The World of Flat Irons: A Buyer’s Guide
As a stylist, looking my best is essential. But I haven’t always had perfect hair. My teenage years were a succession of disastrous cuts, bilious blow-waves and sticky gels: all attempts to tame the frizz. Then an aunt bought me my very first pair of ceramic flat irons and I’ve never looked back!
Nowadays, a pair of good flat irons are the single most important styling tool in my bag of tricks. I can use them to curl, wave, straighten and to tame the bane of my life: frizz! When I invest in a new pair, for myself or for my salon, I know exactly what I’m looking for. And I also love to keep up with the play on new materials and technology and read straighteners reviews when new ones hit the market!
If you’ve landed on my page because you’re wondering which hair straighteners to buy, you’re in the right place! Keep reading for a crash course on materials, pricing, plate size, temperature and style.
Everything You Need to Know About Flat Irons
When you first start looking for a pair of good flat irons, it can be really confusing! There are so many options, different flat irons materials and wildly varying prices. And the world of flat irons seems to have a language all of its own!
In this buyer’s guide, I hope to make all of these confusing aspects crystal clear so, when you look at flat irons listings on sites like Amazon, you’ll actually be able to make sense of what each product has to offer.
The ceramic plate was launched onto the professional market nearly 20 years ago and rocked the world of hair straightening with iron. This material is excellent for straightening because it heats up quickly and evenly and holds the heat really well.
If you want a classic, simple model that will give you a reliable result, a flat ceramic iron, rather than ceramic coated plates, are the tried and true option. The original ceramic straightener is the CHI Air Expert Classic Flat Iron. It gets the full 5 stars from me simply because Chi was the very first to release a ceramic flat iron so we all owe them so much!
Yeah, I know it’s a mouthful! But tourmaline, a crushed gemstone used to coat ceramic plates is widely thought of to be a miracle material and many claim that tourmaline coated plates are the least damaging flat irons. This is because the ceramic plate provides the even heat while the tourmaline coating ensures that it’ll slip down the hair in one pass without damaging hot spots or the need to dry out your hair by going over and over it.
The added bonus of tourmaline is that it activates negative ions which fight frizz-causing static!
If you’re looking for a good tourmaline flat iron, you can’t go past the Solia Tourmaline Flat Irons. This straightener gets 4.5 out of 5 stars from me because the dynamic alignment system ensures that the plates press together really well while the negative ions go to work on your frizz!
BUY Tourmaline Straighteners – AMAZON –
Titanium plates are the latest flat iron material to hit the market. Basically, the difference between ceramic and titanium flat irons is that scientists have found titanium is a better conductor of negative ions. So if weather conditions and static play havoc with your hair, titanium might be the way to go.
One titanium model that’s getting rave reviews at the moment is the Rusk RSK686/RSK732 Str8 Iron which features solid titanium plates as well as nifty little features like an LED read-out and super slick Sol-Gel plates to pull easily through any hair type. It gets 4 out of 5 stars from me because, while it’s excellent on long hairstyles, it has a little too much housing to use on shorter styles.
BUY Titanium Straighteners – AMAZON –
Wet to Dry Straighteners
People who find it hard to make time for morning styling find the idea of a wet to dry flat iron really appealing. Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to skip the hairdryer stage and get right down to styling? Wet to dry technology is fairly new so it’s hard to gauge how effective it will be over a long period of time.
If you want to take the plunge and give wet to dry straighteners a go, I recommend trying the BaByliss Pro Wet-To-Dry Nano Straightener because it retains all the professional features of the classic BaByliss models with the added bonus of being able to use it on damp (not soaking wet!) hair. It gets a tentative 4 out of 5 stars from me because I’m still not convinced that a wet to dry model can last as long as a dry one. The jury’s out for me: I’ll wait to see how the technology develops!
BUY Wet to Dry Straighteners – AMAZON –
Professional straighteners are the high end models used in salons as well as being available for home use. I definitely believe that the extra $80 or $100 you spend on a professional model are well worth it in terms of both effectiveness and longevity.
Brand name does play a central role when shopping for the best professional flat iron as a brand’s reputation speaks volumes about the quality of their product. In my opinion, the word “professional” gets used a little too generously by some companies (e.g the Conair “Professional” range are still drugstore straighteners!) – always read the specs carefully and don’t be fooled by the word.
My absolute gold standard in professional straighteners is the Bio Ionic OnePass Iron. It gets a 5 star rating from me because I use it every single day and love the way that it slides effortlessly through my hair, locks in moisture and fights frizz.
There are a wide range of brands out there which cater to the lower end of the market. Brands like Revlon, Conair and Remington all make passable irons in the $20 – $60 range. Often, these models have a ceramic coating rather than a solid ceramic plate and these are not as effective at distributing heat.
Just remember that the old “you get what you pay for” mantra is usually true. If you’re shopping for cheap hair straighteners be aware that they’re not as likely to last as long as a professional model. And, once you’ve splashed out for a few replacements over a 3 or 4 year period, you may find that you would’ve been better off investing in the more expensive (and more effective!) model in the first place!
If you do decide to buy a budget model, I recommend going for the Remington S5500 Digital Hair Straightener. It gets 3.5 stars from me because it retails for under $20 and reviewers say that they are happy with the straightening results they get. It’s not a bad option if you’re not an every day straightener (like me) but just want something for the occasional night out.
The ideal temperature for hair straighteners is a hotly debated topic and most models can reach temperatures of anywhere between 175 degrees and 450 degrees Fahrenheit. In my experience, the right temperature of hair straighteners depends on your hair needs. If your hair is thin or damaged, it’s vital that you keep the temperature lower to avoid totally frying it. If your hair is stubborn, coarse or very tightly curled, you’ll need a little more heat. Note that hair will combust above 450 degrees so you definitely don’t need anything hotter than that!
Some models, such as the Karmin G3 Salon Professional 1″ Flat Iron include a digital panel which reads the current temperature, so you’ll always know exactly how much heat you’re putting in your hair. This makes them the ideal hair straightener for thin hair so I give them the full 5 stars.
Small Plates or Large?
The size of straightener plates can vary from a tiny half inch to a wide 2.5 inches. The size you choose depends on your hair type and your styling needs.
If you want hair straighteners for short hair you’re best to go with a small plate size as it gives you the precision to work in close to the roots. Smaller plates are also best for curling hair because there’s less housing to get in the way of wrapping strands around the hair straightening tongs.
If you decide to go for the versatility and precision of small plates, take a look at the Babyliss Pro Nano Titanium Digital Memory Flat Iron. It’s small enough for any job and perfect for curling so it gets the full 5 stars from me.
If you’re looking for the best flat iron for long hair you’ll want to go for something with wider plates so that you can work more quickly and comfortably through large sections of hair. Wide plates are also best for flat ironing natural hair that’s thick or coarse because they tend to grip better and penetrate more easily.
If you prefer the speed and comfort or larger plates, my personal favorite is the Croc Infrared Iron 1.5 Inch Wide. It’s wide enough to work through thick hair quickly and the unique design makes it more comfortable to hold. It gets 4 out of 5 stars from me.
Style and Design
Hair ironing at home doesn’t have to be plain and boring! If you like your home appliances to have a little pizazz, there are hundreds of colourful, funky styles out there from the very best straightening iron brands. Look out for limited edition models that deliver the same great service while adding a touch of fun to your dressing table.
Check out the CHI PRO 1″ Ceramic Flat Iron in Blue Leopard for some funky animal print or perhaps the CHI PRO LIMITED EDITION 1″ Ceramic Flat Iron in Moroccan Sunrise if you want to release your inner hippy. Both these models retain all the best features of the classic Chi and get 5 stars from me!
Are You Ready to Shop?
I’m pretty sure that, in 90% of the negative hair straightener reviews I read, the buyer has had a bad experience because they’ve bought the wrong flat iron for their needs. Being well informed and knowing what you’re looking for is the key to the quest for the best flatirons for your hair.
Now that you’re up with all the lingo, you’ll be able to make a much more informed decision about which hair straighteners brands and models you should go for.
Why not explore my page and check out my hair straightener reviews, flat iron recommendations for different hair types and even some handy tips on how to use a flat iron?