Flat Irons Aren’t One-Size-Fits-All

Your straightener might be standing in the way of you and your best hair yet.

Flat Irons Aren’t One-Size-Fits-All
Photo: Edward Berthelot/Getty Images

I don’t take pride in how often I flat iron my hair. If I’m not wearing my hair in box braids or pulling it into a slicked-back bun, I’m straightening it on the daily, much to the chagrin of my curls, edges, and the natural hair community at large. I know, I know: heat styling is less than ideal. But for those like myself who won’t be swayed by thermal damage and finger wagging, it’s more realistic to find ways to keep heat contact brief and damage minimal than to stay away entirely. Because in all honesty, you’re going to have to pry my flat iron out of my cold, lifeless hands. To curb damage, I’ve tried just about every heat protectant out there and although that’s a game-changing step, the key could actually be finding the right straightener for your hair type.

Until recently, I was under the impression that all flat irons had the same effect on all hair types, but that’s actually not the case. “All flat irons are not the same,” celebrity hairstylist and L’Oréal Professionnel Min Kim tells Coveteur. Per Kim, the difference often lies in “the materials used for the plates and whether the edges are curved or not.” Keep reading for the stylist-approved breakdown of which flat irons work best for different hair types.

Flat Irons for Thin Hair

For finer hair types, straighteners with floating plates are ideal, according to hairstylist and L’Oréal Professionnel Tippi Shorter . These plates are mounted on springs that adjust to your hair's density to get a more precise hold as you glide through. To make sure that your hair isn't exposed to excessive heat, thinner hair types would also benefit from swapping in a straightener with ceramic-coated plates. "Ones that use ceramic coatings on their plates and have temperature-controlled settings, such as ghd stylers, are great for hair types that are less coarse and can smooth out without the need for higher heat settings," says hairstylist and Mayvenn content manager Brittany Johnson.

Flat Irons for Thick Hair

"For thicker, coarser hair textures, including extensions that are more robust (think: natural textures like kinky straight), use a flat iron that is made for smoothing with minimal damage," Johnson suggests. She continues, "Flat irons that utilize a range of heat settings and have titanium or copper alloy plates, like Dyson's Corrale, are ideal for thick hair types that may need a bit more styling and control to achieve a sleeker look."

For an extra sleek finish on thicker textures, Shorter recommends L'Oreal's Steampod, namely for the steaming heat alternative and the detachable comb—a plus for those who swear by the chase method (if you know, you know). As an added plus, it doesn't leave hair with the smoky scent that straighteners often leave behind. "The power of the steam and comb together smooths and waves hair in one pass," Kim adds. "And the fact that hair never smells burnt is just another reason why this tool is my go-to."

Steampod Flat Iron & Styler

L'Oreal Professionnel

Flat Irons for Dry Hair

Here's the thing: If you struggle with dryness, limiting heat is key—and you probably already know that. But if you're still keen on heat styling, Johnson says that applying a hydrating leave-in conditioner and sticking to a low heat setting are vital. "Limiting damage and further dryness really begins with your styling routine," she explains. And when you're sticking to low heat, she says, "tried-and-true flat irons, like ghd's Original Styler or T3's Straightening and Styling Iron, are great for styling smaller sections with controlled heat."

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