I’m on a mission of saving hair from the flat iron, a gift from God. Also known as a straightening iron, or “straightener”, this is one of the most versatile tools on my station. It straightens and smooths, it curls, it aids in processing chemical smoothing treatments, and it can even add volume.
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The flat iron is also a curse, because it is probably the most mis-used hair appliance on the market. A flat iron can destroy your hair if it isn’t used properly, and placing a tool of its caliber in the hands of a pre-teen can be a recipe for disaster, unless you establish some guidelines from the start about proper use.
Big Hair: No Flat Iron Required
I am a child of the 80’s and 90’s, and to be truthful, sometimes I want to shout “WHAT’S WRONG WITH BIG HAIR???!!?” I miss those big hair days in some ways, and in some ways I certainly do not. For example, it is hard for me to talk about young girls frying their hair when I used to walk around like this:
I call it “The Perm That Wouldn’t Quit.”
Truthfully, there was some element of fun in the big hair. It was a challenge every day to make my hair perfect, and I had numerous arguments with my hair about how it better do right today, or I might just start throwing picks and teasing combs around the room. I was a hair rock star because I could make mine bigger and badder!
Today’s young person wants straight, smooth, NOT-big hair, and the flat iron is the way to achieve that look. About half of my clientele is in this category, actually. I still have some clients who want volume, and volumizing products are still big sellers, but mostly to people my age or older. The “younguns” want it straight, and they want it flat ironed. (Every now and then, I will slip in a Deep South word or two. Can’t help it.)
The Flat Iron Dilemma
The problem here is, these young beauties are unaware of the power of the flat-iron. Many beginners start out with a discount store flat-iron that doesn’t get very hot and doesn’t clamp down tight enough on the hair. This will cause a habit of ironing the hair repeatedly, over and over again, until the desired result is achieved. This is a terrible habit.
Inevitably, your little cutie is going to get her hands on a good flat-iron. She’ll either experiment with a friend’s, or talk you into a better model that won’t take so long to work. Then, she will heat the flat iron up to it’s hottest setting and proceed to cook the snot out of her hair, repeatedly, until she has little tiny snowflakes on the end of each strand of hair in her head. I’ve even seen girls with hair missing in pretty vital places because they have burned it off completely.
If you have a pre-teen daughter, and she has any texture to her hair whatsoever, she WILL want to straighten it. Don’t let her hair be a casualty, because teaching proper flat-iron use is an easy thing to do, and it’s so worth it!
Finding a Good Flat Iron
Let’s talk about hair care for beginners. First of all, when you or your daughter/niece/granddaughter decide it’s time to start using a flat-iron, invest in a good one. I have always used professional irons, and I highly recommend you do the same. I have used several brands, and I will review those for you here. Hair care for beginners requires details like this.
I’m going to start with the most popular flat iron right now, and that is the HSI Professional Ceramic Tourmaline Ionic flat iron, which comes with all sorts of goodies. You’ll get this state-of-the-art (it has to be with all those names) flat iron, a heat resistant glove, a pouch to keep the flat iron in, and an Argan Oil leave-in treatment. It has the adjustable heat setting, ranging from 220-400 degrees. This iron is the total package, not only helping you achieve the straight, smooth look you desire, but also offering protection for your hair and your hands. This HSI flat iron perfect for beginners! The price is right at just $37.99 for the whole kit and kaboodle!
Rusk – This was an early one, as you can probably tell. It still works great, but I have appointed it as a tool for chemical smoothing treatments, so it looks pretty rough. I’ve had it for about five years. I have also seen Rusk irons on the shelves at T.J. Maxx, but I wouldn’t guarantee that it would be of the same quality as one purchased through a professional salon. This model has a temperature control, but it’s in code and I can’t remember to what degree it heats. I am guessing that the highest setting, which is ‘30’, is probably 450 degrees, which is common. I have loved this iron well. I imagine it would be pretty pricy if purchased retail, but you may never need another one!
CHI – This is my least favorite flat-iron to date. The one I had was overpriced, did not have a temperature control, and only worked for about a year. Flop. The temperature it did heat to was not high enough for my waves, but too hot for more fragile locks.
Hot Tools flat irons- This was my favorite until I found the HSI flat iron, and it’s a great one. It heats up to 450 degrees, and can be set as low as 215-220 degrees. I love the design of this iron, and that the plates have just enough “give” to handle any hair texture. I’ve used it for well over a year now. Hot Tools makes flat irons in all kinds of cute styles and prints, but the main thing to look for is the adjustable temperature. The flat iron by Hot Tools that I would buy now is this one, because it has a digital temperature reading, and it shuts off automatically after 2 hours…I love tools that remember things I can’t!
properly using the flat iron
Properly using the flat iron is key, and there are a few major points that need to be made. The most important thing you can do when beginning with the flat iron is to find your temperature. You need a temperature at which one pass of the iron over the section, in a fluid motion, leaves your hair at the smoothness you desire. No more than one continuous pass over the hair is necessary, or recommended, to straighten and maintain the health of your hair. And the fluid motion thing? Yeah, that’s important. If the hot iron is skipping down over the section, it will be noticeable. The iron should glide over the hair, not grab it and hold on for dear life. This has a lot to do with your tension, and the flat iron temperature as well. Find your temperature! (The sectioning thing? Yeah, that’s important, too.)
I shared a couple of products last week that will help with heat protection for chronic flat-iron users, like Sexy Hair’s Straight Smooth and Seal spray. I wanted to share one more…and not just because I gave my CHI flat iron a bad review. CHI Iron-Guard 44 is an awesome product to use on the hair before flat-ironing. It protects the hair from the high flat iron temperature and holds the straight style you worked so hard to achieve.
Remember – don’t expect the flat iron to do all the work. If the hair being straightened is fairly wavy or even curly, try to smooth it out as best as you can when blow-drying (see here) before attacking it with the flat iron. You will cause way more damage trying to press those waves out with two hot plates of metal than you will with a blow dryer and brush. And, unfortunately, it needs to be said; YES you have to dry your hair before flat-ironing…all the way dry. Flat ironing wet or damp hair is very, very, very damaging. Did I say very enough? Do not try to dry your hair with the flat iron, unless you want hair that looks dry even when it is wet.
So let’s recap:
1. Invest in a good flat iron.
2. Find your flat iron temperature – only iron each section once and in a continuous motion.
4. Find a good product for heat protection.
5. Smooth out the hair while drying, and only flat iron dry hair.
With these helpful tips, hopefully we can change the dynamic of pre-teen hair, which carries over into teen and early adulthood. If I could get a do-over, I would take better care of my hair from a much younger age. Let’s put an end to fried hair, for good! The flat iron is an awesome tool, if used correctly and in moderation.
Next in this series will be make-up for beginners. Let’s put an end to tarantula-lashes!