You know how your perfect curls look like, but no matter how hard you try, you can’t achieve that style. Has it crossed your mind that your gear is not suitable for the hairstyle you are pursuing?
Apart from choosing the right curling iron, it is vital to choose a size suitable for your hair length and hairstyle. In this guide, we are focusing on different curling iron sizes and how you can maximize their potential.
We are starting with a detailed explanation of how barrel sizes are connected to the length of your hair. The guide also covers different hairstyles and most suitable curling irons for those types.
Finally, we will explain every available size on the market in detail. That way, you will know which barrel to use for any curls you want. If you are ready, let’s start the guide and upgrade your knowledge on curling irons!
How Barrel Size is Related to Hair Length
Choosing the right barrel size of the curling iron starts with your hair length. All you have to do is to follow a simple rule – choose a barrel that is proportional to the length of your hair.
If you think about it, that rule makes sense. Imagine if you have short hair, and you want to use a two-inch barrel. It would be impossible to work with it and get the desired curls.
The same applies to a small barrel’s suitability for long hair. Although it may be possible to curl your hair, it would take forever if you use a ½-inch barrel on hair that is extremely long and thick.
Fortunately, you can’t go wrong as long as you know available barrel sizes. They vary from ¾ inches to two inches and more in extreme cases.
Various Hair Length and Suitable Barrel Sizes
By keeping what we mentioned above in mind, here is a quick overview of sizes to choose based on your hair length:
- Short – small barrels are the right choice for this hair length. If your hair is very short, consider using a ½-inch barrel, but if it is shoulder length, you may go for a one-inch barrel, too.
- Medium – the average size of a curling iron barrel is one inch in diameter. That is the size you want if you have medium hair length. It is interesting to note that this dimension can also work with other hair types, as it is the most versatile one.
- Long – when it comes to long hair, you should consider its exact length. For example, a fairly long hair is suitable for a 1 ¼-inch barrel. But if your hair is exceptionally long, you may even try a two-inch barrel.
Apart from suitability and ease of use, using the right curling iron size for your hair length may also affect the curling results. Even if you manage to get the desired curls, they probably won’t last as long as expected.
How Barrel Size Is Related to Hairstyle
The other thing you want to consider when choosing a curling iron size is your hairstyle. You should consider three things here – the specifics of your hair, your current style, and the style you want to achieve.
Now, when it comes to hair characteristics, these do not have a lot to do with the barrel size, but its material. If you have thick hair, you want to go with a material like titanium that secures extremely high heat. But if your hair is sensitive, any material that keeps heat under control, and an appliance with a variable temperature range will do.
The size of the barrel is related to hair density and style. Let’s say that you already have long and thick hair that is not entirely straight. Using a barrel that adds volume is the wrong move. You may end up having hair that appears excessively voluminous, which doesn’t look nice.
The general rule is that small barrels add volume. That makes them perfect for textures waves and uniform curls. On the other hand, if you are going for an undone look, loose curls, or beachy waves, big barrels are the right choice.
However, it is important to consider whether your hair needs volume or not. If it could use some, go with a suitable medium or long barrel. And if you don’t want any more volume, the average-length or short barrel is a better choice.
How to Choose the Right Size of the Curling Iron
Now that you are familiar with various factors that affect the choice of your curling iron’s size let’s take a closer look at the available sizes.
Before we start, please note that not all manufacturers might have all these sizes available. Some brands offer only several sizes, and it may be hard to find an extremely small or very long barrel.
The standard barrel diameter is one inch. That is considered to be the average length, but you can find many barrels smaller and bigger than that.
It is important to note that you have curling irons with a single barrel, as well as those with multiple interchangeable barrels. The latter are more versatile as they allow you to mix and match and choose suitable curls for every occasion. Alternatively, you can purchase multiple curling irons with different barrel sizes.
Here is an overview of various sizes currently available on the market.
We are starting with the shortest barrel size the market offers. It is not a size you will frequently encounter, which is why you may want to look a little deeper to find it. It may be worth the effort if you are looking for spiral and kinky curls.
We believe that everyone has thought about having these curls at least once in their life. That can be made possible with barrels that have a 3/8-inch diameter. If you think your hair looks dull at the moment, this is the perfect way to refresh it and give it a new and modern appearance.
You can also use this barrel for fine details when styling your hair. If your hair is already curly, but not all sections are the way you want them, this curling iron size can be of assistance. It can tame all curls and ensure they are perfectly uniformed.
Avoid using this barrel on long hair unless you are doing the finishing details mentioned above. The size is more suitable for short and shoulder-length hair. It may also be wise to avoid this size for perfectly straight hair as it will take plenty of time and effort to get desired results.
We also have good news for thin hair owners because this barrel adds volume, which may improve your overall appearance. If you master the curling process, you may even achieve that messy look you always wanted.
Best to use on: Short and shoulder-length hair that is relatively thin
Here is another barrel that we can place into the small size category. Remember those retro curls that people wore a hundred years ago, but they are now back in style? You can have them with a ½-inch barrel.
Additionally, if you want to control your curls and ensure they are in perfect order, this is the right size for you. Short-waved and tight curls are something that these barrels do best. The appliance will even add some volume, which is great if you have thin hair.
Please note that it may take more time to work on long hair with this barrel. Additionally, you may face an issue that the results don’t last for long. That is why you should avoid using this curling iron size on thick and long hair.
Instead, stick to short and shoulder-length hair and get that look you always dreamed of, while adding volume to your hair.
Finally, it may be better to use this barrel on hair that is already curly. It is an excellent choice for finishing details, but it may take some time to curl completely straight hair.
Best to use on: Bob cut and short hair that is relatively thin
We are now coming to the first barrel that is suitable for straight hair. If you are looking to have springy curls, a 5/8-inch diameter is a right choice. You may have had problems in the past with getting tight curls out of your hair. The strands may have been too stubborn, but that is where these barrels come into play.
Although a 5/8-inch barrel is significantly shorter than average, it is longer than the shortest sizes. Therefore, it can handle straight hair without taking too much time for the process.
If you have very short hair, this size may be one too big for your type. But if your hair is shoulder-length or even medium, you should get optimal results. You can also use this barrel size for thin hair because one of its features is adding volume. The 5/8-inch diameter is also suitable for finishing details and ensuring that everything is the way you imagined.
Best to use on: Shoulder-length and medium hair that is relatively thin
This site offers the smallest difference from the average barrel length. Therefore, it is quite versatile and can be used for different hair lengths. That includes shoulder-length and medium hair. Although you can use it for long hair, the curls may not withstand the test of time. That means they probably won’t last for more than several hours.
Although it adds some volume, it’s not too much, which is why this barrel is also suitable for thick hair. You can also use it on thin hair that should be a bit more voluminous than before the curling process.
As for the achievable styles, you can go for a corkscrew and retro curls. It will take some mastery to get loose curls with this product. However, if you are going for polished curls, this size could be the best choice.
Best to use on: Shoulder-length and medium hair that is both thin or thick.
We’ve now come to the most popular barrel length on the market. A one-inch diameter is considered the standard length of curling iron barrels. Therefore, most manufacturers focus on utilizing this size. Kits with interchangeable barrels always include this size as the “default” one.
Why is that the case? The answer is simple – this is the most versatile curling iron barrel size the market offers. You can use it on all hair types and get decent results. Although it may not be the perfect choice for extremely short or very long hair, it is still suitable for them, too.
The one-inch barrel size fits best if your hair is of average size, relatively short, or relatively long. Depending on how you use the product, capabilities of your appliance, and characteristics of your hair, you can get any hairstyle you want with this barrel.
Are you looking for loose waves that looks like you’ve just come back from the beach? Or you want defined curls that fit a formal outfit? Either way, this curling iron size will meet your expectations.
Best to use on: Virtually all hair types
1 1/4-Inch Barrel
We are now increasing the barrel size to 1 ¼-inch in diameter, which means that we have reached large barrels. These go above the average size, but they are still quite versatile.
Although this barrel may be too large for short hair, it can do a fine job with shoulder-length hair. It is, however, a far better choice for medium and long hair, including exceptionally long strands.
The curl range to achieve with this size is also impressive. However, keep in mind that it will be a lot easier to reach loose curls and beach waves. If you are looking for tight and uniformed curls, it may take a bit more effort when working with this barrel.
Another thick to keep in mind is that you should expect additional volume from a 1 ¼-inch barrel.
Best to use on: Shoulder-length, medium, long, and very long hair
1 1/2-Inch Barrel
1 ½-inch barrel is significantly larger than the average size. That makes it unsuitable for short hair, especially if you want to avoid burning it. It is also tough to use with shoulder-length hair. Instead, restrict your use to medium, long, and very long hair.
The good news is that this size will do a phenomenal job with those lengths. Additionally, you can use this barrel on both thin and thick hair, as well as curly and straight hair.
Due to its characteristics, this barrel will do an amazing task with straight hair that refuses to go into curls. As long as you have a bit of expertise, you can get the curls you want quickly.
This size is best-fitting for loose curls and beach waves, as well as an undone and messy appearance that looks as if you haven’t tried at all, and your hair naturally looks great.
Best to use on: Medium, long, and very long hair that is either thin or thick
1 3/4-Inch Barrel
Although it is not the largest size, it may be one of the barrels toughest to find these days. It is not a usual size, but it can be great if you are looking for beach and loose waves that create an undone look.
The great thing about this barrel is that it is versatile, and it may even be suitable for short hair. However, consider that this size will only add a bit of volume, and it’s not a great choice for tight curls.
Best to use on: Long and very long hair that is either thin or thick
It is the largest barrel size found on the market, and not all brands offer it. If you find one, keep in mind that it is suitable for long and very long hair.
A two-inch barrel is out of the question for short hair. It may also be tricky to achieve tight curls, which is why you should aim for beach and loose waves and curls with this barrel size.
The size doesn’t add volume, which makes it perfect for thick hair, but you can also use it on thin strands. If you have long hair, a large barrel will shorten the time needed to curl it.
Best to use on: Long and very long hair that is either thin or thick
Do you also want to know how to buy a curling wand? Our helpful buying guide will tell you what to look for when shopping for a curling iron for your needs.
Curling Iron Sizes Comparison Chart
|Barrel Size||Hair Length||Potential Hairstyles|
|3/8 inch||Shoulder length, short||Spiral curls|
|1/2 inch||Bob Cut, short||Spiral, ringlet and retro curls, finger waves|
|5/8 inch||Shoulder length, medium||Perm and spiral curls|
|3/4 inch||Shoulder length, medium||Corkscrew and vintage curls|
|1 inch||Medium, suitable for all types||Most types of waves and curls|
|1 1/4 inch||Medium and long||Most types of waves and curls|
|1 1/2 inch||Long and very long||Undone, beachy, and loose waves and curls, spiral curls|
|1 3/4 inch||Long and very long||Beachy and loose waves|
|2 inches||Long and very long||Defined, beachy, and loose waves|
If you are looking to maximize the versatility of your curling iron, go with the standard one-inch barrel size. That barrel is suitable for all hair types, which means it will work on short, medium, and long hair that is either thin or thick.
However, if you have particular curls in mind and you want the result to be perfect, you may have to choose from other curling iron sizes besides the average one.
Short hair is more suitable for small barrels, and these sizes can give thin hair the additional volume. Go with small sizes if you are looking for tight curls, but if you are going for beach waves, large barrels are the way to go.
Ultimately, the best way to ensure you can achieve different curls is to mix and match different barrel sizes. Although versatile barrels can do a decent job, it is best to have the perfect size for the curls you want.