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What is Barrel Curling?

Mandi R. Hall
Mandi R. Hall

Barrel curling is a method of creating hair curls with the assistance of hair tools. Barrel curls are locks of hair that have been curled into rolling, cylindrical coils. There are a variety of ways to accomplish this type of hairstyle. An assortment of hair appliances and products exist for the purpose of creating barrel curls.

Though barrel-curled coifs date back for centuries through an array of different patents, the modern curling iron was not created until 1890 by Adam Frisby. Since then, several modifications have been made to the curling iron. The curling iron now has an easier-to-use, more adaptable handle for the consumer. In addition, curling irons have become safer for the hair since the inception of tourmaline and ceramic barrels, which cause less damage to the hair than metal barrels.

Barrel curling can be done using a barrel curling iron.
Barrel curling can be done using a barrel curling iron.

Another barrel-curling method is applying a permanent curl treatment. Also called a perm, it was invented by Charles Nessler in 1905, whose original procedure included the use of heated brass barrels and a combination of cow urine, water and lye. Updated and safer perm methods are still popular in modern times. During the perm process, a series of chemicals are applied to the hair by a hair stylist, who then creates the permanent curls by barrel curling the hair into perm rods — cylindrical apparatus’ also known as curlers or rollers. Curls from a perm last until they are cut off.

Most other methods of barrel curling are for those who wish to style their own hair at home. Barrel curling with sponge on wet hair allows for someone to sleep or go about her daily business as her hair dries. Using Velcro®, hot or steam rollers creates a similar effect on hair that has already been dried.

Hair stylists recommend using a styling product in conjunction with styling tools. If using a heat-based appliance, applying a heat-protecting hair serum before curling is advised. Adding mousse to wet hair before drying and curling may add extra volume. Applying hairspray during and after curling also allows for the curl to last longer. Consumers should check the ingredients and/or warning labels of all products and appliances for tips before using.

The size of the barrel allows for different types of curls, and therefore, a diverse overall look. Using wider rollers will create a voluminous head of big, bouncy curls, while long, thin curling iron barrels will produce tight, fairytale ringlets. When people think of “barrel curling,” they generally conjure up the image of big, bouncy curls. Technically, however, curls created with any sort or size of barrel can be dubbed “barrel curls.” After barrel curling, the coils can be pinned close to the top of the head for a distinctively retro look, or they can be let loose for a more effervescent, windblown kind of look.

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    • Barrel curling can be done using a barrel curling iron.
      By: Africa Studio
      Barrel curling can be done using a barrel curling iron.