Sure, you can use flat irons for some curling situations, like flips, spikes and waves. But when you are serious about really curling your hair, you are going to want to invest in a curling iron.

Buying the wrong sized curling iron can give you the kind of hair of out of control ‘do you’d see at 80’s and 90’s proms. But what separates all the various sizes? Read on to find out.

Curling Iron Sizes

1/2” – The smallest, the very thin barrel creates tight curls and is perfect for a retro hairstyle. For adventurous women, try the technique of curling 1” sections towards your face, then brushing them out with a paddle brush. The result will be 1920s-style finger waves.

3/4” – If your goal is to touch up already curly hair, then 3/4” is ideal for you. It will make the curl similar to what you already have. Try letting your hair air-dry, then curling 9 or 10 pieces just around your face to “frame” it.

1” – The most versatile size, and if you have to pick just one size, this should be it. You can wrap your hair around the barrel securely, but not so any times that the ringlet is too tight. Plus, you can achieve a variety of looks with a 1” curling iron – beachy and loose, messy, or polished.

1 1/4” – Do you want lush, big, voluminous waves? Choose this size, which works on both medium and long-sized hair.

1 1/2” – To achieve voluptuous waves with a ton of body and heft, use this size. You can give long, thick, heavy hair some serious lift at the roots.

1 3/4” – Depending on the length of your hair, the big barrel of this size will give your hair one or two bends. If you want make your hair look like it has slept-in waves, a 1 3/4” curling iron is for you.

2” – Approximately the same size as a round brush, this beast of a barrel is a great way to fake a blowout.