What is a flat iron?
A flat iron, or hair straightener, is a hand-held device that straightens you hair using heat. Flat irons are used if you have wavy, curly, or kinky hair and want to achieve a straight, sleek look; even if you have straight hair already, a hair straightener will enhance the appearance of your hair. A flat iron can also sometimes be used to produce flips at the end of your hair, light curls, or other styling options.
How do you use a flat iron?
A flat iron consists of two plates that come together over your hair when you press the handle. You put a section of your hair between the plates, they clamp down, and then you glide the straightener through your hair; the heat from the iron flattens the hair cuticles, leaving your hair straight. Depending on the straightener you have, you might be able to set the temperature to your preference before straightening, though not all straighteners have this option. It’s a very simple process, and should be effortless.
Will straightening damage my hair?
It depends. You are going to be applying a large amount of concentrated heat to your hair; no matter what, this isn’t a natural process, and it’s not something your hair is used to. The lower quality your flat iron is, the more damage you will see; the higher quality, the healthier it is for your hair. With the right investment, you can avoid doing any major, long-term damage to your hair. If your hair is very fine, you are likely to see more negative effects than with thick hair. If you have brittle, dry, thin hair, it will be paramount that you choose a high-quality straightener made with good materials in order to keep your hair healthy. You can also invest in heat-specific hair products, like shampoos, conditioners, masks, sprays, and creams, that will help keep your hair healthy even with regular straightening. These can be either used before, during, or after the straightening process.
What materials are used in flat irons?
Flat irons can be made of many different sorts of materials. The cheapest, lowest quality flat irons will have plastic handles and aluminum, tin, or another metal on the plates. These basic flat irons only emit heat to flatten the cuticle. Higher quality flat irons have plates made of titanium, ceramic, or tourmaline. All of these materials emit negative ions and infrared heat that help your hair heal during the straightening process, as well as offer more even heating. Some straighteners have a ceramic coated plate, which means that the plates are actually made of metal, but are then coated in ceramic.
What do negative ions and infrared heat do?
Your hair contains positive ions; these positively charged particles open the cuticle, leading to moisture loss, frizz, and damage. Negative ions are negatively charged particles that counteract the effects of positively charged particles, closing the follicle and sealing in moisture, leaving your hair shiny, healthy, and sleek. Infrared heat comes from infrared rays; these are able to penetrate deep into the hair follicle and absorb water from inside the cuticle, leaving more moisture close to the shaft, so your hair maintains a healthy, moisturized look.
What are the benefits of ceramic?
Ceramic is one of the most widely-used materials in higher quality flat irons. Ceramic plates offer a smooth, gently glide through your hair and emit a high amount of negative ions. Ceramic plates are gentle on all hair types, and will suit users with fine hair or coarse hair equally. Ceramic also helps distribute heat evenly, so you won’t unevenly straightened hair. Full ceramic plates are the best choice for harnessing the full effects of ceramic; ceramic coated plates are still better than straight aluminum plates, but may be prone to chipping and cracking, which will reduce the benefits of even heating and smooth gliding. Ceramic plates are generally mid-range in terms of price, and are the cheaper option for high-quality hair straighteners.
What are the benefits of titanium?
Titanium also provides very good even heating and steady temperatures. Titanium emits more negative ions than ceramic does. Titanium is more useful for users who have coarse, thick, hard-to-straighten hair, and may be too intense for fine hair. Users with thin hair will want to make sure that their titanium iron has low heat settings.
What are the benefits of tourmaline?
Tourmaline is a crushed stone that is infused into a ceramic or titanium plate, and is found in the most high-quality straighteners on the market. It emits the highest level of infrared heat and negative ions. Tourmaline is especially useful for coarse, frizzy hair for this reason. It is also the quickest material for straightening; it can straighten a section of hair in as little as 25 seconds. Tourmaline irons will generally be the most expensive ones you can buy.
What does “nano” mean?
Many flat irons advertise “nano-titanium” plates. “Nano” essentially means very small: any product that has “nano” materials uses superfine versions of those materials. Nano-titanium will include microscopic titanium particles embedded into a ceramic or other type of plate; this increases the efficacy of the iron without having to expose your hair to pure titanium, and can result in a faster, smoother straightening process.
What temperature should my straightener be?
Temperatures on flat irons generally range from 200 degrees to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Some straighteners are pre-set, with only one temperature option. Depending on their temperature, this may not be a problem for users with average hair, but those with very thin or thick hair will definitely want to get a straightener that offers a range of temperatures. The thinner your hair, the lower the temperature you should use, and vice versa with thick hair. You should also use lower temperatures if you have damaged or treated hair. Almost no one should use a straightener at 450 degrees.
What plate size should I buy?
Flat irons usually have plates ranging from 1 to 3 inches wide. The wider your plates, the more hair you can straigten comfortably in one section. While 1-inch plates are actually suitable for all users, longer hair can be benefitted by a wider plate, which will cover more surface area. The longer your hair, the wider plates you’ll want. Wider plates do limit styling options, as they are not as easy to maneauver for curls and flips. Wider plates are also more difficult to use near your roots. If you have long hair now but often cut it, or have short hair you are thinking about growing long, you should invest in thinner plates anyway.
What features should I look for in a flat iron?
Besides the practical considerations of material, temperature, and plate size, straighteners come with a variety of features that can make them easier to use. Good features include a swivel cord, automatic shut-off, and temperature recovery systems. A swivel cord is a must for styling; these allow you to twist the iron comfortably during use without snagging the cord. Automatic shut-off is a great feature that can take a lot of worry out of your day if you are prone to forgetfulness, as it shuts the iron off at a pre-set time such as 45 or 60 minutes. A temperature recovery system helps you achieve more even straightening as it prevents heat loss during use; since your straightener is exposed and giving off heat, it’s possible for the heat to fluctuate during use. A temperature recovery system, whether it’s a digital monitor or special heaters, prevents this.
Can I straighten my hair when it’s wet?
In general, no, straightening wet hair can cause damage to the shaft and will hurt your hair. Certain straighteners, such as some Remington straighteners, have steam vents that will dry and straighten your hair simultaneously.
What sort of upkeep do flat irons require?
Hair straighteners require very little upkeep. You should clean them regularly by wiping down the plates, and be careful not to damage the power cord by wrapping it very tightly around the unit when putting it away for storage, but other than that you will not need to do much to keep your flat iron in good shape.
Can I use a flat iron every day?
You should not straighten your hair every day. No matter how high quality your flat iron is, it still affects your hair, and you should always give your hair a day or two to recover before exposing it to heat again.