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The Best Curling Tongs

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By Marissa DeSantis

Unless you were born with runway-ready curls or naturally beachy waves, chances are you've turned to a curling iron to help you out. But with so many types of tongs and wands out there, knowing which tool will give you the results you want can be a bit of a guessing game. If you've ever been confused about where to start, Los Angeles-based hairstylist and UNITE Hair ambassador, Graham Nation, summarizes that the best curling tongs will heat up quickly and evenly, though the ideal barrel size for you will depend on the type of curls you’re after (more on that in a minute). It's also important to note that by definition, a curling tong will include a clamp that holds hair flat against the tool. "Clamps and marcel irons will also polish while curling because they have a clamp to help smooth hair," Nation says, though he notes that they do take a little more practice to master.

As for Nation’s top tips for finding a good curling tong, he says, “Firstly, [the curling tong] has to heat up quickly and the plates need to touch when you close the iron. This will determine if it will have consistent pressure.” He adds, “It also needs to have even temperature across all plates so the heat is evenly distributed throughout the hair.” To keep your hair as healthy as possible when styling, Nation stresses that "applying heat protection is everything!" Explaining that it's just as important to apply a heat protectant before blow drying as it is before going in with your hot tools, Nation recommends the UNITE 7Seconds Detangler on wet hair, and the 7Seconds Glossing Spray on dry hair.

As for the all-important barrel size, Nation notes that it's a key factor in determining what kind of curls you'll end up with. "The thicker the barrel, the larger your curls will be," he says. Those looking to enhance their natural curls will want a tong anywhere between 0.5 inch and 3/4 inch in size. "1-inch to 1.25-inch barrels will give you more like a beach wave size," Nation says, adding that larger barrels, ranging from 1.5 inches to 2 inches, will give you more of a loose wave.

Ahead, you'll find a roundup of the best curling tongs on Amazon, including Nation's top pick.

1. The Pro's Pick

For his own work, Nation turns to GHD's line of curling irons and wands. "They heat up quickly and have consistent heat throughout the iron," he says of the brand's Ultra-Zone technology that automatically heats up to 365 degrees Fahrenheit to curl hair with minimal damage. The GHD Classic Curl Curling Iron is a 1-inch tool with a spring-activated hair clamp that lets you create polished curls (or more relaxed, beachy waves if you don't wrap the ends of your hair around the iron). "If you hold your curling iron horizontally, you will get more of a wave and less of a curl," Nation advises. "And if you hold the iron perpendicular, you will achieve more of a curl." The iron shuts off automatically after 30 minutes, and it has universal voltage so you can use it wherever you travel.

2. Best Under $20

Though technically not a curling tong (because it doesn't have a clamp), Nation notes that wands can be easier to use. "Clamps take a little more technique," he says, adding, "Wands are great for consumers because they have fewer moving parts and are very user-friendly." For beachy waves, the ease and efficiency of the Bedhead Curlipops Ceramic Clamp-Free Curling Wand can't be beaten. The tourmaline ceramic wand automatically heats up to 400 degrees Fahrenheit, and the 1-inch barrel is great for creating beachy waves. Even though it has a cool-touch tip, the wand also comes with a heat-protective glove to prevent you from burning your fingers if you accidentally touch the barrel while wrapping your hair.

3. Best Curling Tong For Natural Curls

If your hair is naturally curly, a ¾-inch iron, like the Hot Tools 24K Gold Curling Iron, is great for touching up curls and enhancing your natural texture. This size barrel is also capable of creating super-defined curls, which can be helpful for those with finer hair that doesn't hold a curl as well. An Amazon favorite with over 10,000 five-star ratings, this Hot Tools curling iron allows you to adjust the heat up to 430 degrees Fahrenheit, so you can choose the temperature that's best for your hair type.

4. Best Curling Tong For Soft Waves

For longer hair, this 1.5-inch BaBylissPRO nano titanium curling iron will give you the bouncy ends of a polished blowout, while shorter hair types will get more of a soft bend. The iron has 50 heat settings up to 450 degrees Fahrenheit, and the brand's nano titanium technology allows the iron to heat the hair from the inside out. While this means that the iron heats up quickly and maintains high temperatures better, it can also be more damaging to your hair's health when used incorrectly. Using a heat protectant, not setting the temperature too high, and not leaving your hair on the iron longer than necessary is the best way to minimize the risk of damage.

5. Best Interchangeable Curling Tong

If you're someone who likes to switch up your style of curls, investing in a multipurpose iron may be the most practical choice. The T3 Twirl Trio pairs the brand's convertible base with three interchangeable clip barrels of different sizes (1 inch for defined curls or beachy waves, 1 ¼ inches for fuller curls, and 1 ½ inches for more of a bouncy wave). No matter which barrel you choose, each one uses the brand's CeraGloss technology to create smoother curls with enhanced shine. The base allows you to choose from five different heat settings, and the tool is designed with an automatic shut-off feature after one hour, as well as world voltage for easy use when you travel. Plus, you can purchase even more barrel attachments, from wands to irons, if you want more styling options.

Bonus: Best 3-In-1 Styling Tool

The Bio Ionic 3-In-1 Styling Iron is another multitasking tool that works as a straightener, curling iron, and curling wand, but without any interchangeable parts. The styling tool uses the brand's NanoIonic MX technology to infuse moisture back into your hair as you style it to give it a smoother finish. The barrel size is 1.25 inches, and additional features include adjustable heat settings (up to 430 degrees Fahrenheit), automatic shut-off after one hour, and universal voltage.