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How to Use a Flat Iron

Styling products you need, plus what to look for in a good flatiron


Japanese woman using a hair iron
Shuji Kobayashi/The Image Bank/Getty Images ghd-iv-styler.jpg

GHD IV Styler


It's seems obvious how to use a flat iron: you clamp down a bit of hair into the iron and pull it through. But there's actually an art to correctly straightening hair or creating curls (yes, you can do this!) with a flat iron.

First off, let's talk the flat iron itself. Buy an iron with a ceramic, not a metal plate. They diffuse heat better and won't damage hair as much as metal. You can find an affordable ceramic flat iron for under $50 but the best ones are worth the investment of $100 or more. See my list of the Top 10 Flat Irons and Hair Straighteners. Also, before you buy, you might want to read this, What to Look for in a Flat Iron.

Step 1: Apply styling cream to damp hair from mid-shaft down. If you have curly, coarse hair, use a straightening balm.

Step 2: Coat strands with a heat-protective spray. It's important to protect hair when using any styling tool that uses heat.

Step 3:  Dry hair thoroughly. Note: Flat irons should be used only on hair that's been thoroughly dried. 

Step 4: It's very important to work in layers when straightening hair, starting with the bottom layer of hair. To do this, clip away the top 3/4ths of your hair, or the top half if you have fine, thin hair. It's up to you to determine how many layers you want to work through. Keep in mind the goal is to run your iron over hair ONLY ONCE. If hair feels at the end as if you need to do another run-through, you were ironing sections that were too thick.

Step 5: You are going to work your way around the bottom layer. Iron 1-inch sections of hair. Clamp the iron down as close to the scalp as possible. Slowly pull iron down the length of hair. (Be sure to read directions to see what heat setting you should have iron on and how long to keep iron on hair). You only want to go over hair once.

Step 6: Once you complete the bottom layer, create a layer above it by pulling up hair again. You want to work your way up through the sections of your hair, layer by layer.

Step 5: If you have typically, dry, frizzy hair, rub a serum gloss between your hands and palm over hair for extra shine and to keep hair in place. To keep frizzies along the hairline at bay, spritz hairspray on an old toothbrush and 'brush' them down.

More on styling tools:


Related Video
Use a Curling Iron and Flat Iron

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