Best Curling Iron Review – Top 5 Swishest List for Nov. 2020 with Buying Guide
A curling iron can be a girl’s best friend when getting ready for a big night out.
The wrong curling iron, though, can be her worst nightmare unless she’s headed to an 80s-themed party – or even worse, a 60s-themed one.
Today’s best curling irons are easier than ever to use, and they give women the ultimate flexibility in creating different and stunning hairstyles. But getting things just right can often take you a long time (particularly if you have long, thick hair), and getting things wrong can make you want to stay home and hide until your curls fall out and you can try again.
There’s one other obvious danger. Curling irons use heat to do their work, so split ends and even permanent hair damage are real possibilities if you use the wrong tool or use it the wrong way.
Our goal in putting together Groom+Style’s list of the top 5 best curling irons was simple: find the models which provide the most styling options and best results, while being easy to use. One important note before we start, however, is that we only considered traditional, straight-barrel curling irons, most of which have a spring-loaded clamp to hold your hair as you curl it. We’ll leave more difficult-to-use curling wands, which taper at one end and don’t have a metal hair clamp on them, for another day.
Curling Iron Buying Guide
It’s simple to choose most home and grooming appliances because you can go through a checklist and narrow down your choices in an orderly fashion. Selecting the right curling iron is a bit more complicated because there are several considerations that factor into the decision equally.
The best place to start, though, is with your level of experience. If you’re relatively new at curling your hair you’ll probably want to begin with a spring curling iron, because it’s the most user-friendly. You simply open the clamp and insert the section of hair you want to curl, then release the spring and your hair stays tight to the barrel’s surface while it’s heated. Open the clamp again, and you’re ready to move to the next section of hair.
Marcel curling irons are what you’ll see in most hair salons. There’s no clamp, so the stylist applies her own expert pressure to the hair as she curls it. Marcel irons provide excellent control but are tricky to maneuver properly, so only think about buying one if you’ve gotten proficient with a spring curling iron first.
Irons known as “wavers” have multiple barrels and can create amazing hairstyles featuring beach waves, tight retro waves or other memorable designs. Once again, they take some expertise so you’d be smart to leave those until you feel comfortable with a standard spring curler.
Curling Iron Materials
Common wisdom says that chrome curling irons are the worst choice for your hair, while ceramic and tourmaline models are the best options. That’s largely true, but you also have to consider the type of hair that you’ll be styling in order to choose the right iron.
– Metal steam barrels: These curling irons are the least-expensive and will theoretically do the most damage because the hot metal removes moisture from hair; that’s why they release steam, to replace the moisture and help curls stay firm. Many also believe they release positive ions which damage hair. However, these irons are sometimes the only types that work for very thin hair that resists curling.
– Chrome and gold barrels: Slightly more expensive than metal curling irons, these are also more likely to damage hair. Chrome has hot spots (and supposedly releases positive ions); gold is a better choice because it heats more evenly but still doesn’t provide the best results. Neither is effective for frizzy hair, and the Teflon coating on some of these irons can wear off to reveal very hot spots.
– Ceramic and tourmaline barrels: These are the two most-popular higher-end choices. Their barrel temperatures remain constant to minimize damage and provide better results, they help keep hair shiny and smooth, and they allegedly release negative ions that fight frizz. Look for solid or ceramic/titanium blends without a Teflon coating.
– Titanium barrels: You’ll get advantages and results similar to tourmaline with a titanium barrel, which produces the evenest heat. It’s the best choice for coarse and thick hair that is difficult to manage and won’t retain heat easily. Again, avoid models with Teflon coatings.
Curling Iron Sizes
The width of a curling iron’s barrel will determine the type of curls it can produce. You’ll normally find choices from 3/8 inches to two inches, with smaller barrels creating tight curls and larger barrels able to create big, loose curls.
The type of hair you have is important to consider before buying an iron.
– Flat or thin hair won’t hold loose curls for very long, so you’re better off with a smaller iron with a barrel that’s smaller than ¾”. That’s also the right choice for curly or shorter hair, and for creating a “perm” look.
– Long, thick and manageable hair is ideal for curling irons with barrels larger than 1” because the curls will stay in place all day long. This is a good option for creating waves, beach or looping curls and adding volume.
– Barrels that are ¾” or 1” are best for beginners because they’ll do a good-to-great job on most types of hair, allowing you to create everything from layered to vintage looks as well as natural-looking, tighter curls. Want a great tousled look at the bottom of your long hair? A 2” barrel is just right for that.
Curling Irons are Bringing the Heat!
Most decent curling irons will let you choose heat settings, and that’s crucial because thin hair can’t take high levels of heat while thick hair will need a hotter iron for curls to set properly. Look for settings below 200° if your hair is particularly thin, and options from 300-400 degrees for thick and wavy hair.
Here’s the review team’s list of the top 5 best curling irons.
1. BaByliss PRO Nano Titanium Spring Curling Iron
Here’s a great beginning curling iron. It has a smooth, high-quality one-inch barrel, heats up extremely quickly and is versatile enough to create both tight curls and looser rings on most types of hair.
Even though BaByliss advertises this model as titanium the barrel is actually a titanium/ceramic blend, one of the best choices for transferring heat efficiently while generating those negative ions that manufacturers insist keep hair shiny and soft.
While we’re on the subject of what manufacturers say, the Nano Titanium is supposed to create “far infrared heat” that gets inside each hair shaft to work quickly and prevent damage from prolonged heat exposure.
The review team doesn’t know if that’s true or not, but what we do know is that this BaBy(liss) does its job fast and extremely well. There’s an amazing selection of 50 heat settings (up to a 450° setting you should never need), a turbo-heat button that increases the iron’s temperature with lightning speed, and a feature that’s vastly overrated, a long eight-foot 360° swivel cord. The clip is solid but not too tight, and the barrel moves through hair easily without snagging.
The BaByliss PRO is comfortable and easy to use, generates well-controlled levels of heat quickly and efficiently, and creates great curls in just a few seconds. Unless you have very short or thin hair, it’s the right size and the right curling iron; it’s more expensive than most, but also better than most.
Facts and figures on the BaByliss PRO Nano Titanium Spring Curling Iron:
2. Xtava 5-in-1 Professional Curling Wand and Curling Iron Set
The Xtava 5-in-1 proves that you don’t have to pay a fortune for quality and versatility. It comes with five interchangeable tourmaline/ceramic barrels, giving you the ability to choose a different look every time you curl your hair. And the entire set is surprisingly affordable for the quality it provides.
Here’s what’s included: 0.3-0.75 inch and 0.7-1 inch tapered clipless barrels, plus 0.7-1.0, one-inch and 1.25-inch barrels with clamps. The smaller barrels work well with short- and medium-length hair (or naturally-curly hair) and produce great, tight curls; the larger ones have clamps to help with long hair and are better for creating loose curls and waves.
As you know by now (if you’ve been paying attention), the tourmaline/ceramic barrels provide even heat, while the negative ions they produce seal in moisture, reduce frizz and make hair smooth and shiny. There are nine temperature settings from 250-410°, making this set a great choice for everyone except those with extremely fragile or extremely thick, difficult hair. One caution: the barrels don’t have cool tip protection, so you’ll need to use a heat-resistant glove (included with the set) to avoid burning yourself. This is a dual-voltage model with auto-shutoff.
It will be difficult to find a more versatile curling iron set than the Xtava 5-in-1, and its very reasonable price is a welcome bonus.
More details on the Xtava 5-in-1 Professional Curling Wand and Curling Iron Set:
3. Hot Tools Professional 1110 Curling Iron
If waves instead of curls are your thing, this 1¼” curling iron is a good buy. The barrel is made from a 24K gold plate which keeps the cost down and isn’t the best choice for frizzy hair, but it’s not Teflon-coated so you won’t run into hot spots after a few months’ worth of use.
You also won’t get those magic negative ions, but we promise that’s the last time we’ll mention them. The clamp holds hair quite securely, and the handle is comfortable.
The Hot Tools 1110 has ten heat settings from 280°-430°, and one feature the review team likes is the on/off switch that automatically turns on to your preferred heat setting. This iron heats quickly works well, and is very reasonably priced; there aren’t a lot of bells and whistles, but it’s a curling iron and not a car, so we’re just fine with that.
The Hot Tools Professional is a good choice for longer and thicker hair, creating nice loose curls and waves at a price that’s easy to take.
Looking deeper at the Hot Tools Professional 1110 Curling Iron:
4. Conair Infiniti Pro Curling Iron
The least-expensive curling iron in our Groom+Style rankings is a Conair which is solid, easy to use and has a tourmaline/ceramic 1¼” barrel that’s pretty impressive for its price.
The reason it’s down at #4 on the list is that there’s a limited amount of heat control on the Infiniti, with just five hotter/cooler push-button settings that don’t go much below 300° and don’t go up to 400°. In other words, be sure this is the right iron for your hair and preferences before buying it since it doesn’t get cool enough for short or flat hair and may not be hot enough for very full, thick hair.
The Infiniti heats up fast and creates very good curls, it’s comfortable to use (although the cord is a little too short), the clip grasps hair perfectly, and the iron does its job while protecting hair’s shine and texture.
It even has an automatic shutoff function, which is strangely missing from many higher-priced models.
At a great price, the Conair Infiniti will do almost anything that most women need from their curling iron – it’s just not the best choice for tight curls or thin hair.
Specs for the Conair Infiniti Pro Curling Iron:
5. The Beachwaver Beach Waver Pro Curling Iron
And now, as our friends from Monty Python would say, for something completely different. We know we said the HSI kit was our most-expensive choice, but this is about twice the price for – as we say – something completely different.
If you want amazing beach waves and curls like you see in fashion magazines and on the red carpet, most standard curling irons aren’t going to cut it. You need something special: the Beach Waver.
It has a one-inch ceramic barrel that clamps to your hair, heats up quickly – and rotates both left and right with just the push of a button. It’s by far the best way to create those natural-looking waves and free-flowing curls that will turn heads.
A word of caution: you have to be careful when using the Beach Waver because it gets extremely hot extremely quickly, and can turn your hair into a mess just as easily as it can create a masterpiece. Take it slow, though, and you’ll be amazed. It’s available with a 1¼” barrel as well.
The Beach Waver is a specialty curling iron that can go places no normal tool will go, as long as you’ve got the budget and the patience to use it to best effect.
Digging deeper on the Beachwaver Beach Waver Pro Curling Iron:
* Unfortunately it looks like the HSI Curlins Set might not be available right now, so please consider another curling iron for now.
This is the most expensive standard option in the Groom+Style rankings, but you couldn’t ask for more versatility since the HSI set comes with four interchangeable barrels: ¾”, 1”, 1½” and a fourth wand-style barrel that tapers from 1” to ¾”. You can choose the size and type of curls you want, or mix and match, just by changing the barrel.
All four are made from tourmaline for even heating, quick curling and moisture preservation (plus those negative ions).
The temperature can be adjusted up to 450° via the digital control panel, which will also display an error message and prevent the iron from heating if the barrel isn’t locked into place properly. The low-temperature settings under 200° are great for shorter and thinner hair, too. The HSI gets hot quickly but there’s a protective glove included with the kit.
We should note that there’s no clamp on this curling iron because of the interchangeable barrels, so this model is more suited to those who’ve used a simpler iron in the past.
The most-complicated and most-expensive standard curling iron that the review team recommends, the HSI kit is also the most satisfying for those who want complete control over the curls in their hair.
More details on the HSI Professional Curling Iron Set:
If you liked this review and were interested in finding out more about other hair care products then please check out Groom+Style’s top 5 best hair dryer review or our hair dryer review specifically for curly hair!