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A three barrel curling iron is a hair styling tool that is used to add waves, curl, and body to straight hair. It can also be used to control the consistency of curls and waves in curly hair by creating a controlled pattern of waves. The main difference between a three barrel curling iron and a traditional single barrel curling iron is the number of barrels. One major benefit of the three barrel design is that the "S" wave is easier to achieve than it is with a single barrel iron.
Generally, a three barrel curling iron does not create tight curls since the hair does not wrap all the way around the tool. The hair style will have more of a natural, gentle "S" wave that can offer a just-got-back-from-the-beach look if the device is used in a random pattern. It also can provide a dressier, more formal hair style if the iron is placed in the same spot at each section of hair. Many people consider the three barrel curling iron to be the best hair styling tool to use for a repetitive wave pattern.
Three barrel curling irons are made from a variety of materials. Teflon®-coated barrels typically provide a smooth glide; ceramic barrels are gentler on the hair, and are not as likely to dry out the hair. Tourmaline barrels are ionic, which helps keep the hair smooth and frizz-free. The degree of heat available in each iron may vary. Some models come with a variable temperature control; some have high, medium, and low settings; and others only have an on-and-off switch.
To create a standard "S" wave, very little skill is usually required. The hair can be separated into 2 to 3 inch (about 5 to 7.6 cm) sections. Then, the three barrel curling iron is clamped over the highest point and is held for approximately five seconds. The iron is then moved down the hair with the same technique before moving on to the next section of hair.
If the desired look is fuller hair with curls starting at the roots, the hair should be separated in three rows — the area at the nape of the neck, the rim of the head, and the crown. The top two sections are then pinned and the bottom row is curled in sections before moving up to the next row. By the time the crown is curled, the hair will be much fuller than it originally was.