Curling Wand vs Curling Iron: Which is Better?

If you’re like most women, you probably have a curling iron or a curling wand in your styling toolkit and swear by it. If you’re considering a switch and wondering if it’s worth it, you’ve come to the right place! In this post, we compare the two tools and help you decide which one is right for you.

At Beyond Beauty, we’re team curling wand, but the curling iron still has it’s place in certain routines.

When choosing between a curling wand vs curling iron, consider the type of curls each instrument is capable of producing. If you want tight ringlets, an iron would be your best bet; on the other hand, if you desire soft beachy waves, try a wand.

Of course, this is a generalization, because you can create multiple types of curls with each of these tools once you know how to use them expertly. The best choice depends on what style you want, plus some other factors.

In this post, you’ll learn what the pros and cons of curling wands and irons are, how to use them to create different types of curls, and the most important factors to consider when shopping for the best curling device.

What is a Curling Wand?

A curling wand is a cylindrical metal rod with a handle. It’s used to create long, wavy curls by wrapping sections of hair around the barrel. Curling wands come in different sizes and shapes, allowing you to create different types of curls from loose waves to tight ringlets.

One of the biggest advantages of using a curling wand is that it doesn’t create any kinks or creases in the hair, which allows for more natural looking curls. Curling wands are perfect for those who want to achieve soft, beachy waves with minimal effort.

On the other hand, curling wands can be tricky to use and require practice until you get the hang of the technique. Curling wand curls can also take longer to make, since you have to hold each section around the barrel for up to 10 seconds before letting go. This really depends on how thick a section of hair you wrap around the curling wand at once.


  • no kinks
  • natural looking waves


  • there’s more of a learning curve
  • easy to burn your fingers if you’re not careful
wrapping hair around a curling wand

How to use a Curling Wand

At first, it might seem awkward, but with a little practice, you’ll be a pro at using a curling wand. I now find it much easier to use a curling wand vs a curling iron. Here’s how to use a curling wand:

  1. Turn on your curling wand and brush the tangles out of your hair while it heats up. 
  2. Pull back the section of hair you’re not working on and clip it out of the way. 
  3. Holding the wand with your non-dominant hand in a sideways or upward position 3” form your head, take a ~1” section of hair and wrap it around the wand with your other hand.  (Start wrapping on the fatter end and work with the taper). 
  4. Hold for up to 10 seconds. This will depend on your hair’s thickness so play around with it. 
  5. Let go of the hair you’re holding and let it drop off the wand. 
  6. Repeat with small sections until you do your whole head. Occasionally alternate directions for a more natural look.

What is a Curling Iron?

A curling iron is similar to a curling wand in that it’s also used for creating curls. However, instead of being tapered, it has a cylindrical shape with a plate that clamps down and holds the hair so you can twist more effortlessly.

Curling irons can be used to create both loose and tight curls, depending on the size and shape of the barrel.

Typically you can get a larger barrel with a curling iron than wands, so if you have very long, thick hair, a large barrel curling iron might be more useful for big, loose waves.


  • can create more uniform curls than using a wand
  • easier to use than wands


  • curling iron clamp may crease the hair
  • skill is required to create natural looking loose waves
hairdressing using curling iron to curl client's red hair

How to use a Curling Iron

You use a curling iron differently than a wand, since it has a clamp. Here’s how to use one:

  1. Turn on your curling iron and brush the tangles out of your hair while it heats up. 
  2. Pull back the section of hair you’re not working on and clip it out of the way. 
  3. Take a small section of hair (1-1.5”) and clamp the end of it with the curling iron clamp.
  4. Quickly begin to twist until you’re about 3” from your head and pause for a second or two. 
  5. Slightly release the clamp and slide out the curling iron. 
  6. For tighter curls, let them cool before touching. If you want looser waves, tug on the end immediately so it will relax. 
  7. Repeat with a small section of hair at a time until you’ve done your whole head.

What to Consider When Choosing Curling Iron vs Curling Wand

You can achieve bouncy curls with a traditional curling iron and a wand, but the main factors to consider are the size and type of curls that you want.

Barrel size:

Both curling wands and curling irons have varying barrel sizes, but the barrels on curling irons are fixed. Since there is a taper on a curling wand, you have some variability for curl size.

Curl Style:

Whether you want beachy waves, natural looking curls, or tight spiral curls, each tool has its strengths and weaknesses. So, consider what type of style you want when you are curling hair.

Temperature Control:

Precise temperature control is important for protecting you hair. Both curling irons and curling wands should have this. If yours doesn’t, get a new one. If you have thin or compromised hair, this is especially important. A different hair type may require different settings, so you don’t damage your hair.

Hair Lengths:

Do you have short or long hair? This can help you decide between tools or barrel lengths and widths. Hair length has less to do with the decision between tools than desired style.

If you don’t have enough hair length to hold while using the wand, you might prefer a curling iron with a smaller barrel size, which holds hair for you with a clamp. Even a straightener can be used effectively to create waves in short hair.

Naturally Wavy or Curly Hair

Do you have naturally wavy hair? Many people that do tend to blow dry and style with a curling tool to avoid frizz. However, if it’s hot and humid out, all the styling will be a waste of time once you walk outside. Instead, try a humidity spray to control the frizz. It’ll save you time and energy. Plus, it’s fun to wear your hair differently that you usually style sometimes.

FAQ Curling Wands vs Curling Irons

Can I use my curling iron as a curling wand?

It’s not worth it to try and use your curling iron as a curling wand. The clamp will block the heat from the iron or it will get in the way if you try to keep it held open. You’re better off purchasing a curling wand to try using one. After all, they aren’t really that expensive.

Is it easier to curl hair with a curling wand or straightener?

Curling wands and straighteners are two very different tools, but depending on hair length, one is better than the other. I think straighteners are easier to use on short hair, while curling wands work great on medium to long lengths. Beware: using a straightener to curl hair take a bit of practice not to crimp your hair.

Which Will You Choose?

The real difference between a curling iron and curling wand is that the iron is cylindrical with a clamp, and a wand is a tapered, heated stick.

Curling wands are best for creating relaxed, beachy waves, but require you to hold your hair with one hand while curling. On the other hand curling iron curls tend to look less natural and can crimp the hair. They are great tools, but require a little more skill to achieve versatile curls with them.

What is your go-to curl style? If you need a recommendation for hair tools, check out our hair care guide for styling tips, tools, and all hair products.