The Savvy Guide to Curling Iron Sizes and What to Use Them For

The first time I ever bought hot tools, I wasn’t certain what curling-iron size to get. I am sure most of us can relate. Now I am a celebrity hairstylist, and styling is something in which I am very strong. I will break down each size, starting from the smallest to the biggest, plus indicate how to properly use them and for what hair type they are meant.

Curling Iron Size Does Matter

I remember growing up and watching my mom curl her hair, but I never really paid attention to the exact size of the curling iron rod. I saw a couple of different sizes and was confused by which size was meant for my hair. At this time, I was in high school and just wanted to do whatever it took to look and be cute. I ended up going with a really small size even though my hair was super thick and long at the time.

It worked fine but, to be honest, it was easier for me to use a straightener rather than using my new curling iron because I really just didn’t understand the curl I was getting. I wasn’t getting the results I wanted so I tried to use something that I thought might make it easier for me. It wasn’t until later on when I became a professional hairstylist that I found out what the different curling-iron sizes meant and how to use them.

Related Post: How to Curl Hair with a Straightener and a Wand

½-Inch Curling Iron

The smallest curling-iron size is a half-inch curling iron. This is used to achieve super small curls. This curling-iron size is used by people with very short hair: typically, pixie cut to an above-shoulder-length cut. This can also be used for some funky hair styles like an afro or some tight kinky waves once it is all brushed out. Using this size for some funky looks is so much fun. If you have long hair and are going for the disco afro vibe, I do recommend this iron. It will take you a while, but it will be totally worth it.

In this video, beauty blogger Charity Grace LeBlanc is showing how she uses her Hot Shot Tools Gold Series Curling Iron 1/2 Inch:

1-Inch Curling Iron

The next size up is a one-inch curling iron. This is a very popular size curling iron. The one-inch curling iron is great for a classic curl look (Hollywood Glam). The hair length recommended for this size curling iron is for a short bob-like hair to medium-length hair. It is also great to use for a tighter curl look even if you have long hair. You can definitely create a loose beach wave look using this size curling iron. If you are trying to achieve the loose wave look you just have to make sure that you pull the curls out, so it doesn’t get too bouncy. You will typically find this size iron on a wand curling iron, if you prefer to use that type of iron.


This is how Chris Jones uses Hot Tools Pro 1-Inch Barrel Curling Iron, turning short blunt bob into a short textured bob:

1¼-Inch Curling Iron

The next size up is an inch and a quarter. This size curling iron, in my opinion, is one of the most popular size curling irons because it is not too big and it’s not too small. It works on all hair lengths, from short hair to medium-length hair to long hair. It creates a beautiful curl, but, most of all, it creates awesome body waves or, in other words, loose beach waves that everybody loves to have. This curling iron is very versatile. Whenever a client asks me, “What size curling iron do you recommend?” or asks what size I use, I always recommend the inch-and-a-quarter size.

Look at the example of using Hot Tools 1.25 Inch Curling Iron for creating loose waves:

2-Inch Curling Iron

The next and final size up is a two-inch curling iron. Now this size curling iron would not be good for short hair unless you just wanted to add a short bend to the bottom of your hair (personally, for that look, I would just use a blow dryer). This curling iron is used for long hair. Depending how long your hair is you could definitely create some nice curls but because the curling iron is so big it will mostly create some body waves. You can definitely achieve a very glam look while using this size curling iron and some great hairspray.

Hairstylist Dawn Warner loves creating hairstyles with her 2-inch Hot Tools Pro:

Now, of course there are curling-iron sizes that are in between that go from small to big (meaning one-inch on one end to one and a half inches on the other end of the curling iron) and vice versa. You would usually find that size variation with a wand curling iron.

But, overall, these are the most basic sizes and how they are used. If you were as lost as I was trying to find the perfect size curling iron for my hair to create the desired look, I hope this article helps. Follow me on Instagram for hair tutorials and tips.

Featured Image via Instagram

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