Once upon a time, some people reverted to using actual irons to straighten their strands. While you may not need to
resort to those measures now, the humble flat iron of today is an MVP in many a hair arsenal. Since flat irons can be a pricy investment, you should make sure it contains all the right bells and whistles. So what should you look for when shopping for one? We got the scoop from the experts to find out which features matter most (and which tools they stock in their own kits) so you can buy with confidence.
1. Check the Plates
Opt for ceramic plates, “it heats more evenly and is less harsh on your hair,” says N.Y.C. hairstylist Antonio Prieto. Also, look for floating plates—which almost feel loose in the wand—“they enable you to put the proper amount of pressure on the hair, which varies by texture,” says N.Y.C. hairstylist Nate Rosencranz. If you want to create both straight and wavy styles, look for curved edges, “they help reduce breakage and are great for creating beach waves,” says N.Y.C. hairstylist Tyler Colton.
2. Guage the Heat
“The wrong heat level can really damage hair," says Brooklyn-based hairstylist Kenna. “Research shows that the optimum styling temperature for hair is 365 degrees. Anything higher may harm hair; anything lower may not work,” says Kenna. Make sure your iron has a temperature dial or digital display, and set it for no higher than 365 degrees—or try Kenna’s pick, which stays a consistent 365 degrees (GHD Platinum, $249; ghdhair.com). And be sure to work in small sections so the heat can penetrate the hair properly.
3. Consider Your Texture and Length
If you have thick strands, you may want to consider a wider plate, “a 1.5 inch iron covers more area than a standard plate, but it’s still small enough to reach every strand,” says Colton. Try Colton’s favorite, the T3 Singlepass 1.5” ($230; sephora.com). And if you have long strands, try an iron with extra-long plates like the one Rosenkranz favors, Hot Tools Nano Ceramic 1” with Extra Long Plates ($60; ulta.com).