Hair wand vs. curling iron: What’s the difference & which one should you be using?

Feeling curl confused? Find out the difference between a hair wand vs curling iron here & discover the types looks they can help you to create.  

Question: what do curling irons and hair wands have in common? If you’re thinking “they both curl hair, right?” then, yes, you’d be correct. But while it may seem like they do the same thing, you’ll actually achieve totally different types of curls using a hair wand vs. a curling iron. Who knew, eh?!

Choosing between one or the other will depend on the kind of curls that you want to achieve, so if you’re not clued up on the differences yet, now’s the time to get up to speed.

And being the kind-hearted hair gurus that we are, we’ve simplified the main similarities and differences between the 2 tools for you, below, so you’ll be a curling connoisseur in no time!

Hair wand vs. curling iron: How are they different?


brunette model using a curling iron to curl her hair
Curling irons are the traditional way to create curls. Credit: Verity Jane Smith

Curling irons

Out of the 2, curling irons are the more traditional curler of choice. A curling iron is a heated styling tool with a long, rod shaped barrel. The width of a curling iron is uniform from top to bottom, and features a clamp to hold down the hair and stop it slipping off the barrel.

When using a curling iron you curl with the cord facing down, clipping the ends of the hair in with the clamp and then twisting towards the roots.

Curling irons come in a variety of barrel sizes, each of which will give you a different curl result. The general rule of thumb is that for tight curls you should use a smaller barrel (as small as 7-10mm for ultimate ‘80s corkscrew curls) and for loose, Hollywood waves, opt for wider barrel curling irons around 30-32mm.

brunette model in a blue dress with curly ringlet hair
Achieve fun ringlet curls with a curling iron. Credit: Verity Jane Smith

When would you use a curling iron?

Using a curling iron will give your curls a defined, ringlet effect, ideal for when you want your hair to look perfectly polished for a night out or special occasion.

However, if ringlets aren’t your thing, you can also use your fingers to gently loosen the curls after styling, to give them a slightly more natural-looking finish.

Editor’s tip: Whatever you decide to use to create your look, remember that it’s important to use a heat protectant to safeguard your tresses from the heated styling tools.

Prep damp, freshly-washed hair with the TRESemmé Heat Defence Styling Spray, and its heat-activated complex works to help protect hair when drying, straightening and curling, for happy, healthier-looking hair.

blonde model in a green v neck top curling her hair with a conical curling wand
Curling wands create more undone, less defined curls. Credit: Verity Jane Smith

Curling wands

Now onto curling wands, which have a couple of key features which differentiate them from curling irons.

First of all, rather than a barrel that’s the same size from base to tip, curling wands are conical in shape, narrowing from base to tip; meaning you can create different-sized curls with the same tool depending on where you position the hair. Like curling irons, wands also come in various barrel sizes but crucially, they do not have a clamp.

While some may struggle with curling wands to begin with, as you have to manually hold the hair on the barrel, ultimately this means that your curls won’t have that telltale kink at the ends where the hair has been clamped, so you can achieve a more natural result.

Curling wands often come with heat protective gloves to help stop your fingertips from getting burnt on the barrel. Trust us – these can come in very handy!

blonde model wearing a green v neck top with long curly hair
Perfect beachy waves, every time. Credit: Verity Jane Smith

When would you use a hair wand over a curling iron?

If the natural look is more your cup of tea, you’ll probably favour a curling wand over a classic curling iron. The clampless, conical tool creates modern, soft waves rather than defined curls and, as there’s no telltale crimped ends, nobody will suspect your curls aren’t 100% au naturel.

From tousled Alexa Chung waves to beachy Baywatch styles, wands are the key to creating effortless everyday texture, as opposed to glam night-out styles.


We hope you found this hair wand vs. curling iron piece helpful! If you’re looking to limit heat damage but still want your hair to look cute and curly, find out how you can achieve stunning curls without using any heat, here. Don’t say we don’t spoil you!

Prev Article
Next Article

Stay inspired

Sign up to the newsletter and get exclusive hair care tips and tricks. Subscribe