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Curling Iron Size Guide: What Size Curling Iron Should You Buy?

Curling irons help you add flair and variety to your hair. They’re great for everyday use or when you just want to shake things up a little. With so many curling irons around today, it can be tough to select the type you need to get the results you want for your hair. The right curling iron size will make a significant difference for the kind of hairstyle you have in mind when you use it.


Curling Iron Size: The Factors

From simple spiral curls to bouncy and voluminous curls, curling irons allow you to shape the look of your hair.

Girl is curling hair using a curling iron

Brands use different kinds of materials, heat capacities, and barrel sizes to help you create your look. It’s essential to take all the barrel size factors, material, and curling iron style into account before you purchase a curling iron.

All of these will make a difference in the results you get. A wrong choice for a curling iron could damage or burn your hair if you’re not careful.


Why Barrel Size Matters

Curling Iron Size Guide Your curling iron barrel is the part of the iron that holds the heated clamp where you put your hair to curl it. The different barrel sizes help you to make specific hairstyles.

Picking the right barrel size is all about understanding the kind of curl you want to have after using the iron. In general, smaller barrel sizes help you to make smaller and tighter curls with your hair. Larger barrel sizes are more for extensive and wavy curls.

While these are ultimately a personal preference, it’s essential to know how big a curl you want to have and understand each barrel size’s limits. It’s unrealistic to expect a larger barrel size curling iron to get the same results as a smaller one, and vice versa.


What Curling Iron Size Is Right For You?

curling iron size

You might be wondering, “what size curling iron should I buy?” Consider what size curl has worked for you in the past or what size curl you want to try. These ideas will help you narrow down which barrel size is the right one for you and your hair.

It’s also essential to think about if you ever want to venture from a smaller curl to a larger one, or perhaps a larger curl to a smaller one. You can pick a curling iron size that allows you to try several curl sizes.

Finally, consider the length of your hair. Most curling irons work with a variety of hair lengths, but some favor specific sizes over others.


3/8 Inch (10mm) – Small Barrel Curling Iron

3/8 inch curling iron barrels are excellent for girls with short hair.

They can give fine or thin hair volume. However, if you have kinks, coils or thick natural hair, this smaller barrel may not be the best option as it can leave thick hair with an unkempt and missing curl appearance.

You can use a 3/8-inch barrel curling iron to touch up your hair or help tame a few strands.


¾ Inch (19mm) Curling Iron – Tight, Spiral Curls, and Ringlets

For smaller and tighter spirals, you want a curling iron with a barrel size of ½ to ¾ inch in diameter. If you want ringlets, this is also the barrel size for you. These smaller barrels also work if you have short hair.

¾ or 0.75-inch curling irons are appropriate for you if you desire to rock tight spirals or curls with texture. These tools can create vintage or corkscrew curls and work well for all lengths of hair. This curling iron is particularly great for naturalistas or women with naturally kinky, curly hair who is on a quest to provide a bit more definition to their curls. You can use it on thick and fine hair.  


1 Inch (25mm) Curling Iron – Spiral Curls for Medium and Long Hair

A 1-inch barrel is best for lasting curls, and it also works well for short hair. If you have medium or long-length hair, this is an ideal curling iron size for you.

1-inch curling iron barrels are fantastic for curls and beach waves that are clean with definition or messy tresses. These care suitable for all lengths of hair (short, medium, long) and frequently receive the label of being the universal curl iron.  


1¼ Inch (32mm) Curling Iron

32mm curling iron size

If waves are your ultimate goal, choose irons with a barrel that is 1¼ 0r 1.25 inch. These curling irons are perfect for you if your goal is to achieve loose, medium-sized curls. Also, if you are a fan of tousled curls.


1½ Inch (38mm) Curling Iron

38mm curling iron size

If voluminous beach waves or loose spiral curls with a fabulous bounce are a characteristic of your curl goals, choose a curling iron that has a 1 ½ -inch barrel. These 1.5 inch barrels are best for those with long hair.  


2-Inch Curling Iron – Voluminous Curls

If you’re looking for bouncy and larger curls in your hair, you can pick a barrel size of up to 2-inches in diameter. These larger barrels give you loose and wavy hair that also curl to the ends of a bob cut.

This curling iron is perfect for women who have long hair and can be extremely useful in helping women who have a lot of hair but very little time for styling.

Curling irons are quite versatile, but you want the optimal curling iron for your hair and personal style. The barrel sizes of curling irons ultimately indicate the size and type of curls that your hair will have at the end.


Other Things To Consider When You Buy a Curling Iron

Things To Consider When Buy a Curling Iron

You can also consider some other factors when choosing the best curling iron for you outside of curling iron size. Though the size of curl that you want determines the barrel size, you also want to make sure the iron you have is compatible and healthy for your hair.



The factor most closely related to the barrel size that will affect the style of curl you get is the shape of your barrel.

  • A cylinder-shaped barrel is best for a spiral curl.
  • A conical-shaped barrel makes tight curls at the ends of hair but wider curls near the roots.
  • Reverse cone-shaped barrels make wide curls at the ends but tight curls at the roots.
  • A double-barreled curling iron that creates loose waves,
  • The triple barrel creates a wave pattern that looks like your hair was in braids and then loosened.



Different materials that curling irons use to create different results, and some are safer to use than others.

For example, tourmaline and ceramic curling irons are safe choices that are healthy for your hair. Tourmaline will lock in moisture in your hair, and ceramic will disperse the heat to your hair evenly.

Other materials you might find in curling irons are titanium and gold. These metals are good heat conductors, but they do not protect your hair from frizz.

Lastly, there are chrome curling irons. Chrome curling irons are cheap, and you can find them at drug stores. Though they are convenient to find, they do not always protect against frizzy hair and may snag fragile hair at times.



The right heat capability for your curling iron will also determine how effective yours is. If the temperature is too high, you can burn your hair, but if it is too low–in some cases, your curling iron won’t be useful. Below 200-degrees Fahrenheit is a low heat setting for curling irons. This is an ideal temperature to avoid damaging or burning colored hair.

If you have thicker and coarser hair, you can use an iron with a heat of around 200-300 degrees Fahrenheit. Keep in mind that you can increase your curling iron’s temperature if it appears your hair isn’t curling at the current heat. Avoid curling your hair above 400 degrees Fahrenheit as it may cause heat damage to your hair.


Final Thoughts

There are many things to consider when buying a curling iron and curling iron size is one of the most critical factors. The size determines how large or small the curls will be. Consider the style that works best for you and also types that you might want to try. The size you get should work best for you and your preferences.