Tapered vs. Straight Curling Wands

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So you’re thinking about getting a curling wand…but have to choose between a tapered vs. a straight barrel? Decisions, decisions!

For the most part, you likely already know what you need. Want tight ringlets? Get an iron that’s ¾” or even ½” wide. Love loose, beachy waves? You’ll need a thicker barrel that’s at least 1” in diameter or wider. 

Where you may need some help is figuring out whether to get a cylindrical wand or a conical one.

Advantages of a Cylindrical (Straight) Wand

Available in all barrel sizes from super skinny ½” diameter up to 2” wide

Your tried-and-true, standard curling iron is a cylindrical rod that is the same width from tip to base. The curling iron version comes with a clamp that clips your hair against the barrel. A wand is the same thing minus the clamp. 

With a cylindrical barrel, you can wrap your hair around any part of the barrel and get the same size curl.

It’s great for creating symmetrical, uniform curls or waves, and is particularly good for ribbon curls.

ribbon curls 

You can change up your technique for different looks and textures by twisting your strands before wrapping them around the rod, wrapping more hair at a time for looser waves, or creating well-defined S-curls by holding smaller sections against the iron before releasing.

One of the biggest benefits of a cylindrical wand is that your hair won’t slide down the length of the barrel the way it can with a tapered rod. This is especially true if the surface of the barrel is particularly smooth and your hair is very fine or less textured.

If you’re a novice or newbie at curling your own hair, the straight barrel is probably your best choice while you work on your curling skills.

My Favorite Cylindrical Wands

Budget: Conair Double Ceramic Curling Wand


Mid-Range: Hot Tools Professional 24K Gold Flipperless Curling Wand


Advantages of a Tapered (Conical) Wand

Tapered wands usually have a ½” difference between the base and the tip. Skinny: ½”-1″, Medium: ¾”-1 ¼”, Fat: 1″-1 ½”

A tapered, conical wand is a modern curler that provides extra versatility and dimension to styling. It’s an ideal tool for getting the casual, beachy wave or the glamorous, sexy Victoria’s Secret Angel hair.

A highly-touted benefit of using a conical wand is its ability to give you natural-looking waves. Instead of a uniformly even curl from top to bottom, you’ll have wider waves up top that gradually get narrower towards your ends.

It’s the opposite of the perfectly-coiffed, not-a-hair-out-of-place look of your grandmother’s generation. Instead, you’ll get a more casual, S-shaped or beach wave that’s natural-looking and voluminous when tousled.

In terms of use, the tapered wand allows you to easily release the curl into the palm of your hand because it narrows as it gets to the tip. It’s also great for touch ups – i.e., redoing a section of hair that’s gone loose after a day or two with the smaller end to help bump up the volume.

Naturally, this type of wand also gives you the option to use either end for looser waves or tighter curls. This works best on shorter lengths since you won’t have as much runway to work with. You can even alternate curl sizes between sections for a funkier style.

My Favorite Conical Wands

Budget: INFINITIPRO BY CONAIR Tourmaline Ceramic Curling Wand


Mid-Range: HOT TOOLS Professional Nano Ceramic Curling Iron

If you want more volume at your crown, you might prefer a reverse-tapered wand instead:

Bed Head Curlipops Reverse Tapered Curling Wand


Which Should You Choose?

The best curling wand for you will depend on a few factors like your hair type and texture, length, and the look you’re going for.

If you have fine, slippery, or long hair, a cylindrical barrel will usually work best. One benefit of selecting a straight rod is they are available either with or without a clamp. Novices may prefer the spring clamp iron since it helps hold your hair against the barrel while you curl.

Cylindrical irons are also best for flat ribbon-style curls, which are great for a more structured, piece-y look.

On the other hand, tapered wands are really popular for creating fashionable beach waves that everyone from celebs to supermodels and everyday gals love. It’s versatile shape makes it a one-stop shop for easy, natural waves on short, medium and long hair.

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