Oh flat irons. So many choices and so little knowledge on what to choose. Before buying a flat iron most of us want to know what we’re buying and if it’s “the one” that everyone else has or wants to have. No one wants to waste their money and knowing that a flat iron works on your type of hair makes the process of picking out one easier. So which one should you buy? It depends on your natural hair texture. If you have fine, kinky hair your needs will be different than someone with coarse, wavy hair so that means “the best flat iron” should be a perfect match for your hair’s needs.
Your hair texture and type is the best way to determine what kind of flat iron you need. If you don’t know your hair texture and type, be sure to read Understanding Natural Hair Texture: The Difference Between Coarse And Kinky Hair and What Is My Natural Hair Texture And How Do I Determine My Curl Pattern? to understand your hair texture and type. Once you know your hair texture, from there it’s all about your density or how thick your hair is as well as how healthy it is. Those first two factors are going to be what you use to determine the the best flat iron for your hair since they determine the temperature, width of your flat iron plates and plate type–ceramic, titanium or tourmaline (and we’ll get to the health of your hair later).
WHAT IS A CERAMIC FLAT IRON?
The most popular, affordable and easiest to find flat iron type is a ceramic flat iron. Ceramic irons became really popular in the early 2000’s as the new thing in hair straightening. That’s because ceramic plates have even heating without cold or hot spots and can straighten hair at a lower temperature in comparison to traditional metal irons that were known for uneven heating, snagging and burning hair. Ceramic is not a metal, instead it’s an inorganic material that conducts heat evenly (which is why some cookware is made of or coated in ceramic). Ceramic flat iron plates also add a glossy shine to hair that’s created by the negative ions that work to lock in moisture, something else old irons could not do. (Read more about how negative ions work on your hair in A Quick And Easy Guide To Understanding How Ionic Hair Dryers And Flat Irons Work)
The downside to ceramic flat irons you may find in the store is that they’re not always purely ceramic so you need to know what to look for. Just like beauty product marketing hype that claim ingredients that are not there or are faintly present like that “ACME Argan Oil Moisturizing Shampoo” with argan oil as the second to last ingredient–meaning it’s barely present, flat irons marketed as ceramic flat irons are not always pure ceramic. Often they are aluminum plates coated with ceramic. These irons tend to be the ceramic irons with prices that seem too good to be true–because they are. While you don’t have to mortgage your house to afford a real ceramic iron, it’s important to read the fine print because over time coated irons can chip or peel and start to rip out your hair from all that chipping. Starting out with a coated iron is not a bad idea, however, when you can afford it, you should invest in a quality solid ceramic iron like the ones we recommend below.
WHAT IS A TITANIUM FLAT IRON?
Titanium flat irons are metal, ionic-charged flat irons as titanium is a type of metal. However, unlike old school regular metal plate flat irons, titanium plates out perform older metal irons because they conduct heat evenly, quickly and with tons of negative ions. The metal is smooth unlike its predecessors, so the plates don’t snag your hair (we can clearly remember that happening back in the day) and you get really silky results like a ceramic iron. Think of a titanium flat iron as the next step up from a ceramic flat iron. It’s better than a ceramic iron because it straightens hair faster since the heat transfer from the iron to your hair is so quick and your results are often even silkier and shiney. This means that, for instance, a ceramic iron that takes four passes on a section of your hair could be done in two with a titanium flat iron. However, you can wreak havoc on your hair with a titanium iron if you misuse all that fast transferring heat (we’ve seen this so often) so always keep that in mind.
WHAT IS A TOURMALINE FLAT IRON?
Tourmaline is a crushed mineral that is infused into the plates of the flat iron. Just like in blow dryers, tourmaline flat irons output an super amped up level of negative ions during your styling which also drastically reduces static and frizz, making your hair even shinier and sleeker. Usually flat irons will be sold as ceramic or titanium with “tourmaline technology.”
HOW TO PICK THE BEST FLAT IRON FOR YOUR HAIR TYPE
The best flat iron for natural hair is the one you feel works the best for you because flat irons are not one size fits all. Before you buy though, knowing the difference between the iron types can help you make a smarter purchase. Some irons are just way too strong for some types of hair and other irons too weak. Think about flat irons like cars. Yes, they all have four tires and an engine, but not everyone needs a hemi or turbo engine when four cylinders will do just fine, and for some of us, nothing less than 12 horsepower will do. If you have fine hair with a thin to thick density no matter your curl type, stick to ceramic. The heat output is high enough to give you a sleek look and if you use your iron wisely, it should not burn your hair out since with fine hair you should be able to straighten between 200 to 300 degrees. If you have medium hair with a thin to thick density, a regular ceramic iron that gets up to 350 to 400 degrees should also work just as well for your hair but you may also want to try one with tourmaline technology especially if you battle lots of frizz when you straighten. If you have wiry and coarse hair, try a titanium flat iron that can get up to 410 to 430 degrees with tourmaline features as well to add shine to your hair as coarse hair can sometimes lack shine, but watch out for that rapid heat so you don’t burn your hair.
HOW TO PICK THE BEST PLATE SIZE FOR YOUR FLAT IRON
The plate size you’ll need is based on how long your hair is. Medium to longer lengths of hair do well with 1 1/2″ or more and shorter hair should be fine with plates that are an inch long. Some people prefer 1″ no matter what since it handles easy in your hands so pick what you feel is best.
If your hair is not healthy, you simply should not be flat ironing your hair. Adding heat on top of your damage is only going to exacerbate your problem and make it worse. Focus on getting you hair healthy before you start flat ironing it and or blowing it out.
WHAT IS THE BEST RATED FLAT IRON?
Below are some of the best flat irons money can buy which we’ve also broken down by hair type usage. These are just our suggestions so be sure to pick the flat iron you feel is best for your natural hair. As for the best rated flat iron? That would be one of our personal favorites, the Sedu Pro 1 1/2″ Ionic Ceramic Tourmaline Flat Iron. However, the new kid on the block, the Bio Ionic One Pass 1′ Straightening Iron has recently caught our attention because of those silicone speed strips that makes straightening fine hair even faster.
THE BEST FLAT IRON FOR FINE HAIR
Features: Lower heat settings to limit heat damage but still a quality ceramic flat iron, creates shine
Sedu Revolution 1″ Tourmaline Ionic Styling Iron
GHD Classic Styler Ceramic Hair Straightener
CHI Air Classic Tourmaline Ceramic 1″ Flat Iron
Bio Ionic One Pass 1′ Straightening Iron
THE BEST FLAT IRON FOR COARSE HAIR
Features: Ceramic or Titanium plates with Tourmaline coating and higher heat settings, reduces static and frizz
FHI Heat Platform Tourmaline Ceramic Professional Hair Styling Iron
Sedu Pro 1 1/2″ Ionic Ceramic Tourmaline Flat Iron or Sedu Pro 1″
Solia Tourmaline Ceramic Ion Flat Iron
Croc 2 Infrared Flat Iron
Solano Sleek Heat Flat Iron
BaByliss PRO Nano Titanium 1 1/4″ Straightening Iron
THE BEST FLAT IRON FOR DAMAGED HAIR
Features: Ionic technology and ceramic plates to help progressing hair damage.
Theorie Quantum 1″ Flat Iron
Theorie SAGA II TitanSculpt 1½” Flat Iron
CROC Classic 1″ Infrared Flat Iron
BaBylissPRO Nano Titanium 1″ Ultra-Thin Straightening Iron
THE BEST FLAT IRON FOR TYPE 4 NATURAL HAIR
Features: Steam technology to help seal in moisture. (Type 4 hair does not need a “special” flat iron per since you would want to buy an iron based on your hair’s features like if it’s fine or not despite having type 4 natural hair. However, many readers want to know our favorite steam flat iron picks for type 4 hair so we have also included them here.)
Redken Steam Infusion Flat Iron
Conair Infiniti Pro Ionic Steam Flat Iron
Sela Beauty Ultrasonic Steam Hair Straightener
Calily Heated Hair Brush Straightener with Hair Steaming
Redken & Rowenta Salon Steam Infusion Straightening Iron
THE BEST PROFESSIONAL FLAT IRON
Features: Ceramic or Titanium plates with Tourmaline coating and higher heat settings, long cords for better handling, works well on all hair types and textures.
Karmin G3 Salon Pro Black Tourmaline Ceramic Flat Iron
Croc 2 Infrared Flat Iron (Should really be called: How To Turn Your Clients Hair Into Silk In 30 Seconds)
Solano Sleek Heat Flat Iron
FHI Heat Platform
Theorie SAGA II TitanSculpt 1½” Flat Iron
THE BEST FLAT IRONS UNDER $100
Features: Ceramic plates (coated or non) that work and deliver consistent results for shiny, straight hair.
Conair Infiniti Pro 1-1/4″ Tourmaline Ceramic Flat Iron
CHI Air Style Series 1″ Tourmaline Ceramic Flat Iron
Remington Pearl Pro Ceramic 1″ Flat Iron
Remington Style Therapy Frizz Therapy Flat Iron
Once you find the best flat iron for your natural hair, make sure you use heat on your hair responsibly. Read Why Does My Hair Smell Burnt After I Blow Dry Or Flat Iron It? for tips on how to not damage your hair with your flat iron.