The latest crop of curling irons promise to deliver everything from natural, beach-y waves to perfect red-carpet spirals, thanks to innovative new barrel shapes and user-friendly designs. We put ’em to the test, with a little help from stylist Joshua Peter of Brooklyn’s super-cool Graceland Salon, plus some YouBeauty testers.

Courtesy of Goody
Goody Heat Wave Creator

Goody Heat Wave Creator, $30“Undulating” isn’t normally a word you’d use to describe a curling iron, but when it comes to this new iron from Goody, it fits the bill perfectly. The unusual wavy barrel serves a purpose, say the folks who created it: It allows the iron to have two distinct sizes, 1 inch and ½ inch, which makes for a more natural-looking curl. Makes sense if you think about it—real curls aren’t perfectly symmetrical, so this iron is designed to replicate that effect.

YouBeauty tester says:

“It heats up fast and it’s super simple to use. Just place a section in the clamp at the bottom and wind upward. The curls vary in diameter, so the effect is natural and not too fussy—more like real waves instead of perfect spirals. Just don’t take too large a section or hair tends to slip out of the clamp.”

Stylist says:

“It’s good for an imperfect curl—meaning that individual sections will have different sizes with various textures and movement. It’s a nice change from the classic, clean finish that most curling irons usually achieve.”QUIZ: How healthy is your hair?

Courtesy of Sarah Potempa
The Beachwaver

The Beachwaver, $199Used to be, if you wanted to wind your hair around a curling iron, you had to do it the old-fashioned way. Not so with this new iron from celebrity stylist Sarah Potempa. It’s like the iPhone of curling irons (read: gadget-geeky and super chic). Just place a section of hair in the clamp at the bottom, press the “go” button and the barrel rotates automatically. “I’ve had so many people tell me they don’t know how to curl their hair,” says Potempa. “I wanted to create an iron that was easy to use and gave you gorgeous waves.”

YouBeauty tester says:

“It looks a little intimidating at first, but it’s actually really easy to use. It forces you to hold the barrel upright, which gives a nice spiral result, and because the barrel isn’t too skinny, the curls are big and sexy-looking. You set it on “left” or “right” depending on what side you’re doing, so it’s pretty much goof-proof—your curls are always going in the correct direction.”

Stylist says:

“The large barrel is good for softer curls and for smoothing out your blow-dry—it gives hair a shapely, rounded look. What I like most is the little clip at the bottom. The worst part about using an iron is the rough texture you get at the tip of each section. With this, after winding the hair you can clip the section down at the bottom of the wand to smooth the entire piece. You end up with a nice ringlet-type curl.”

QUIZ: What hairstyle is best for your face shape?

Courtesy of Conair

Infiniti by Conair You Wrap & Weave, $46This double-barreled iron is designed to be used three different ways: Use the second barrel as a clamp to create skinny spiral curls; wrap hair around the outside of both barrels for looser oval-shaped waves; or weave hair through the barrels in a figure-8 motion to create natural S-shaped waves. It comes with a protective glove that lets you wrap hair around the barrel without burning your fingers, too. Very Thriller, but practical.

YouBeauty tester says:

“Using the second barrel as a clamp gave me tight spiral curls with straighter roots—kind of a cool, Kate Moss-at-her-30th-birthday-party look. It was easy to do, and I’d definitely wear that style to a party. Weaving hair through the barrels was trickier. I got the hang of it eventually, but I had to practice, so it’s not something I’d do every day.”

Stylist says:

“A double-barrel iron like this can give you more of a messy, frizzy result. The barrels are only a quarter-inch, so you’ll definitely get a tighter curl. It’s not a look for everyone, but some women might want to try it.”

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