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The Ultimate Guide to Curling Iron Sizes for Natural Textures

The Ultimate Guide to Curling Iron Sizes for Natural Textures

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There’s no feeling quite like a great hair day, whether you’re rocking your curly hair au naturel or you’ve crafted a precise look with the help of a styling tool. But when you’re ready to try something new & create a hairstyle that’s sure to turn heads, what heat styling tool should you use? 

More specifically, which curling iron is best for your hair’s unique needs & curl pattern?

If you’re looking to achieve extra defined or voluminous curls but you’re wondering, “What size curling iron should I even use?” you’re not alone. That’s why we’ve created a guide to help you discover what barrel size you should use to create the look you want, whether it’s billowing waves, springy coils or some show-stopping style in between. 

A Quick Overview of Curling Iron Sizes

So you’re ready to create an iconic new look with your curls, but you’re not sure where to begin. Not only do curling irons come in a variety of materials, (for your curls, you’ll want to opt for a ceramic vs. titanium curling iron) but they’re also available in several sizes. 

When you’re on the lookout for the right heat hair tools, you’ll probably come across several common barrel sizes, including 1”, 3/4", & 3/8", but what do these sizes mean? 

This refers to the barrel’s diameter (the distance from one side to the other, straight through the center), not the circumference (the distance around the outside). When it comes to curling irons & wands, the smaller the number, the thinner the barrel. A 1” barrel is larger than a 3/8" barrel. 

Since you create a curl by wrapping a section of your hair around the barrel, the size of the curling iron will determine the texture & appearance of your hair. This is key to understanding which curling iron you’ll need since larger barrels will create loose, full, romantic curls & waves, while you can use hair tools with thinner barrels to make tight, bouncy coils. 

Choosing the Right Size Curling Iron for Your Desired Style

One of the major advantages of having curly hair (as if you didn’t already know) is its versatility. With your natural texture, you can use a hair styling tool to fashion your waves into tighter, bouncy curls or use a curling iron to amplify & perfect your already sky-high coils. 

Here’s a curling iron size guide to help you learn how to curl curly hair, whether you want to honor your pattern or transform your look with a completely new style.

1” Curling Iron

For eye-catching curls, make sure to have a 1” curling iron handy. You can use this barrel width to mimic your natural tresses or create bouncing, cascading curls, depending on your curl pattern. This medium-sized curling iron can be the right fit for all hair lengths, whether you’re rocking a curly shoulder-length cut or you have mermaid-length strands. It is also great for loose bobs or tapered styles.

¾" Curling Iron

If you’re after Hollywood-esque curls, you’ll want to use a curling iron with a ¾" ceramic barrel. Also a good fit for any hair length, this size barrel can help you touch up your tresses (& prolong your wash day) or turn your coils into rounder, fuller curls, depending on the style you want to create & the unique texture of your natural hair type. 

When you want to amp up the volume & lock in definition, opting for a heat styling tool with this mid-to-smaller size barrel can help achieve your desired look. This style of curling iron can help create natural-looking curls that, with the right preparation & products, will last for hours or even days. 

" Curling Iron

For picture-perfect, corkscrew ringlets, use the smallest styling tool on the market. With plenty of bounce, these curls will be sure to turn heads while offering endless definition & volume. Use this size to perfect your pixie, create tight curls, perfect your natural curl pattern or sleek your tapered look. This rare & unique size is amazing for precision styles. If you’re in an in-between phase looking for cuteness & new options, check out this barrel size to help create consistency & curl harmony amongst your existing curl patterns.

Understanding Curl Types & Curling Iron Sizes

To gain a better understanding of what curling iron barrel sizes you’ll need, it’s important to first understand your curl type. Here’s a breakdown of the primary curl patterns & what curling iron sizes you’ll need to create them:

  • 3A – If you notice that you have naturally loose, lightly defined curls, you can probably assume you have 3A hair. This curl pattern is closer to wavy hair than other curly or coily textures, & features “S”-shaped strands with volume near the roots. To mimic this type of curl, you may want to use a 1" curling iron, depending on the length of your tresses.
  • 3B – If you have the 3B curl pattern, it means you have noticeably defined ringlets with plenty of definition & body. This is a tighter texture than their 3A curl-mate, & you’ll likely want a ceramic curling iron with a 3/4” barrel to replicate this pattern.
  • 3C – The tightest of the curl patterns (before achieving coil status), 3C curls have a well-defined corkscrew shape. With plenty of bounce, they’re typically thinner than other 3A or 3B curls. To match your natural texture, consider opting for a ¾" curling iron. 
  • 4A – If you have 4A coils, you probably have individual curls that are around the width of a pen or crochet needle. These strands have more of an “S” shape than other coils, so you’ll want to use a thinner curling iron, like one with a ⅜"  barrel, to mimic this look. 
  • 4B – With coils galore, the 4B texture is characterized by a zig-zag or “Z” shaped pattern. Packed with natural volume, this coil style is tough to recreate with a heat styling tool, but lends itself to several heat styling options, like a 1” barrel if you want to switch up your look & create bigger, looser curls, or play with the ⅜” barrel when you want to explore the possibilities of your existing curl pattern. 
  • 4C – 4C coils are typically identified by sky-high volume & density. The tightest coil type, you’ll find that 4C hair has more of a “Z” shaped pattern, so like 4B hair, its uniqueness is hard to replicate with a heat styling tool. Instead, try using a ¾" or ⅜" ceramic curling iron to craft bouncy defined curls when you want to try something new.

Remember, it’s totally normal (& definitely eye-catching) to have more than one curl pattern, so don’t fret if you feel like some of your strands have different textures. 

How To Get Your Best Results with Curling Irons

Here are some tips & tricks to make the most out of your styling & achieve the results you’re looking for when using a curling iron or wand:

  • Use different barrel sizes – While it may seem easier to use the same-sized curling throughout all of your hair, you may want to switch up the barrel sizes for a more natural look, especially if you have layers with several hair lengths. This is why a curling iron with several barrel options, like the PATTERN Interchangeable Curling Iron, can come in handy, making it easy to achieve the look you want with a single tool. 
  • Consider length in addition to curl type – When heat styling, it’s crucial to keep the length of your hair in mind, since the same-sized styling tool will create different-looking curls & waves on different hair lengths. A good rule is that if your hair is shoulder-length or shorter, you’ll want to opt for a curling iron that’s 1” or smaller in diameter for a truly curly look.

How to Measure Curling Iron Sizes

Of course, it makes sense that a 3/8" barrel is smaller than a 1” barrel, but how can you actually measure a heat styling tool to know what size it is? 

If you’re trying to figure out the size of a styling tool you already own, you can use a flexible tape measure to figure out the circumference of the barrel & then divide this number by pi (3.14), which will give you the tool’s diameter. No matter the style you’re after, knowing which barrel size you need can help you transform your tresses or elevate your natural hair texture.

No matter the look you're after, heat styling tools can be a fun way to transform your look. With the right heat protection practices & high-quality ceramic styling tools, you can play with your hair’s possibilities while making sure to prioritize its health & minimize heat damage.

Find the Best Curling Iron for Your Tresses with PATTERN

Whether you have curls, coils, or something in between, you can use a curling iron to fashion your tresses into a new, elegant style or elevate your natural pattern by completing a few curl touch-ups here & there. Regardless of the look you're after, it's key to prioritize the health of your strands. 

At PATTERN, we make it easy to get creative with heat styling while ensuring you always have your hair health in mind. From our Heat Protectant to Interchangeable Curling Iron & Blow Dryer, we have products & tools that make it easy to create the definition, volume & va-va-voom you’ve always wanted. 


MedicineNet. What Are the Four Types of Hair? https://www.medicinenet.com/what_are_the_four_types_of_hair/article.htm 

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Reviewed by Ashley Ludgood

With over 12 years of experience in the beauty and fashion industry, Ashley Ludgood brings a wealth of expertise to her current role at PATTERN. Her insights have been featured in reputable publications like American Salon Magazine, American Spa Magazine, and Skin, Inc. Ashley has also shared her knowledge at conferences, including Face & Body, demonstrating her ongoing commitment to contributing to the industry. Having been an integral part of the team at PATTERN for nearly 4 years, Ashley continues to make significant contributions. Holding a degree in Journalism from Northwestern University, she remains passionate about her field. Among her favorite products, Ashley turns to the PATTERN Styling Cream, Moisture Milk, and the Cleansing Shampoo as her go-to essentials.

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