist who swears by the T3 sets. “Its Convertible Collection allows for an interchangeable design which gives you infinite styling possibilities,” says Michael. The complete set “comes with seven different interchangeable curlers and smart microchip and high-performance ceramic heaters that deliver heat fast " (though this trio is just part of the wider collection that he mentions).

With three attachment barrels at 1-inch and 1.25- and 1.5-inches that easily lock into a convertible base, this curling iron is highly versatile. It can create defined curls all the way up to loose bouncy curls. “It also has 5 heat settings, auto world voltage for around-the-world use, and smart technology that shuts the irons off after one hour,” he says. The ceramic plate also helps reduce any frizz to create shiny smooth hair after use. Plus, it comes with a travel case, so this set is easy to pack and protect while on the go. “These irons have been my go-to for years,” Michael says. “They work great with any hair texture and always leave the hair looking so silky and healthy.”

Price at time of publish: $335

Temperature: Up to 410ºF | Barrel Size: 1”, 1.25”, and 1.5” | Material: Ceramic

Anyone with medium-length hair who is cognizant of heat damage.

If you have long hair it might not work as well.

This rotating curling iron from Chi creates beautiful curls without fear of heat damage or burning your hand from having to wrap the hair around the physical iron. It uses a chamber that (gently) sucks hair in, wraps it around the barrel, and is heated and timed so your hair isn’t resting on a hot surface for too long. Because of its mechanism, it’s really better suited for shoulder-length hair.

There are three pre-set heat settings for different types of hair: 370ºF for fine hair, 390ºF for medium hair, and 410ºF for coarse hair, which helps take some of the guesswork out of your beauty routine. This rotating curling iron is easy to use all around (you literally just push a button), and it even tells you when it’s time to release the hair. And for added safety, it shuts off after an hour to prevent being accidentally left on. 

Price at time of publish: $116.62

Temperature: 370ºF-410ºF | Barrel Size: 1” | Material: Ceramic

This curling iron is good for short to long hair, and creates waves and curls seamlessly.

Since it has a shorter running time and lower maximum heat setting due to its lack of cord, this wouldn’t be as great for someone with thick hair since it takes longer and needs higher heat to curl all of it.

Say goodbye to battling a cord when curling your hair, because this curling iron is completely cordless. As such, it can only be used disconnected for up to 35 minutes at a time, followed by 2.5 hours of charging with the accompanying cable (it can be used while charging). It operates at a maximum temperature of 400ºF, though it does have 20 heat settings that work for short to long hair. 

The benefits of a cordless curling iron are numerous, but perhaps the most notable is portability, like using a hot tool in a space that might not be conducive to many outlets, or even while riding in the passenger seat on the way to an event (hey, you never know). The titanium plate holds heat well and disperses it evenly, so your curls can be balanced in volume and shape. 

Price at time of publish: $120

Temperature: 200ºF-400ºF | Barrel Size: 1” | Material: Titanium

This curling iron is perfect for someone who travels frequently, because it fits compactly in a bag, and can be used on-the-go.

Since it’s a smaller hot tool, it might not work as well for super long hair.

When you’re considering a hot tool for travel, you’ll want something compact with universal voltage capabilities, and this curling iron embodies both of these qualities. Equipped with 100-240V, 50-60Hz, and 50W, you can take it wherever you go without fear that it will blow a fuse. Celebrity hairstylist Yusef told PEOPLE in a previous interview that he even caused the power in the Chanel store to go out while doing Rihanna’s hair with other tools during Paris Fashion Week several years back. It happens to everyone, but it’ll happen less often with this curling iron. 

It’s also a super small tool so it will easily fit in most travel bags. But with the small size comes the challenge of curling longer or thicker hair. It’s doable, but might affect the tightness of the curl. The heat settings are quite high, reaching up to 425ºF, and with a nano-ceramic plate, this curling iron is still able to create voluminous curls. Additional safety features include an auto-shut off function after an hour, a heat-resistant tip to have a cool spot to hold when curling your hair, and a 360-degree swivel cord so it doesn’t get tangled while using it.

Price at time of publish: $90

Temperature: 325ºF-425ºF | Barrel Size: 1.25” | Material: Nano-ceramic

It’s good for creating beach waves, and for those who don’t like having to turn a curling iron over and over again.

It’s not good for creating traditional bouncy curls.

For those who want beach-y waves and an easier hack to get them, let us introduce this triple-barrel curling iron from Alure. With three barrels instead of one, this iron works as a hot clamp, crimping the hair in sections as you move from root to end (leaving about two inches of space between your head and where you start with the iron). 

Considering it heats up in seconds (jumping to 410ºF), and you don’t have to feed a strand of hair around an iron and turn it for every curl, it takes less time to use, which is great for a morning routine. The ceramic plate contains negatively charged ions which also work to smooth out hair while you’re styling it for a more polished finish. It saves time, creates fun beachy waves, and comes in under $50 — this triple-barrel iron is not even a question, it’s a must. 

Price at time of publish: $39.99

Temperature: Up to 410ºF | Barrel Size: 1” | Material: Ceramic

It’s good for creating large bouncy curls as well as tight curls.

It’s not good for those who rely on the clamp on a curling iron to hold the hair, because as a wand, it doesn’t have one.

The main difference between a traditional curling iron and a wand is the metal plate that clamps down to hold the hair in place so you don’t have to manually hold it. This styling wand from Drybar is just the barrel (sans clamp) so you have to wrap the individual strands around the wand yourself, which can be a hazard if not wearing a protective glove (or just being extra cautious). 

With two barrel sizes at 1- and 1.25-inches, this wand can create loose or tight curls depending on how closely together you wrap the strands of hair. The barrel is also ceramic which helps smooth out hair due to negatively charged ions (science can be cool). All things considered, this is a good pick for someone who curls their hair frequently and prefers the style of a wand to a traditional iron. 

Price at time of publish: $169

Temperature: 150ºF to 450ªF | Barrel Size: 1” and 1.25” | Material: Ceramic

This curling iron is perfect for beginners because it curls your hair quickly and easily using rotation technology, and essentially does the work for you.

It’s not good for someone looking to create tight curls.

The Beachwaver has long been a popular curling iron with celebrities like Lea Michele singing its praises, but it’s perfect for beginners too. To use, you place the very end of a section of hair under the small clamp at the base of the barrel and then press on one of the two buttons at the base. The Beachwaver should be held vertically and facing away from you, so the button on the left should be used when you’re curling the hair on the left side of your face, and the right button for the right side. (However, once you pass your front sections, you can curl in any direction you choose — alternating directions will create a more natural look while keeping with the same direction on each side will create a more uniform look.) Once you press the button, the curling iron rotates, curls, and you simply release and pull the iron straight down after a few seconds of holding to reveal a perfect wavy-curl.

This particular model (the pro) is designed for medium to extra long hair. Invented by celebrity hairstylist Sarah Potempa, the Beachwaver is designed for all users, hair types, and curls — defined, glamorous, and beach-y. As an added bonus, it shuts off after 30 minutes for safety, and it has universal voltage so you can take it on any trip.

Price at time of publish: $229

Temperature: 310ºF-450ºF | Barrel Size: 1” | Material: Tourmaline Ceramic

This curling iron is good for creating textured curls and waves on a wide range of hair types.

It’s not as good for tight curls, unless you get the 0.5” size.

If you have textured or natural hair, this curling iron from BaByliss works on all hair types, and uses a special Turbo heat feature to create curls quickly and that last. The titanium and ceramic barrel have negative ions that help smooth your hair while styling it. With 50 unique heat settings, this hot tool goes all the way up to 450ºF, but uses infrared heat to protect the hair from damage.

This heat paired with the nano technology on the titanium coating can create long, loose curls and beach-y waves for any occasion. This is a highly functional and popular curling iron, especially for natural hair. Hairstylist Jamika Wilson even styled PEOPLE cover star Viola Davis’ hair with the BaByliss curling iron for her cover shoot in April, so this curling iron is literally cover-worthy, making it a fabulous option for wherever the day takes you.

Price at time of publish: $59.99

Temperature: Up to 450ºF | Barrel Size: 0.5”, 0.75”, 1”, 1.25”, and 1.5” | Material: Titanium

This curling iron is ideal for thick hair because it uses high infrared heat to curl thick sections without damaging the hair.

It’s not as good for thin hair because it’s a thicker barrel.

If you have a thick head of hair, you know it takes a while to curl it all. That’s where the Nume magic curling wand comes in handy, because it’s easy to use (and fast!). Since it’s a wand, you don’t have to take the time to clamp the hair down before turning it — instead, just wrap each section of hair around the barrel, hold for 15 seconds or so, and then release. It’s easy to work around the different sections of your hair with this wand, just be cautious to not burn your hands if you are styling in a hurry.  

Additionally, this curling iron uses infrared heat (up to 450°F) to create voluminous curls that last, and lessens the risk of heat damage. With several sizes, this wand can form different types of curls, including tighter or looser curls depending on your styling preference. The titanium base also has negative ions that create a smooth finish on your hair. 

Price at time of publish: $129

Temperature: 140ºF-450ºF | Barrel Size: 19 mm, 25mm, and 32 mm | Material: Titanium

This is a fabulous curling iron for fine hair because the 1” barrel creates loose waves and volume to give your hair a little lift.

It might not work as well for thick hair because it only goes up to 365ºF.

If you have fine hair, you’ll want a curling iron that’s not too hot because it doesn’t take as much heat to curl thinner hair, and you can avoid unnecessary heat damage. This option from GHD has a pre-set temperature of 365ºF which the brand claims is the optimum styling temperature to minimize hair damage. Plus it heats up in 25 seconds for absolute efficiency when you need to style your hair in a hurry. “I love using the GHD 1" Classic curling iron because of its gentle yet firm grip on the hair as well as the built-in temperature control it offers that makes it safe for all hair types,” says Stenson. 

This tool does have a clamp, but Reed says this is optional depending on the type of curl you want. “I use a GHD tong (with clamp), but consumers will often use a wand as they find it easier to wind and work with, without clamping down the hair,” Reed says. “You can still wind with a tong without opening the clamp if you would prefer, which then helps to give a variation in types of curl if you're comfortable to work with a tong.”

“I also love my GHD classic curl wand,” says Roszak. “GHD is temperature-controlled which makes it easy to use and eliminates any confusion around how hot it should be. I also love that they auto-turn off, so no stress of ‘did I leave my irons on?’”

This really is a fabulous curling iron as it has universal voltage (meaning it's travel friendly), and safety features like an automatic shut-off function after 30 minutes and a protected cool tip for better control when using it.

 Price at time of publish: $199

Temperature: Pre-set at 365ºF | Barrel Size: 1” | Material: Ceramic

This curling iron is ideal for color-treated hair because it has a titanium barrel which has special ions that work to heal/protect hair from damage.

It might not be as effective for thick hair since it only heats up to 390ºF.

If you color-treat your hair, then you already know there’s a lot of upkeep that happens behind the scenes — the need for leave-in conditioner, certain color-enhancing hair products, and hot tools that will help heal and not further damage your hair. With a titanium barrel, this curling iron has special ions built in that work to repair damage and smooth out your hair during the styling process.

It also has a temperature cap at 390ºF, so it doesn’t have the extreme heat that some hot tools possess. The 1.5-inch barrel is the perfect size for big bouncy curls, so if you’re looking to boost the volume of your hair (which can sometimes be lessened by frequent coloring), this curling wand is the perfect tool for the task.

Price at time of publish: $149

Temperature: Up to 390ºF | Barrel Size: 1.5” | Material: Titanium

This curling iron is ideal for bangs because it makes loose curls so it will add a little volume without being too poofy.

It’s not as effective for tight curls or beach waves.

Bangs are iconic, glamorous, and sometimes difficult to style (if we’re being honest). But a good curling iron like this pick from Kim Kimble offers an easy solution that won’t leave you with tight ringlets dancing above your brows. It offers quick heating, instant distribution, and an ergonomic design so it’s comfortable to hold when angling your hand to get each section of your bangs. 

Designed to form big waves and curls, this curling iron creates decent volume to frame your face. It also has safety features like a 60-minute automatic shut-off function, and universal voltage capabilities to help with travel. Plus the tourmaline ceramic has negative ions that smooth and nourish your hair while using the iron, so it can help reduce heat damage. 

Price at time of publish: $59.99

Temperature: 210-450ºF | Barrel Size: 1” | Material: Tourmaline Ceramic

This curling iron is perfect for long hair and those with extensions because it has an extra long barrel.

It’s not as effective for international travel because it doesn’t have universal voltage.

A favorite of Southern Charm’s Madison LeCroy, the Bio Ionic Long-Barrel Styler is an incredible curling iron for long hair like the actresses’ blonde locks. "I don't leave town without it," the celebrity hairstylist told PEOPLE. This hot tool uses a special technology called Nanoionic MX and Bio Ionic Moisturizing Heat to help lock in moisture even when styling your hair, and seal the cuticle of the hair so the curls last longer. 

With an extra two inches of length, this curling iron is longer than most standard barrels which helps for long hair and extensions. Plus it has an angled tip that stays cool so you can comfortably hold it when styling your hair. The infrared heat should help reduce any extra heat damage as it doesn’t affect your hair the same way that dry heat does. And for added measure, this hot tool turns itself off after an hour of use, just in case you leave home and forget to turn it off. 

Price at time of publish: $149

Temperature: Up to 430ºF | Barrel Size: 1.25” | Material: Ceramic

This curling iron offers extra versatility with an ergonomic design that actually bends to curl hard-to-reach sections of your hair.

It might not be as effective for someone with long hair because the base is shorter than other curling irons.

If you have shoulder-length hair or shorter, this is a good curling iron to add definition without so much volume that it overwhelms your face. The angled barrel of this iron is perfect for creating loose curls or beachy waves, and thanks to really cool technology, you can even change the angle from 180º to 90º for a more ergonomic design that makes it easier to style your hair. 

The temperature can be regulated up to 450ºF manually, but the smart tech also self-regulates its temperature 50 times per second for maximum efficiency. The barrel sizes (1-inch and 1.25 inches) create beautiful voluminous curls you can wear for any occasion, day or night. Combined with safety features like two hour auto shut off and universal voltage, we think this is a great choice.

Price at time of publish: $140

Temperature: Up to 450ºF | Barrel Size: 1” and 1.25” | Material: Titanium

It’s good for creating waves and curls, as well as restoring volume to hair, and heats quickly, distributing heat evenly.

Since it does have such high heat settings, it might not be ideal for fine hair.

This curling iron offers versatility in heat settings and barrel sizes for a lower price — making it a great pick for different types of curls and hair. The thinner barrel (0.75 inch) is ideal for shorter hair, tight curls, or for building soft beachy waves for a more casual look. As the barrels grow in size, so do the curls, so the 1-, 1.25-, and 1.5-inch barrels would work well for a range of looser curls and waves.

As a gold-plated curling iron, this hot tool heats quickly and distributes heat evenly, making it ideal for curly and thick hair. It’s a classic model, with heat settings up to 430ºF to tackle even the thickest and curliest hair. Plus, the iron stays hot throughout use, so you can actually get through all of your hair without it losing its temp. Considering the reasonable price and all of these features, we believe this is an ideal choice for an everyday curling iron. 

Price at time of publish: $54.99

Temperature: 280ºF-430ºF | Barrel Size: 0.75”, 1”, 1.25”, 1.5” | Material: Gold-plated

This curling iron is perfect for creating casual beach-y waves.

It’s not as effective for more defined, tighter curls.

If you want to look like you just stepped off the beach, this Kristin Ess curling iron replicates the look of casual care-free waves. With a 1.25-inch ceramic barrel, this hot tool creates a looser curl or wave, and at the same time, closes the hair cuticle to lock in moisture. The ceramic material also contains negative ions which helps reduce frizz and smooth the hair for a sleek final result. 

It has four temperature settings (up to 425ºF), with specific temps designated for various hair types — so no guesswork of which temperature to set your tool at. And for safety, the curling iron shuts off after 30 minutes, so you won’t have that moment of panic when you can’t remember if you turned it off (we’ve all been there). 

Price at time of publish: $60

Temperature: Up to 425ºF | Barrel Size: 1.25” | Material: Ceramic

This curling wand is super thin so it’s perfect for tight curls.

It’s not designed for loose or big bouncy curls.

If you want ultra tight and defined curls, this wand is perfect for you. With a 0.5-inch barrel, it creates a super defined shape in your hair. This curling wand uses no extreme heat (it's set at 365ºF) and heats up in about three seconds for maximum efficiency. The ceramic barrel should also help smooth hair and reduce frizz using negative ions.

For safety, this curling wand shuts off after 60 minutes, has a cool tip to hold when styling your hair, and comes with a protective glove for your styling hand. It’s highly versatile and can work with long or short hair types, plus since it doesn’t have the standard clip of a curling iron, it should be easier and more efficient to use. 

Price at time of publish: $199

Temperature: 365ºF | Barrel Size: 0.5” | Material: Ceramic

This curling iron is good for creating soft loose curls.

It’s not as ideal for tighter, more defined curls.

If you’re looking for a lightweight curling iron that creates soft, smooth, and frizz-free curls that last all day, let us introduce you to Amika. To utilize the swivel function of this curling iron, you just clamp the hair and curl it once like normal, and then bring the barrel underneath the section you just curled (using a swivel or twisting motion), and it creates a twist that you can separate to form natural-looking loose curls.

With four temperature settings designed for different hair types and textures, this curling iron works for everyone. It even has dual voltage so you can take it abroad. It uses a special negative ionic technology to conduct heat, which helps smooth your hair, remove frizz, and make the curls last all day. It basically seals the cuticle of the hair follicle so the curl locks in place, at least for 24 hours or so. Overall, we love this curling iron for loose curls and beach-y waves.

Price at time of publish: $72.80

Temperature: 300ºF to 450ºF | Barrel Size: 1” | Material: Titanium

All of the experts agree. Barrel size comes down to your goals and the type of curl you’re seeking. “When I am choosing a curling iron, I choose the size of my iron depending on what result I am looking for,” says Reed. “The barrel size will directly create the sized-curl or wave.“ According to Stenson, you should also “keep in mind that smaller barrels produce more of a curl formation in the hair and larger barrels offer more shaping and volume.” The experts suggest a 1-inch barrel for classic curls and waves, and as Stenson adds “for someone that has trouble keeping curls in their hair all day.”

If you prefer a larger barrel, “I would use a 1.5-inch barrel curling iron for voluminous curls and waves with more of a bouncy blowout look,” says Michael. He also recommends this size for thick and coarse hair textures. “Finer textures have a tendency for dropping out curls quicker, so the tighter irons [editor's note: like the 1.25-inch] achieve full glamorous curls and waves,” says Michael. And if you want to go even smaller? “0.75-inch curling irons are used for delicate, defined curls, or enhanced natural curls”, he says, adding 0.5 curling irons create "tight, defined coils."

These tools bring the heat, so you have to keep temperature in mind when selecting the right curling iron for your hair. “Heat settings are key in creating the right amount of heat for different hair types and needs and a basic rule of thumb is, the higher the heat, the more intense the curl,” says Stenson. Michael looks at the texture of his clients’ hair when assessing what temperature to set the tool at. “For very thick hair I like to use the settings between 410-450ºF,” he says. He adds that coarse textures can be curled between 370-410ºF; wavy between 350-370ºF; combination or straight hair at 330-350ºF; and fragile and fine hair between 250-300ºF. 

Essentially, don’t exceed 365ºF for fine and fragile hair, and know that you can curl most hair types at or under 410ºF, adds Stenson. “It’s also important to utilize a heat protection product anytime we utilize a heat tool,” he says. Reed agrees, saying “Build up your heat protection with products such as an oil, then a heat protectant such as Arkive Hair Primer,” (a product in Reed’s new headcare line) “and then ensure your hair is completely dry ahead of using a heated tool.” He adds, “Heat protectant also allows for a beautiful hold in the hair, and of course, helps to prevent damage.”

The main type of material on a flat iron is the plate, which is usually gold, titanium, or ceramic. Each material has its benefits — gold is an impeccable heat conductor, so your hair warms evenly, titanium heats up quickly, and ceramic is gentler on your hair which prevents risk of damage.

“Throughout my career there have been many different types of irons that have come out with different types of barrels/platings, and still to this day, I can honestly say I stick by ceramic,” Michael says. “Ceramic barrels and plates create a high-gloss finish that lasts without burning the hair.”

The right barrel size depends on the type of curl you’re looking to make. “Using a larger barrel will give you a larger, looser curl,” says Reed. “If you want something flatter, you can use the clamp on a tong to help flatten out the curl. If you want something looser, you can wind or twist the hair as you're wrapping it which will give you more of a wave than a curl.”

“When selecting a curling iron, keep in mind that ceramic irons tend to offer a more gentle and less damaging heat for fine and delicate hair types, while titanium tends to work better for curl-resistant or more dense hair types,” says Stenson. As far as a preference? “I love using ceramic irons, as I find the curls hold better,” says Roszak. “There is enough heat to obviously create a curl, but it doesn’t overheat the hair, resulting in the hair falling flat.”

Generally, creating waves comes from technique over a specific iron, but there are qualities of an iron that can help, such as shape and temperature. “You can create a wave by winding your hair as you curl,” says Reed. “This will mean that you're not creating such a perfectly formed curl and allowing more movement and variation in the hair.”

The 21 Best Curling Irons of 2022 | By PEOPLE

Wavy Look Wireless Curler Madison Yauger is a seasoned writer who’s tested hundreds of lifestyle products across all categories. With a background in news and lifestyle journalism, she has a wide network of expert sources and a penchant for accuracy. For this story, she spoke to celebrity hair stylists Nick Stenson, Joseph Michael, Mara Roszak, and Adam Reed — as well as citing previous interviews with celebrity hairstylists Madison LeCroy and Yusef — and heavily researching the market of curling irons to determine the best picks for different needs.