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Hot Comb Vs Flat Iron – The Right Straightener For Your Natural Hair

Hot Comb Vs Flat Iron

Knowing the best way to style your hair can be a challenge – you need to discover the right cut for your face shape, the best products to keep your hair in tip-top condition and, of course, the best styling tools to bring your final look to life. For straightening your hair, a key debate is that of hot comb vs flat iron – and there are a number of pros and cons to both.

From discussing the benefits of flat irons to hot combs to helping you work out which is the best fit for your hair, we have everything you need to know to make the right decision and ensure that your hair looks and feels its best each and every day!

The most important thing to note is that a flat iron and a hot comb are not the same tools, though they perform very similar tasks. One or both may be the best option for your hair type, depending on the texture, length, thickness and condition.

Hot Comb Vs Flat Iron: What Are The Main Differences

Hot Comb

A hot comb, sometimes also referred to as a straightening comb, is a type of hair styling tool that is heated to the required temperature, then used to style hair from the roots down. Hot combs may be heated from an external source, or use electricity to heat the comb ready to use.

Unlike flat irons, hot combs come with a series of teeth all down the length of the comb – just like a traditional, non-heated comb that you may use to detangle your hair. They are popular with those who have curly hair, or hair that is harder to straighten, such as Afro hair, as the combs allow the user better control over straightening each section. Results can also be smoother than those achieved with a flat iron, as the teeth of the comb grab onto the hair, allowing each strand to be caught and straightened – with a flat iron, there is always a chance that you will miss a section, or that the heat will transfer less evenly.

Flat Iron

The term “flat iron” is a broad one, and is used to describe any hair styling tool that works by using two heated plates to “iron” your hair flat and straight. Flat irons are often confused with straighteners, but there is an important distinction to make here: while all flat irons are straighteners, not all straighteners are flat irons. The term “straightener” refers to any tool that is used to make the hair straight – and so may be applied to a hot comb, but not a flat iron.

Essentially, there are three terms you need to get familiar with:

  • A straightener refers to any tool used to straighten hair – this may be a flat iron, a hot comb or even a blow dryer
  • A hot comb is a styling tool with teeth that uses heat to straighten the hair
  • A flat iron is a styling tool that uses heated plates to “iron” the hair flat

Using A Hot Comb

When using a hot comb or a pressing comb, remember is that these units can get hot, so care must be taken.

Using A Hot Comb

Your hot comb will look similar to combs used to untangle knotted hair, but electric hot combs tend to be a little heavier. To use your comb, follow these steps:

  1. Start by sectioning your hair.
  2. Add a heat protection oil, tonic or serum – this is very important to protect your hair from the high temperatures of the pressing comb or electric hot comb.
  3. Once you have prepared your hair, run the hot comb down the whole length of your hair, moving steadily and avoiding spending too long on a single section of hair – this can result in singeing or burning.
  4. Once the hair has been covered, move onto the next section.

Take care to avoid burning your neck or scalp; though hot combs come with a handle that does not conduct heat, hot sections can be very painful if they make contact with the skin.

Using A Flat Iron

Using a flat iron is similar to a hot comb, and you need to take many of the same precautions. The temptation to linger on a single section of hair tends to be stronger with a flat iron, but this can cause huge damage – you are essentially ironing your hair on both sides.

  1. Once again start by sectioning off your hair, as this will make it easier to work with.
  2. Apply a heat protection spray or serum, and then start at the root, and close the plates over the top section of hair.
  3. Carefully slide the flat iron down the length of hair to the bottom, and then release the plates.
  4. Repeat this on the next section of hair, and again until you have completed your whole head.

Whether you opt for a flat iron or a hot comb, you should always be using a heat protection treatment on your locks before applying heat – and this is important for all hair types.

Choosing The Best Option For You

Deciding between an electric hot comb vs flat iron is ultimately a personal choice, and different hair types will benefit from different products. Traditionally, a pressing comb or hot combs worked best on thick or coarse hair, as the teeth of the comb could penetrate the strands more easily. As technology has changed and improved, however, options have opened up.

Hair Type

Your hair type is likely to play the most significant role in your decision; different hair types respond to different heats and products in different ways.

Hair Type

Your hair type is categorized according to the curl pattern of your hair, and by the shape of your hair follicle.

Hair Type


What To Do

What To Avoid

Type 1: Straight

  • No natural curl
  • Individual strands can be fine or coarse
  • Use dry shampoo
  • Use flat irons for smooth, sleek results
  • Blunt, straight styles
  • Heavy serums – straight hair can become oily.
  • Over-washing

Type 2: Wavy hair

Type 2A

  • Straight from roots to eye level
  • Loose, undefined waves from eye level to ends
  • Light mousse or gel to define waves
  • Light flat iron will smooth out the curve
  • Heavy creamy or oil-based products – these can flatten the wave and leave hair looking oily

Type 2B

  • Curl from the midpoints to the ends
  • Curls have a defined S shape
  • Spritz of salt spray for beachy waves
  • Use a flat iron for smooth results
  • Over styling

Type 2C

  • Well defined S-shape waves
  • Wave pattern starts close to the crown
  • Can be prone to frizz
  • A diffuser or wide-toothed straightening comb to reduce frizz
  • Anti-humidity products
  • Multiple passes with flat irons – these can make your hair dry and increase frizz

Type 3: Curly

Type 3A

  • S-shaped curls in loose loops
  • Smaller circumference to the curls
  • Wide toothed hot combs define without frizz
  • Too much brushing – this can break curl definition and encourage frizz
  • Tight ponytails – this can cause thinning

Type 3B

  • Wide curls, falling from roots
  • Lots of volume
  • Lots of moisture to maintain shape
  • Silicone and sulfates – these can dry out hair

Type 3C

  • Curls are tight and springy
  • Let your hair air dry wherever possible
  • Use wide-toothed hot combs and avoid making multiple passes
  • Minimize combing and brushing

Type 4: Coils

Type 4A

  • S-shaped coil
  • Most delicate hair type
  • Add lots of moisture to the hair
  • Deep conditioning masks, creams and butters
  • Use wide flat irons or wide-toothed got combs
  • Weaves and braids – these can result in areas of the hair being neglected and drying out

Type 4B

  • Zig-zag curls
  • Can get very dry
  • Make the most of leave-in conditioning treatments
  • Make sure hair is totally dry before adding heat        
  • Combining hair when wet

Type 4C

  • Tight curls
  • Very fragile and breakable
  • Shea butter creams
  • Over-washing
  • Rough or frequent combing


Your budget will have an impact on the flat iron or hot comb you choose, and there are products available at a range of price points.

Styling Time

Do you need to be up, styled, and out the door quickly each morning? Then you need to opt for a tool that heats up quickly and allows you to achieve this.


Your choice of style will also play a part – as we have seen, curly hair needs to be treated differently from thick hair, and to medium density hair, and so on. Your natural hair will largely dictate your style, and you need a flat iron or comb that can handle this.

Additional Features

You should also ensure that any hair straightener, pressing comb or flat iron offers multiple heat settings – this not only helps to protect your hair but also increases the versatility of the tool, allowing you to create multiple styles.

Frequently Asked Questions

A hot comb can damage your hair with repeated use, but this can be minimized by taking the necessary precautions – never hot comb your hair when it is wet or damp, always use a heat-protecting product and make the most of regular keratin or deep conditioning treatments to reduce the risk of damage or breakage.

You can flat iron your hair with a hot comb, as the purpose of the latter is to straighten and smooth your hair – and this is exactly what is achieved with a flat iron. You should note that you will enjoy slightly different results, as a hot comb combs through, straightening each strand, while flat irons create more of an “ironed” effect.

A hot comb straightens your hair by using heated metal teeth to glide through the length of your hair and straighten the strands. The repeated action also detangles your hair at the same time, leaving you with smooth, sleek results, and hair that should stay smooth and straight for longer.

How often you should hot comb your hair depends on your hair type and style – some styles will require you to straighten hair more regularly than others. As a general rule, the curlier your hair, the more often you will need to straighten, as the inclination will be for the hair to return to its natural state. Always remember to protect your hair before you apply heat.

It is ok to use a hot comb on natural hair, as long as you are giving the hair a chance to rest regularly, and are protecting your hair with sprays, serums and regular conditioning treatments to reduce the risk of breakages and keep your hair in the best condition.


In the debate between hot comb vs flat iron, the ultimate victor is the tool that offers the best results for your unique hair type, style and preferred final look. No matter which you choose, the most important thing to remember is to keep your hair healthy, hydrated and well-conditioned – these are all steps that will improve the final result, no matter which styling tool you opt for!