Flat Iron Anatomy
Plate. In the early 1900s the first flat iron was patent using two flat irons that heated and pressed together. The technology of a flat iron has greatly improved over time. Flat iron plates can be made from metal (like the very early flat irons), ceramic or tourmaline. The quality of the flat iron plates are a large part of the overall quality of the iron itself. Better plates straighten the hair more easily and cause less damage. Avoid any flat iron that doesn't at least say they are made of ceramic or ionic. Irons that aren't, are the lowest forms of a flat iron. These are the most damaging types of flat irons because the aluminum plates do not have the technology to make sure the flat iron stays at an even temperature like a ceramic or tourmaline iron. They also have the tendency to snag the hair which leads to hair breakage.
Temperature Setting. Flat iron temperature settings can range from as low as 150° F all the way as high as 500° F. Many flat irons have fixed heat settings, but hair straighteners with varied heat settings are also available. The temperature needed to straighten you hair may depend on you hair type. Click here to identify your hair type and what temperature setting you may want. Most flat irons with fixed heat settings will automatically heat up to high temperatures. A flat iron with a digital temperature display is a great option for those concerned about heat damage and like the control. Some flat irons also have automatic shut off, just so you don't burn down the house.
Cord. Something we often forget is the cord. Some flat irons offer swivel cords which allow better styling options like flipping and curling hair with a tangling mess. This also will preserve the length of your flat iron's life. You may also want to keep in mind the length of the cord. Nothing is worse than a short cord.
Flat Iron Physiology
So how do flat irons work? Well, flat irons work by breaking down the hydrogen bonds found in the hair's cortex, which cause hair to bend and become curly. The intense heat of a flat iron is key to its effectiveness. When enough heat is applied, the hydrogen bonds are broken and the hair lies straight. Once the bonds are broken, hair is prevented from holding its original, natural form, though the hydrogen bonds can re-form if exposed to moisture. I think we all have had that day when our hair was perfectly straight only to walk outside and its raining and your goes to instead frizz ball, yup that's what we are talking about here. Therefore, the curlier the hair, the more heat is required to break up these bonds so the hair can lie flat. The kind of flat iron used also determines how easily the hair will lie down. Low quality flat irons are made of aluminum and sprayed with a ceramic coating. These require longer to straighten the hair. More expensive flat irons are often made of higher quality materials like a higher percentage of ceramic, tourmaline, or titanium which are able to seal in additional moisture that is normally lost in the straightening process, resulting in less split ends and other damage that can be caused due to overheating hair too regularly.
Alright that wasn't too bad was it? Now that we know the features of a flat iron and how they work, I'm a step closer to understanding flat irons better and being able to pick the right one for me. Stay with me folks, I have more learning to do and flat iron to buy!