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What Should I Consider When Buying a Curling Iron?

Cathy Rogers
Cathy Rogers

Curling irons exist in nearly as many versions as there are hair types. The features to consider when choosing one depend on your hair type and the style desired.

One basic consideration in choosing a curling iron is the barrel size, which will determine the type of curl you get. The smaller the barrel, the tighter and smaller the curls it produces. A wide barrel will create waves instead of tight curls. Some feature multiple barrels, often a smooth barrel and a brush attachment, which is a bonus if you like changing your look.

A wider curling iron will create looser curls.
A wider curling iron will create looser curls.

Another factor to consider is the type of heat setting. Different types of hair need varying amounts of heat. For hair that is difficult to curl, a high heat setting is necessary. For damaged or fragile hair, a lower setting is appropriate. Fortunately, some curling irons have adjustable heat settings.

Ceramic curling irons are a relatively new technology. Such an iron produces a shiny, smooth finish by using infrared heat to protect the hair's moisture. Manufacturers claim that they curl hair faster, also.

A curling iron with a small barrel is ideal for creating small, tight curls.
A curling iron with a small barrel is ideal for creating small, tight curls.

Other features include steam, a safety tip, and an automatic shut off. Steam will help lock the curls in place, important for those with hard-to-curl hair; steam is also less damaging than dry heat. A safety tip allows the user to use both hands to steady the iron. An automatic shut off is a safety feature that is important to some individuals. Some are equipped for 120/240V dual voltage, which means they are adaptable for international use.

Cordless curling irons are handy for traveling or touch-ups just about anywhere. Some are rechargeable, similar to a cordless phone. Others use butane cartridges.

Some other models feature instant heat, which means you don't have to wait the few minutes it takes other irons to heat up before use. If the iron does not feature instant heat, you might want to choose one with a ready indicator or light. A swivel cord is helpful if you find that you get tangled while styling your hair.

Many other hair appliances are similar to curling irons. Curling brushes are a combination of a brush and an iron; they generally provide a less precise curl and more volume. A spiral curling iron creates tight, ribbon-like curls. For creating volume and waves, use a triple barrel curling iron.

Discussion Comments


Hi. I wanted to ask if there was any particular brand that made really good, reliable curling irons.

I have been looking at reviews for a bunch of different kinds of curling irons, everything from the Babyliss curling iron sets to the Enzo curling iron, which looks really cool, but slightly expensive...

So my question is, is there one out there that is just all around the best?

I don't really need the most fancy ceramic curling iron on the market; I just want one that is good and reliable all the way around. Any tips?

I'd really like to hear people's personal experiences, by the way, I'm not just looking for links to the website that sells your favorite curling iron. So, does anyone have any advice?


Who knew there were so many options when it comes to curling irons? I was going to get my girlfriend one for her birthday since she always talk about how much she loves them, but after reading this I have to say I'm a little bit intimidated.

I mean, I don't even know if she wants a big curling iron or a little one, or even one of those three barrel ones. Is there some sort of just generic one that everybody likes that I can get her?

I mean, is there really a best curling iron out there, because frankly I'm totally lost. Well intentioned, but lost.



So what kind of curling iron should I get? I have thick, sort of wavy hair already, and I want to make it more curly than wavy, if you get my drift.

I'm thinking that a big curling iron would be better, but I also recently heard something about cone curling irons, so I was wondering if those were any good.

I really don't have a particular brand in mind (I don't think I could name a curling iron brand if I had to!), but I really do want to get a nice, high quality iron.

Can anybody help me out?

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    • A wider curling iron will create looser curls.
      By: Alena Ozerova
      A wider curling iron will create looser curls.
    • A curling iron with a small barrel is ideal for creating small, tight curls.
      By: Africa Studio
      A curling iron with a small barrel is ideal for creating small, tight curls.