What is a Marcel curling iron and How to use it

Have you heard of the Marcel curling iron but don’t know exactly what it is or how it is different from other curling irons? 

Have you wished for a more ergonomic curling iron that doesn’t hurt your thumb and wrist in the long run? Then read on to learn what is a marcel curling iron and how to use it!

Since its invention in the 1870s, curling irons have been continually evolving to suit the needs of its users. From being a metal rod manually heated on fire, curling irons are now powered by electricity and equipped with heat adjustment settings.

Electric curling irons with heat settings are already perfect; what more could we ask for? Well, we could ask for a more ergonomic and versatile curling iron that the user easily controls. Fortunately, our generation already has one that fits those criteria—the Marcel curling iron.

What Is A Marcel Curling Iron?

A Marcel is a kind of curling iron that is not spring-loaded. It has a mechanism, very much like a pair of scissors, which allows the user to open and close the curling rod manually. Professional hairstylists prefer Marcel curling irons over regular ones because Marcels give more control on the curl they want to achieve.

Now you might be thinking that using it is intimidating. But don’t let it stop you from stepping up your hairstyle game. Don’t worry! We’re here to guide you on how to achieve better curls using Marcel curling irons.

Marcel Curling Iron vs Regular Curling Iron

Wondering what is the difference between a marcel curling iron and a regular curling iron?

As mentioned above, the main difference between the two is that Marcel irons don’t have springs while standard curling irons do. But there are other minor yet noteworthy advantages of using Marcel curlers.

  1. They have a rotating handle which makes them more ergonomic than regular curling irons. The rotating handle helps lessen the stress on the user’s wrist.
  2. The Marcel iron’s scissor-like mechanism also makes it more ergonomic. Unlike the spring-loaded curling iron that needs pressure from the user’s thumb, Marcel curling irons can be easily controlled using the user’s index finger without using too much pressure.
  3. Most Marcel irons are 24K gold-plated. Gold releases positive ions when heated while our hair is naturally negatively charged. So when we use heated gold to curl our hair, the positive ions neutralize the negative ones. As a result, the hair becomes less frizzy, and the iron leaves a nice and polished finish.

Marcel Curling Iron Sizes And Heat Settings

Marcel irons come in different sizes. The barrel circumference can be ½ inch, ¾ inch, 4/5 inch, 1 inch, 1 ¼ inch, or 1 ½ inch. When thinking about the size of a Marcel curling iron appropriate for you, you have to consider your hair length and hair type.

For thick, coarse, long, or stubborn hair, it is ideal to use larger barrel sizes. While smaller barrel sizes are more appropriate for thin, fine, short, or fragile hair.

Barrel sizes are also used for different kinds of curls.

The 1 ½ inch barrel is for loose and voluminous curls like Gisele Bundchen’s. This kind of curl is best for people with long hair. 

The 1 ¼ inch barrel is for natural-looking, messy, and wavy curls like Kim Kardashian’s. This works best on long hair to medium-length hair.

The 1-inch barrel is the ideal barrel size. It can help you create various hairstyles, from tight princess curls to loose beach waves. Although this barrel size is universally flattering, it is best for people with short to medium-length hair.

Despite being too thin, the ¾ inch barrel is actually versatile. You can use it for polished curls that are neither too tight nor too loose. This size works perfectly for those who have naturally wavy or curly hair.

Aside from the barrel size, you should also consider your iron’s heat setting. Needless to say that coarser hair requires a higher temperature, while more delicate hair requires a lower temperature.

Here is a rough guideline on adjusting your iron’s heat setting:

HAIR TEXTURERECOMMENDED HEAT SETTING
FRAGILE250
FINE 300
MEDIUM350
MEDIUM TO COARSE400
COARSE425

You don’t have to strictly follow these guidelines. Only you know your personal needs. So feel free to adjust the barrel size and heat setting to match the hairstyle you want to achieve while still considering your hair’s texture and length.

For example, if you have short and fragile hair yet want big curls, you may use larger barrels but make sure to lower the iron’s temperature setting.

Parts Of A Marcel Curling Iron

To better understand the steps in using a Marcel curling iron, take a look at this photo first.

A Marcel curling iron has six main parts: clamp, clamp handle, barrel, barrel handle, swivel, and metal stand. Notice how the clamp moves away from the barrel when the user pushes the clamp handle.

How To Curl Hair With A Marcel Iron

Just like any other hairstyling session, make sure to prep your hair. When using a Marcel curling iron, it is ideal to start with clean, dry locks.

  1. Start with the lower section of the hair. Use a hair clip to secure the upper section.
  2. Hold the Marcel iron horizontally using your dominant hand.
  3. Slide your index finger (or ring finger) between the clamp handle and the barrel handle. This will be your primary control in opening and closing the clamp, so make sure that you are comfortable.
  4. Adjust heat settings depending on your hair type and hair length.
  5. Take a strand of your hair not longer than the barrel’s length. Slide it in between the clamp and the barrel.
  6. Tip: Don’t curl your hair right away. Keep the clamp slightly open and slowly slide it down the hair strand. This way, your hair will get used to the heat of the iron.
  7. After a few gentle strokes of pre-heating your hair, you can now finally curl it. Pull the pre-heated hair strand, then clamp the iron at the middle part of the strand.
  8. Next, you have to simultaneously a.) bring the lower part of the hair strand under the barrel then over it and b.) rotate the rod handle in the direction going away from your scalp.
  9. Gently open and close the clamp three times while sliding the iron down. But don’t let go of the hair just yet.
  10. Repeat steps 8 and 9 more often if you have long hair.
  11. Roll the iron back up until it nearly reaches your scalp and let it stay for a few seconds. Be careful not to touch your scalp, though. You can use a comb to hold the iron away from your scalp. Make sure to use a comb that does not easily melt when heated.
  12. Gently open the clamp and use a comb to push the curled hair away from the iron.

Use a bobby pin to keep the curls in place as they cool. Do this to the remaining sections of your hair. Note that you should keep the sections small so you can have more control over the curls.

How to Use a Marcel Iron on Short Hair

If you have very short hair like a bob, you need to slightly change the way you use a Marcel iron.

  1. Section your hair vertically. Find your natural hair part and section your hair as such.
  2. Then, divide it horizontally. Now, your hair is divided into four sections--the top-right, top-left, bottom-right, and bottom-left. 
  3. Secure the top sections using clips. Start curling at the bottom sections with the hair closest to your face.
  4. Hold the Marcel iron upright, the tip of the barrel rod facing the ceiling. Pick a small section of your hair vertically and feed it into the iron. Twist the iron away from your face. 
  5. Work your way to the back of your head. Do the same thing to the other sections.

If you have bangs, consider it a separate section and curl it last. You may opt to curl only the tip of your bangs for a modern look.

In sum, people with short hair hold the Marcel curlers vertically and start from the sides to the back of the head. A good rule of thumb to remember is that you should always curl away from your face. This will make your curls look more polished and uniform.

Step Up Your Curling Game

Now that you got everything you need to know about Marcel curling irons, it is time for you to do your own curls and locks like a pro! Give it a try and tell us what you think.

Last Updated: April 15, 2021

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