Whatever your hair type, the best curling wands and tongs create curls and loose waves with ease. Here are our tried and tested favourites
With the best curling wands and tongs, you can style your hair into beachy waves, corkscrew curls or sleek Hollywood ringlets. No matter if you have long, thick, short or fine hair, it’s never been easier to style your hair with just a few twists and turns around a heated barrel.
For the most part, curling wands are quick and easy to use. However, not all curling wands are created equal: different models create curls of different shapes and sizes, which is the reason it’s important to choose a styling tool that will deliver the results you’re after. Luckily, we’ve tested a wide range of curling wands and tongs, and have cherry-picked the very best from our tests, with a range of budgets and preferences in mind.
Below, we guide you through the key things you need to know when choosing a curling tool for your hair. Then, scroll on to discover the best curling wands to buy, no matter your budget.
How to choose the best curling wand for you
What’s the difference between a curling wand and a curling tong?
A curling tong is generally used to create super-sleek, Hollywood-style curls, while a curling wand can be used to create everything from loose beachy waves to tight ringlet curls. This is because curling tongs tend to have larger barrel sizes, while wands have smaller – and usually conical – barrels to achieve a more natural effect. Curling tongs also come with a clamp to hold the hair in place while you curl, but you will need to hold the hair by hand (and with a heat glove) when using a curling wand.
Does the barrel size of the curling wand matter?
Yes. The barrel size is the most important factor when it comes to the finished look. Put simply, the smaller the barrel you use, the tighter the curl will be. Larger barrels are great for achieving a more natural wave or loose-sitting curl, while a skinny barrel of 10mm or less will help you create tight corkscrew curls.
Does the material matter?
Despite looking very similar, not all curling wands are made from the same material. It’s actually rather important to know what the difference is when choosing a device, since some of these materials are better for your hair than others.
- Ceramic and tourmaline: these curling irons are the most popular, as well as being among the safest. If you curl your hair often, this is the material you should go for as it maintains a consistent temperature throughout the barrel. It releases negative ions that smooth the hair’s cuticle, eliminate frizz and make it appear shiny.
- Titanium: these barrels are good for hair that’s coarse, hard to heat or unmanageable, while containing the same negative ions that help reduce frizz and protect hair as tourmaline.
- Chrome and gold: barrels made from chrome or gold heat very well, but they won’t combat frizz. They might be cheaper, but it probably isn’t worth the risk – they have hot spots that could damage your hair.
- Metal steam: This type of barrel can be good for thin hair that doesn’t easily hold curl. It releases steam, which helps replace the moisture the metal removes. The steam also helps the hair hold curls in place for longer.
READ NEXT: The best hair dryers for all hair types
Is a higher temperature better?
It may seem like a good idea to go for a curling wand that reaches the hottest temperatures, but keep in mind that such a model won’t always deliver the best results. While a higher temperature will speed up styling, it could also cause more breakage and leave hair looking lifeless – which isn’t a look you want.
Those with short, fine hair, will be able to get away with using a wand around the 140°C mark, but those with longer or thicker hair will likely need to raise the temperature a little to create curls that last all day, and will benefit from a wand that offers multiple heat settings. Whatever your hair type, it’s best to stick below 220°C to prevent melting the hair’s natural keratin.
How we test curling wands
At Expert Reviews, we know that hands-on testing gives us the best and most complete understanding of a product. So we test all of the curling wands we review, either at home or during a live product demonstration. We use the tools as recommended on clean, dry hair. Where applicable, we test the different heat settings and, whenever possible, on more than one hair type.
During testing, we measure the time the tool takes to heat up after being switched on, and then how long it takes to style a full head of hair (noting the hair length and texture that we are testing on). We also evaluate the overall ease of use of the curling wand, how it feels in the hand, and the finish and feel of the hair after curling. We also note how well styles last over a typical day of wear.
Finally, we confirm the weight and dimensions of the wand, and note any extras that are included in the box.
READ NEXT: Best products for curly hair
The best curling wands and tongs you can buy in 2023
1. BaByliss Curling Wand Pro: Best budget curling wand for long hair
Price when reviewed: £35 | Check price at Amazon There are plenty of budget curling wands available, but finding one that works well on long hair is no easy task. Thankfully, the BaByliss Curling Wand Pro has been designed with this often-overlooked market in mind. Its extra-long barrel has space for even the longest locks, and if your hair’s on the shorter side then you can use the conical barrel to create tighter or looser curls and waves.
The frill-free Curling Wand Pro concentrates on making everyday styling as easy as can be, with a heat-up time of just 30 seconds and five digital temperature settings ranging from 150°C to 210°C. Its ceramic plates spread heat evenly to help deliver consistent results and prevent heat damage, while BaByliss’s Wrap Control technology does a great job of holding hair in place to create picture-perfect curls.
Unlike some similarly priced wands, the Curling Wand Pro won’t leave you going back over strands that slipped the first time around.
Key specs – Barrel size: 25-13mm; Lowest temperature: 150°C; Maximum temperature: 210°C; Cord length: 2.5m; Extras included in the box: Heat protection glove
2. GHD Classic Curl Tong: Best curling tongs for defined curls
Price when reviewed: £149 | Check price at Amazon Looking for sleek, defined curls? While wands will be your go-to tool for beachy waves, a curling tong is best if it’s shiny, Hollywood-inspired curls you’re after. The GHD Classic Curl tongs have a medium-sized 26mm barrel for creating bouncy and voluminous curls, plus a spring-activated ergonomic lever that securely clamps the hair in place. Using clever ultra-zone technology, the barrel recognises each strand of hair to evenly deliver an optimum temperature – which never exceeds 185˚C – to provide long-lasting curls in just five to eight minutes.
The protective cool tip provides a safe place to grip the tool, while the nifty safety stand means you’ll never run the risk of burning your carpet – or your house down, since the curling tong will automatically switch off when left unattended for 30 minutes. A ceramic coating helps to keep hair in good health, and a 3m cord allows for ultimate flexibility during styling.
Key specs – Barrel size: 26mm; Optimum temperature: 185°C; Cord length: 3m; Extras included in the box: N/A
4. Lee Stafford Original Chopstick Styler hair wand: Best curling wand for corkscrew curls
Price when reviewed: £20 | Check price at Amazon Don’t be fooled by its small size and even smaller price tag: Lee Stafford is a hair brand that’s become known for its bold personality, and the Chopstick Styler is no exception. It heats up to 200°C in just 10 seconds and transforms hair into tight ringlets that will last for days, no matter how long or thick your tresses.
While other curling wands struggle to achieve consistent results on different hair types and lengths, the Chopstick Styler creates the same corkscrew curls, no matter your hair’s natural state and texture. The tiny barrel has only one heat setting and creates just one style, but it does so with perfect precision every time – and it’s ceramic-coated to keep hair looking healthy and smooth all day. The only niggle is that the 1.8m power cable is much shorter than rival wands here.
You can get more feature-packed curling wands at a similar price, but if you just want perfect corkscrew curls every time, this is the one to buy.
Key specs – Barrel size: 10-7mm; Lowest temperature: 200°C; Maximum temperature: 200°C; Cord length: 1.8m
5. Hot Tools Curl Bar: Best curling wand for comfortable use
Price when reviewed: £82 | Check price at Amazon
If you find that curling your hair with a long, straight wand makes your arms ache, the Hot Tools Curl Bar might bight be the answer to your prayers. Its unconventional, right-angled shape allows users to curl their hair without ever raising their arms above their head. While expensive, it’s lightweight and exceptionally well-built, with a brilliant temperature range and an innovative built-in timer that helps time your curls to perfection. That, paired with the heated barrel’s uniform diameter, means you can get consistent curls every time. After styling you can keep the curls as they are, or brush them out while the hair is warm for a Hollywood-style wave.
It has sleek, simple controls too. On the rear of the barrel, a circular LCD screen displays the temperature and this screen can be pressed inwards to set the timer. Simply turn the dial that sits neatly around the screen to adjust the temperature to anywhere between 160°C to 230°C.
To add even more versatility and ease to styling, there’s a cool touch handle at the end of the barrel, offering the option for more support during styling. The Curl Bar also has a built-in swivel cord, as well as a safety shut off, heat mat, and heat glove included – there’s not much more you could ask for at this price.
Read our full Hot Tools Curl Bar review for more information
Key specs – Barrel size: 25mm/32mm; Lowest temperature: 160°C; Maximum temperature: 230°C; Cord length: 3m; Extras included in the box: Heat protection glove and mat
6. Dyson Airwrap Styler Complete: Best all-in-one styler
Price when reviewed: £480 | Check price at John Lewis Dyson’s Airwrap styler is a big name in the hair industry, and with good reason: it provides flexible styling options without running the risk of damaging the hair follicles. Using a clever V9 motor, the Airwrap styler propels damp hair around a heated barrel (instead of using hot plates) for effortless styling. This technique, called the “Coandă effect”, wraps hair around the Airwrap’s barrels to create symmetrical curls and loose waves. There’s no need to worry about heat damage, since the intelligent heat control system will ensure the tool never exceeds 150˚C.
The 2022 version of the cult product offers improved airflow for faster styling, and adds some clever features, including a new switch that allows the direction of airflow to be changed so it’s easy to alternate between clockwise and anticlockwise curls for a natural effect. The switches to control the heat and speed of the airflow are built neatly into the handle and are very easy and intuitive to find and use while styling hair. There are three independently adjustable heat and airflow settings, plus a cool shot mode to finish each curl.
Like the original Airwrap this is a premium hairstyling tool at a premium price, but the speed and quality of the curls produced by the Airwrap, plus the benefits to hair health, make it worth the investment if you curl your hair regularly.
Read our full Dyson Airwrap Multistyler review for more information
Key specs – Barrel size: 30mm and 40mm; Maximum temperature: 150°C; Cord length: 2.6m; Extras included in the box: Smoothing dryer, 30mm barrel, 40mm barrel, soft and firm smoothing brushes, round brush, filter cleaning brush and storage case
6. T3 Whirl Interchangeable Styling Wand: Best curling wand with changeable barrels
Price when reviewed: £260 (for the T3 Trio) | Check price at LookFantastic Why buy several wands when one can do it all? The standard T3 Twirl comes with a 1.25in barrel, which is perfect for creating gently tousled curls, but there are four others to add to your collection, including barrels for defined curls, polished curls, undone waves and loose waves. The only catch is you will need to buy these separately, but it’s cheaper and easier than buying a new curling wand for every style you want to create – not to mention the space you’ll save on storage.
The T3 Whirl isn’t just one of the best-looking curling wands on the market, though; it combines ease of use with the latest in hair-styling technologies. Its five heat settings range from 127°C to 210°C, the tourmaline and ceramic plates seal cuticles with negative ions, and T3’s Digital SinglePass technology constantly monitors and maintains a stable temperature. It isn’t a cheap product, but it’s well worth the money if you want maximum versatility in a gorgeous, perfectly formed package.
Key specs – Barrel size: 32-19mm; Lowest temperature: 127°C; Maximum temperature: 210°C; Cord length: 2.7m; Extras included in the box: Heat-resistant mat and glove.
7. Shark FlexStyle Air Styler & Hair Dryer: Best for creating multiple styles
Price when reviewed: £300 | Check price at Shark The Shark FlexStyle uses the same air-powered Coandă effect as the Dyson Airwrap (above) to wrap hair around a barrel, creating soft and natural-looking ringlets. It comes with two 31.75mm curling barrels that you switch between to change the direction of your curls, enabling you to style all hair in the same direction for a more uniform look, or mix up curl direction for a more natural flow. There are three temperature and three speed settings, which can be independently selected using the two buttons on the handle, along with a cool shot for setting your curls.
The drying unit pivots around a joint to switch easily from a vertical to a right-angled setting; in the right-angled configuration you can use the FlexStyle like a normal hairdryer, and the set comes with concentrator and diffuser attachments to help you smooth hair or add lift. The FlexStyle set also includes a paddle brush for smooth styling and an oval brush for volume, which you use with the styler in its upright formation.
The FlexStyle currently costs around £200 less than the Airwrap, and creates soft and bouncy curls using an air-based method that keeps damage to a minimum. The diffuser, concentrator and brush attachments also mean the FlexStyle is a versatile package that does more than simply curl.
Read our full Shark Flexstyle air styler review for more information
Key details – Styling method: Hot air with Coandă effect hair wrapping; Barrel size: 31.75mm; Heat settings: 3; Cool blast: Yes; Cord length: 2.44m