The Marcel iron gets its name from Marcel Grateau, a pioneer of hair styling with irons. While the techniques have changed considerably with the use of electrically heated irons, Marcel Grateau's name is still used for the curling iron most often favored by professional stylists. The Marcel iron differs from most commercially available curling irons in that it is not spring-loaded. While a spring-loaded curling iron holds the hair in place with the force of the spring, the Marcel iron requires the stylist to open and close the iron, and uses a locking mechanism to hold hair in place.
Use a curling iron only on hair that is clean and fully dry. Hair should have been shampooed and conditioned, preferably with a strengthening shampoo to protect against damage from hair styling. Using hot irons on hair that is even slightly wet can cause damage by turning the water to steam and cooking the hair follicle.
Apply mousse to the hair when slightly moist, or apply hairspray after the hair has dried. Using a hair styling product before you start curling the hair with the Marcel iron will help the curls keep their shape better, and will allow you to use little or no styling product to hold your final hairstyle in place.
Heat the iron completely before styling. When the Marcel iron has heated up, test the heat level using a piece of tissue paper. Place the tissue paper in the hot iron and hold for a few seconds. If the tissue steams or scorches, the iron is too hot. Adjust the temperature if necessary.
Style hair with 1-inch strips at a time. Open the iron by rotating the handle. Curl the hair around the iron from tip to root, using your fingers to wrap the strip of hair around the iron, rather than rotating the iron itself. Allow the hair to set for a few seconds, then rotate the handle of the Marcel iron again to open the iron and release the hair.
Repeat on 1-inch sections until you are finished curling, then style hair as planned. Marcel irons can also be used to create lift in the hair by curling only at the roots of the hair, or to straighten tight curls or create waves by using a large barrel.