Your Definitive Guide To Picking The Right Curling Iron Size

cindy crawford

@harryjoshhair / Design by Zackary Angeline

Whether you’re a veteran with a curling iron or you just break out a barrel on Saturday nights, the myriad sizes can leave anyone confused. Thankfully, we tapped expert hairstylists to create the ultimate curling iron size guide that'll leave you feeling like a pro. From tight ringlets and springy spirals to beachy waves and tousled ends, get ready to achieve your best hair yet—with the right sized curling iron.

Meet the Expert

Learn what size curling iron you should be using with our complete guide, ahead.

2-Inch Curling Iron

Sandra Bullock

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If you want to look like you just dropped by your local blow dry bar but can’t work a round brush to save your life, this is the size for you. Best for those with longer locks, the 2-inch barrel iron gives hair a subtle bend towards the end that mimics a blowout. "I love using this size iron to achieve a faux blowout look because it offers lots of body and volume with the option to finish with rounded ends or a very subtle wave," says Siskovic. We love the Hot Tools 24K Gold Curling Iron/Wand ($60) for this look.

Hair will be harder to curl if it's dry and brittle. Siskovic recommends prepping with the Alfaparf Milano SDL Diamond All-in-One Fluid ($20) before adding any waves to ensure ease of brushing, shine, a healthy finish, and weightless ends.

1 ½-Inch Curling Iron


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A 1 ½-inch iron creates a loose, voluminous curl. "This is my ideal iron choice for a body wave," says Siskovic. "This iron size is a balance between a structured wave and voluminous body, and is a great choice for anyone who wants their hair to look thick and healthy." To achieve a beachy texture, trade your traditional iron for a wand, like the Bed Head Curlipops Tourmaline Ceramic 1-1/2" Curling Iron Wand ($29).

1 ¼-Inch Curling Iron

If you're looking for versatility, go for a 1 ¼-inch curling iron. "This size curling iron is great for a beachy wave, creating texture, or using it to pin curl and create a looser, more modern take on an old Hollywood vibe," says Rubenstein. "The T3 Micro Single Pass 1.25 inch ($149) is one of my absolute favorites—it offers perfectly even heat and great hold without leaving behind any seams or creases."

Set curled hair with hairspray, then let cool before brushing through. This creates a tighter curl that will last longer.

1-Inch Curling Iron

The 1-inch iron, like the Drybar 3-Day Bender Digital 1" Curling Iron ($149), is universally flattering and a great option for your first curler. The ideal size for medium and shorter styles, it also creates a great soft curl on long hair when brushed through. "1-inch irons are the OG's in styling and waving," notes Siskovic. "There are so many possibilities with this iron depending on the technique, but one of my favorites to create with this size is the classic Hollywood wave."

¾-Inch Curling Iron

If you’re looking for corkscrew curls or vintage-style updos, the ¾-inch iron will be your go-to. "I love creating tight curls, brushing them out upside down, and adding some texture spray for a fun disco curl," says Rubenstein. "This size is also great for touching up naturally curly hair if your curly hair needs a bit of polishing." Try the Conair Double Ceramic 3/4-Inch Curling Iron ($17) to mimic these retro curls.

5/8-Inch Curling Iron

Blake Lively

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The 5/8-inch curling iron will give you Carrie Bradshaw-esque curls, and will give already curly locks a more uniform look. "I've been loving this smaller iron for enhancing the style of a shag," notes Siskovic. "My favorite technique is to wrap the hair just once around this smaller iron and leaving the ends relatively straight for some soft, mid-strand movement." Go for the Hot Tools Professional 24K Gold Curling Iron/Wand 5/8" ($38) for this look, and be sure to pick up a great mousse to keep your curls intact all day long.

3/8-Inch Curling Iron

Tracee Ellis Ross

Jeff Kravitz/AMA2017 / Contributor / Getty Images

Having a 3/8-inch iron on hand is a must for those with natural curls. It’s the perfect size to give definition to unruly ringlets after you air dry your locks, and can also be used for detail waving. To enhance tousled movement, Siskovic likes to add small ribbon sections of this size iron around the perimeter of the hair. We love the PluggedIn HeatMaster Chrome 3/8 Inch Curling Iron ($16) for this look.

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