How to Use a Flat Iron

Styling products you need, plus what to look for in a good flatiron

Japanese woman using a hair iron
Shuji Kobayashi / The Image Bank / Getty Images

To get perfect, pin-straight hair, you need more than a blowdryer. You also need a flat iron. It also helps to know how to use a flat iron properly.

It may seem obvious: you clamp down a bit of hair into the iron and pull it through. But there's actually an art to correctly straightening hair or creating curls (yes, you can do this!) with a flat iron.

How to Buy the Right Flat Iron

Let's talk about the flat iron itself.

Buy an iron with a ceramic, not a metal plate. They diffuse heat better and won't damage hair as much as metal. You can find an affordable ceramic flat iron for under $50 but the best ones are worth the investment of $100 or more. I highly recommend one of the most popular irons today, the HSI Professional Ceramic Tourmaline Ionic Flat Iron

How to tell if a flat iron has ceramic plates? It will be clearly marketed as such. Ceramic plates on flat irons are a selling point no manufacturer would ignore.

See this list of the Top 10 Flat Irons and Hair Straighteners.

Also, before you buy, you might want to read this: What to Look for in a Flat Iron.

The Prep

Products are important when it comes to ironing your hair. You'll want to apply a styling cream (Alterna Caviar Repair Multi-Vitamin Heat Protection Spray) or a straightening balm like Phyto's amazing Botanical Straightening Balm.  Both protect hair from heat.

Apply a cream or balm to damp hair, then blow hair dry. Before you flat iron hair, you'll want to ensure your hair is completely dry. 

How to Use a Flat Iron to Straighten Hair

It's very important to work in layers when straightening hair, starting with the bottom layer of hair. To do this, clip away the top 3/4ths of your hair, or the top half if you have fine, thin hair.

It's up to you to determine how many layers you want to work through. Keep in mind the goal is to run your iron over hair ONLY ONCE. If hair feels at the end as if you need to do another run-through, you were ironing sections that were too thick.

Once hair is clipped, you'll work your way around the bottom layer. Iron 1-inch sections of hair. Clamp the iron down as close to the scalp as possible. Slowly pull iron down the length of hair. (Be sure to read directions to see what heat setting you should have iron on and how long to keep iron on hair). You only want to go over hair once.

Once you complete the bottom layer, create a layer above it by pulling up hair again. You want to work your way up through the sections of your hair, layer by layer.

If you have typically, dry, frizzy hair, rub a serum gloss like Toni & Guy Classic Shine Gloss Serum between your hands and palm over hair for extra shine and to keep hair in place. To keep frizzies along the hairline at bay, spritz hairspray on an old toothbrush and 'brush' them down.

How to Use a Flat Iron to Add Waves to Hair

You can use a flat-iron to create waves in your hair. Cosmopolitan has the best hacks I've seen on the Internet helping you create waves without having the master the art.


You can do this by creating an "S" formation with your hair in the iron. Writing about it won't help you. You can have to see the pictures to figure out how to do it. You can also put longer hair in a braid and flat-iron the braid. Again, one you'll likely have to see to believe.