Whether you are trying to transform your style, smooth pesky flyaway hairs or tame your frizz, straightening your hair can be time-consuming, tricky and even painful if you haven’t mastered your techniques. There is certainly a knack to straightening your hair with a flat iron, but what you may not know is that there are multiple ways you can tame your tresses – both with and without heat.
Flatirons have been a popular addition to your wardrobe toolkit since the 1990s, and before that, they were only really used in salons. But in that time, hair-straightening technology has become far more advanced, and the trusty flat iron is no longer your only option! That means that there is something for everyone, and while you may not like using a flat iron, you may love using hair straightening brushes.
We are going to talk you through the different tools you can use that we love, and how to use them to get the best results, fast!
Table Of Contents
Straightening Your Hair With A Flat Iron
Choosing to straighten your hair yourself at home will save you a huge amount of money over time. Salon prices seem to be going up regularly at the moment, and unless you are among the elite and very rich, a weekly or even more often straightening session with your stylist is not achievable. But owning a set of straighteners comes in very handy when you want to touch up a look or sort out a particularly frizzy or puffy area of your hair! You can create the perfect style to suit you and don’t have to wait for an appointment each time.
What Tools You Need
To get the best results and to look after your hair before, during and a long time after you straighten your hair, we suggest you have these tools to hand:
- High-quality hair straightener – you want to choose one with a wide range of temperature settings, which has high-quality plates such as ceramic which distributes the heat evenly and that is the right size for your length of hair. Choose wider plates for longer hair and slimmer plates for shorter hair. Ideally, select quick heat-up to save you time when you are styling.
- Heat protector spray – this is to protect your hair from potential heat damage. Not only that, but many good-quality heat protector sprays also impart nutrients and moisture into the hairs to enrich them and keep them healthy. Many contain ingredients such as nourishing argan oil which is rich in antioxidants. Many heat sprays also double-up as holding spray too!
- Hair clips – and lots of them! They make it far easier to keep your sections separated than just leaving your hair loose! You can use regular snap clips, but we find the best are the same ones many hairdressers use – duckbill/alligator clips or longer condor clips. These have a hinge at one end that you can easily unclip one-handed as you switch between sections.
- Wide-toothed comb – to get all the tangles out of your hair before you begin straightening it! Even if you have just conditioned your hair, it is worth combing through just before it is completely dry. It makes it easier to separate the sections. Wider combs cause less friction than finer combs and you can also use them to spread product through your hair.
- Setting spray – to keep that straight look for longer. As we mentioned before, some thermal protector sprays are designed to be used both before and after heat-treating your hair. This saves you doubling up on the products you keep in your bathroom! The spray helps to hold your style for longer, so your curls don’t bounce up hours after you have straightened them!
Preparing Your Hair
Before getting started, you may want to shampoo and condition your hair. This isn’t necessary every time, but it does mean that you can have your hair straight for the maximum time in between washes, as washing it will enable the curls to spring back in full force. However, if you do wash and condition your hair first, then make sure that you dry your hair thoroughly before using your straightener.
Whether you choose to let your hair air dry, or you use a blow dryer, be careful not to rub your hair. This can cause frizz to get worse, even in people with straight hair, so avoid it if you can. Instead, squeeze excess water from your hair with your hands as you finish washing it, then wrap it in a towel and squeeze it again. Be careful also not to scrunch your hair, as this can encourage the formation of curls!
Once you have thoroughly dried your hair, spray on some heat protector spray. Not too much – you don’t want to make it greasy and anyway a little goes a long way – but enough to spread throughout the whole amount. To begin with, you can rake it through with your fingertips.
Next, you want to comb through your hair to remove the tangles. For your curly hair, you will want to use a wide-toothed comb for this over a finer tooth comb. Avoid using a hairbrush, which can cause friction and therefore frizz. If your hair is very curly or tangled, then start at the ends and gradually work up the strands as you clear the tangles. This step is a lot easier if you have already combed through it while you were washing and conditioning your hair!
Once you have combed through your entire head of hair and removed all of the tangles, start organizing your hair into sections. Pin up the outer layers of your hair using the clips we mentioned earlier so that when you begin straightening it, you start with the bottom layer. You may find it best to twist your hair and pin it up, so you don’t have lots of long bits hanging down from the clips.
If this is the first time you have straightened your hair, take the time to practice with the flat iron before you switch it on. It gets you used to holding it and won’t burn if you accidentally touch your ears!
Flat irons at the ready, it is now time to actually straighten your hair! You will want to work methodically – front to back or back to front, whichever you find easiest, but working in order means you won’t miss chunks!
Gather a small bunch of hair in your fingers, roughly an inch across. Comb through it once more to remove any last minute tangles, then hold it a little way from the top of the strands with the comb. Clasp your flat iron around the hair above the comb and then glide both the comb and the straightener down the hair towards the root. Make sure to keep your hair pulled taught as you straighten it as it will straighten faster and more effectively.
If your hair starts to sizzle at any point, STOP! This will probably be because it is not completely dry, or you have the temperature of the straightener set too high!
After making sure the temperature is set correctly, continue onto the next bunch of hair. Again, comb it through, then comb it a second time, keeping it taut and chase it straight through with the flat iron. Work methodically around your head and then undo the next section of your hair.
Once you have worked around all of the sections of your hair, it is time to apply the finishing touches! You can style it out first by having the edges around your face twisting out, curl the ends out with your straightener, or pin it up. Don’t forget to straighten your fringe if you have one!
Once your style is complete, finish it off with some setting spray to help it hold for longer. As we mentioned before, you may be able to use the same product you sprayed before as thermal spray, so check on the bottle!
And now you can enjoy your new style! You may need to touch it up every now and again if you want it to last longer. To help it last as long as possible, avoid getting it wet and try to use dry shampoo to enable you to wait a bit longer before you wash it. We have some more tips for keeping your style for longer on our blog.
Straightening Your Hair With A Straightening Brush
If you are going to be straightening your hair every day, then a different option to the traditional flat iron is the hair straightening brush. They are gentler on your hair because the temperatures are typically lower than a regular set of straighteners can achieve, yet the designs mean that they are incredibly effective at straightening even unruly curls. Plus it is very easy to get the hang of and can save you loads of time.
As with using a flat iron, when you are going to use your straightening brush you should wash and condition your hair. It means you get the longest style time in between washes and can extend the life of your style. Plus, it helps keep your straightening brush clean. Make sure that you make the most of the conditioner by removing any knots and tangles.
Apply some heat protectant spray and then leave your hair to air dry or use your blow dryer. Comb through it to make sure that all tangles are gone. Once your hair is dry, set up your straightening brush and switch it on. Set the temperature to the correct setting for your hair type.
We always recommend starting at the lowest temperature and then increasing it as and when you need to, to prevent damaging your hair. Remember that dyed hair needs to be treated more carefully, even if you naturally have strong and healthy hair. It is always worth using the lowest setting you can.
Separate your hair into sections and clip them back to keep it organized. Think about separating into at least three areas, such as left, right and back, and then divide those areas horizontally into a few sections as well – depending on how thick your hair is.
Take the first section of your hair, such as the lowest back section, in your hand. Place the brush near the roots and brush slowly through the section, but keep it moving right through to the ends. Make sure that you are brushing deeply so that the strands have even contact with the heat bristles. You should notice a difference immediately, but you may need to go over that section a few more times. Slower brushing tends to mean you don’t need to repeat sections so many times as it allows more time for the hair to respond.
It is that simple! We love how straightening brushes allow you to multitask, so you don’t feel like you need more hands to manage! The tangles should be gone before you start using the brush straightener, but it keeps your locks under control as you work through it.
If at any stage you hear your hair crackling or sizzling, stop immediately and wait until it is thoroughly dry.
Carry on working all the way through the different areas of your hair; then once you are done, you can spritz on some hairspray to keep in under control and help it last. Turn off your straightening brush and leave it to cool, then give it a wipe with a clean cloth to prevent any residue building up.
Why Choose A Straightening Brush?
Straightening brushes are a great option to have at your fingertips because they multitask! Not only do they straighten your hair, but many can also detangle your hair. Now we would always recommend combing through and detangling before you start, but this means that they can control your style better while you are using them – they help you achieve a smooth and obedient style. You can find that the process of straightening your hair with a hairbrush straightener is far easier and a lot more manageable than using a conventional hair straightener.
Straightening brushes reach they temperature quickly and are also excellent for maintaining a constant temperature and imparting the constant temperature to your hair evenly. Many have ionic technology which means static electricity is reduced and your hair may appear shinier.
If you haven’t already got a straightening brush and would like to find out more about them, have a look at our article here on the best hairbrush straighteners around.
Other Essential Tools
The old saying may go ‘a poor workman blames his tools,’ but having the right tools at your disposal sure makes straightening and styling your hair a lot easier!
Don’t even think about going anywhere near your hair with a styling tool without first applying a heat protectant! Sure, it may be fine the first few times, but if you are drying, straightening or styling your hair regularly, that intense heat can really begin to take its toll – yes, even with the highest quality straighteners, straightening brushes and dryers!
You can get heat protectant for hair is many different forms – mousse, oil, serum and spray – so it’s really up to you to find which you prefer, and which suits your hair best. For those of you with particularly curly and dry hair, you may find that an oil or serum is the best choice for your hair, while those who have to wash their hair every day or two because it gets greasy quickly may find that a mousse-style heat protectant is better.
Applying heat protectant spray may be different depending on what type of protectant you choose. In general, however, we would apply a bit to our hands and then rake it through our hair, working from the ends and gradually moving towards the scalp. That way, the heat protectant gets to the most delicate area of the hair – the ends which are more prone to splitting – and doesn’t get too built-up at the roots, where it can look greasy. Check on the bottle to make sure you are applying it correctly though!
We love the TRESemmé Thermal Creations Heat Tamer:
A hairbrush is an essential tool for anyone with long hair, but hairbrushes are not created equal. There are many different types of hairbrush, but these are some of the most common:
- Paddle brush – a flat, often rectangular-shaped brush that has bristles coming out of a soft cushion. They can help you smooth and detangle your hair, and some have bobbles on the ends of the bristles which massage your head too. The bristles are usually in straight lines, meaning they effortlessly glide through your hair without snagging or pulling.
- Vented brush – these are great for when you are blow-drying your hair before you straighten it. The bristles are usually stiff, and the vents allow the air to blow through, meaning you can dry your hair quicker. This means you can easily style your hair with a blow dryer, or you can use if for easy styling with a straightener.
- Wide-toothed comb – not really a brush, but an essential tool in anyone with long hair’s toolkit. It is great for removing the tangles from damp hair, but be sure always to start working the knots out from the ends and work up gradually. Otherwise, you can tighten the tangles and make them far worse. Use it to detangle before you begin to blow dry your hair.
- Boar bristle brush – these are great for conditioning your hair and making it beautifully shiny, as they spread natural oil from your scalp down through the strands. They are an excellent option for brushing through after you have straightened your hair and for maintaining your sleek, smooth styling, but don’t ever use them on wet hair and don’t use them to detangle it.
- Barrel brush – you probably won’t use this so much when you are straightening your hair, although you can use them to add volume to your hair or curl the ends of your newly-straightened hair. These are typically used more for blowouts and blow drying hair, and when you are trying to get natural curls under control without flattening them completely.
Have a few clips at your disposal makes it so much easier when you are styling or straightening your hair, no matter which method and tool you choose to use for it. It keeps your sections in place and you can keep your newly-straightened areas under control and out of the way so that you don’t overcook your strands.
Our favorite types of hair clip are duck-billed and crocodile hair clips. They are easy to press and release one-handed, they can hold a relatively large amount of hair per clip and they don’t tend to leave a kink in your hair like other types of hair clip might. Often it is these types of hair clip that stylists use in salons. We like the Hicarer metal duck bill clips:
If you are straightening your hair for an everyday look, you may not think to apply hairspray after you have styled it. But a small spritz of hairspray will hold any flyaway hairs in place throughout the day, without needing to make your hair stiff. We love this nourishing extra strong hold spray from Osensia:
If you want to cut costs down, look for a heat protectant that doubles up as hairspray to get the best of both worlds. That way, you can spritz it on before and after you straighten your hair for healthy locks and lasting style.
Common Straightening Mistakes
Once you get the hang of it, straightening your hair is easy, and you’ll get quicker each time you have a go. But if you are not getting the effect you are looking for, here are a few ideas as to where you are going wrong and how to correct them:
- Applying too much or too little product – this goes for both before and after you straighten. Applying too much product before or after you straighten your hair can leave it greasy and lank. Instead, know that a little goes a long way in terms of applying products to your hair, and remember to comb it through your hair, not just leave it on the top surface of your hair.
- Using sections that are too large – if you find that your hair just isn’t becoming straighter, try using smaller sections which are more easily managed by the straightener. Smaller bunches will fit better in the flat iron and have a more even heat distribution, meaning the hairs are straightened more efficiently. It takes a little longer, but you will get a better result.
- Forgetting to clean your straightener – if you are finding your hair is catching on your flat iron and that it is hard to glide it down your strands of hair, you probably need to give it a clean! Turn it off, wait for it to cool then use some rubbing alcohol to clean off any residue. This is also a good idea to check the plates for chips and other damages which can snag your hair.
- Not drying your hair properly – this is a big mistake and can seriously damage your hair! Occasionally straighteners are marketed for use on wet hair, but we don’t recommend this. If you are in a hurry, use a blow drier to dry your hair thoroughly before you straighten it. Blow dry it down the strands from the roots, and you can brush it through as you go along.
- Choosing the wrong temperature setting – choosing a heat that is too high for your hair can singe and burn the strands. Choosing a temperature that is too low for your hair type can mean it doesn’t straighten or remain straight for long. Here is our guide for choosing the right temperature, but read the instructions for your own straightener to make sure first:
- For fine or damaged hair, choose below 300°F (148°C),
- For normal hair choose between 300°F and 380°F (148°C to 193°C)
- For coarse hair, choose 350°F to 400°F (176°C to 204°C)
Caring For Your Heat-Treated Hair
Understandably, if you are heat treating your hair regularly, you need to give it a little extra TLC to keep it strong and healthy. The best thing you can do for your hair, as we mentioned above, is to remember to apply a heat protectant spray to your hair every time you use a heat appliance to style it. Here are some more ways you can care for your hair:
Add a deep conditioner into your haircare routine. You don’t need to do this every time you wash your hair, but once a week or a couple of times a month, apply a leave-in conditioner, otherwise known as a hair mask, that will nourish your hair. There are plenty of leave-in conditioners that you can buy with specific features that treat different elements of your hair that you can pick up from your local drug store or beauty shop. If you prefer to do a little DIY though, there are plenty of recipes you can use to make your own hair mask with natural ingredients.
For example, extra virgin olive oil is super hydrating and replenishes your hair with a healthy glow, while coconut oil helps our hair to feel soft again. Honey restores moisture to your hair, while apple cider vinegar can remove excess oil and eradicate dandruff. Lemon is also very cleansing and can successfully remove oil, but it may also bleach your hair, so make sure you dilute it!
Regular Hair Cuts
We can often underestimate the power of a haircut or trim, but we all know that just-cut, luscious feeling our hair has when we leave the salon. Having a regular haircut is good for our hair because it means that we get rid of any split ends and ends which are weak and likely to split. This means that the split is prevented from continuing up the strand of hair, where it is harder to treat.
Often stylists recommend a trim every 6 to 8 weeks, but everyone’s hair is slightly different. Pay attention to the health of your hair and look out for warning signs of damage. When you start to notice split ends forming, head out for a haircut. After a while, you will get to know how long you can go before you need to snip the ends and you can prevent split ends occurring in the first place!
Even with all the heat protectant, deep conditioning and haircuts in the world, straightening and blow drying regularly is tough on your hair. Daily heat treatments are intense, and so as much as you can, give your hair a break.
When you can, leave your hair natural for a day or two and go an extra day in between straightening. Chances are it won’t have sprung back up to its natural curls completely overnight, so unless you have washed it, it should still be relatively straight for a while. You can extend the time in between washes by using dry shampoo instead, which can help you to control any oil and greasiness. Your hair will thank you for regular breaks from heat treatments by staying healthy, strong and glossy.
Hopefully, you now feel confident and happy in how you are going to straighten your curly hair. Don’t worry if it doesn’t give you the exact finish you are looking for the first time – practice makes perfect! If you have yet decided on the right straightener for you, take a look at our reviews of the models we consider to be the top straighteners on the market right now.