When I began the search to find the best flat irons for natural hair I thought it would end with one quick trip to the search engine box...Oh was I wrong. I dived the irons into a massive list - -ceramic, ionic, tourmaline, titanium, nano, and silver, only to come out with one conclusion. Flat irons all do the same thing, but the results will vary depending on the brand and how you use them. Before we get to the 'how' part, make sure your flat iron has the following:
1.) 100% Ceramic - Not Nano!
Now be careful here! Even the high-end professional grade flat irons will advertise ceramic plates but unless they say "100% ceramic" the plates are coated with a ceramic layer. Most high-end flat irons (e.g. Chi, FHI, Babyliss, Sedu etc.) have a thicker coat unlike cheaper grocery store brands. In addition, most quality flat irons last longer. If you've ever purchased a poor quality flat iron, (like myself) you will notice the ceramic or fake coating on the plates wearing off leaving the metal exposed. Using a flat iron with exposed metal will fry your hair beyond belief. Ceramic and now tourmaline-ceramic plates are great conductors of heat so your hair will turn out silky and smooth.
**Hint: Look at the instruction manual that comes with your flat iron. By law, companies must disclose whether or not the flat iron is full ceramic or ceramic coated. 100% ceramic plates are not cheap...The cheapest I found was $239.00! Most people shy away from them because of the initial and long-term cost. Think about how many times you've dropped a flat iron or other heat styling tool??? Me, several times. If you drop a 100% ceramic flat iron it will break.
Beware of the word 'nano'...it sounds cool, but it's not!!! Nano means small, so if your flat iron says "Nano-Ceramic" you are getting a small amount of ceramic. Marketers are so tricky! Remember, price does not always determine quality.
2.) Added Tourmaline or Titanium
When added to a ceramic flat iron or alone, tourmaline or titanium produces more negative ions so your hair turns out shinier, silkier, and smoother.
3.) Small Plates - No More than 1 1/2 inches Wide
Natural hair is thick and requires you to flat iron your hair in small sections for the best results. Plates to large will not smooth out your curly roots.
4.) Ability to Change Temperature Setting
You may ask yourself, "Don't all flat irons come with a varied temperature setting?" The answer is surprisingly no. I found several high-end flat irons (e.g. Chi original) with only one temperature setting, on average 400 degrees. You can kiss your healthy curls good-bye if you always flat iron at that temperature! Having a varied temperature setting will allow you to see what temperature works best for you. For straight looks, you should almost never need any temperature higher than 350 degrees.
**Bonus Tip: Let your flat iron heat up. Most women will immediately test their flat iron after turning it on and if it's not hot they crank up the heat. Wait a few seconds to a minute for your flat iron to reach the proper temperature setting. Think of it as preheating an oven.
1.) Wait until your hair is completely dry...NEVER use a flat iron on wet hair.
2.) Depending on your hair texture, you may want to blow-dry on the low to cool setting to loosen up your curl pattern. This will help you achieve a straighter look.
3.) If possible, use the lowest heat setting on your flat iron to create your desired style.
4.) ALWAYS use a good heat protector to reduce the risk of heat damage.
5.) Flat iron sections of your hair no bigger than 1 inch. Start from the roots and work your way down to the ends. Never go over the same section more than twice.
Believe it or not that's it...Using a flat iron is not rocket science, but most forget that regardless of the brand and type of hair you have they ALL cause damage. The severity of the damage depends on the quality of the flat iron, technique, and more importantly how often you flat iron your hair.
Are YOU using a quality flat iron? If so, which brand?
This article was originally published on October 2010 and has been updated for grammar and clarity.