there are few feelings more satisfying than walking out of a hair salon with your curly tresses bouncing away at your shoulders. It’s no small wonder then, that so many of us want to recreate that look at home. However, with so many curling wands on the market it’s hard to know which one is best.
Spiral wands, curling tongs, smooth barrels and auto-curlers are the main models flooding the market. They have different aesthetics, functions and, perhaps most importantly, different heat settings.
“Research has shown that 185°C is the optimum temperature for styling hair,” says ghd brand ambassador Adam Reed. Anything above this temperature can cause “cuticle cutting,” where the tips of your hair look thinner and duller because of the damage. Even worse, a temperature of 230 degrees or more will “melt” your hair, he says. “The cortex is completely gone, it’s literally melted out, which causes irreversible damage to the hair.”
So, how do you choose a curling wand that won’t damage your hair? And, when you’ve found it, how should you curl your hair? It all depends on your hair type and the curl you are hoping to achieve say the experts. Here’s our ultimate guide to curling hair now.
How to curl thick or thin hair
Thickness affects how well your curl will hold (the thicker your texture, the longer your curls will last) but regardless of how thick or thin your hair is, to maintain healthy, glossy curls, there are some steps you should take to protect your tresses.
“If your hair is super thick, you will need to take smaller sections and take your time,” advises celebrity hair stylist Leigh Keates. This means curling small, neat sections of hair with your tongs. Once the curl has formed, you need to allow it to set before you brush it out.
To protect your thick hair, you shouldn’t give in to the misconception that it needs more heat. “Just because you have thicker hair doesn’t mean you need to hold your curling tool on for longer,” says Reed. “I always recommend holding it on your hair for 5-8 seconds when using ghd tools.”
You need to take more precautions, however, if you have thin hair. “For thin hair, you should stick to a medium heat because thin hair will damage easier,” Keates warns. When hair becomes damaged it loses its elasticity, which makes it even harder for your hair to hold a curl.
How to curl long or short hair
When curling long hair, you should start at the roots. “Some people start at the tip and roll it all the way up,” Keates says, “but then the tip is taking all of the heat and it’s not transferring to the ends.” In other words, your roots will be straight and your tips will be curly.
This is a particular problem for those with longer hair, as their hair is heavier so it will drop out even quicker unless you curl it from the roots.
For short, shoulder-length hair, you want to avoid tight curls. “If it’s too curly,, it makes hair appear a lot shorter, and that’s something that most people don’t want,” Keates says.
He recommends conical wands for shoulder-length hair, which have a wide base and narrow tip. “You get a more modern wave with a conical wand, which is perfect for mid lengths or bobs,” he says.
What are the best hair curlers?
With so many factors to consider, and so many corresponding models on the market, I have reviewed a variety of curlers on my long, thin hair to come up with a shortlist of the top five. For each product, I have considered how easy it is to use, how long it takes to curl, any heat damage done to the hair and how long the curls last.
dyson airwrap hair curler
Dyson Airwrap produces a professional blow dry look
Why we like it: A professional blow dry in your bedroom that won’t damage your hair
Dyson’s hair curler looks as techy and futuristic as you might expect from the creators of the cordless vacuum cleaner. The Dyson Airwrap is just as innovative, too, as it curls your hair using the Coanda effect, where continual air flow around the barrel attracts your hair to its surface and creates long-lasting curls without a high heat. The curler has an in-built heat control to ensure the temperature never goes above 150 degrees to prevent damage to your hair.
The Airwrap is unlike most curlers because, for best results, you should use it on damp, newly-washed hair, which may partially explain why mine looked so shiny after using it. The curling barrel dries your hair as it curls, which takes 35 minutes, and this ensures the look lasts longer. You can also achieve this by playing with the heat settings. After a few seconds of curling your hair on full heat, switch it to cool air, which will make the curls set and stay in place for longer – mine were still wavy after 12 hours.
Dyson Airwrap review
Using the Dyson Airwrap felt like having a professional blow dry
Whether you opt for tight curls or rake your fingers through your hair for looser waves, the Airwrap gives your ‘do so much volume that it looks like a professional blow dry. This is achieved by changing the barrels for the left and right side of your hair and, although this can be time-consuming, the overall effect is worth it. But, is the glamorous look worth £399.99? It’s undeniably a lot of cash but if you’re someone who loves a professional blow dry at the hairdressers, it’s probably a worthwhile investment.
BaByliss Curl Secret 2667U
BaByliss Curl Secret is an auto-curler that creates impressive ringlets
Why we like it: A self-curling wand that’s easy to use
A contraption that pulls your hair into its depths may sound like a torture device, but using this self-curling wand is a pain-free experience. Simply place the barrel midway up a small section of hair and watch as it swivels up into the curling chamber. After a few seconds, release it to find a tight curl, where even the tips are curly. It should only take around 25-30 minutes and both sides of the hair are equally easy to do.
To protect your hair, the Curl Secret has an in-built safety feature. If there is too much hair inside the barrel, or strands from different directions, the device will beep and immediately release the hair. While this protection is reassuring, it means you can only style small sections, which creates a uniform look of corkscrew curls. I couldn’t decide if I looked more like Carrie Bradshaw or Medusa.
BaByliss Curl Secret review
BaByliss Curl Secret creates tight corkscrew curls. For a looser look, be sure to comb these through
That being said, I loved the volume and there are different timer settings if you wanted a looser wave. On the 10 second setting, my curls were intact 10 hours later and had fallen to my cheekbones, giving them a softer look. You can also turn up the heat from 210 to 230 degrees. On my first attempt, I used the highest heat and, perhaps unsurprisingly, it smelt so badly of burning that I had to smother it in perfume. On the lower heat, I did not encounter the same problem.
With such high temperatures, the Curl Secret may not be right for every day usage, but it certainly creates showstopping curls that look more natural as the day goes on.
Lee Strafford CoCo LoCo Wonderball curling wand
Lee Strafford CoCo LoCo Wonderball is more impressive than it looks
Why we like it: Gives voluminous curls that last all day (and night)
Let’s address the elephant in the room: the CoCo LoCo Wonderball looks – and sounds – like something you’d find in Ann Summers. But beneath the bubblegum exterior is a fantastic curling wand that gave me the longest-lasting and bounciest curls of the lot.
Unlike the BaByliss Curl Secret, the CoCo LoCo allows you to wrap both large and small chunks of hair, so you can create a more natural, voluminous effect from the root to the tip. The finished look wasn’t symmetrical, and I found it easier to curl my left side than my right, but it looked unkempt – in a good way. Surprisingly, the curls stayed intact all day and, when I woke up the next morning, I still had ringlets from the cheekbones down. This may be because the curler heats to 200 degrees, so it is important to use heat protection.
Lee Stafford CoCo LoCo Wonderball review
The CoCo LoCo Wonderball gave my hair the most volume – from front to back
The Wonderball is fairly easy to use as the spiral wand gives an indication for where to wrap your hair. Yet it was difficult to slot my hair into some of the ridges – especially on my right hand side, as the wand has a short cable. Stretching was difficult, and I frequently dropped strands and burned my fingers. On my second attempt, however, I sat nearer the plug and it took just 30 minutes, as opposed to 40, to create the same voluminous curls. Considering the curler costs less than £30, I was thoroughly impressed by the value for money.
cloud nine curling wand review
Cloud Nine curling wand is quick at easy to use
Why we like it: Creates natural-looking curls even when you’re in a hurry
With a heat-protective glove included, you can feel confident when curling your hair around this sleek barrel, as it is unlikely you will burn your fingers. Using the curling wand was easy in most parts, although the back was near-impossible (top tip: raising your elbow helps). Even so, it only took me 25 minutes to style my hair with Cloud Nine’s curling wand.
The barrel design gave me a lot of freedom while I was curling my hair. I could wrap large or small sections and create varying sized waves, which made it look more natural. To create this look, I needed to use the highest heat, 175 degrees, as the two lower temperatures created lacklustre curls.
cloud nine curling wand after
Cloud Nine curling wand creates bouncy curls on the highest heat, but unfortunately these did not last
Even after using the higher heat, however, the curls did not last as long as I would have liked: within six hours, my hair was more wavy than curly. While this product may not be right for a day at the office, however, the curling wand would be an asset before a night out.
ghd curve classic curl tong
The ghd Curve Classic Curl tongs created impressive curls – but they took a while to get used to
Why we like it: Great for big, loose waves on a medium heat
If you have ever straightened your hair or visited a hairdresser’s, you’ll probably know the brand ghd. As market leaders in the hair styling world, I had high hopes for the classic curl tong – hopes that were partially met. The curls started as ringlets but quickly became loose waves, which created a more natural aesthetic. You can create these curls using the solo temperature setting, 185 degrees, which is an acceptable heat for your hair.
The hair took longer than expected to set – when I touched the curls they almost instantly dropped out. This may be because my hair is thin and straight, and tongs are often better suited to those with thicker hair. It took me three attempts to achieve an impressive look. On my first trial, I held the tong vertically – which was quick and easy, but the curls dropped out before I arrived at work. On my second attempt, I held the tongs horizontally and manually wrapped the hair around the barrel, which took longer (35 minutes). By my final go, however, I learnt to quickly wrap my hair around the barrel and raise my elbow to keep it straight.
ghd curve classic curl tong review
Practice makes (almost) perfect: the curls were fuller and lasted longer on my third attempt, but the tips and back of my hair were mostly flat
Even after mastering the tongs, the tips of my hair were straight and the back was near-impossible to curl, which slightly spoiled the overall look. The successful curls did last until I left work, however, so seasoned tong users may be able to create a full head of bouncy, long-lasting curls. If you are looking for an easier way to create this look, though, it may be worth investing in the ghd Creative Curl Wand instead because of its more accessible barrel.