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Home / Hair Styling Tools / Curlers / The Ultimate Guide to Curling Iron Sizes & Curl Types

The Ultimate Guide to Curling Iron Sizes & Curl Types

Curling irons come in a large range of different sizes. If you want to achieve your desired look, it’s crucial to choose the right barrel size.

While different barrel diameters create different types of curl patterns, it’s also important to consider your hair length, texture, and type.

In this post, we’re focusing on different curling iron sizes and how you can maximize their potential.

Fortunately, there’s a right size for every type and need, and we’re here to guide you through every single detail to be able to make the perfect decision.


  • Best for long hair: 1 1/4″ to 2″ barrel
  • Best for medium hair: 1/2″ to 1 1/2″ barrel
  • Best for short hair: 3/8″ to 1″ barrel

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Rules To Follow In A Nutshell

There are 4 most important aspects to consider here, all being equally important:

1. Hair Style You Want To Achieve

  • For tight, bouncy curls, consider purchasing an iron that is 3/4″ or smaller.
  • For natural, loose curls or defined waves 1″ barrel is best.
  • For extra volume and bigger waves, go for a 1 1/2″ or larger curling iron.

2. Hair Length

  • Smaller barrels are easier to maneuver when styling short hair.
  • Larger barrels wrap more hair around and cut down on long hair styling time.
  • A longer barrel helps style the back sections with ease, whether the hair is short or long.
  • Long barrel

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3. Hair Texture & Type

  • Fine and straight hair lacks the body and amount of hair to hold a curl.
  • The longer your hair, the heavier it becomes. This weight pulls your curls and stretches them out.
  • Medium-textured hair tends to hold curls well.

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Different Sizes Explained

Here is an overview of various sizes currently available on the market:

3/8-Inch Barrel

We are starting with the smallest barrel size the market offers.

With a 3/4″ curling iron, you can create the 80s beauty trend of tight, springy corkscrew curls the size of a pencil with lots of volume. It is also a great pick for enhancing coily hair textures.

You better work in smaller pieces of hair—about a half-inch—and that’s why it will take way too much time to curl dense hair.

Short hair is easier to style with smaller barrels. The size is perfect for pixie to mid-length hair.

Suitable for: Pixie to shoulder-length (lob) hair

Best for: Tight, springy corkscrew curls with lots of volume

1/2-Inch Barrel

Here is another barrel that we place into the small size category.

Bouncy, defined ringlets about the size of an index finger and deep, flowing waves are something that these barrels do best. It is also a great pick for enhancing spring to limp spiral pattern.

Find a long barrel, if your hair is long. Stick to chin-to-shoulder-length hair for optimal results.

Suitable for: Chin to shoulder-length (lob) hair

Best for: Bouncy, defined ringlets

5/8-Inch Barrel

We are now coming to the first small barrel size that is suitable for straight hair.

If you are looking to have loose spirals about the size of a piece of sidewalk chalk that look completely natural, a 5/8-inch barrel can handle it without taking too much time for the process.

This size is too big for creating tight curls on short hair. But it can give chin-length hair a slightly bohemian and artistic appearance.

Suitable for: Chin to shoulder-length or slightly longer hair

Best for: Springy curls

3/4-Inch Barrel

This site offers the smallest difference from the average barrel length. Therefore, it is quite versatile and can be used for chin to armpit-length hair. You can use it for long hair, but the curls may not withstand the test of time.

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 defined, voluminous curls, this size could be the best choice.

Suitable for: Chin to armpit-length hair that is both thin or thick

Best for: Defined, voluminous curls

1-Inch Barrel

We’ve now come to the most popular barrel length on the market. A one-inch diameter is considered the “standard” because this is the most versatile curling iron barrel size.

You can use it on all hair textures and get decent results, but it may not be the perfect choice for very short or very long hair.
The one-inch barrel size fits best if your hair is of average size, relatively short, or relatively long.

Depending on how you wrap your hair around the wand and the characteristics of your hair, you can get loose waves or defined curls. Either way, this curling iron size will meet your expectations.

1″ curling iron is the best curling iron barrel size for more classic, textured beach waves

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Suitable for: short or medium hair

Best for: Classic bouncy curls or defined waves

1 1/4-Inch Barrel

We have reached large barrels. These go above the average size, but they are still quite versatile.

Although this barrel is too large for short hair, it can give undone waves to around-chin-length hair. It is, however, a far better choice for medium and longer hair to create tousled waves.

Suitable for: Medium lengths

Best for: Medium and loose curls or natural and tight waves or adding texture

1 1/2-Inch Barrel

1 ½-inch barrel is not for short hair styles.

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.

This barrel will do an amazing task with straight hair that refuses to go into curls. This size is best-fitting for an undone and messy appearance that looks as if you haven’t tried at all, and your hair naturally looks great.

Suitable for: Medium to long hair

Best for: Large, loose curls or beachy waves

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. Consider that this size will only add volume.

Suitable for: Long and very long hair that is either thin or thick

Best for: Undone messy waves

2-Inch Barrel

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.
It’s a great volumizer for long hair as the curls will be very loose and not defined, but it won’t give volume to short strands and should be avoided. If you have long hair, a large barrel will shorten the time needed to curl it.

Suitable for: Long and very long hair that is either thin or thick
Best for:

Wrap Up

If you can’t decide and would prefer to stay on the safe side, a 1” curling iron which is the most versatile will be the best option for you as it fits all hair types and lengths.

However, if you have specific desires on what you want to achieve, you may want to go for a smaller or larger barrel. Smaller barrels are more suitable for short hair and for tight curls, while larger barrels achieve more successful results with longer strands and beach waves.

Lastly, if you want more than one looks on different occasions, you can also opt for more than one barrel and mix and match. Many brands offer different-sized interchangeable heads to purchase.


1. What’s the most universal curling iron size?

The answer is for sure 1”. This size is by fat the most versatile that’s in the market and will most likely fit your needs unless your strands or styling needs are on the extreme side.

2. Do I want a 1” or 1.25” curling iron?

While the 1” barrel is more prone to create defined curls, the 1.25” barrel will create looser curls. They both are considered medium size and you most likely can’t go wrong with your decision, which should be about how tight you want your curls to be.

3. Which size is best for beach waves with short hair?

There are two aspects to consider here; the diameter of your barrel and its length as well. The length should be on the shorter side for short strands for the optimum results and session, but for beach waves, as size such as 1” is better than very narrow sizes. But not larger than that as it’ll be too much for short hair.

4. How can I measure my curling iron’s barrel size?

The best way is to use a flexible measuring tape. You need to divide the results with the number of Pi which is 3.14 and you have your answer.

2 thoughts on “The Ultimate Guide to Curling Iron Sizes & Curl Types”

  1. II have a broken hot air styler bristle type brush (make babyliss) which has a barrel size 14cms/15 inchs. These sizes are all described on line as mm. Therefore what size should I be looking for in mm to have the same size came/inches. I desparately need the same size as the broken one. I have shopped in lots of stores to replace this without success. HELP


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