What are Barrel Curls?

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  • Written By: Sara Schmidt
  • Edited By: Andrew Jones
  • Last Modified Date: 20 September 2019
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Curly hair is a popular beauty trend. Barrel curls are large, loose ringlets, or spirals, that can be achieved with a curling iron or hair curlers. This hair style, often used by various celebrities, can help add both a casual glamorous effect, as well as volume to hair.

Barrel curls are one of the most common hair style effects created with iron styling. Unlike permanent hair curling, this type of style allows the user to target specific curls around the head rather than achieving a full-curl effect. This type of curl is ideal for medium to long hair, though it can be achieved with some shorter styles.

To achieve barrel curls, hair should first be thoroughly shampooed and rinsed clean. A conditioner and a leave-in treatment or heat-protective serum may be used to help prevent heat damage from styling tools. The hair should be completely dried, typically with a blow dryer, and tangle-free before proceeding with curling.

Hair can be wrapped in a roller set to achieve these loose curls. For a speedier method, a curling iron can be used. Divide the hair into sections in line with the center parting. The sections should be slightly thinner than the diameter of the curling iron barrel. Clip each segment, beginning with the hair that frames the face in front of the ear.


Create the curls beginning with a single hair panel. Comb the hair to ensure it remains tangle-free. Spray the segment lightly with hairspray, then clamp the hair inside the curling iron at the bottom of the segment. Be sure to slide the curling iron down as far as possible so that all of the hair tips are covered.

Turn the iron to smoothly roll the hair up. Stop rolling before reaching the scalp. Hold in place for five to ten seconds or until hair is completely heated. Slowly unwind the iron, twisting the wrist to release the hair from the clamp once the section is completely unwound. Repeat the process with the next section, and continue until all desired sections have barrel curls.

For looser barrel curls, slide the iron down the hair in a faster motion. Tighter curls can be achieved with a slower release. After the process is complete, and hair has cooled, it can be styled as preferred. The user can comb or brush the curls to widen them further as well.

Prior to curling hair, a curling iron test should be conducted. Dampen a tissue and clamp it with the iron. If smoke comes off the tool, the iron is too hot to be used on hair. Discoloration and burning are also indicators of a need for temperature adjustment. If left this hot, the iron can burn and damage the hair.


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