Which curling iron for fine hair is best?

Fine hair is challenging to style. Even something as simple as curling your hair can be tricky, unless you find the right curling iron for fine hair.

Fine hair is especially vulnerable to heat damage, so the best curling irons for fine hair have variable heat controls to limit the amount of heat you use. These curling irons are also made of materials that heat more evenly, so you don’t have to worry about hot spots that might damage your hair.

If you’re looking for a professional-grade curling iron that won’t damage your fine hair, the Hot Tools Professional 24K Gold Marcel Curling Iron is your best bet. 

What to know before you buy a curling iron for fine hair

Barrel material

Some materials are gentler on the hair than others, so they’re less likely to cause heat damage. If you have fine hair, avoid curling irons with a metal barrel. Metal doesn’t always heat evenly, so it can be extremely rough on your hair. Curling irons with a ceramic barrel are much better for fine hair because ceramic offers even heat and won’t tug or pull on your hair. 

If you’re willing to spend a little more, a curling iron with a tourmaline-coated barrel is excellent for fine, fragile hair. Tourmaline is a semi-precious gemstone that heats evenly and won’t pull at your hair. It can also help prevent frizz and limit heat damage. 

Variable heat

You definitely want a curling iron with variable heat controls if you have fine hair. Some more affordable models only have a simple on/off option, so they heat to a single temperature. Others have low, medium and high settings, so you have more control over the temperature. But you can find curling irons that let you choose a specific temperature within a certain range, offering the most control. 

Keep your curling iron at about 325 to 350 degrees for fine hair. That’s hot enough to create lasting curls without doing damage. While some curling irons can reach over 400 degrees, it’s really not necessary to splurge on an iron that reaches those higher temperatures. 

Ionic technology

A curling iron with ionic technology emits negative ions that help smooth the hair’s cuticle. That can make fine hair look shinier and healthier, so your finished curls look more polished. 

What to look for in a quality curling iron for fine hair

Barrel size

The size of a curling iron’s barrel determines how tight or loose your curls are. There isn’t a specific barrel size that works best for fine hair, though, because barrel size is more closely tied to the length of your hair. 

  • Extra-small (half-inch to three-quarter-inch barrel) and small (three-quarter-inch to 1-inch barrel) curling irons work well for adding volume and lift to short hair, creating ringlet curls for medium to long hair and defining natural curls.
  • Medium (1 to 1.5-linch barrel) curling irons work well for loose curls and waves and can add volume at the roots on medium to long hair.
  • Large (1.75- to 2-inch barrel) curling irons are ideal for loose curls and waves on long and thick hair.

Handle

A curling iron’s handle should be comfortable to hold while styling hair. Most curling irons’ handles are similar in size to the dimensions of the barrel.  Some are slightly tapered for a reliable grip. 

Clamp

A traditional curling iron features a clamp that holds your hair around the heated barrel to lock the curls in place. However, you can also find clampless curling irons, known as curling wands. Without a clamp, you have to hold the end of your hair on the barrel, running the risk of burning your fingers. 

If you’re new to curling, it’s definitely easier to use an iron with a clamp. However, a clampless wand is good if you prefer looser curls and waves with a more tousled appearance. 

Swivel cord

A curling iron has a cord you must plug into an outlet. Unfortunately, the cord can get in the way as you’re styling your hair and moving from one side of your head to the other. Opt for a curling iron with a swivel cord, so you don’t have to worry about pulling out the plug when moving the iron around your head. 

Auto shutoff

It’s easy to forget to turn off your curling iron when you’re in a hurry in the morning. That’s why an auto-shutoff setting is such an essential safety feature. It automatically turns the iron off after a certain period, such as 30 or 60 minutes, to eliminate the risk of a fire hazard.

Stay-cool tip

If you’re new to curling your hair, it’s essential to look for a curling iron with a stay-cool tip. That prevents you from accidentally burning your skin or scalp as you’re moving the iron around your hair. 

How much you can expect to spend on a curling iron for fine hair

Curling irons for fine hair typically cost $15-$200. Basic ceramic curling irons usually range from $15-$65, while tourmaline-coated models generally cost $70-$200. 

Curling iron for fine hair FAQ

Is it safe to use a curling iron on fine hair?

A. You can safely curl fine hair, but it’s essential to use the right tool, temperature and styling products. Dry your hair completely before curling, and apply a heat protectant product to prevent heat damage. Choose a ceramic or tourmaline-coated curling iron and never use it above 350 degrees. 

How long does it take to curl fine hair?

A. You want to be sure that your curls are locked in place, but you don’t want to leave your hair on the curling iron any longer than necessary. For fine hair, that typically means you should leave your hair wrapped around the iron for 8 to 10 seconds. 

How can I protect fine hair from damage when using a curling iron?

A. Over time, the heat of a curling iron can can cause hair to become dry and damaged, even when using one with the features that make it suitable for this hair type. That’s why it’s a good idea to use a moisturizing conditioner regularly. Thermal sprays that provide a protective barrier before styling are also available.

For intense hydration, it’s a good idea to apply a deep treatment such as a moisturizing mask, balm or intense conditioner at least once every two to three weeks. 

What’s the best curling iron for fine hair to buy?

Top curling iron for fine hair

Hot Tools Professional 24K Gold Marcel Curling Iron/Wand

Hot Tools Professional 24K Gold Marcel Curling Iron/Wand

What you need to know: With variable temperature controls and a barrel that provides even heat, this pro-grade curling iron won’t damage fine hair but still delivers long-lasting curls.

What you’ll love: It features a control dial that lets you choose a specific heat setting, all the way up to 430 degrees. It offers a soft-touch handle and lightweight design that’s extremely comfortable to hold. It’s backed by a seven-year warranty.

What you should consider: It can be challenging to use if you’re new to curling your hair.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon and Ulta Beauty

Top curling iron for fine hair for the money

Conair Double Ceramic 1-Inch Curling Iron

Conair Double Ceramic 1-Inch Curling Iron

What you need to know: This surprisingly affordable curling iron is perfect for fine hair because it doesn’t get too hot and can help smooth frizz. 

What you’ll love: Its ceramic barrel provides consistent, even heat. It offers 30 heat settings, including one specifically for fragile or fine hair. It has an auto-shutoff feature. The 1-inch barrel creates classic curls.

What you should consider: The barrel is fairly short, making it tricky to use on longer hair. 

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon and Ulta Beauty

Worth checking out

T3 Whirl Trio Interchangeable Styling Wand

T3 Whirl Trio Interchangeable Styling Wand

What you need to know: This versatile styling wand can deliver excellent curls for fine hair and so much more, as long as you’re comfortable with the price. 

What you’ll love: It comes with three interchangeable styling barrels, including two traditional barrels in different sizes and a tapered wand. It features a smart heating system that can go as low as 260 degrees for delicate hair. It includes a heat-resistant glove for use with the wand.

What you should consider: It’s one of the pricier curling irons.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon and Ulta Beauty

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Jennifer Blair writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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