When it comes to achieving sleek, smooth, shiny hair, most people automatically turn to the most popular, tried-and-true of styling tools – a flat iron. But what many people don’t know is that a flat iron offers much more than just the ability to straighten unruly locks. Most people are pleasantly surprised to learn that few styling tools offer the versatility and effectiveness of a flat iron.
Able to straighten even the unruliest curls yet also create smooth flowing styles that offer volume and shine, a flat iron is a mighty weapon in any woman’s arsenal of beauty products. When it comes to styling your hair, your imagination is the only limit when it comes to a flat iron.
As adaptable and diverse as a flat iron may be, there are some basics you must understand to get the most out of your styling tool purchase. Since high-quality flat irons cost well upward of $100, purchasing the perfect flat iron requires a bit of research and a thorough understanding of your needs to find the best flat iron for you.
This article will help you understand the variety of flat irons features available on the market today, and offer some guidelines on choosing the best flat iron options for your specific hair type.
Types of Flat Irons
Even though they may look quite similar, there are subtle and not-so-subtle differences that distinguish a good flat iron from an amazing one. While each iron will vary in overall appearance (color, size, features), the primary characteristic that distinguishes a flat iron’s quality is the plate material.
Usually made of aluminum that is sometimes gold-plated to create a more dramatic appearance, basic metal flat irons are usually inexpensive with few or no heat control options. These most basic of flat irons offer an inexpensive choice for straightening your hair, but buyer beware. These irons often operate at heat levels that may be too high or low for your hair type, resulting in possible damage – often in a matter of seconds.
Moving up the price and quality scale, ceramic is a hugely popular material for flat iron plates for a number of excellent reasons. Ceramic glides easily through the hair without pulling or tugging, thus reducing damage and breakage to delicate hair strands. Ceramic is also an excellent conductor of heat, resulting in fast and even heating of the entire plate surface. This even and consistent heat means you need to make fewer passes with the flat iron to achieve the desired results. Less heat on your strands means less possible damage. Finally, ceramic produces negative ions which counteract the positive ions in dry, damaged hair. This is known as ionic technology. You will find ionic technology in higher-end flat irons and other styling tools.
Harnessing the power of titanium combined with ceramic heat, titanium plates offer strength, durability, and high temperature stability all in a very lightweight package. Titanium can handle extremely high temperatures while simultaneously providing even heat distribution. Scratch resistant and highly durable, titanium plates offers years of unwavering and versatile performance, which is why professionals around the world rely on titanium plate flat irons to create amazing results on all hair types, lengths and styles.
Further incorporating the power of ionic technology to enhance smooth and lasting results, science has made possible the addition of a mineral proven to improve the hair styling experience - tourmaline. This crystal boron silicate mineral helps to smooth the hair during the styling process, by introducing six times more ionic technology than ceramic alone. Tourmaline emits additional negative ions that counteract even more of the positive ions found in your hair. When the positive ions are neutralized by the negative ions, the hair becomes smoother and shinier. Tourmaline also seals moisture into each individual hair strand, thus helping ward of frizz that is the enemy of any hairstyle.
To maximize the benefits of this wonder mineral, tourmaline is first crushed into a fine powder and then baked into the plates during the manufacturing process. The addition of tourmaline takes ceramic plates to the next level in terms of flat iron performance.
Which Type Is Best?
The flat iron that is best for you is the flat iron that works with your hair type to give you the lasting results you desire! Of course, higher-end flat irons maximize the benefits of each performance material to give you the most versatility and performance available on the market today.
The ideal flat iron leverages the benefits of ionic technology combined with adjustable, infrared heat – a special way of heating that penetrates the hair to heat it from within, producing superior results with minimal damage to delicate strands.
Best Flat Iron For Your Hair Type
Not surprisingly, selecting the best flat iron for you will depend primarily on the condition and nature of your hair. Whether you have coarse, thick, curly hair or fine, chemically treated, damaged hair or anything in between, your hair’s present condition will be the primary factor in determining which flat iron is right for you. A secondary consideration is the length of your hair.
Before you begin the selection process, it is important to understand that flat irons fall into two general categories – fixed heat irons that heat up to a predetermined temperature that cannot be changed and variable heat irons that allow you to choose the exact heat setting each time. The one that will work for you depends on your hair type and condition.
Normal, Medium-Thick and/or Wavy Hair
Those with normal, healthy hair that isn’t too frizzy or damaged have the widest variety of options when choosing a flat iron. Fixed-temperature irons (which usually reach a maximum temperature of around 360 degrees Fahrenheit) are suitable for this hair type, since the hair can tolerate higher heat settings.
However, because normal hair is healthy and strong, a variable temperature iron (that usually ranges in settings from around 170 degrees Fahrenheit to 400+ degrees Fahrenheit) is usually the better choice since healthy hair is equally responsive to both higher and lower heat settings required to achieve certain styles. A general rule of thumb to maintain healthy hair is to use the least heat possible to achieve the desired results.
Coarse, Thick and/or Curly Hair
This type of hair is the least susceptible to damage from high heat settings and, in fact, often needs higher temperatures (above 360 degrees Fahrenheit) to achieve desired smoothing and straightening results. Many times, coarse, thick or frizzy/curly hair is not especially responsive to lower heat settings, resulting in frustration when a fixed heat flat iron is used to straighten the hair.
Fine, Damaged and/or Chemically Treated Hair
This type of hair is the most responsive to heat and, given the hair’s delicate nature, is actually prone to damage when higher heat settings are used. Typically, this type of hair is easily styled with much lower heat settings than its coarse, thick or curly cousins. In fact, women with this type of hair should opt for a variable heat flat iron to avoid damage from temperatures that are too high. Often times, settings as low as 170 degrees Fahrenheit are all that is needed to achieve sleek, smooth results on this type of hair.
Walk into any store that sells flat irons or browse any online collection, and the first thing you’ll notice is the wide variety of plate sizes. From super-skinny plates to big, fat ones, the variety of sizes can be overwhelming and even confusing. Generally, plate size falls into three general categories. Which one is right for you depends mostly on the length of your hair, although hair condition will play a role, too.
Less than 1 inch
The best choice for short hair, since the plate is small and allows for even the shortest layers to be effectively smoothed and styled. Even men who want a spiky hair look can effectively use flat irons of this size.
1 inch to 11⁄4 inch
Excellent for hair that is medium-length to shoulder-length, this is the most typical size plate found in most flat irons. It is also the most versatile, being equally effective for short, medium or even long hair in certain cases.
11⁄2 inch to 2+ inches
Suitable primarily for long hair, this plate size allows more hair to be smoothed with each pass thus avoiding unnecessary heat exposure (and possible damage) that comes with having to pass the iron over the same strands multiple times. Of course, everyone’s hair is different and you may find that a combination of plate size and temperature works better than others for your specific hair. Many people find that the most versatile option is a flat iron with variable heat settings and a 1” plate.
Buying a new flat iron can be a big decision, especially when you are considering a more high-end iron. Since you want to maximize the longevity and effectiveness of your new purchase, there are certain things you should keep in mind before making your choice.
Besides plate size and the other options already listed, don’t forget to look for these other important features:
• Long, Tangle-Free Cord. Nothing is more frustrating than a cord that is too short or that tangles when you maneuver the flat iron during styling sessions. Look for a cord that is at least 3 meters in length and one that incorporates a swivel at the base of the flat iron, so that using your new flat iron is easy and convenient.
• Worldwide Voltage. Even if you don’t travel often, buying a flat iron that can adapt to worldwide voltage options eliminates the need for you to purchase a second iron when you leave home. Make sure the flat iron you purchase can handle voltage from 100-240V, so that you can use a single iron in any country.
• Slim Design. Make sure the flat iron you choose is comfortable and easy to maneuver with one hand. Look for lightweight irons that have anti-slip edges and an ergonomic design that is comfortable in either hand.
• Automatic Shut-Off. Nothing instills fear into the heart of any woman like wondering if she remembered to unplug her flat iron before leaving the house. It is an unfortunate fact that many house fires are caused by forgotten styling appliances. When you select a flat iron with an automatic shut-off, this worry becomes a thing of the past.
• Travel Case/Heat Mat. Whether you are using your flat iron at home or during a weekend away, it is convenient and important to have a travel case that can also be used as a heat-resistant mat, to ensure that you can quickly and safely put down or store your flat iron.
• Warranty. When making a significant purchase such as a high-end flat iron, you want to ensure that there is a solid warranty backing up your expensive product. Always make sure the flat iron you buy is covered by at least a 3 Year Manufacturer’s Warranty just in case something goes wrong.