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What is a Three Barrel Curling Iron?

By Debby Mayne
Updated May 21, 2024
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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.

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Discussion Comments
By anon201079 — On Jul 29, 2011

Thanks for your review! It helped me a lot, but I realized that a triple barrel was a bit complicated for me, so I do my curls with my Karmin Salon Pro Clipless Tourmaline Curling Iron and my curls are amazing!

By Planch — On Jan 15, 2011

Can anyone explain to me how to use a three barrel curling iron?

I just got one as a gift for my birthday, and I really love it and had wanted one for a long time, but I can't seem to get good results out of the thing!

I'm following all the instructions, and I've used a singe barrel curling iron before with good results, so I don't know why I'm having such problems with this one.

So if you guys have any good tips on how to use a three barrel curling iron, or you have any idea what I might be doing wrong, I'm all ears -- help me out!

By pleats — On Jan 14, 2011

I really love using a three barrel curling iron; it's just so much easier to get really nice curls that don't look like "curling iron curls" if you know what I'm saying.

I personally use an Enzo curling iron, but my friend swears by her Revlon three barrel curling iron, so I think that it's just a matter of personal preference.

Just make sure that you get a friend to show you how to use it first though, or take a lot of time to experiment with the different kinds of three barrel curling iron styles -- it can be a little tricky to use if you're used to only one barrel, so don't try to use it for the first time right before a big event, or you'll end up looking like I did at my sister's bachelorette party -- crazy curls all over!

By EarlyForest — On Jan 13, 2011

I have to say, the first time I saw my girlfriend's 3 barrel curling iron I thought it was some kind of torture device -- those things look scary!

Of course she was glad to explain to me in great detail about the importance of multiple barrels in curling irons and even the benefits of double barrel curling irons (which just remind me of shotguns) and spiral barrel curling irons.

So now I'm all up on curling irons, which is nice in a way because I do like talking to my girlfriend about things that interest her, but also kind of bad because frankly, I don't need that kind of information for my daily life.

I guess I'll be all set if I'm ever stuck somewhere and need to know how to use a three barrel curling iron to save my life though...I'm trying to look at positives, people!

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