One thing that has hardly changed in the hair care industry since the turn of the century is the use of flat irons. But the one thing that has dramatically changed is the quality – they are smaller, sleeker, and more powerful (not to mention less damaging!) than ever.
Whether your hair is a little wavy or coarse and curly, getting straight strands has never been easier. The key is knowing what to look for. To help guide you to the best hair straightener, we asked top stylists to share their recommendations based on your specific hair type.
If you have super curly hair…
Your hair is so curly that it dries in stunning ringlets? Lucky you. We get it, though, everyone wants what they don’t have. To handle your hair’s structure, celebrity hairstylist Daniel Koye suggests the most powerful straightener on the market: T3 Singlepass X ($230; sephora.com). “Just like its name suggests, when sectioning your hair to the same width as the ceramic plates, starting at the root, one steady slide and your hair will be straight,” he says.
“The ceramic plates smooth the curls and close the cuticle, leaving your hair soft while locking out curl-inducing moisture.” The Singlepass gives you total control of the temperature, which ranges from 260 to 410 degrees, and is designed to get the job done fast.
If you’re considering going the chemical route, thermal reconditioning might be your best bet, says Christine Thompson, co-founder of Spoke Weal salons. “This is a thyo-based straightener that breaks down the bonds of the current hair texture and is reactivated by using a flat iron after the hair is dry to reset the new, straight texture,” she says. “It’s great for wavy and curly hair, however it does take the most time due to the multi-step process.” The initial treatment can take up to eight hours, and you can expect to spend at least $500.
If you have thick, wavy hair…
Lucky for you, wavy hair requires slightly less heat than curls, but you’ll still need a top-notch iron to keep hair healthy in the process. Koye suggests Chi’s Onyx Euroshine 1” Flat Iron ($160; ulta.com), which is lined with ceramic ion plates with a sloped edge. The beveled shape and extended plates leave even the thickest hair straight and polished in a pinch, he says. But the best part: It suggests a temperature based on your hair type and texture, so you never have to worry about overheating your strands.
If you’re hoping to go the permanent route, Thompson recommends a hair relaxer. “It’s much more mild and just relaxes the wave or curl while also managing frizz,” she says. One great option for wavy ladies is keratin smoothing, a service that can last up to six months. “It strengthens the hair while smoothing out frizz and softening the wave or curl pattern without getting rid of your texture,” explains Thompson. It will, however, make hair much easier to manage on your own.
If you have coarse, unruly hair…
If your hair is coarse, the structure of each follicle is much thicker, which makes it difficult to tame – though the pro is that your hair is often much stronger than other hair types. For coarse hair, experts recommend a titanium-plated iron, which holds a lot more heat than other varieties and is strong enough to straighten stubborn hair fast. Try Drybar’s The Tress Press Digital Styling Iron ($150; sephora.com).
Amanda Ambroise, a hairstylist at Warren Tricomi in New York City, suggests keeping the temperature between 375-415°F. “Just because an iron goes up to 450 degrees, doesn’t mean you need to go that high,” she warns. “Although healthy, coarse hair can stand up to 450 degrees, excessive use will still cause damage.”
Even better than a flat iron, Thompson suggests a chemical relaxer for coily hair. “You have to be cautious with this straightener, though, because you can’t do any other type of chemical service over top of this,” she says. “The chemicals don’t react well and can cause the hair to break off immediately, so always be honest with your stylist about what is currently on your hair before getting this type of straightening treatment.”
If you have straight hair that just needs a touch up…
If your strands dry relatively straight, but you love the way a flat iron adds that sleek shininess and tames flyaways, there are far more options available to you. Koye recommends AMIKA’s Antidote Silk Wrap Styler ($150; sephora.com), which offers you a wide range of temperatures, from 170 to 450 degrees. Just remember to use a low setting to avoid damaging fine strands. Another strategy is only focusing on the parts of your hair that need straightening or smoothing – maybe a few pieces in the front around your hairline or the waves in the back at the nape of your neck. “This is quicker, and you don’t need to add extra heat to your hair for no reason,” says Eliut Rivera, founder of Eliut Salon.
If you have fine, limp hair…
Keep in mind that limp hair requires very little heat. While most hot irons should work well for your hair type, Koye recommends Hot Tools’ Smart Touch Salon Flat Iron ($70; ulta.com), which can give you the lift and body you need without frying your fragile hair. “It’s 45 percent lighter than other straighteners and can provide your root with a quick bump and your ends a slight wave to appear fuller,” he says. Since your hair damages easily, start with the lowest heat setting, quickly running the iron over the hair, and move up from there, adds Rivera.
If you have colored hair…
Ambroise recommends treating hair that is lightened or bleached the same way you’d treat super-fine hair. “Use low heat between 300-380 degrees with a ceramic iron to avoid further compromising your strands,” she says.
For single processed hair, she recommends BabylissPro’s Nano Titanium Digital Straightening Iron ($100; ulta.com). It has a temperature memory function that saves a user’s desired heat setting to ensure you never mistakenly use a setting that’s too hot for your hair.