How to Use a Flat Iron to Straighten Your Hair

The Right Products and Hair Straightener Will Prevent Damage

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'll also need a flat iron. It also helps to know how to use a flat iron properly so you don't damage your hair from the heat.

It may seem obvious: 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. 

Buy the Right Flat Iron

Let's talk about the flat iron itself.

You will find it best for your hair in the long-term to buy an iron with a ceramic, not a metal plate. They diffuse heat better and won't damage hair as much as metal. This is especially important if you enjoy straightening your hair often and want it to stay healthy and beautiful.

Flatirons that have ceramic plates will be clearly marked. It's a selling point that no manufacturer would ignore. You will also find that an iron with 1 1/2-inch plate or less is the easiest to work with.

Generally, you can expect to pay between $50 and $100 for a good flat iron. You often get what you pay for, so be careful about going too cheap. One of the most popular irons is the HSI Professional Ceramic Tourmaline Ionic Flat Iron, which can be found for at a surprisingly good price.

It's also not a bad idea to look for flat irons that automatically shut off and retain the heat as you work on your hair. Some automatically cool down while you're straightening, which means you're getting only a fraction of the heating power.

Generally, flat irons are most effective at a temperature of 365 F.

Prep Your Hair

Products are important when it comes to ironing your hair because they protect your hair from the damage that excess heat causes. You'll want to apply a styling cream such as Alterna Caviar Repair Multi-Vitamin Heat Protection Spray or a straightening balm like Phyto's Botanical Straightening Balm.

 

Apply the cream or balm to damp hair, then blow your hair dry. Always remember that your hair needs to be completely dry before you flat iron hair. If you see steam or hear a sizzle, you're causing damage. Stop and dry it more thoroughly.

How to Use a Flat Iron to Straighten Hair

It's very important to work in layers when straightening hair, and you should always begin with the bottom layer. To do this, clip away the top three-quarters 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 you ever feel that your hair needs another run-through, you were ironing sections that were too thick.

Once the hair is clipped, work your way around the bottom layer. Iron one-inch sections of hair at a time. Clamp the iron down as close to the scalp as possible without burning yourself. Holding the hair taut from the end, slowly pull the iron down the length of hair. Be sure to read directions to see what heat setting you should have the iron on and how long to keep it on your hair.

With the bottom layer complete, create a layer above it by pulling up your hair again.

You want to work your way up through the sections of your hair, layer by layer. It takes a little time (and more if you have thick hair), but the results are worth it.

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

Add Waves to Your Hair

Believe it or not, you can even use a flat-iron to create waves in your hair. Cosmopolitan has the best hacks for creating waves. Whether you choose the "S" formation technique or put your long tresses in a braid before applying the flat iron, these are simple tricks that anyone can use to create stunning looks.