Loose and dreamy beach waves might look effortless, but typically require a top notch hot tool — and a fair amount of elbow grease. You can use curling iron to achieve dream-girl waves (some even use a flat iron to curl their hair), but a curling wand is a clip-less hair tool that gives gorgeous, versatile curls and waves without looking overdone.
The Good Housekeeping Institute Beauty Lab regularly tests the best hair tools on the market. When we test curling irons and wands, we start by rounding up the newest products on the market and then whittling down the field based on an initial pre-screen process conducted by Lab experts who also look into products' claims and availability. In our most recent test, we considered each product's ease of use and performance, as well as quantitative measurements like weight, cord length, barrel thicknesses, plus the tool's time to reach its highest temperature. After 103 measurements taken and 836 survey answers tallied, we found the only curling wands worth your money:
A novel twist on a curling wand, CHI’s 1-inch tool is angled to easily reach the back of the head, with testers noting "the handle makes it easy to use it upside-down." The highest powered of all the wands we tested, it scored top for creating the desired look, being lightweight, and not pulling hair. It also got the highest scores for being ergonomic and feeling safe to use, with one tester saying there's “no learning curve," even on short hair, which is notoriously difficult to curl with a wand. This wand features a cool shot that blows cool hair onto hair to set the curl more quickly, which one tester said made curls "look much more complete ... and I don’t have to worry about accidentally disturbing them before they cool down like with traditional irons."
- Adjustable heat 180ºF to 410ºF, plus cool shot
- Angled configuration makes for foolproof styling, even on short hair
- Top scores in Lab tests for ease of use and final look
"This was the first curling wand I ever bought and I still use it when I travel," said a former Good Housekeeping editor. "It's inexpensive, so I don't worry if it gets bumped around in my luggage or accidentally left at a hotel. It's super no-frills, but it gets the job done!" It has over 6,800 reviews on Amazon and an average 4.5 star rating and a quick preheat time.
- 5 adjustable heat settings up to 400º
- 1- to ½-inch tapered barrel for perfectly undone waves
Tapered wands are great for creating different circumference curls on the same tress of hair for a messier, more natural look. This Hot Tools model spans ¾-inch to 1 ¼-inches for an undone look and curls that stay put. The lightest of the winners (0.73 pound!), the tool was compact and simple to operate. “It gave me natural-looking curls,” an evaluator said.
- Adjustable temperature 280ºF to 430ºF
- Lightweight and easy to use
- ¾-inch to 1 ¼-inch tapered barrel
For curls that look natural (not cookie-cutter uniform), the unique taper on this wand is reversed for curls that bell out at the bottom and are tighter at the top. This one was the quickest to heat up in Lab tests (from 0 to 435ºF in 60 seconds, flat) and it nabbed the best expert score for having easy to use controls, a clear, bright display, and being easy to maneuver.
- Adjustable temperature 200ºF to 435ºF
- 1- to 1 ¼-inch reverse tapered barrel
- Fastest preheat time for quick styling
The extra-long 16-inch barrel on this one-inch wand makes it perfect for even super-long hair that has a tendency to wrap around itself on traditionally-sized curling wands and irons. Our Lab experts were wowed by the quick heat-up time and found the wand easy to maneuver and the controls intuitive to use (even without looking at them). The longer-than-average length of this wand takes some getting used to, so be particularly careful when using it at first.
- Adjustable temperature 260ºF to 410ºF
- XL 16-inch barrel for long, thick hair
- Intuitive to use and maneuver
With adjustable temperature that goes all the way down to 160ºF, this wand is ideal for fragile, fine, or damaged hair. The wand has a retractable comb attached that grips hair and evenly lays it onto the barrel, which created curls that look "nice and soft right away." One tester added, "I didn’t think I would care for the built-in retractable comb, but I find it very useful." Moreover, this iron scored best for lasting curls and highly for releasing easily without pulling or snagging. Testers also loved that the digital display shows the temperature and type of hair it's suitable for and also reflects any changes in temperature during styling.
- Adjustable temperature 160ºF to 450ºF
- Comb attachment to carefully place hair on barrel
- Top scores for long-lasting curls
A novel design that incorporates a flat iron mode along with a curling wand and a curling iron, this 1 ¼-inch rod scored moderately well across the board from ease of use to performance to user satisfaction. It scored high for having a wide temperature range, plus it got a perfect score for curls that lasted throughout the day making it perfect for thick, coarse, or coily hair that tends to frizz. Even short-haired testers loved its versatility, noting "it was the safest curling tool I used: Easy to maneuver and keep from touching the face or scalp."
- Adjustable temperature 240ºF to 430ºF
- 3-in-1 capability
- Switching between mechanisms can take some getting used to
This wand has four interchangeable barrel sizes and styles, so it's many tools in one at a reasonable price point. The medium and large barrels work for polished bouncy curls and beach waves, and as for the thinner barrels, nothing works better for fine-tuning natural curls. One of our editors has used it nearly every day for over 10 years!
- 4 attachments; ½- and 1-inch tapered barrels, and 1½- and 2-inch straight barrels
- Adjustable heat settings up to 450º
- No tone once temperature is reached
An editor favorite for waves and curls, not only is this curling wand tapered in size, but its shape graduates from circular to oblong for the perfectly tousled, undone wave. Its silicone tip stays cool to mitigate the risk of burns. This brand is known for hair tools that heat up quickly and maintain a constant temperature of 365ºF, which the brand says is safer for hair: The trade-off is that you can't adjust the settings for finer or thicker hair types.
- Tapered barrel goes from 1-inch round to .09-inch oval
- Fast heat-up time
- No adjustable temperature settings
While we haven't formally tested this pick in the Lab, it boasts over 14,000 reviews on Amazon, this ceramic coated wand is a crowd fave. The graduated barrel comes in a smaller ½-1-inch size for tighter curls and a larger 1-1½-inch size for looser waves. Reviewers love that this affordable curling wand will "curl your stick-straight hair into submission." One of our editors says the finish on this wand is super smooth: Add on a tapered end, and you'll have to hold hair in place carefully to prevent it from sliding off!
- 10 adjustable heat settings up to 410º
- Tapered wand for an undone finish
- Budget-friendly and reviewer-approved
- Super smooth ceramic coating may be too slick for fine or soft hair
"I admire the genius air jet design, which makes hair strands, as if by magic, wrap themselves around the curler attachment,” says Birnur Aral, Ph.D., Director of the GH Beauty Lab. The result: Bouncy bends that rival a professional blowout. "It gives salon-level styling using lower heat, which can minimize damage as well," she explains. You can use this genius tool as a traditional curling iron by wrapping hair from the ends and working upward, or you can manually wrap hair around the shaft like a curling wand for a more beachy effect. Its versatility is a huge selling point.
- 1.2- and 1.6-inch barrels for curling
- Dries and curls hair at once
- 3 adjustable heat settings and cool shot
- Very expensive
If you've ever had A+ waves on one side of your head, so-so waves on the other, you're not alone. The wand on this hot tool helps fix that with a pivoting handle that rotates between 180° and 90° to easily reach every strand and fix a common beginner gripe. When we tested it in the Beauty Lab, our pros thought the rotating mechanism was a bit difficult to use, adding that the "barrel felt wobbly in both the 90º and 180º positions."
- Barrel twists from 180° to 90°
- Four adjustable heat settings up to 425ºF
- Rotating mechanism can be tough to master