How to Style Barrel Curls

By Katie Bolin , last updated May 17, 2011

Barrel curls are a simple and relatively quick way to give your hair a boost of fabulous curl and volume, no matter your hair type. As a testament to lasting style, women have relied on this timeless and classic look for ages. All you need is a couple supplies and your fingers, and you're ready to go. Follow these easy steps to create voluminous and barreling barrel curls.


  • Hair product
  • Hair pins or clips
  • Hair dryer
  • Hair brush
  • Hot iron (optional)


Start with hair that has been shampooed and conditioned. Keeping your hair wet, apply setting lotion or your favorite hair setting product generously. Comb the product through your hair to ensure root to tip coverage. Separate segments of your hair into approximately 1-inch sections. Just like setting your hair with rollers, instead use your finger to wrap your hair around. Make sure you wrap the hair loosely and smoothly around the finger for the best curl outcome. Avoid tight and messy curls, as this can lead to crinkled hair that won't give you the barrel curl look you're looking for. When the hair is completely and loosely wrapped around your finger, take a hairpin or clip and secure it on the underside of the curl, sliding your finger completely free. Continue this technique on each and every 1-inch segment of your hair. Keep the curl direction the same for each individual curl, meaning that when you wrap the hair around your finger, do it in the exact same way every time. Once you've completed the finger curling around your head, you're ready to dry your hair. If you're in a time crunch, grab a hair dryer and place it on a gentle setting and medium heat, as you want to take care not to blow individual hairs out of the curl, or completely blow the curl out of its setting. This may cause a frizzy look and should be avoided. You can also allow the curls to air dry, which is great if you're traveling with limited supplies. After your 'do is completely dried, you can remove the clips carefully, being careful to not pull hair out. Now, there are two ways to finish your hair, depending on your desired outcome. For tousled barrel curls, ditch the comb and brush and run through your hair using only your fingers, stopping when you are satisfied with the volume and shape of your hair. If you want a smoother look, simply use a brush.


If you have fine hair, a common problem with pins and clips is that they may leave a crimp in your hair, causing an undesired shape to your barrel curls. You can compensate for this by carefully smoothing out the crimps with a hot iron. Follow the curl created by the finger curl to best smooth the lines. Or, you can purchase or make clips that are covered in fabric, as this will diminish the sharp edges of metal pins and clips that cause the pesky crimping in the first place.

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