12 best hair curlers for salon-worthy hair at home

·14-min read
We marked each tool on ease-of-use, speed, performance and staying power (The Independent)
We marked each tool on ease-of-use, speed, performance and staying power (The Independent)

From tight bouncy ringlets to loose carefree waves, you no longer have to visit the salon for enviable curls. The latest next-generation hair curlers are easier than ever to use and give you speedy and professional results – no appointment necessary.

With a hair curler on stand-by, you’ll always have a commitment-free way of changing up your style. Whether you’re looking to create red-carpet curls that ooze glamour or a more carefree effect, like 2021’s must-have mermaid S-shaped trend, there’s a perfect hair curler for you and your strands.

Today’s hair curlers come in all shapes and sizes, so we know it can be confusing finding the perfect wand, tong or barrel for your hair type and length. Obviously, the smaller the barrel the tighter the curl, but remember the tightness of the curl also depends on the width of the sections of hair you wrap.

For best results, always use on dry hair to prevent damage (unless otherwise designed, like the Dyson Airwrap). If your locks are on the fine or fragile side (dry, damaged or bleached) stick to tools with lower heat settings to prevent further harm to your hair. Although difficult to style hair types, like thicker or straight styles will need a high temperature so the curls stay in place.

How we tested

To find the best hair curler for you, we put the latest to the test. We marked each on ease-of-use, speed, performance and staying power. Every tool was used on freshly washed and blow-dried hair, using the same heat styling spray for best comparison. All our winners heat up quickly, as well as create speedy curls. And all use an automatic shut off for peace of mind when not being used for varying periods of time. Here are the best options for the ultimate curl-power…

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The best hair curlers for 2021 are:

  • Best overall – T3 curl ID: £199.99, Currentbody.com

  • Best multi-styler – Dyson airwrap: £449.99, Currys.co.uk

  • Best for long hair and extensions – Beauty Works the professional styler: £70, Lookfantastic.com

  • Best for mermaid waves on long hair – Amika high tide deep waver: £90, Cultbeauty.co.uk

  • Best budget tool – Remington hydraluxe curling wand: £29.99, Boots.com

  • Best for classic curls – Cloud Nine the curling wand: £119, Very.co.uk

  • Best for mermaid waves – Glamoriser London volume boost multi waver and curler: £80, Argos.co.uk

  • Best for shorter hair styles – ghd creative curl wand: £139, Very.co.uk

  • Best for cordless styling – Babyliss 9000 cordless waving wand: £179.98, Boots.com

  • Best for corkscrew curls – ghd curve thin curling wand: £139, ghdhair.com

  • Best for interchangeable barrels – Mark Hill pick ‘n’ mix starter pack: £49, Boots.com

  • Best for mermaid waves on long hair – Amika high tide deep waver: £90, Cultbeauty.co.uk

  • Best for ease of use – Drybar 3-day bender digital curling iron: £129, Harrods.com

T3 curl ID

Best: Overall

Rating: 9.5/10

With smart-tech and a touch interface, this hair tool feels like the future in our hands. Simply input your hair type and texture and it customises the heat for the best temperature to create beautiful, bouncy, damage-free curls that last for days.

This iron is on the larger side with a 1 and 1/4in wide barrel perfect for mid-length to longer styles. It has a clamp that we found makes styling much easier to control. Simply secure the end of your hair section in place for easy wind-up. However, you can still use it as a wand wrapping hair around the barrel, if you’re used to that technique.

You’ll quickly master cascading curls that most impressively last until wash out with a little hairspray help. A new model that we’re very impressed with.

Buy now £199.99, Currentbody.com

Dyson airwrap

Best: Multi-styler

Rating: 9.5/10

The innovative hairstyler still deserves the huge beauty buzz around it, with its game-changing tech, speedy results and the fact that it’s an all-in-one tool that will dry, smooth, straighten and curl. The only downside to this tool is its mega price, but actually, when you break down what you get coupled with performance, this really is worth the investment.

Rather than relying on heat, this clever tool uses airflow to create curls, so this is suitable for every type of hair. Use the pre-styling attachment on wet hair until it’s around 80 per cent dry and then pick from 30mm or 40mm curling barrels (one going clockwise and one going anti-clockwise) to create loose, undone waves or more defined classic curls.

It couldn’t be simpler or quicker to use as the airflow will wrap the hair for you around the barrel (hence the name). So if you’ve found more traditional tongs too fiddly in the past this is the hair curler for you.

With a volumising barrel and two smoothing brushes to blow-dry your hair to perfection with, this hairstyler really is all you need and more. And it comes in a classic tan vanity case for storage as a bonus. The airwrap is currently out of stock, but you can sign up to be notified on its return.

Buy now £449.99, Currys.co.uk

Beauty Works the professional styler

Best: For long hair and extensions

Rating: 8/10

Designed for those with longer hair lengths in mind, this ceramic barrel is extra-long – 18.5cm to be precise. This ensures there’s even heat distribution on all parts of the hair, including the ends for an even curl that’s super long-lasting top to bottom. The temperature range is impressive, as it goes down to as low as 80C making it a great option for those with over-processed or damaged strands and up to 220C for thicker harder to curl strands.

The 32mm wide barrel creates beautifully defined curls with smaller sections, but equally old-school Hollywood waves with larger sections. We were impressed with how sleek, soft and shiny they looked, as well as how well they stayed in place all day with the help of a spritz of hairspray.

Buy now £70.00, Lookfantastic.com

Amika high tide deep waver

Best: For mermaid waves for long hair

Rating: 8/10

With “mermaid hair” being a huge 2021 trend, you may have seen large three-barrel tongs, like this one, all over TikTok. A more uniform loosely crimped kink than beachy waves to bring out your inner Ariel. Think of this as next-level crimping, instead of creating zigzags you’re creating S-shaped waves.

Bulkier than your average hair tool, the trio of tourmaline ceramic barrels keeps the cuticle smooth and frizz-free. Expect to practice a little to perfect use, like we did. It took our tester a while to figure out starting at eyebrow length looks best, and also to get the hang of lining up the plate to continue the pattern.

Buy now £90.00, Cultbeauty.co.uk

Remington hydraluxe curling wand

Best: Budget tool

Rating: 7.5/10

Our favourite purse-friendly option still ticks all the performance boxes, giving the more expensive wands a run for their money. It creates softer, bouncy curls with the 32mm ceramic wide barrel, making it best suited to those with mid-length to longer lengths. It takes just 30 seconds to heat up, and you can set and lock in your desired heat with a good range varying from 140C - 210C for setting curls on every hair type.

You’ll find the wand automatically sets to the 185C hydracare setting for damage-free styling, and this temperature worked well on our tester’s hair as the curls stayed looking fresh and bouncy throughout the day. After a night’s sleep, there was a drop to the curl, so they looked more like carefree waves the next day.

Buy now £29.99, Boots.com

Cloud Nine the curling wand

Best: For classic curls

Rating: 8.5/10

Perfectly sized to create defined curls, the 25mm size of this clip-free wand makes it great for all lengths and hair types. The variable temperature control means you can turn down the heat for more fragile strands, but still get sleek spirals if your hair is on the thicker side. The ceramic barrel has an even heat distribution and they say it’s mineral-infused to seal the cuticle and lock in moisture – we certainly found this kinder-styling tech made clean, super-smooth and glossy ribbons.

We found brushing the curls out created beachy, lived-in waves, and for weekday styling when time is short, thicker sections coupled with the 45-second heat up time created a more undone look. The staying power is impressive too, lasting well for two days.

Buy now £119.00, Very.co.uk

Glamoriser London volume boost multi waver and curler

Best: For mermaid waves

Rating: 7.5/10

This one works a little differently, just like a crimping plate (remember them) where you work down sections of hair. You can cleverly adjust the tool to create 4 depths of waves, from 19mm mermaid waves that are all over social media to 38mm wider S-shaped ones. And with five heat settings to choose from, all hair types can get in on the trend.

The ceramic plates are infused with plant-based keratin and macadamia oil for added conditioning, which is a nice addition as we noticed how smooth and sleek this left our hair. Green bonus points for coming in a 100 per cent recycled and recyclable tin for storage, as well as an eco-felt bag and heat mat.

Buy now £80.00, Argos.co.uk

ghd creative curl wand

Best: For shorter hair styles

Rating: 9/10

Tapered wands should be your go-to if you’re looking for an investment that can create both natural-looking tighter curls as well as looser waves on all hair lengths – even bob length. Our favourite from ghd has a narrow 23mm top and a wider 28mm bottom, so you can create different size curls or work hair down the barrel for a natural-looking style.

The ultra-zone technology creates even heat across the wand, coupled with predictive technology that controls the heat using the optimum styling temperature of 185C. Having no control over the heat means you only have to focus on the hair placing itself, safe in the knowledge that you can’t frazzle your strands. You’re left with long-lasting curls that last for days.

Buy now £139.00, Very.co.uk

Babyliss 9000 cordless waving wand

Best: For cordless styling

Rating: 8.5/10

For no plug-socket-needed curls perfect for travelling, on the go, or simply just fuss-free styling in the bathroom mirror, reach for this wand. The 28mm barrel creates smooth and glossy spirals or wilder waves if you brush them out, and with 3 temperature settings, it won’t frazzle fine and fragile hair types on a lower setting but still works for thicker styles on the highest. It’s easy to get the hang of, simply point the styler downwards, wrap hair 2in from scalp around the middle of the barrel and hold for five-seconds.

We love how easy this one is to get to the back of the head without any annoying cord getting in the way. Our only bugbear is a full charge (three hours) lasts around 40-minutes so it’s not for everyday use if you want it for a holiday. But it gets bonus points for coming with a glove, heat mat and storage case.

Buy now £119.98, Boots.com

ghd curve thin curling wand

Best: For corkscrew curls

Rating: 9/10

If you’re looking for more tight and defined spirals, the newest and thinnest barrel in the ghd collection should be your go-to. It uses the same heat tech as the rest of the first-rate curlers in the line-up – a consistent and moderate 185C, so you can trust they won’t damage or burn your precious strands.

The skinny 14mm wand allows you to create super tight corkscrew curls with major 80s perm vibes. Simply use thin sections of hair wrapped closely around the wand using the heat-resistant glove to prevent burning your hand. You’ll be surprised at how speedy this look is to create, as you only need to hold sections in place for a few seconds.

And this isn’t a one curl wand. We found with a little practice you can create voluminous ringlets using larger sections of hair spread out across the barrel, as well as brushed waves for a more relaxed look. Plus, expect them to last – our tester’s curls looked just as fresh the next day.

Buy now £139.00, Ghdhair.com

Mark Hill pick ‘n’ mix starter pack

Best: For interchangeable barrels

Rating: 8.5/10

For those that like to experiment with different looks, the Mark Hill pick-‘n’-mix range is for you. Once you have the all-important handle, there are 19 hairstyling barrels to collect – for every type of curl imaginable. This cut-price limited edition kit in the holographic finish contains the all-important handle, four curling barrels and a handy travel bag for storing – everything you need to get started at a bargain.

From soft loose waves to tighter polished coils, this collection of ceramic barrels contains the essentials to create classic curly looks that look natural and stay in place all day. Our favourite barrel was the loose waver, as the large rounded barrel created the most glamourous free-flowing waves. We can’t wait to add a few more barrels to our collection.

Buy now £44.99, Boots.com

Drybar 3-day bender digital curling iron

Best: For ease of use

Rating: 8.5/10

Cult US brand and masters of the blow-dry with its numerous salons, Dry Bar has just launched its range of tools and products in the UK. In the electrical collection is a curling wand that truly stands out from the crowd, thanks to the clever rotating clamp. Instead of a more traditional wand where you wrap the hair around the barrel, you simply twist the dial on the handle using your thumb and index finger to rotate the barrel, so it does it for you.

If you’ve found curling wands too awkward to use in the past, this is a fuss-free styling option as we got the hang of it with a quick practice. We trialled the 1.25in size better for longer hair or those that want a looser wave, but if you’re after a tighter, defined curl or have a shorter style, we’d suggest 1in barrel. The ceramic heaters are ready after 60 seconds and leave you with curls that look fresh from the hairdressers, with no frizz or flyaways in sight thanks to the ionic tech that seals the cuticle.

Buy now £129.00, Harrods.com

Hair curler FAQs

Is it bad to curl your hair a lot?

As much as we love curling our locks, heat styling is generally viewed as something of an enemy to hair health, but how bad is it?

While using a curling iron can very easily lead to breakage and damage, tools have come a long way and many either maintain a steady temperature of 185C – the ideal maximum temperature – or give you the option to adjust the temperature to best suit your hair type.

To prevent damage, it’s also vital that you use heat protection, which adds a barrier between the tool and your strands to seal in moisture and fight frizz.

How to choose the best hair curler for you

Different tongs will produce different styles so it’s best to know what kind of curl you want to create before buying. Some are better for beach waves, for example, while others may work better for statement ringlets.

You may also want to consider your hair type when choosing which hair curlers to go for. If you regularly dye or bleach your hair, opt for a pair that use a lower temperature, as this will minimise damage.

A lower temperature can also be a better option if you will be using the tongs to style your hair regularly or have fine hair, for the same reason. Alternatively, if you have thick hair, tongs with a higher temperature may hold your curls for longer.

The verdict: Hair curlers

After considering both price and performance our best buy goes to the T3 curl ID for its smart tech and curls that last. If you’re looking for a multi-styler then the game-changing Dyson airwrap is a worthy investment. And for those looking to spend less, try the Mark Hill pick ‘n’ mix starter pack.

Voucher codes

For offers on hair curlers and other hair and beauty products, try our discount code pages:

For more tried and tested hair tools, read our guide to the best cordless hair straighteners

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