Affiliate Disclosure

Stylized i character

None of our reviews are sponsored. We earn a commission when you purchase items through our links.

The 10 Best Curling Irons for Thick Hair

No need to stress about styling thick and dense hair if you’ve got the right tools! We tested ten curling irons and wands to determine the easiest and fastest way to style your thick hair without damaging it for any event. 

Our top pick for the best curling iron for thick hair is the Bio Ionic – Long Barrel Curling Iron because its extra long barrel styles hair quickly. The blended ceramic material keeps hair smooth. If you’re on a budget, the Hot Tools – Pro Artist 24K Gold Curlbar is an affordable option under $50 and still manages to curl hair in under 15 minutes. Lastly, if you want beachy waves, we loved using the Kristin Ess – Soft Wave Pivoting Wand because of the easy digital reader and lightweight size.

Our Top Choices

Best Overall


Long Barrel Curling Iron 1.25' NanoIonic MX

See Price at Amazon

Best budget

Hot Tools

Pro Artist 24K Gold Curlbar

See Price at Amazon

Best wand

Kristin Ess

Soft Wave Pivoting Wand

See Price at Amazon

Why trust us?

Our tester has thick and wavy 2A hair that measures over 2 feet long. They also have over 25 years of experience styling hair with curling irons, straighteners, and other accessories like hair clips. Stylists consider thick hair as anyone with single strands that are thicker than sewing thread. Our tester also has dense hair that measures more than four inches in diameter when gathered together. 

The 10 curling irons we tested

NameBIO IONICHot ToolsKristin EssT3GHD Curve Classic CurlConairDysonGHD WandBaBylissPROCHI
Overall rating9.0466.2888.3867.7726.7946.5666.0926.2944.9944.488
List price$149

See price at Amazon

See price at Amazon

See price at Amazon

See price at Amazon

See price at Amazon

See price at Amazon

See price at Amazon

See price at Amazon

See price at Amazon

See price at Amazon
Barrel materialceramic blendgold coatedceramic coated titaniumceramic blendceramicceramic coatedplasticceramictitaniumceramic
Barrel length64.255.755.254.54.5654.252.75
Avg. straightening time (min:s)11:1613:2614:0513:551414:0317:1316:3012:2717
Dual voltageyesnoyesyesyesnonoyesnoyes
Weight (oz)15.91512.61412.610.8926.6411.616.119.69
Avertised highest heat430430425410365400302365450410
Actual tested highest heat387.7321344.5427342443300328345394
Build quality8107899776.670
Ease of use9.978.5867.58.837.3376.53.17
Hair results9.336.67109.336.676.6786.675.672.67

Important features to consider

Barrel material

The barrel material is important to consider when buying a curling iron. Different plate materials offer features like ceramic that heats evenly and prevents heat damage or titanium that heats up quickly and styles thick hair easily. 

Design (spring, wand)

There are several types of curling devices in the market, and we tested four designs. There is the traditional curling iron made with a barrel and springed clamp, the wand you wrap the hair around with a glove, an automatic spinner, and the Dyson Airwrap Styler that uses the Coanda effect. Wands will tend to give you wavy, beachy curls, and clamp-designed curling irons will give you more structured and tight curls. 

Size & length

Curling irons come in many width sizes, and each size creates different types of curling designs. The smaller the curling width, the tighter the curl, and vice versa. However, styling your hair can often take a long time if you’ve got thick hair. To combat this, a longer barrel helps accommodate more hair and makes styling time faster. For this review, we tested most curling irons with 1 ¼ inch width barrels (except for the Chi, which only came in one size). 

Other (budget, dual voltage, heat temperature)

Other features to consider are heat temperature settings, dual voltage options, weight, and budget. Having thicker (and coarse hair) can be a little difficult to curl and are best styled with higher heat to set the hair. Stylists suggest curling irons to heat between 350-450 ℉. 

If you are an avid traveler, finding a curling iron with dual or universal voltage options is important. This means you can use the styler in different countries. Weight should also be a feature to consider if you need a travel-friendly curling iron. The average weight of the curling irons we tested was 15 ounces. 

Lastly, think about your budget. There are affordable options for thick-haired people who want to curl their hair quickly and easily. The curling irons we tested were between $45-$599.   

How we selected & tested:


FeaturesQuick heat upAuto-shut offHeat settingsionizationCord lengthAvg. Score
BIO IONIC8.005.0010.0010.0010.008.60
GHD Curve Classic Curl10.
GHD Wand10.
Hot Tools0.000.0010.
Kristin Ess6.0010.004.0010.008.007.60

We compared the features that made styling fast and easy for thick hair like heat-up time, heat settings, ionization, cord length, and auto-shutoff. Each feature was scored out of 10, and the better features it offered, the higher the score. We recorded the actual timing for heat-up and auto-shutoff timing instead of going along with the advertised timing. The best-curling irons heated up within 30 seconds of turning on and turned off within 30 minutes of use. 

If a curling iron had at least four heat settings, it scored a seven or higher. If the iron featured ionization to smooth out frizzy, thick hair, we rated it a 10. Lastly, the longer the cord length, the easier to handle and score higher.

Build quality

Build qualityPlate MaterialspringClampAvg. Score
BIO IONIC7.007.0010.008.00
GHD Curve Classic Curl7.0010.0010.009.00
GHD Wand7.00n/an/a7.00
Hot Tools10.0010.0010.0010.00
Kristin Ess7.00n/an/a7.00

Curling irons with sturdy and well-made designs will last longer and also keep your hair healthier. We analyzed the plate material best suited for thick hair when comparing build quality. For example, we rated tourmaline, titanium, and gold-plated barrel materials the highest out of 10 because they hold high heat very well and quickly for thick, unruly hair. We also tested the spring strength and clamp grip. If the spring was sturdy and the clamp gripped onto the hair well, it scored highest out of 10. For curling irons designed as wands or clampless, we didn’t score these for springs or clamps. 

Ease of Use

Ease of useSwivel CordErgonomicsWeighthair gripSectionsTimeAvg. Score
BIO IONIC10.0010.008.0010.0010.0010.009.67
GHD Curve Classic Curl10.
GHD Wand10.
Hot Tools10.0010.008.0010.
Kristin Ess10.007.008.0010.

While using the curling irons we reviewed characteristics that affected the ease of use, like swivel cord, ergonomics, weight, hair grip, hair section thickness, and how long it took to curl a whole head of hair. Each characteristic scored from one to ten, and the easier and quicker it was to style the hair, the higher the score. Specifically for ergonomics, we kept track of bulkiness and if the tip was meant to hold for easier grip and keep cool to the touch. If curling hair was painless and fast, it scored the highest in this category, like the Bio Ionic. 

Hair results

Hair resultsDamage-freeFrizz-freecurl lastAvg. Score
BIO IONIC10.0010.008.009.33
GHD Curve Classic Curl6.
GHD Wand6.
Hot Tools6.
Kristin Ess10.0010.0010.0010.00

At the end of styling, we checked to see how the hair felt in the curls, if they were damaged, dry, and frizz-free. The smoother and healthy the hair looked, the higher it scored out of 10. We also measured how long the curls lasted from 1-12 hours, and the longer lasting, the higher the score. 


TravelWeightCord org.Dual VoltageAvg. Score
BIO IONIC8.0010.0010.009.33
GHD Curve Classic Curl8.000.0010.006.00
GHD Wand8.000.0010.006.00
Hot Tools8.
Kristin Ess8.0010.0010.009.33

For those who like to travel with their styling tools, we wanted to see which curling iron was best to bring to a trip. We considered the weight, cord organization like velcro ties, and dual or universal voltage features. The lighter-weight irons with built-in velcro ties for cords and multi-voltage components scored highest out of 10, like the Bio Ionic or the Kristin Ess wand. 


BIO IONIC - Long Barrel Curling Iron 1.25' NanoIonic MX

Bio Ionic - curling iron

See Price at Amazon

The Bio Ionic – Long Barrel Curling Iron NanoIonic MX is our pick for the best curling iron for thick hair because of its extra long, ceramic blended barrel that offers lots of real estate for lots of hair to curl at one time without too much damage. Our testers curled an entire head of hair in under 12 minutes—the fastest styling time out of all of our curling irons.

With an average weight of under 16 ounces, the Bio Ionic was easy to maneuver because of its lightweight size, cool-to-the-touch tip, and swivel cord. It offers five levels of heat settings, with the highest heat being 430 F. When we tested the actual heat temperature, it measured 387 °F on average.Read more…

At the end of each styling session, our tester noticed smooth and curly hair without much damage at the tips. The Bio Ionic also features a nano ionic ceramic barrel that prevents frizziness and burnt hair. We also feel this is due to the quick heat-up and short styling period. At $149, we recommend the Bio Ionic curling iron for those with thick hair who want a swift and reliable styling tool for home or travel.


Hot Tools - Pro Artist 24K Gold Curlbar (best budget)

Hot Tools - Pro Artist 24k curling iron

See Price at Amazon

Our tester has been using Hot Tools curling irons for over a decade and trusts this affordable brand for all styling options. The Hot Tools – Pro Artist 24K Gold Curlbar is our choice for the best budget curling iron for thick hair. Where previous Hot Tools curling irons were made with a rubber handle, this remodeled version features a thicker plastic handle that is more durable and lightweight.

We like that it features a strong spring and clamp that grips onto hair easily during styling. The 24k Gold metal barrel takes a little while to heat — about two minutes and keeps a measured heat of 321 °F, which is almost 100 °F under the advertised heat, so keep this in mind if you need a higher heat tool.Read more…

Even though it didn’t get super hot, our tester could curl their head in 13 minutes and 30 seconds, and the curls stayed styled for at least eight hours without falling. We also experienced hair that was a little dry at the ends; however, we think the price point and durability are still worth the price.


Kristin Ess - Soft Wave Pivoting Wand

Kristin Ess - curling pivot wand

See Price at Amazon

The Kristin Ess – Soft Wave Pivoting Wand is our favorite clampless curling iron for thick hair. Compared to clamp curling irons that give you tighter curls, wand curling irons give you beachy waves because you use your hand to wrap the hair around the barrel without flattening the hair. The extra long barrel, lightweight body, pivoting neck, and one-touch digital screen made it easy to get beachy waves.

While the Kristin Ess wand comes with a heat-safe glove, our tester ditched this halfway because it wasn’t comfortable to use and still felt hot to touch the barrel while styling. However, with an average time of 13 minutes for curling thick hair, the Kristin Ess wand proved to be one of the fastest ways to style hair.Read more…

It’s easy to use without pivoting the neck, but we like this addition for different ergonomic options for a bigger audience. The Kristin Ess is also one of the affordable options under $100 for curling irons for thick hair.


T3 - SinglePass Curl 1.25-Inch Professional Curling Iron

T3 - Singlepass curling wand

See Price at Amazon

The T3 – SinglePass Curl Professional Curling Iron is popular among people with thick hair because of the ceramic barrel and advertised fast-styling. Our testers noticed that the hair was smooth and didn’t smell burnt at the end of styling compared to other brands tested, like the Conair or Chi curlers.

The sleek white body and rose gold accents make the T3 curling iron very aesthetically pleasing, but we had some ergonomic issues with the tool during styling. For example, the plastic material and ceramic barrel were slippery to use and hold during styling. The tip also got too hot to hold and was not a great option for individuals needing extra support during styling.Read more…

Our experience curling our hair with the T3 – SinglePass Curling iron was typical of other brands we’ve tested, but we did appreciate that it kept our thick hair healthy and styled the hair in under 14 minutes.


GHD - Curve Classic Curl

ghd - Soft Curl curling iron

See Price at Amazon

GHD is known for its no-fuss, high-quality design, and the GHD – Curve Classic Curl has similar features to their other products, like the straightening iron with a single heat setting of 365 °F. With only one available heat setting, the tool heated up very quickly in under 20 seconds.

However, we did wish there was a higher heat setting to style thicker hair properly. Our testers found that the 4 ½ inch long barrel had difficulty gripping the hair due to the slippery ceramic material and needed longer heating periods to curl to set the hair.Read more…

Even though curling sessions took 14 minutes, our tester’s curls fell flat quicker than other curling irons. At over $200, the GHD – Curve Classic Curl comes at a hefty price, and many other brands, like the Bio Ionic curling iron, are less expensive and perform better on thick hair.


Conair Infinitipro - Instant Heat Curling Iron

Conair Infinitipro - curling wand

See Price at Amazon

The Conair – Instant Heat Curling Iron is the most affordable styling tool we tested and surprisingly came with extra features like a digital screen for easy user experience and an auto-shut off component that turns off under one hour of inactivity.

At the end of the styling period, our hair felt dry at the ends, and we also didn’t like to have difficulty pressing the inset buttons on the body. It’s lightweight and easy to maneuver at under 11 ounces; however, we didn’t like the sharp edges of the clamp or the tip overheating during styling. Overall, our experience with the Conair was average, but we wouldn’t necessarily reach for this tool if we had other options or didn’t have a budget.


Dyson - Airwrap Styler  

Dyson Airwrap with accessories

See Price at Amazon

We’ve tested the Dyson – Airwrap Styler on its own and wanted to compare it with other curling tools for thick hair. Dyson is known for their high-tech features, and the Airwrap Styler is no different. With multiple interchangeable accessories and using aerodynamics, like the Coanda effect, you can go from wet to fully styled hair in under 20 minutes. Dyson also uses an internal thermometer that doesn’t surpass 302 °F – a temperature their scientists have said is the threshold for damaging hair.

Note that the Airwrap also has a steeper learning curve because of the aerodynamic tech involved. The tool uses the Coanda effect to use air to wrap hair around the barrel without clamps or your hands. It took a few tries, but it’s a fast process once you understand how to use the barrels.Read more…

While we love this tool for keeping our hair healthy and styled, it ranked average in our tests due to its weight, lack of travel ability, and price. The $600 price tag is a dealbreaker for most people, especially because you can only use it in specific countries based on the voltage. But if you want a multi-tool and like to shower before styling your hair, the Dyson – Airwrap Styler is a good option for keeping your hair healthy and looking good.


GHD - Curve Creative Curl Wand

ghd - creative curl tapered curling wand

See Price at Amazon

The GHD – Curve Creative Curl Wand has a tapered barrel that gives you bouncy and wavy hair. We liked using this wand for styling our hair but found it a little annoying to curl thick and long hair on a tapered barrel because it kept falling. Our tester had to continuously rewrap the hair around the barrel to get a proper curl. This wand took the longest to curl hair due to rewrapping and the lower temperature of 365 °F.

Our tester also found that using the included heat-protectant glove was a bit useless because you could still feel a lot of heat, and it only covered half of your fingers. At $205, we think this wand is too expensive for styling thick hair, even though we liked the bouncy curls.


BabylissPRO - Nano Titanium Spring Curling Iron (not recommended)

BabylissPro - nano titanium curling wand

See Price at Amazon

While the BabylissPro straightening iron was our top choice for thick hair, the BabylissPro – Nano Titanium Spring Curling Iron was a disappointment. Titanium is a good material for thick hair because it heats quickly and sets the curl fast; however, the barrel and clamp weren’t long or strong enough to hold thick hair without adding more time to style. We also noticed hair caught on the clamp and spring frequently during testing.

This caused damage to our tester’s hair at the end of styling. Even with added time (and using the Turbo mechanism that’s supposed to add extra heat), our tester’s hair was frizzy and dry once she finished curling. Another issue we encountered was the tapered tip getting too hot almost immediately and the inability to use it as support. The overall ergonomics of this styling tool is not worth its nearly $60 price point.


CHI - Spin N Curl Ceramic Rotating Curling Iron (not recommended)

Chi - spin n curl curling iron

See Price at Amazon

The CHI – Spin N Curl Ceramic Rotating Curling Iron is definitely interesting for its novelty, but after testing this on thick hair, we wouldn’t recommend it. The 2.75-inch long and one-inch wide barrel is way too small for thick and dense hair types – it took 17 minutes to do an entire hairstyle. In the end, our hair smelled burnt.

The auto-curling mechanism is interesting because it grabs onto thin sections of hair and spins them around the barrel. However, if your hair is longer than shoulder length, it may not wrap around entirely, and you end up with uncurled sections. This makes styling a long and frustrating experience. At $67, we wouldn’t recommend this for thick hairstyles.