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How to straighten hair with a flat iron

Katherine McNamara's perfectly ironed hair
Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

Flat irons, also known as straightening irons, have become a must-have tool in every woman's haircare arsenal. Flat-ironing the hair can be a great way to tame unruly curls and banish frizz. However, straightening hair the wrong way can leave hair dry, fragile and damaged.

The key to successful hair straightening begins with the right flat iron. There are several different sizes and types of irons on the market, but the best irons are those which use ceramic or tourmaline heating plates. These materials provide a much smoother and straighter result than stainless steel which, in the past, has been used on lesser-quality flat irons. Ceramic and tourmaline plates also heat up faster, allowing many irons to reach up to 430 degrees in a matter of seconds.

Before straightening the hair, it is necessary to prep the hair with a thermal-protection product. There are many of these products on the market, available in most salons and supermarkets. This step is vital if you wish to minimize damage to the hair. Straightening hair is no different than cooking a piece of chicken in a skillet; unless you use a cooking spray or oil, the chicken will burn.

The best way to straighten the hair is to begin in the nape area, working in small sections. Each section should be no more than an inch wide, depending on the amount of curl in the hair. Those who have extremely curly hair will get a better result by working with much smaller sections. Working with smaller sections may take a bit longer, but the results will be well worth the effort.

Many women think that straightening the hair leaves it flat and limp. While using a flat iron can reduce the volume of thick and curly hair, a flat iron can actually add volume to fine hair if used correctly. The secret is to hold the hair out at a 90 degree angle while you are straightening it, especially in the crown area. When you are working in the crown area, give the hair a quick spray at the roots with a volumizing hairspray, and then proceed to use the flat iron.

Like most things in life, it takes some practice to straighten hair like a professional. Once you have mastered the basic techniques it will be possible to create an endless variety of styles with your flat iron. Don't think that flat irons can only be used to create straight and sleek styles-- with a little experimentation and practice it will be possible to create curly and wavy styles with your iron as well.

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