'Tis the season when there’s a party every night, and getting our hair professionally styled for every single one is both too time-consuming and too expensive. Enter the curling tong, which promises to transform limp locks into bouncy waves.
But with thousands of options on the market, which is best? We don’t have much patience for overcomplicated, awkward or time-consuming appliances, so a good tong must be easy to use. The curls or waves must also be long-lasting without weakening or damaging the hair – though a heat-protecting spray will help.
Value for money is important too. We tested a range of products on stubborn hair that is wavy in parts, straight in others and prone to frizz – to get true results. Which curls held up? We put the highest-rated devices on the market to the test.
Dyson Airwrap Smooth + Control Styler: £399.99, Dyson
We loved the Dyson hairdryer, so had high expectations for the Airwrap. It didn’t disappoint – just like the ads, the hair twists around the barrel as if by magic. The main advantage is that it uses air rather than extreme heat to style, so it won't damage your hair. Dyson's "intelligent heat control" technology measures airflow temperature over 40 times a second, to make sure it always stays below 150°C. It comes with two barrel attachments that clip on and off easily – we preferred to make tighter curls with the smaller size, then loosen them with my fingers to achieve the beachy, wavy look.
There’s also a hairbrush attachment that can be used to smooth the hair and neatly curl the ends inwards or outwards, as well as a brilliant hairdryer-type attachment that takes your hair from wet to damp (hair is easiest to style when damp). It’s extraordinarily expensive, but it was effective, versatile and the technology is unique.
GHD Creative Curl Wand: £120, John Lewis & Partners
Wands can be intimidating, with their lack of clamp and conical shape, but as GHD explained to us, they’re actually easier for beginners to use. We recommend wrapping a piece of hair around the barrel with the wand pointing down for the best results. There’s always a risk of burnt fingers with these devices, so it comes with a heat-resistant glove. The resulting curls dropped a little but lasted well with the help of some hairspray.
José Eber 3 in 1 Clipless Curling Iron: £210, Selfridges
This is a hybrid of a wand and a traditional tong – it has a straight barrel, but no clip. We styled our hair with the narrowest barrel for about 10 seconds per section, which created a lovely, long-lasting curl that is straight at the tips, but if you prefer a more traditional curl, this probably isn’t the tool for you. It’s pretty intuitive to use, has multiple heat settings and a weighted handle, so you can rest it on the edge of a table or chair without it falling off.
Turbo Tong Professional Long Tong: £135, Turbotonghair
This ultra-long tong promises to deliver a more even result – and it really did – the waves were in that cascading, Hollywood style, plus they really lasted. In terms of results, this was seriously impressive. It has a clip, which makes it easier to curl longer hair, as you can release the clip, slide more hair through, and clip again. We're sure there are more professional techniques, but that’s what worked for us. It also has a kick stand so you can put it down without burning the surface beneath.
Remington Advanced Colour Protect Curling Wand: £44.99, Boots
We really liked this - it heated up in just 30 seconds and made quick work of our hair. The tool’s ‘Intelligent Colour Protect’ function continuously regulates the temperature to prevent overheating and reduces damage that causes colour to fade. If the temperature was lower than usual we couldn’t tell, as it still made defined, wide waves.
Label.m 4D Infinity Curler, £79.95, labelm.com
The Label.m tong looks really expensive – and I liked that when you increase the temperature, the colour of the number changes according to your heat level, warning you if it’s too high. We chose 200C, which was ‘medium’. The narrow tapering barrel made defined curls that were on the smaller side. It also has a subtle band at the neck that allows you to put it down without burning surfaces.
Babyliss Pro Perfect Curl: £99.95, Amazon
This looks like something that will snarl and tangle your hair, but hear us out. It sucked our hair into the ceramic chamber, and delivered neat curls when we released. It has three different curl settings, and there’s no need to switch barrels. Personally, we still prefer the simplicity of a wand, but it’s ideal for people who struggle with traditional curlers. It will also switch off automatically, so there’s no risk of getting to work and wondering if you left them on.
Lee Stafford CoCo LoCo Wonderball Wand: £29.99, Amazon
This is designed to produce proper curls, rather than waves, though the unique wand shape means you get a variety of curl shapes, so it looks mermaid-like rather than corkscrew ringlets. The barrel is apparently coconut-infused but we didn’t notice any difference in the condition of my hair compared to other tools. That said, it’s an effective curler at an affordable price.
Cloud Nine The Waving Wand: £99, cloudninehair.com
We use the Cloud Nine straighteners so were already a fan of the brand. The tongs are well-designed with a kick-stand so you can put them down without burning surfaces, plus they switch off automatically after 30 minutes of inactivity. This wand delivered a loose, wide wave which stayed in place for a full 24 hours with the help of some hairspray. It also comes with a glove.
T3 Whirl Convertible Curling Tongs: £124.94, Amazon
This US brand’s white and rose gold tools look great on the dressing table – but this curling tong packed a punch in terms of performance too. It heated fast and we didn’t have to hold the hair too long on the wand to get a curl. It came with a heat-resistant glove too. The barrel can be switched out with others, which the brand sells for a rather steep £60 apiece.
The Verdict: Best Curling Tongs
Everyone's hair is different, but we were equally impressed by the Dyson for long-lasting results. But the model we returned to when I wanted to give our hair some long-lasting texture before a two-day work trip was the Turbo Tong.