A must-have beauty tool for women of all ages, and a styling device for fashion-conscious men. It's no secret flat irons have a well-deserved cult following. Typically used to straighten hair and smooth flyaways, you may be unaware that flat irons are also great for adding beach waves and loose curls to hair of all textures.
Should you have mid- to long-length locks, flat irons are a multipurpose appliance to tame your bed head on even the worst hair days. Read on to determine which flat iron will work best for you.
Considerations when choosing flat irons
When deciding between flat irons, the most important consideration is the quality of the plate. The plate is the metal fixture that presses, heats, and styles your hair. Some of the most popular materials for plates include ceramic, tourmaline, and titanium.
Ceramic plates are highly popular for their cheaper price and smoothing effects, but be aware that many ceramic plates are merely coated in ceramic, which leads to deterioration of the coating over time. For a top-of-the-line ceramic plate, purchase a flat iron made of pure ceramic.
Those who are worried about heat damage to their hair should look for tourmaline plates, which are known to be less damaging to delicate tresses. Titanium, a lightweight metal that heats up quickly, is the best plate coating for users with hair that is difficult to style, as the plates heat up quickly and are lauded for their styling capability.
Another important consideration is the temperature of the tool. Some models have adjustable temperatures while others are fixed, and it is imperative for your hair's health that you use the proper temperature for your hair type. Fine hair strands should be styled at 300 degrees F maximum to prevent burning or breakage, while thicker hair can withstand 300 to 400 degrees F. The thickest, most unruly locks can be styled at 450 degrees--the highest heat setting on most flat irons. Use caution not to apply heat too long, no matter what the temperature
The main feature to look for when purchasing a flat iron is the size of the plate, which ranges from 0.5 inches to 2.5 inches in width. Typically, the standard plate size on a flat iron is 1 inch, as it allows you the option to either straighten or curl your hair. However, users with short or fine hair should consider a plate that is narrower than 1 inch, as it can prevent hair damage and will be easier to control as you move it through the hair. Those with thick, curly hair may opt for a larger plate for its powerful heat and control.
When searching for a straightener try to find a model with automatic shut-off, as this will force the flat iron to automatically disable its heat source if it's left on by accident.
Another notable safety accessory is an adjustable temperature option, which is especially important for people with fine or thin hair, which can be badly damaged if the heat is too high. If your tresses are on the thinner side, consider buying a flat iron with adjustable temperature, including heat settings of less than 350 degrees F, to get the best, damage-free results.
Flat iron prices
Pricing for flat irons is pretty straightforward--if you want a tool that will style your hair quickly and healthily, you should plan to spend between $80 and $200. However, if you plan to use your flat iron infrequently and aren't willing to invest in a model that expensive, a $20 to $80 model should do the trick.
Other important details
The last consideration many consumers overlook when purchasing a flat iron is its level of comfort. For instance, users wanting to curl their hair with a flat iron should buy a model with a 360-degree swivel cord. Others may want a transportable straightener that can be easily packed for trips or used in a car; a cordless, battery-powered flat iron could certainly meet those needs.
Some flat irons also come with heat-safe bags to put a still-warm iron in for packing. Those who tend to habitually burn their hands while styling their hair should seek a model with intentional grip, or heat-proof gloves. Those needing a flat iron that can dry and straighten hair simultaneously should check out a wet-to-dry option.
Q: How can I avoid heat damage while styling my hair?
A: Heat protectant sprays and oils are typically recommended by professionals. However, avoid alcohol-based protectants or conditioners, as these can damage your hair.
Q: How can I curl my hair with a flat iron?
A: Divide your hair into small sections. For defined curls, place the iron close to the roots (careful not to touch your scalp) and without clamping down all the way on the hair, twist small sections of hair around the flat iron and hold a few seconds. If you want beach waves, try dividing your hair into larger sections using the same technique.
Flat irons we recommend
Best of the best: BaBylissPRO Nano Titanium-Plated Ionic Straightening Iron
Our take: Customers who want a flat iron recommended by professional stylists should check out this reliable model from BaBylissPRO.
What we like: Titanium plate coating offers users the highest styling performance while simultaneously protecting hair. Temperature adjusts up to 450 degrees.
What we dislike: Expensive, luxury brand.
Best bang for your buck: Remington 1" Flat Iron with Anti-Static Technology and Digital Controls
Our take: Those seeking an inexpensive model that will keep hair healthy will be happy with this popular flat iron.
What we like: Temperature adjusts up to 410 degrees. Titanium coating allows for easy styling on stubborn hair. Automatic shut-off feature.
What we dislike: Some complained the product smelled like cheap plastic in their first few uses.
Our take: This mid-range model is a go-to brand for customers who enjoy the smooth, silky finish offered by ceramic plates.
What we like: Buyers appreciate the product's durability. Can style various hair textures and thicknesses with its 450 degree heat capability.
What we dislike: Temperature cannot be adjusted with this particular model.
Moriah Lee is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
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