If you're in the market for a flat iron you probably already know the options are mind blowing.
In addition to a dizzying array of manufacturer's who make irons, there are huge lists of features, coating materials, heat options.
There are also claims about positive and negative ions, list of recommended plate sizes and questions about compatibility with hair type, texture, length and styling needs.
This article will help you create your own check list of how to buy the best flat iron for your hair type, texture, condition and styling needs.
It's important to note that there is no one best iron out there. There is only the best iron for your hair type, texture, condition, general styling needs, budget and personal needs.
Types Of Flat Iron Coating Materials
Flat irons are usually coated with a variety of materials designed to produce specific results when the irons are heated. Although the base plates are created from some type of metal, the plates are often coated for a variety of benefits.
Ceramic And Tourmaline Features
Ceramic and tourmaline coatings produce negative ions when the plates are heated.
Ceramic coated irons are designed to glide over strands more easily and to transfer heat in a more controlled fashion.
Crushed tourmaline gemstones are used as a covering on flat iron plates to create a flow of negative ions which actually help smooth hair without minimal heat.
While ceramic and tourmaline coated plates are a great technological advantage, the option is ideal for tresses which are thick, unmanageable or requires frequent straightening (daily or several times a week).
Ceramic and tourmaline coated straighteners are considered the best option for minimizing damage and providing optimal results.
Emeralds, Jade And Other Options
Although the ceramic, tourmaline coated irons are the most popular, there are other options including irons coated with other crushed jewels such as emeralds or jade. Both are semi-precious stones and are designed to help evenly transfer head and offer heightened smoothing advantages.
There are some opinions about jade or other precious stones offering more advantages than crushed tourmalines but again this boils down to personal opinion and individual straightening needs.
There are also steam infused irons which combine the heat of the iron with water to produce steam. Steam irons unlike traditional non-steam irons are primarily designed to be used on damp hair.
The theory behind steam irons is that they cut out the need to blow dry hair while allowing the steam to soften hair and seal the cuticle.
Some steam irons come equipped with small water tanks which dispense steam to hair that is bone dry.
Steam irons, like regular irons, are usually coated with ceramic plates but contain special vents to assist in the transformation of water from the strands into steam.
Positive Versus Negative Ions
When tresses carry positive electrical charges resulting from dry friction and natural movement of the hair, the strands may become difficult to style because they spread. read out and become difficult to style.
Positive electrical charges applied to hair cuticles cause them to open, allowing natural oils to be leeched from the strands. The result? Dull, damaged, unhealthy hair.
Negative ions cancel positive electrical charges, thus smoothing, relaxing and repairing your hair.
Titanium is recognized for its high strength-to-weight ratio and is used on flat irons plates to give them strength and the ability to transfer heat effectively.
The relatively high melting point (over 1,649 °C or 3,000 °F) makes titanium plates very useful as a refractory metal to provide a stable and consistent heat source.
Benefits Of Infared Irons
Most experts believe infared irons do not offer anything special to flat irons. The reasoning is that all heated objects produce far infrared rays.
Irons which claim to have special infared elements are not necessarily special in any way. Do not base your selection of an iron based on this feature.
Selecting Best Flat Iron For Your Hair
Contrary to major marketing hype, there is not best or worst flat iron. There is a best iron for your hair type, texture, current condition and overall styling needs.
Every head of hair which requires a flat iron for styling will have a unique set of requirements which may or may not be similar to other iron consumers.
Flat Iron Sizes
Flat irons are organized and marketing according to the size of the plates.
The size of iron you buy should be directly related to your hair's type, texture, length and styling requirements.
Your own hair should be matched to the plate size. The size of the sections you iron should be taken into consideration as well.
Consider the following guidelines when selecting your flat iron:
If you have stick straight hair which needs minimal de-frizzing and smoothing you might select a small iron which is 1 to 1 1/2" in width.
Remember the smaller the size of the iron and the plates, the lighter it will be and the easier to work with. Also, the smaller the plates and the size of the section of hair being iron, the sleeker the results.
Small sizes are also recommended for hair which is chemically straightened.
Small sizes are lighter, easier to use and more versatile while bigger ones work faster and save time with long coarse hair, but they are not as user-friendly and generally on the heavy side.
Most Popular Flat Iron Sizes
Based on sales data the most popular flat irons sold are 1 1/4" and 1 1/2 inch. These plate sizes work for the majority of hot iron users.
Flat Iron Temperature Settings
One of the most important features of a hot iron is an adjustable temperature dial.
Remember that different hair types, textures, conditions (normal to damaged), lengths and lengths requires different temperatures.
Recommended Flat Iron Temperatures For Hair Textures
Normal Hair 360-380 degrees Fahrenheit (180 - 190 Celsius) Very coarse, thick, curly or ethnic hair 380-410 Fahrenheit (190 - 210 Celsius) Bleached, fragile, damaged or fine hair Below 360 Fahrenheit (180 Celsius)
Flat Iron Damage Concerns
How can I reduce the hair damage from flat iron?
First of all, it is extremely important that you set the right temperature for your hair. Try a few settings starting from low to high until you find a setting that straighten your hair fast and well enough while not burning your hair.
Use flat iron heat protection spray before each styling section.
Professional Flat Irons Versus Consumer Irons
When it comes time to buy an iron should you go with a consumer or professional brand?
A lot depends on the following factors:
1. How frequently you will use your iron? 2. Your desired iron life expectancy 3. Special Heat requirements 4. Hair styling requirements 5. Your budget (yes, this makes a difference) 6. Professional hairdresser recommendations
Some companies which specialize in selling flat irons will claim the plates on consumer irons are not really ceramic or tourmaline, but in reality provide painted aluminum plates.
Is this true? Although there are always exceptions to every rule, this is more fantasy than fact.
If their literature claims their plates are ceramic, tourmaline or coated with special materials, the irons will most likely contain those coatings.
No-name consumer brand irons may be suspect at times and there have been cases of the plates only containing paint which may peel after use. Also, the cheapest consumer irons may burn hair, especially if inexpensive heaters are used which does not maintain a constant heat temperature.
If you decide to buy a consumer iron make sure you buy from a reputable company such as Conair, Remington, Hot Tools or similar. Reputable companies offer warranties on their irons which can range from several months to years. Steer clear of unproven consumer brands.
If you notice any problems with your iron while it is under warranty call the manufacturer holding the warranty and they will make arrangements to ship you a new iron or offer some other settlement.
If you use the iron frequently, want it to last a long time and have unusual heat requirements consider buying a professional iron which will often cost 2-3x what a consumer iron will cost.
Consumer Iron Tips
Some consumers have found only one iron is not enough. They often need a few different irons to achieve their styling goals. If you are in doubt whether you should invest in a professional iron or a consumer iron, buy one of both.
If the consumer iron plates start to flake, crack or catch your hair, return the iron under any warranty options to the manufacturer and opt for a different brand if you buy another consumer iron.
Extending Life Of Flat Iron
Believe or not many flat iron users do not unplug the iron right after its been used. Some people leave their irons plugged in all the time and just turn off the heat source. To extend the life of the iron always unplug it.
Other life extension tips include:
1. Clean the iron's plate with a special cleaner after each styling session to maintain the plates. 2. Avoid wrapping power cords around the actual iron
There is no such thing as the best flat iron or straightener. There is however a range of hot irons which will be best for your individual hair.
Hot irons should be evaluated and purchased based on your own hair type, texture, styling needs, current conditioner, frequency of use and any other custom needs
While it's always helpful to read reviews and do research, always buy an iron because it seems most compatible for you and your hair. What works great for one might not work well at all for you and your hair.
Do you need a professional iron or a consumer iron? Again the answer depends on you and your needs.
Some consumer brands make a professional model. That might be a good starting point for anyone not sure of their ultimate ideal hot tool.
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- Revised Date: 05/30/10