What to know before you buy hair straighteners

Jeanette | 30 March 2016

In the market for a new hair straightener? Before you take the plunge and make your purchase, find out everything you need to know with our comprehensive guide.

With a plethora of hair straighteners on the market these days, it can be difficult to know what to look for when it comes to your next heated appliance. We know there is a lot of jargon that can lead to confusion when you have to choose between mini flat irons, removable plates or tourmaline straighteners. That’s why we’ve done the hard bit and put together everything you need to know in order to help you make the right purchase.

Whatever your hair type and length, read below to swot up on hair straighteners.

Before you buy hair straighteners: 101

long straight hair straighteners
Long straight hair with the help of hair straighteners. Credit: indigitalimages.com

1. Consider your needs

We know it sounds rather basic but consider what your hair needs are before you rush out to buy a flat iron. What should you focus on? Firstly, your hair type and length, which will determine the best kind and size of plates to pick.

Cordless straighteners are great for those who frequently travel, but be aware that they don’t heat up as well as mains operated ones. And don’t forget to check for worldwide voltage as the appliance should accept 110-120 volts (for the US) as well as 220-240 volts (for the EU and the rest of the world) – without this dual capacity, the change in voltage might damage your appliance.

Other factors to consider include safety functions that will automatically switch the hair straightener off after a certain amount of time or inactivity. Most time-poor modern women, for example, will probably want to consider the heat up time of their tool (no one likes to be kept waiting!).

2. Size does matter

It’s a common misconception that a wider plate will be easier and quicker to use, because size does matter! Once again you will need to take into account your hair type and length. The rule of thumb: if you have curly or thick hair, it’s best to opt for slightly wider plates while mini plates will work best for short crops and hard-to-reach areas.

Here’s a rough guide to help you pick the right plate size:

Thick and curly: 1-1.5 inches

Mid-length: 1-2 inches

Long: 1.5-2 inches

Fine and wavy: 0.5-1.25 inches (short), 1-1.5 inches (mid-length) or 1.25-2 inches (long).

3. Hotter isn’t always better

We usually look at the temperature settings of a potential hair straightener thinking that hotter is better, but it isn’t always the case (your hair’s keratin starts to melt at 233 degrees!). Again, your hair type will make the difference: if your hair is fine, turning up the heat could easily frazzle your locks while thick, curly or coily hair types can afford a slightly higher temperature. However, always keep in mind that excessive and extreme uses of heat can lead to hair damage.

hair straighteners long hair
Silky hair can be achieved with the help of hair straighteners. Credit: indigitalimages.com

4. Picking your plates

It can be difficult to know what plate properties are best for your mane, especially when there are multiple types available on the market, with everything sounding so technical. But don’t worry, we’ve done the research so you can easily make the difference.

Titanium is popular because it’s durable, lightweight and transfers heat quickly and evenly. Likewise, ceramic coated plates heat up very fast while solid ceramic offers a more constant temperature. More recently, brands have also added nano silver for hygiene, making plates antibacterial and easy to clean.

But why not have the best of both worlds with material mixtures? Ceramic plates with a Teflon coating are easy to clean, have less product build-up and reduce friction on your mane. But the newest kid on the hair block is tourmaline: a gemstone that features a ionic, infrared technology that generates negative ions, countering the positive ones that can be found in dry or damaged hair. This means more moisture, more shine, and less static and frizz for your tresses while its infrared properties heat your hair from the inside for results with less damage. Cool science, right?

The camps are split on wet-to-dry hair straighteners. If used on wet hair, standard ones can literally fry it while wet-to-dry versions will allow the water to evaporate (NB: these flat irons are designed to be used on slightly damp – not dripping – wet hair). The good news here is that you don’t have to wait for your mane to be bone dry before you start the straightening – so you can skip the blow-dry.

As for removable plates, they are ideal for those who want a versatile styling using only one appliance. Interchangeable, the plates meet various needs like straightening, small/big waves or curling.

5. Money talks

Beware of deals that seem too good to be true and remember to read the fine print (many cheaper straighteners have metal or coated metal plates that can damage your locks). While we understand that when it comes to making a purchase it’s natural to want to get a bargain, the benefits of investing in a good hair straightener and caring for the long term health of your mane are priceless.

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