A What's What Guide To Curling IronsIn many ways, the curling iron can be easily argued to be the greatest innovation in hairstyling of the Twentieth Century, and has evolved dramatically from its original incarnation into an appliance that is easy to use and produces far superior results when compared to its ancestors.
A Brief History
Parisian stylist and inventor, Marcel Grateau, is credited with the development of the technique of styling the hair using heated rods in the latter part of the 1870s. The first curling irons were polished metal rods that were heated in a fire or oven and then applied to the hair, coiling the hair around it to create the curl. Common problems were overheating and singeing of the hair as well as burns to the scalp and hands in the styling process.
Over the century that followed, curling irons were largely the tool of the professional, since at-home use was still unwieldy, requiring as it did the heating elements and careful handling to prevent burns and damage to the hair. Still, progress was made, the techniques were improved upon, and the appliances underwent dramatic revamping as electricity became more commonly used and the technology allowed for the creation of curling irons that were self-heating.
Somewhere around the 1960s, curling irons became feasible for use by women at home. The appliances had become safe enough to allow women to use them on their own hair, with relative ease, and achieve reasonable results. These appliaces were electric, self-heating and serviceable, but were still a far cry from the products we have today.
If you go shopping today in your local beauty supply store (and even in your local department or discount stores) you can find dozens of different sizes, shapes and styles of irons. There are flat irons for smoothing and straightening the hair. There are waving and crimping irons with curved and shaped plates that are meant to put varying patterns of wave into the hair, from ‘S-curls’ to ‘Zigzag’ shapes.
There are curling irons with different sizes of barrel, and even multiple barrels on a single appliance. The materials from which irons are made, and the way in which they heat the hair are different today than in times past, too. In the 70s, you might have had an iron with a chrome-plated barrel, which would have been serviceable. Today however, we have learned that non-stick surfaces and special mineral coatings help to evenly distribute the heat throughout the surface of the iron and prevent scorching and help leave the hair looking smooth. Many irons now offer infra-red heating and ion technology to warm the hair more gently and reduce the amount of frizz and static in the hair to keep it smooth and shiny.