What the best curling irons have

  • Variable heat settings. It's difficult to guess before trying out an iron what temperature will work on your hair. Even if you do know the correct temperature, it can vary depending on the desired style or the part of the hair being styled. This is why Misikko.com recommends irons with variable temperature settings, so you can always style your hair on the lowest setting needed.
  • Heats up quickly and evenly. No one likes waiting around for an iron to heat up, and a quick heat-up time insures that your iron retains its temperature as you style, say editors at Overstock.com. It's also important that the curling iron heats up evenly throughout the barrel to prevent damaging a portion of hair or ending up with a half-limp curl.
  • Easy to use. Clipless irons are harder to use than traditional irons. If your iron does have a clamp, it should hold hair firmly yet be easy to open back up when desired, according to RealSimple magazine. Also take note of controls and their location.
  • Safety features. At-home stylists often find it helpful to have a cool-touch tip on their curling iron to help steady it with their spare hand. And while many professional irons lack an automatic shutoff, you may rest easier with this feature, say the experts at LoveToKnow.com.
  • Ceramic or tourmaline barrels. New technology is constantly coming out in this category. The best curling irons have ceramic or tourmaline barrels, which help smooth hair and tame frizz, or titanium, which helps prevent any snagging because of its extra smooth surface, according to Folica.com.

Know before you go

How comfortable are you with curling irons? Various curling irons require different skill levels -- with traditional spring irons and waving irons being easier to use than clipless wand irons.

What style do you want to achieve? Classic curling irons tend to be the most versatile, but clipless wands tend to yield wavy, more natural results. Wave irons accomplish only one style, but this is fine if waves are all you want.

What size barrel works for your hair? The best barrel size for you is based on your hair's length and your desired style. The bigger the barrel, the bigger the curl. ParlorDiary.com, a blog run by a Chicago hairdresser, offers helpful recommendations for choosing the right barrel size.

Are safety features important to you? Whether you need an automatic shut-off feature depends on your forgetfulness and how much of a worrier you are. Those who aren't comfortable using hot tools may also appreciate an iron with a cool-touch tip, stand and even a heat-resistant glove, which is often needed when using a wand iron.

Will you be traveling with this curling iron? Voltage, plug type and size are all important considerations if you plan to use you curling iron to travel. Of course, if you're only packing your iron on domestic trips, size and a heatproof sleeve may be the top priorities.

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