Curling irons seem to be a dime a dozen these days, which has caused many to wonder whether an entry-level model will do or if it is worth it to splurge on something high-end. There are many different brands to choose from, but when you are shopping on a budget or you don’t use your curling iron often, which brands are worth considering?
Conair seems to rule the “cheap” category, but there are a few other brand alternatives if you have tried Conair in the past and haven’t been pleased.
Wondering who makes the best cheap curling iron of them all?
Find out in this detailed guide and see how our experts felt about the top three products.
Top 10 Cheap Curling Irons Comparison Table
*Note – Most irons featured are available in different barrel sizes.
Barrel Material – What You Will Get in The “Cheap” Category
If you aren’t knowledgeable about barrel materials, here is what you should expect when you go shopping for the best cheap curling iron.
- Ceramic – Some brands will use multiple coats of ceramic on the barrel and discuss it in the description of the product, but what does that mean for you?
Since ceramic wears off over time and with regular use, you will reach the bare metal on an iron with a single coat quicker than you will with one that has multiple coats.
- Tourmaline Ceramic – Curling iron manufacturers use ceramic as a barrel coating material frequently since it emits negative ions, and since your hair is charged with positive ions, you are helping create a more neutral styling environment. Your hair cuticles seal better and remain smooth, which means less frizz later on.
Tourmaline can help increase the number of negative ions, which is why some manufacturers add this naturally occurring mineral to ceramic. If you have frizzy hair, ceramic tourmaline irons are a helpful tool to have in your styling kit.
- Gold-Plated Metal – Any product sounds cooler when it is made of gold, but what does it actually do for you when applied to a hair styling product.
Chrome or other metals on their own aren’t healthy for your hair since the heat they produce is so harsh, but with a coating of gold, you’re protecting your hair from the harsh surface of bare metal. Gold is pretty good at distributing heat, and it glides more smoothly over the hair – more so than Teflon.
What’s Your Hair Type? – Consider the Heat Setting
Thick, coarse hair can withstand (and probably needs), higher heat for styling purposes, so if you have this hair type, irons that reach well over 400°F are ideal.
Fine hair, on the other hand, is too delicate for those high temperatures. In this case, you should check to see what the lowest temperature setting is and it is probably best that you stick with a ceramic barrel since this is the gentlest material for your hair.
Top 3 Best Cheap Curling Iron Reviews
Hot Tools isn’t the cheapest brand on our list, but their half-inch mini curling iron offers decent performance at a reasonable price, which earns it the title of best cheap curling iron on our list.
If you have thick, coarse or curly hair (or a combination of all three), then you can easily tackle the tiniest of flyaway strands thanks to the small barrel of this curling iron. It reaches a maximum temperature of 430°F, and the lowest temperature is 280°F, although we wouldn’t recommend it if you have short, thin or fine hair. Ceramic is better for you.
As a gold-plated barrel, it will distribute heat more evenly along the hair shaft, and it lasts longer than ceramic and Teflon coatings. Overall, this is one of our favorite go-to brands that doesn’t require spending a fortune. It is a great little tool for creating small curls or styling short hairs around the face.
Be sure you use heat protectant spray with this iron.
If you are after larger curls, then a wider barrel is ideal for your styling needs. We tried the 1¼-inch iron, but it does go up to 1½-inch if you want really big curls.
The barrel is coated with a tourmaline-infused ceramic, which means more negative ions and less frizz than a standard ceramic curling iron. If you have long, delicate hair or simply want to add some volume to your roots, this tool is gentler on the hair than the harsh gold barrel of the Hot Tools iron. Don’t worry if you have thick, coarse hair – the maximum temperature is 410°F so you can still style your hair gently.
We liked the feel and design of this iron, from the rotatable cord to the digital display and the clamp strength. It comes with a heat glove for safer styling, so you get more for your money when you buy it. You will probably need the glove, too, because we found that the tip was a little warmer than expected, so be sure to use it when you are curling and styling!
Are any of you interested in creating tight, spiral curls rather than loose, soft curls? If so, a curling iron like this is exactly what you need.
This ¾-inch iron has a unique design that will give you those perfectly spirally curls that will have others assuming you went to the salon to get a perm. Nope! You just used this curling iron.
Keep in mind that creating spiral curls is time-consuming, so this is not the right product for everyone out there. Those of you with straight or slightly wavy hair that is fine will do well with this since the heat is gentle enough for you (maximum 350°F with a 36-degree Turbo Heat boost feature that increases it to 386°F). The barrel is coated in regular ceramic, so it is not as good at smoothing the hair shaft as the previous iron, but for such a budget-friendly tool, we thought that the overall performance and quality made it worth the purchase – especially if you are interested in spirals.