Flat Iron Buying Guide 101

Buying a Flat Iron shouldn’t be intimidating. These simple questions will help you narrow down your choices to set (and get) you straight. You might think it’s a good idea to buy the same iron your best friend has, but if your hair texture is different, your results may never be the same.

Babyliss Pro Nano Titanium Flat IronEveryone asks me “Which flat iron is the best?” and I always answer, “What is your hair type?” before I answer with a specific flat iron. Unless you’ve tried it firsthand, chances are the iron you are thinking of buying might not be the best one for your hair. Let’s narrow down the choices with a few key questions.

Which plate width?
Determine which plate width you need – one inch does not fit all. We have a great article on selecting a plate width for your specific hair length. Not all irons come in all sizes so this can help you narrow down your selection.

Fixed or variable temperature settings?
Flat irons come in fixed or variable temperature settings. The type that works best for you depends on your hair’s texture and your styling needs.

Is your hair thin, delicate, damaged or fine? Choose a flat iron with a variable temperature setting so you can control the heat and keep the iron from getting too hot.

Is your hair thick and hard to straighten? A fixed temperature would be a good choice for you so you can crank up the heat on those pesky pieces that just won’t straighten.

Is your hair is somewhere in between? Most likely you will be fine with either choice. My personal preference is a variable setting – I like control.

Does it create curls?
Most flat irons today will create curls, but (ahem) the curls are only as good as the user who creates them. Brush up on those curling techniques here.

Which Technology?
Ok, this is really the source of most flat iron confusion. Most flat irons on the market today have similar straightening technology, but which is best? Again, that depends on your hair type and styling needs.

Almost all professional grade flat irons are Ceramic and Ionic these days. This technology is important in generating negative ions to smooth the hair cuticles. What you may not realize is NONE of the flat iron plates are 100% Ceramic. That’s a myth. All plates are infused with Ceramic (and/or other materials) to straighten and smooth the hair. I kid you not!

Industry research shows that pure Ceramic plates would be too soft to get the job done, so all manufacturers (this means CHI, T3, Maxiglide, HAI – all of them!) use Ceramic along with a much stronger, heat conducting surface such as Aluminum, Titanium, etc. to straighten the hair’s cuticles. And boy do they work.

Some older, lesser quality flat irons are pure Aluminum. These irons are usually referred to as the “drugstore variety” and do not contain Ceramic. This is why you notice a huge difference when you upgrade to a pricier iron – the addition of Ceramic. What’s so great about ionic activity? Click here.

So you know what Ceramic does, but what about all of those other materials you keep hearing about? Tourmaline, Nano-Titanium, Nano Silver, Nano anything? These are additional materials used in the plates to enhance the smoothness of the plate’s surface, generate additional negative ions to smooth your hair quickly, and create a snag free glide down the strands. Here’s a breakdown:

This is a process where the material, say Tourmaline, is micronized into superfine particles and infused into the plate surface. Whenever you see Nano, think teeny, tiny pieces of a smoothing material infused into the plates. Nano-Ceramic, Nano-Silver, you get the idea.

Ceramic and Nano-Ceramic
Smaller particles of Ceramic to contribute to your smoothing process. This is good for every hair type. Most flat irons with Ceramic technology provide silky, straight results but there are a variety of price points. As for most irons I’ve tried, the pricier Ceramic irons really are better. Plus the more expensive irons usually come with additional features and benefits so be sure to look into this if you are considering a Ceramic iron. (Best Buy: ghd. See also: HAI, Paul BrownCHI.)

Super smoothing surface, great heat conduction, straightens hair up to 40% faster. Is it necessary? If your hair is hard to straighten, this is one of the best materials out there for you, newer technology but comparable to Tourmaline. If you want the latest technology you’ll like this. (Best Buy: Babyliss. See also: Hot Tools.)

A smooth surface that eliminates bacteria on the appliance creating a germ-free environment every time you use it. Great for a stylist, or germ-a-phobe. It straightens hair well, but do you have to have it? Probably not. (Best Buy: FHI Platform. See also: CHI Nano Silver.)

Tourmaline is a semi-precious gemstone known for its negative ion generating and smoothing properties, and is infused into the flat iron plates. This is earlier technology than Nano-Titanium and Nano-Silver. I sometimes find that Tourmaline causes static, but still a very good material for smoothing most hair types. (Best Buys: FHI, Bed Head. See also: HAI EliteT3.)

Does it come with a warranty?
The warranty is another biggie to think about. Some manufacturers will only honor a warranty if you buy the flat iron in a salon. I would consider that a fine idea if the salon in my area carried every flat iron. Truth is, they don’t. But I have noticed the irons they do carry are way more expensive than online. What gives?

If you are buying a flat iron in a store or online, look for a flat iron that has a 1 year warranty or longer – think HAI, ghd, Babyliss. We’ve all heard the rumors about a certain flat iron that breaks after only a few months. Honestly, it does. You might want to think about it. ‘Nuff said.

If you use a flat iron every day you want it to last. Make sure you select a flat iron guaranteed to survive your daily styling habits. If you use a flat iron sporadically, go for a less expensive Ceramic iron without all the technological bells and whistles.

I hope you take the time to ask yourself these simple questions, the flat iron of your dreams is waiting for you!


  16 comments for “Flat Iron Buying Guide 101

  1. Suzanne
    February 11, 2008 at 10:55 am

    This is a great guide- there’s so many choices on the market that its really easy to get confused. The only downer is that the heat can still cause damage to your hair

  2. shelley
    February 11, 2008 at 11:06 am

    Of course any heat styling appliance can be potentially damaging to your hair if you don’t protect before you style – even a hair dryer! Yes, always, always, always use a heat protectant to keep you hair healthy and looking its best!

  3. Rubii
    February 29, 2008 at 8:22 pm

    I’ve been eyeing this hair starightener for a long time, the only thing is, it costs $400. I saw it on ebay for a lot less. I’m not sure if the one on ebay is real or not, should i buy it?

  4. Pingback: The Daily Cookie
  5. Pingback: Weekend Reads
  6. shelley
    March 3, 2008 at 2:38 pm

    Rubii -
    I love Ebay but I wouldn’t buy a hair appliance there. I always think “buyer beware” when you buy anything on Ebay – you are not always sure what you are getting. For any hair appliance, I’d only buy from a reputable retailer that sells brand new products and has a solid return policy. Most manufacturers don’t sell on Ebay so you have to wonder where your product is coming from…hmmmm? I wouldn’t risk it.

  7. AntiagingSkinProducts
    March 9, 2008 at 5:38 am

    Bookmarked this to check out later. The site looks nice. Where did you get the template? Very interesting and unique content here. I love it.

    John Mathers

  8. shestyle
    April 8, 2008 at 10:01 pm

    If you’re looking to purchase a Chi flat iron be forwarned. I admit that the iron itself is good, but if you purchase a chi, you’re better off getting the cheapest one in price out there. I purchased a Chi Blue Ice for $160 USD in December 2007, sent it in for repairs(the on/off switch broke off) and a replacement Chi with the value of $60 USD was sent to me. The iron itself is great, but the customer service from Farouk International sucks!!!!!!

  9. Lisa
    August 24, 2011 at 11:35 pm

    I just found this site and found it very informative… I just got a BaByliss Pro Nano Titanium and love it! I have had curly hair for 15 years and this straightened and maintained beautifully. The curls came back too. Anyone interested, I have thin hair but long with layers and it took ten minutes the first time I even tried straightening it (with a few follow up strokes to get it closer to what the stylist produced). It also heats up in under a minute.

  10. Mae Kristine Raña
    July 22, 2014 at 7:31 pm

    I love your post. it helps me in deciding which type of flat iron should i purchase.

Leave a Reply