This post has some helpful information if you are not sure what type of flat iron is best for your hair. Perhaps you are a newbie, looking to buy your first straightener, or maybe you are just wanting to feel more confident that you are purchasing the ideal flat iron for your needs.
Here we cover the following:
- Different hair types
- Plate widths and what they mean for your hair
- Plate materials and who suits what
- Ideal temperature for your hair
Here is a guide on what to look for in a straightening iron for all the different hair types. This will hopefully help ease the pain of choosing an iron from the multitude available! By the end of this page you’ll be feeling more confident I’m sure.
Please note: All hair flat irons are to be used on dry hair only (unless they are designed specifically for wet-to-dry). They will fry your precious locks if used on wet hair!
Thin, Fine & Treated Hair
Temperature control is the key to successfully styling these types of hair with a heated appliance. Experts recommend that you start with a lower temp and then work your way up to a higher setting once you are confident your hair can tolerate it.
Overly high temperatures on thin, fine and treated hair is drying and can cause damage.
Your iron may be too hot it you start to notice dry tips, frizz, and split ends. This post covers ways you can help keep your hair healthy when using styling tools regularly.
Ideal Temperature: Adjustable temperature up to 400F should be sufficient. On thinner, finer and treated locks start on lowest setting first.
Ideal Plate Width: 1 inch is great, but for very fine, short or treated hair there are 0.5 inch plates available. Above 1 inch is suitable for long hair.
Ideal Plate Material: Pure ceramic or ceramic infused with tourmaline will lock in moisture, fight the frizz while protecting more delicate hair. Ionic is best for dry hair as it also seals in moisture and wont dry it out.
Thick, Curly, Frizzy & African American Hair
This type of hair is usually prone to tangles and snags since it can be quite unruly, coarse, and more textured than other hair types so you will want to look for a model that offers both high heat and protection. One that promises to lock in moisture and is ionized as this will protect your hair from frying.
For Frizzy & African American hair, a good professional straightener is the best option since professional irons are usually equipped with high temperature modes, more advanced plate technology and features that will be able to flatten and straighten hair with the least amount of damage.
Ideal Temperature: Thick hair demands a higher temp. Look for a model with adjustable temperature settings up to 450F. The thicker and coarser the hair, the higher the temperature needs to be to be able to straighten it as desired.
Ideal Plate Width: For thick long hair wider plates will achieve a better result as the heat is on the hair for longer. Longer plates on the iron can also come in handy to allow for larger sectioning, saving you time. Plates from 1 inch upwards to 2 inches wide are best.
Ideal Plate Material: If hair is healthy and very thick a titanium iron may be best as it heats up super quickly. The pure ceramic (as opposed to ceramic-coated) and tourmaline are also great options as they add shine, lock in moisture and are anti-frizz/static.
Normal or Medium Hair
When referring to a normal hair type, stylists usually mean that it is somewhere between the two types stated above.
Normal or medium is not too thick and not too thin, not too dry and not too oily, and with moderate resistance to damage. This hair is most flexible and can easily adapt to different styles.
Most straighteners will be suitable so it really comes down to hair length and what style options you are after.
Ideal Temperature: 200-400F should be sufficient. Always go with an iron with adjustable heat settings however.
Ideal Plate Width: Any is suitable and depends on whether you want to curl and straighten. 1 inch is the most common to flip, curl and straighten.
Ideal Plate Material: Any material will suit normal to medium hair. The choice is yours. Tourmaline-infused ceramic will retain moisture, reduce fly-ways and provide that salon sleek shine.
Choosing the Right Plate Width for Your Hair Type
The three different hair types have different needs when it comes to plate width. Naturally, the thicker your hair, the wider the plate width you need, and the thinner your hair, the slimmer the plate you need.
With thin hair 1 inch is most suitable, but this is flexible depending on whether you are straightening, adding volume or curling. Some 1 inch irons have a more square finish, and others more rounded and contoured to suit flipping and curling.
For thick, coarse, and unruly hair that is above shoulder length, a plate width of 1 to 1.5 inches is ideal. For the same hair type with a length beyond the shoulder, a plate of up to 2 inches may be needed. The wider plate provides more room on the plate, and heat-time on the hair.
For normal hair that is above shoulder length, a plate width of 0.5 inch up to 1.25 inches may do, while normal hair that goes beyond the shoulder in length can go from there to up to 2 inches wide. Longer plates are great for longer hair as it allows for larger sectioning.
Best Plate Material For Your Hair
The plates of a flat iron these days are usually comprised of any one or a combination of these three materials: ceramic, titanium, or tourmaline. Titanium heats up super quickly, Ceramic is slower and creates a more even heat distribution, and tourmaline is the gem that adds the smooth sleek look.
All hair types: 100% pure ceramic is the best to get as the others are simply ceramic coated which can chip off over time and expose the aluminum which may burn your hair. So go for solid ceramic. Solid ceramic is suitable for all hair types.
Ceramic seals moisture in the hair protecting it from heat damage and reducing frizz, leaving a shiny finish. Pure ceramic will cost more, but is well worth the extra investment if it means healthy shiny hair, and greater durability.
Fine or treated hair gets the most benefit from ceramic or tourmaline, as titanium irons may register higher temperatures than this hair can withstand without incurring damage.
Thick, coarse, African American hair: Titanium plates are best for this type of hair that requires high heat to tame. If your hair is treated or damaged in any way, it is better to er on the side of caution and get pure ceramic with wider plates to prevent further damage. The titanium has a much higher ionic output making it more aggressive.
Tourmaline is a semi-precious stone that is crushed and added to ceramic or titanium to reduce friction and give you a sleek look. When this mineral is heated, it produces huge amounts of negative ions, a lot more than ceramic or titanium. These negative ions cancel out the positive ions (like in static hair) providing moisture and enhance sleek and shine.
Plates infused with tourmaline are ideal for coarse hair, but are beneficial for all hair types as who doesn’t want super sleek, shiny hair?
Tourmaline can coat ceramic plates which makes them even smoother. The smoother the plate, the less likely it is to damage or catch hair in the plates. Plates covered in tourmaline make them more durable and less likely to chip.
With plate material constantly evolving and improving, these combinations help reduce static, anti-frizz and lock in moisture which benefit all hair types.
There are also floating plates and 3D plates all in a effort to reduce ‘snagging’ and provide better contact with the hair.
One more note – the more negative ions a straightener has the more anti-static properties it possess. So for unruly frizzy hair the more densely packed in these ions are, the smoother the result!
Best Temperature Range For Your Hair Type
Thin, fine and treated hair: best benefit from plate temperatures less than 360F since this type is more susceptible to heat damage.
Thick, coarse & African American hair: a high temperature between 380 to 450F is optimal to achieve results. Maintaining a consistently high temperature is vital to straightening this hair type as allowing the least amount of passes will lessen the strain and damage that the hair may acquire.
For normal hair: temperatures between 360 to 380F would be ideal to achieve results.
Try to watch out for dry tips and split ends as this may indicate that you are using the plates at temperatures that are too high. Taper down your plate temperatures once you notice any damage and try to moisturize your hair as much as possible as well as use thermal heat-protectant products or a hair straightening cream.
By now I hope you are feeling more ready to check out our top 10 flat iron picks? Hair styling is fun and we are spoilt for choice with endless hot options on the market.
Flat irons are endowed with more and more fancy features and are constantly evolving technologically, but safety comes first, so knowing what key factors to look for in a straightener is priority number one!
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