Straight talk about hair irons

Whether you call them flat irons or straighteners, many women find these gadgets an essential element in their beauty toolkit

Hair irons have been around for over a century but in recent years there have been many technological advances and improvements.

In the past, lack of temperature control and the use of low-grade materials meant anyone who aspired to straighter hair put their locks at risk with each use. Now, however, most hair irons are made of ceramic, which experts agree gives better results as well as being much gentler on the hair. The secret lies in the fact that temperature is more easily controlled and heat more evenly distributed. It's worth spending a little more for better quality hair irons with ceramic heating elements rather than a cheaper model that has a coating that only looks like ceramic and that will wear off quickly.

Even with modern technology, you need to be wary just how often you use a straightener, but by following our suggestions, you should get the best results.

  • Unless the model you are using specifically says it is suitable for wet hair, only use a flat iron on completely dry hair.
  • Wash your hair and apply conditioner – the straightening process is tough on your locks, so they're going to need nourishing to compensate.
  • If you use a hair dryer, you can start the process at this stage by encouraging your hair into the straight style you are aiming for while you blow it dry.
  • Once dry, divide your hair into small thin sections and work on each in turn, making sure each strand is tangle-free before you straighten it.
  • You may not need to actually straighten every single section. Carefully choosing which sections to treat may be sufficient to reduce the frizz and will have a less damaging effect in the long term.
  • As you slide the iron down the shaft of the hair from the roots towards the ends, you shouldn't stop, but should cover the whole length in one smooth movement. Jerky movements will tend to open the hair cuticle and take the shine out of your hair.
  • Remember that moisture will make your barnet frizz again, so carry an umbrella and don't expect the effect to last in humid atmospheres.

Note that any heat treatment has a tendency to weaken the hair, which makes it more brittle and difficult to comb. There are heat protection products available which you should be using if you often use hair driers, curling tongs and flat irons on your hair.

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