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We spoke to hair stylists to help break down what makes a good flat iron. Plus, we have options to shop that work for all different types of hair, and every budget.
What should you look for in a flat iron?
“Infrared is so beneficial being that the wavelengths are longer and can penetrate deeper into the cuticle heating the hair from the inside out, keeping your hair's own natural moisture, leaving the hair smooth (and) shiny and keeping it extremely healthy, versus other conventional styling tools that actually pull moisture out of the hair, leaving the hair dry, brittle, dull and damaged,” said hair expert and stylist Gina Rivera.
Keeping moisture in the hair from the infrared, styles will last longer, color will be more vibrant, and hair will have more volume.
Also: “Ceramic tourmaline heating plates will ensure safe, even heat through the plates, ensuring that there are not any hot spots which can create damage, (and) also sealing in the moisture for a smooth and shiny (hairdo). And it eliminates frizz,” said Rivera.
How do you select the right flat iron for your hair type?
Regular and repeated exposure to higher temperatures causes permanent damage to the hair; so it's important to select the right heat setting for your hair type.
“Invest in tools that have digital temperature that you can adjust. With internal custom heaters and temperature control, you can protect your hair by lowering the temperature and only holding your hair on the iron for a couple seconds,” said Beachwaver founder and celebrity hairstylist Sarah Potempa.
For example, if you have thick hair, you will want to use a higher heat setting than someone with thin or fine hair.
“If you have color-treated hair, the cuticle is more open and the internals of your hair strands are more exposed so they actually curl easier and don't need as much heat! Adjusting the heat setting to your hair type will ensure that your curls last and the health of your hair is maintained," said Potempa.
“The temperature of the iron can determine the curl pattern on hair that tends to fall easily, as you might need a higher heat to lock in the pattern closer to the root,” she added. “The internal components of the irons also can determine the curl pattern, and that is why it is important to invest in custom, high-end tools that contain internal heaters that go the entire length of the barrel. The higher the heat, the stronger the curl will essentially be. Low heat will produce a softer finish.”
Are cheap flat irons just as good as expensive ones?
“When it comes to flat irons, I truly feel that you get what you pay for,” said Matii Salon Artistic Director Stacey Smoker. The cheaper the flat iron, the less consistent the heat through the blade and the longer the heat recovery time.
“Every time you close a flat iron on the hair, the temperature drops. The bigger the fluctuation in temperature, the more passes the user is inclined to take (and) the hotter the temp they are inclined to set the iron at,” said Smoker.
Below are some stylist-approved flat irons that'll get the job done — plus a few other bestsellers that won't disappoint.
Flat irons and hair straighteners approved by stylists
This flat iron is a favorite of stylists because it's easy to use and gets the job done fast by straightening the hair with one pass, thanks to its SinglePass technology and tourmaline ceramic plates. Less heat on your hair equals less hair damage, making this flat iron the healthiest option.
This lightweight mini straightener is easy to use and great if you love to travel and need to take your tools with you. It's so tiny and portable that it can fit into a carry-on bag, and it heats and is ready to use in only 30 seconds. It packs serious punch, though — its 100 percent ceramic plates generate six times more negative ions than regular irons for less heat damage and frizz.
A smaller and compact version of the SinglePass technology, “T3 Micro is the best hands-down flat iron for your hair. You can use this flat iron with both moist and dry hair. One press will get it hot in seconds. The one pass is the truth!” said celebrity hairstylist and makeup artist Daniel Koye.
A mix of titanium plates and ionic technology, this flat iron will leave hair smooth and shiny, but get the job done quickly, making it the best of all worlds.
This tool uses tourmaline ceramic technology with multiple heat settings to heat up to 400 degrees. It packs a lot of the punch of the big boys but at a very budget-friendly price.
“The Remington is the most budget-friendly, but don’t think that means it doesn’t perform. It heats up quickly and gets to the right temperature without over-drying,” said hairstylist Michelle Schwartz of B2V Salon in West Hollywood.
“The Rusk iron has been around for a long time, but is still a top contender. It gets the hair super straight, but still protects the hair with its ceramic plates,” said Schwartz.
Top-rated flat irons and hair straighteners
This budget-friendly flat iron has a 4.5-star average rating and over 9,600 verified five-star ratings on Amazon. It features double ceramic coated plates to deliver even heat and frizz-free shine. It also has five heat settings with a maximum of 410 degrees and uniform heat recovery for consistent styling.
Perfect for any hair emergency, this 3-in-1 styling iron is can help you easily smooth, curl or wave your hair in minutes. Reviewers particularly love how it leaves their locks "soft and smooth" and free of frizz.
With 10 LED-variable heat settings and a maximum temperature of 455 degrees, this flat iron makes getting silky straight hair a breeze. It even has a 15-second heat-up time and auto shut-off so you don't have to worry about whether or not you manually turned it off after you leave the house. Reviewers love this high quality straightener at an affordable price.
With titanium plates delivering fast heat, shine-boosting ionic technology and automatic shut-off after 30 minutes, this flat iron is an easy, breezy, stress-free gateway to smooth locks.
Its pretty rose gold exterior isn't the only thing you're going to love about this Conair hair straightener. Ulta customers rave about its "even high heat" and how their hair "glides through effortlessly" through its ceramic surface.
Amazon's bestselling hair straightener is this affordable model from HSI. With HeatBalance micro-sensors, ceramic and tourmaline plates and adjustable temperature settings, your hair is bound to look sleeker and smoother than it did pre-ironing.
This ultra-thin straightening iron has over 8,000 verified five-star reviews on Amazon and a 4.6 average rating. It has 50 heat settings up to 450 degrees and a five-inch extended plate for faster straightening. One five-star reviewer even called it "salon quality."
For more stories like this, check out:
- 17 hair products to air-dry your locks with ease
- 18 bestselling heated styling brushes to make doing your hair so much easier
- Get to the root of your hair problems: 11 stylist-approved touch-up products to try
- From copper locks to sweater scrunchies, stylists share fall's hottest hair trends
- According to TikTok, you should use hyaluronic acid on your hair — a derm weighs in
This article was originally published on August 12, 2017.