No time? My pick for the best curling iron for short hair is the HOT TOOLS Professional 24k Gold Curling Iron.
Short hair is awesome in many ways – it’s easy to care for, manage, and it dries quickly. It can get a little challenging when you want to curl it though.
While you might think you’re just sh*t out of luck if you’ve got short hair, that’s not necessarily the case if you have the right styling tool. Let’s go through some tips to help you find the best curling iron for short hair.
We’ll be reviewing the following curling irons in this article:
- HOT TOOLS Professional 24k Gold Curling Iron
- Bed Head A-Wave-We-Go Adjustable Waver
- SwanMyst 1” Tourmaline Ceramic Curling Iron Brush
- FURIDEN 1” 2-in-1 Tourmaline Ceramic Flat Iron
- NuMe Classic Curling Wand
Best Curling Irons for Short Hair
The curling tool that hits all the right notes for short hair is the Hot Tools Professional 24k Gold Curling Iron. It’s available in all barrel widths from ⅜” to 2” so you can choose the right size for you.
The ½” iron is great at creating volume near your roots because it’s narrow diameter allows you to position it close to your scalp and wrap your hair around the barrel.
There’s an adjustable temperature dial at the base of the barrel with heat settings from 280°F to 430°F. It’s particularly good for thicker hair that doesn’t style easily, and the spring clamp is great for keeping shorter lengths pressed against the barrel.
It even comes with a spare spring for your clamp, which is nice if you use it often and lose tension in the original spring.
The main downside to the HOT TOOLS 24k Gold Curling Iron is that it’s a metal iron, which can be more damaging to your hair, especially if you have fine hair. Just make sure to set it to a lower temperature if you do, as that will help contain the amount of heat applied.
- Great for tight curls and short hair
- Adjustable heat settings up to 430°F
- High heat for difficult to style hair
- Can easily get close to roots
- Comes with a spare spring for the clamp
- No auto-shut off
- Metal barrel not as protective against heat damage as ceramic
If you’ve never been good with traditional curling irons or wands, the Bed Head A-Wave-We-Go Adjustable Waver simplifies the curling process so you don’t have to worry about twirling and rotating a hot tool around your head.
It’s a 3-barrel curler with 1 adjustable barrel, and 2 on the opposite side that sandwich it when you close the iron. You just place a section of hair between the two sides and clamp down.
There’s a twist knob at the tip that allows you to change how far in or out the adjustable barrel sticks out. For a smaller wave, keep the barrel from sticking out too far. For looser, larger waves, turn the knob til it becomes a wider barrel.
If your hair has some length, you may need to use the iron on the same section of hair a couple or more times, moving the iron down towards your ends as you go.
Tourmaline ceramic is great for protecting your hair, so that is also a big plus.
The drawback of the Bed Head Waver is that it doesn’t work for super short hair – you need a minimum of about 3-4” of hair to work with if you want to use this for best results. Also, it’s really only good for creating waves – you won’t be able to achieve small curls or ringlets with this tool.
- Adjustable main barrel for large or small waves
- No wrapping or twirling – just press hair between the 3-barrel clamp
- Dual voltage for worldwide use
- Tourmaline ceramic barrels reduce frizz and smooths hair
- Can’t create ringlet curls
- Not useful on very short hair
No, this is NOT a hot air brush. Now that that’s clear, let’s talk about why the SwanMyst 1” Tourmaline Ceramic Curling Iron Brush is a great option for short hair.
A curling brush works best on naturally textured or wavy hair, especially since it can both tame and curl. That’s true of the SwanMyst, which is also good for creating volume and smoothing crazy ends that stick out every which way.
This is huge – when I’ve had short hair, my ends tend to flip out at the back of my head, which I don’t really care for.
The bristles are made of plastic and are great at keeping hair tangle-free, especially fine hair.
With a 1” barrel, it’s not effective if you’re looking to create tight curls, so just know that it’s best for smooth waves and curled ends.
- Anti-scald bristles prevent burns and keeps hair tangle-free
- Good for volume and lift
- Great for curling ends in so they don’t flip out
- Variable temperature settings from 265°F to 430°F
- Not good for true curls, works best for waves or creating volume
- Power button only seems to turn unit on – must unplug to power off
Some flat irons can do double duty and both smooth and curl your hair. At the same time!
Furiden’s 1” 2-in-1 Tourmaline Ceramic Flat Iron is helpful in straightening any natural wave or texture to your hair while you curl, giving your hair a smoother look. It works well as a curler because it’s got rounded edges on the outside of the iron, making it a cylindrical barrel when closed.
To create large curls or waves, place a 1” section of hair around mid-length or higher between the plates, close and then flip the iron around 180° so the top plate becomes the bottom. Then, pull the iron through to the ends until your hair passes through the plates.
It has 5 temperature settings from 250°F – 450°F and heats up quickly, which is nice if you hate waiting around like I do. You can also travel and use it worldwide since it’s dual voltage.
Be forewarned that if you plan on using this as a curler, it’ll likely take longer than usual in the beginning since it takes some practice to get the hang of it (if you’ve never used a flat iron as a curler before). Watch some YouTube tutorials and practice with a cold iron so you get comfortable with the technique before turning the heat on.
- Good for simultaneously smoothing and curling
- Adjustable heat settings from 250°F – 450°F
- Dual voltage for international use
- Cylindrical outer housing mimics the round barrel of a curling iron
- Takes practice to get the curling technique down
- Doesn’t work as well on thick, coarse hair
The NuMe Classic Curling Wand is the go-to curler for many a gal, whether long or short-haired. Well-known for their salon-quality tools, NuMe’s classic cylindrical wand is easy to use and comes in 19mm (~¾”), 25mm (~1”), and 32mm (~1 ¼”) barrels.
You can also get it in a black, turquoise, or pink handle, which is fun.
The 25mm is perfect for shorter hair, or if you need even narrower, the 19mm. Each wand comes with a heat-resistant glove, which is handy since you’ll need to wrap and hold your hair against the wand with your free hand.
NuMe uses good materials for all their styling tools, and their Classic Curling Wand is no exception. The tourmaline ceramic barrel heats evenly throughout, and the heat technologies protect and make hair look shiny and healthy.
Just be careful when working near your roots or with bare hands – the wand gets very hot. My main criticism of it is that it doesn’t come with adjustable heat settings. There’s just an on/off switch, with the temperature heating to 410°F when on.
Overall, if you prefer a clamp-free wand, the NuMe Classic creates well-defined, long-lasting curls and waves on most hair types.
- Creates long-lasting curls
- Dual voltage
- Tourmaline ceramic barrels + negative ion and far infrared heat technology = best protection from heat damage
- Comes with a heat-resistant glove
- Clipless wand may not work as well for very short hair
- No adjustable heat settings – on or off only
The Long and Short of It
A large percentage of women with short hair use a curling iron not just for curls, but to create more volume. This is especially true if you have naturally thin or limp hair – adding a curl or wave will lift it away from your head.
The difficulty, of course, is that most curling irons are best for medium to long hair. You clearly need some length in order to wrap your hair to make a curl.
While barrel size is important, just as important is how well your hair holds in the curler. If you can’t keep your hair on the iron, it won’t curl!
A smaller barrel will be easier to maneuver and wrap your hair around so you can get closer to your roots. If your hair isn’t super short, you have more leeway to use a larger size for more of a wave instead of a curl.
Also, a curling iron with a clamp (vs. a wand) helps hold your hair against the iron while you twist it around.
Lastly, you can also get great volume and waves on short hair with the right flat iron!
Why Your Hair Type Matters…
The reality is, the best curling iron for short hair depends on more than just the length of your hair.
You’ll need to consider other factors such as your hair type (fine, medium, or coarse) and natural texture. Some people are lucky and have hair that styles pretty easily. Others have to use a lot of product and coaxing to get their hair to look the way they want.
If you have fine hair, make sure the iron is made of ceramic or tourmaline ceramic so you don’t overheat and damage your hair. You should also use a heat protectant and a lower temperature setting (usually under 300°F) when curling.
Medium to coarse hair will need more heat to curl, so look for irons that get up to at least 400°F.
…As Well As The Look You’re Going For
On top of your hair type and texture, the other factor you need to consider before getting a curling iron is what kind of curl or wave you’re trying to achieve.
If you want curls from your roots to your ends, get a curler under 1” wide (they go as narrow as ⅜” or ½”) so you can get closer to your roots. This is especially necessary if your hair is very short.
If loose waves are more your thing, you can use a larger size rod or flat iron. 1” barrels are perfect for chin to shoulder-length bobs.
What To Look For in a Curling Iron
Regardless of length, here are the features you should look for in a curling iron:
- Barrel material: fine or damaged hair is best served with ceramic. Metal irons such as titanium or gold should only be used on healthy, medium to coarse hair.
- Adjustable heat settings: coarse hair requires higher heat (and vice versa for fine hair), so know what the minimum and maximum temperature settings are. You want to be able to control the heat setting for your hair type.
- Barrel shape: for even spiral curls, a cylindrical or spiral rod works best, while a tapered wand will give you larger waves that get narrower close to your ends.
- Spring Clamp: Most traditional curling irons come with full-length clamps, which are helpful for clipping your hair against the barrel. With shorter hair, you may find it necessary to hold your hair in place while you style.
While this isn’t an exact science, below is a guide for the right barrel size to choose when styling shorter hair:
- Less than 1”: The smallest curlers under 1” are anywhere between ⅜” to ¾”. These are super skinny barrels that allow you to get close to your roots and give you tighter curls. If you have a short crop (basically anything above your ears), these will be your mainstay.
- 1”: The most common width, the 1” barrel is pretty much ubiquitous because it works on all hair lengths. It can create a tight and well-defined curl, or a looser one if you don’t hold hair in as long. Great for bobs and lobs.
- 1 ¼”: This barrel size is slightly larger than the 1” and is great for a softer curl or wave. You’ll want at least chin-length hair for this to work.
- 1 ½”: This won’t be of much use unless you have shoulder-length hair or longer.
How To Curl Short Hair
Before you start curling, make sure you wash and dry your hair. For more volume, work some mousse through your hair with your fingers before drying and blow dry from the back of your head with your hair flipped over.
To combat damage, use a heat protectant on your hair. Sprays are great for fine and/or thin hair, while a gel or serum may be necessary to coat coarse or thick hair.
Quick Tip: If you’ve never curled your hair by yourself, practice holding and curling your hair with a cold iron. Yup, just don’t plug it in. You’ll get a chance to figure out how to wrap your hair and rotate the curler without the risk of burning yourself or your hair. Once you’ve got the hang of it, turn it on and style away.
With a Curling Iron
First, section your hair by grabbing the top section (above your ears around to the back of your head) and clipping it up. You’re going to start by curling the bottom layers so you want the top part out of the way.
Hold the iron vertically with the barrel tip facing up and the clamp facing forward. Take a 1” section on one side of your face. Open the clamp and place it on the front of the barrel, and clamp the hair near your roots (or mid-length if your hair is longer).
Then start wrapping your hair away from your face. It helps to pull the iron down towards your ends a bit when you do this. As you finish with each layer, let more hair down from your clip as you make your way towards the top of your head.
With a Curling Wand
With a wand, instead of holding it vertically with the barrel tip facing up, you’ll want to hold it so the tip faces downwards.
This way, you can wrap your hair around the wand from your roots or from mid-way down towards your ends. This is obviously difficult to do with super short hair, so don’t get a wand unless you can wrap the length of your hair around the barrel at least once.
With a Flat Iron
It might be surprising, but you can create waves and even beautiful curls with a flat iron. It’s a little more challenging with short hair, but it’s certainly doable.
Using a flat iron to curl helps you grip your hair between the plates, similar to a curling iron with a clamp. There’s the added benefit of smoothing your hair and ends while you curl, which helps tame your locks and reduce frizz and flyaways.
Other Ways to Curl Short Hair (Without a Curling Iron)
While most gals with short hair can do just fine with a curling iron, you might want to consider rollers instead if you:
- don’t want to dry your hair before curling it
- want to spend less than $15 on a curler
- want to reduce heat damage to your hair
- are accident-prone and shouldn’t be around hot appliances
For short-haired gals, your best bet for getting great curls, volume, or waves is with a Hot Tools Professional 24k Gold Curling Iron. With several smaller barrel options, you’ll most certainly be able to find an appropriate size that works for your length.
It’s spring-clamp and adjustable heat settings make it ideal for curling most short hairstyles with ease and efficiency. For the price, it’s pretty unbeatable for a salon-grade professional styling tool.