Best Flat Iron For Natural Hair In 2017
Most of us don’t just wake up with sleek, smooth, frizz-free hair. Chances are if you want the modern look of a pin-straight style, you’ll need a really good flat iron. Putting your hair between two scorching hot plates in the name of beauty is a necessary evil, a lot goes into the process of deciding which flat iron is right for you.
That said, not all flat irons are created equal. When selecting a flat iron, you’ll want to think about choosing the tool that is safest for your hair, will last the longest and has the best level of heat control.
Ultra-straight locks with a mirror-shine finish can be yours with the right flat iron. To support your straight-style goals, here’s a handy guide to help you navigate the ins and outs of this powerful styling tool.
What is a Flat Iron?
Flat irons are one of the oldest hair styling tools around. In fact, women used to straighten their hair with a clothing iron in the name of beauty.
Today's more modern (and much safer!) flatirons allow you to press and straighten hair between two plates coated in a heat conducting material.
Does Flat Ironing Cause Damage?
It can. When used too often or incorrectly, flat ironing can damage the inner and outer layer of your locks. Excessive heat can cause the moisture in the inner hair cuticle to boil and crack the hair’s surface, resulting in dullness.
The outer layer also cracks from overheating and causes dry, damaged hair. To avoid damage, select the right quality-grade flat iron and use only as directed. In general, using a heat protectant before styling and making sure hair is well moisturized will ward off damage.
For more on making sure you’re using your flat iron without damaging your hair, here are some tips from Teen Vogue.
How to Use a Flat Iron:
There are lots of ways to use a flat iron to create new and different hairstyles from curling to crimping. But for a traditional, salon-style straight look you should:
1. Start with a heat protectant to lock moisture in hair and prevent damage.
2. Air-dry hair until it’s about 80% dry and then blow out the remaining 20% of moisture with a brush. You’ll want to let hair dry naturally as long as possible without heat to reduce the amount of time your hair is exposed to high temperatures. Brushing through for the last 20% of drying will remove tangles so you can begin on an even surface.
3. Spritz a pre-straightening spray over individual sections of hair. You may want to try an anti-frizz serum if flyaways and humidity are your biggest concern.
4. Clip hair up into individual sections using bobby pins or alligator clips so you can work easily with smaller sections. It’s easiest to start at the base of hair near the neck.
5. Make sure your hair straightener is set to your desired temperature. If you’re using a straightener you’ve never used before, try experimenting with smaller pieces at the base of the neck to make sure the temperature is correct for your specific hair type.
6. Take pieces of hair and sweep the flat iron over them in slow, long movements beginning close to the root line. For a demonstration of how to section, clip and iron hair, check out this tutorial:
7. Sweep the flat iron over hair several times if needed. The temperature and type of plate used for your flat iron may mean you need to sweep from root to tip several times or only once.
8. As you unclip and straighten each section, you may want to spritz with a setting lotion or hair spray directly after straightening, so hair receives the setting product while it's still hot.
9. Once you’ve straightened all sections and have a head of shiny, smooth locks, make sure not to touch your hair too much. Oil from fingertips can make straight hair look greasy.
How to Choose the Right Flat Iron:
While all flat irons aim to achieve silky, straight hair, not all flat irons are made of the same stuff.
The plates of a flat iron can be constructed out of a range of material including ceramics, tourmaline, titanium and silicone rubber.
Some are even coated in Teflon! The type of material your flat iron is made from will to some degree, determine the results of style. So what difference does each material make?
This is the most traditional coating for a flat iron. In fact, the ceramic flat iron has been popular for over 20 years. This material is excellent at attaining and maintaining heat.
This is important because if the heat in your flat iron doesn’t distribute evenly at a consistent temperature, it can lead to “hot spots” that cause overheated or even burnt patches of hair. Additionally, the plates of a ceramic iron are super smooth, so your hair won’t tug or tear.
You might be more familiar with tourmaline in your jewelry box. However, this gemstone can conduct serious heat and is one of the newest developments in heat styling.
While a flat iron with plates coated in genuine tourmaline can run high in the price range, it might be worth it because of the durability of this material.
When taken care of properly, a tourmaline flat iron will last years and years. That also makes this material ideal for those of us who flat iron every single day and need a tool that can stand up to use.
If you’re in a hurry every morning and need a flat iron that heats up quickly and stays hot, titanium is the material for you. Flat irons made with a titanium coating are also lighter, so you won’t exhaust your wrist (great for those with very long hair that takes a while to style).
Most importantly, titanium flat irons conduct less heat than other options, so they’re less damaging to hair. Therefore, titanium is the right choice if you have split-ends or somewhat damaged hair that need to be treated delicately.
Does Material Matter?
In short, yes! Beware of flat irons made of glass or metal. These materials frequently cause damage to hair from hot spots or sudden spikes in the flat iron temperature. They also tend to be lower quality tools in general.
Finally, you might not want to purchase a flat iron coated with rubber or silicone unless you don’t intend to use it very often. These materials aren’t as durable as porcelain, titanium or tourmaline.
Special Features of Flat Irons
While many flat irons are straightforward ceramic plated styling tools, some offer extra features like “floating plates” and “ions.” Here’s what those features do for your hair:
Floating plates are flat iron plates that flexibly respond to the angle you’re straightening your hair at. This means that your flat iron will reach more hair in a shorter amount of time at a more even temperature. This will reduce your styling time and ensure your hair receives the same level of heat all around.
Lots of heat styling products have started to use the scientific sounding “ion,” but what is it exactly? Ionic hair tools produce negative ions that in turn help to dissipate water more quickly. Ionic products reduce the amount of frizz and leave hair smoother.
While all five of these straightening irons did an excellent job of creating a smooth, straight style, our favorite was Pretty MakeUp Professional Tourmaline Ionic Ceramic Flat Iron.
We found the combination of ceramic and tourmaline plates especially effective for straightening without leaving any damage to the hair shaft.
Even more, the ions seemed to keep frizz at bay, preventing the almost inevitable fly-aways inherent to straightening. Overall this product reached the highest levels of heat (470 degrees F) and seemed to be the most durable of the bunch.