Curling Irons for Perfect—and Foolproof—Curls

From the Dyson to T3.

best curling irons
(Image credit: Future)

Hands down, without a doubt, the best curling irons make for the most versatile hair styling tools. Whether you’re after beachy waves, a spiral, or just looking to add some definition after you air-dry your hair, there is a barrel, a heat range, and a technique that will get the job done. Curling irons, wands, and wavers work with every hair type under the sun and you really only need one solid option (okay, maybe two) in your arsenal. The key? Knowing what to look for. Lucky for you, hair pros Harry Josh and Clariss Rubenstein have decided to share their insider advice. 

It doesn’t matter if you have fine hair that you *believe* won’t hold a curl or are dealing with curly hair that is in need of some extra shaping—there's a curling iron that will work for you. From ceramic designs created to prevent tugging and mechanical damage to special barrels specifically put on the market for those with long hair, there is no shortage of options.

What to Look For in a Curling Iron

  • Barrel

“The smaller the barrel the tighter the curl,” says Rubenstein. A one-inch iron, according to Josh, will create tighter curls, while a two-inch barrel will give you more of a wavy style. Just a word from the wise: If your hair isn’t great at holding a curl, go tighter…it’s going to drop throughout the day.

  • Heat 

As a rule of thumb, the lower the heat is, the less damage you will have. But, it’s impossible to say that 350 degrees is the ideal temperature across the board. “If you have frizzy, thick, or coarse hair you will need a higher heat,” explains Rubenstein. “If you can do a curl or wave in one pass you can raise the heat—I believe this causes less mechanical damage. If you have to do multiple passes to the same section to get the result, you want to lower the heat.”

  • Clamp

There are three main types of curling irons: A marcel curling iron, a spring curling iron, and a curling wand—all of which create different types of curls. “Marcel and spring clamps will create more traditional, tighter curls,” says Josh. A wand, on the other hand? “It gives more of a beach undone wave,” says Rubenstein. 

  • Technique

The size of your barrel and the temperature obviously play a role in your final curl, but technique is an important part of the equation. How you twist your hair, how long you hold it, and your positioning all impacts the final outcome. “If you tighten the hair from the top to the bottom, you’ll get a super springy curl, but if you just loosely wrap you’ll get more of a blown-out look,” explains Josh. 

Shop Deals on Curling Irons

Dyson AirWrap Multi-Styler Complete Long, $559 $499 at Sephora

Dyson AirWrap Multi-Styler Complete Long, $559 $499 at Sephora

This topaz-colored Dyson Airwrap is currently on sale for $600 right now thanks to the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale. 

The Best Curling Irons

Meet the Experts

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Clariss Rubenstein

Clariss Rubenstein is a Los Angeles based hairstylist. Born in Paris, she discovered her passion for art and style at an early age. She attended the Vidal Sassoon Academy in Los Angeles and later worked under top stylists at the renowned Chris McMillan Salon. Her talent and ambition paid off and she opened a boutique studio, Gloss, in Beverly Hills, where she currently works. Clariss’s clients include Jennifer Garner, Dakota Fanning, Mindy Kaling, Kaley Cuoco, Leighton Meester, Allison Williams and Alison Brie. Her work has been featured in editorials for Vanity FairJalouse and LadyGunn. Her advertising work includes James Perse, Chanel, Louis Vuitton and Tommy Hilfiger.

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Harry Josh

Harry Josh grew up in Vancouver. He had the desire to work in the fashion world at the age of 15. He started flipping through pages of Vogue. He began his hairstyling training while in Canada and eventually moved to New York City to pursue a more meaningful career. Harry Josh started working at a casting agency coloring models' hair in his apartment's bathroom in the West Village. Amy Astley, former beauty director of Vogue Magzine , was referred to Josh. Astley approved of his work and he became and editor for the magazine. Since then, he has helped style the hair of Rose Byrne, Jennifer Garner, Gwyneth Paltrow, Amanda Seyfried, Tina Fey, Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, Christy Turlington, and Helena Christensen. He has worked with photographers among the likes of Patrick Demarchelier, Annie Leibovitz, Carter Smith, Nino Munoz, Miles Aldridge, Stephane Sednoui, Gilles Bensimon, and Walter Chin. In 2013, Harry Josh partnered with DermStore to launch his hair tool line: Harry Josh Pro Tools. The line consists of two hair dryers, two curling irons, a flat iron, a diffuser, and an array of brushes, combs and clips.