Thermal Styling: History and Use Today



It always seems that women who have curly hair want straight hair, and those who want straight hair will go to great lengths to have curls. In fact, women have been trying ways to change the wave patterns in their hair for centuries. Using heat to curl or straighten hair, known as thermal styling, has been around since 1875. That year, Marcel Grateau invented a system of heated rollers to create waves in straight hair. This is still called “Marcelling” or Marcel Waving by many professional stylists.

Common Thermal Styling Techniques & Tool

Today, there are heated styling techniques that many of us use every day. These include using heated rollers and using a curling iron or straightening iron. These methods are affordable and easy to use. Heat can be damaging to your hair, however, so it is important to only apply heat to dry hair and to follow the advice of your stylist when using electric styling tools at home.

Hair Roller Sets

Roller sets are a modern version of Marcel Grateau’s heated rods he used to create the first marcel wave. They are most frequently used on shorter hair, and create large waves that add body. This type of curl is often known as a barrel curl.

To use rollers, hair is first separated into sections slightly more narrow than the width of the roller. The hair is then wound around the roller, and pinned into place against the scalp. The rollers are allowed to cool and removed. Then the hair can be styled, and fullness has been added by the rollers.

Hair Irons

Curling irons allow you to add barrel curls in only specific parts of the hair, such as flipping the ends under. With smaller barreled irons, you can also create spirals which temporarily simulate the curls created by a salon perm.

To create barrel curls with a curling iron, the hair is wrapped around the iron and heat is applied briefly. Then, the iron is slid out of the hair. The best results from this method come when each individual curl is pinned in place until it is completely cooled. Then it can be styled.

Spiral curls are created using a different winding technique around the curling iron. For spiral curls, each section is wrapped at an angle around the barrel of the iron while holding it vertically. After allowing the heat to penetrate the hair, the iron clip is opened, and the iron is lowered. This lets the curl slide off the end of the barrel.

Straightening Irons

Straightening irons, also known as flat irons, are similar in operation to curling irons, although they consist of two flat plates instead of a round barrel. Using a flat iron, someone with a natural wave or curl can press dry hair straight. Like using a curling iron, this is done by applying the iron to small sections of the hair individually.

Learn Thermal Styling Techniques At Evergreen

There are also techniques used in salons that use heat to style hair. These methods are practiced by stylists in training at schools such as Evergreen Beauty College. If you are interested in learning more about these professional methods by becoming a licensed cosmetologist, contact us today.

Frank Trieu
Vice President of Business Development & Industry Relations

Frank Trieu is a cosmetology industry leader, and despite his accomplishments and accolades, he still prioritizes students on the Evergreen campus. Through building relationships within the community and local salons, retail stores, and spas, he helps facilitate job placements for aspiring beauty professionals using his expansive network.

Happy Evergreen Beauty College Students


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Bernice Asantewaa Asantey
Bernice Asantewaa Asantey
3 years ago

Want to learn thermal styling

3 years ago

Is there online classes?