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10 Flat Iron Hair Styling Mistakes You’re Probably Making (And How To Fix Them)

Jackie Summers

June 29, 2017
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Maybe your flat iron is the only hair styling tool you have in your hair routine. Maybe it’s a go-to for smoothing frizz when the weather is humid, or to provide a once-in-a-while sleek hairstyle. However you choose to use this effective hair tool, there are right ways and wrong ways to get the most out of your flat iron. Matrix hair styling professionals have compiled a list of dos and don’ts for when and how to flat iron hair for your best hair styling moments.

The Mistake: Your hair is in bad shape to begin with.

The Fix: The truth is any thermal hair tool can compromise the condition and moisture level of your hair. So if you’re starting out with dry or damaged hair, flat iron hair styling will just make things worse. Do an honest assessment, and if your hair isn’t in good health, get busy making it better—with moisturizing shampoos and conditioners, and deep-penetrating hair restorative treatments —before switching on your flat iron.

The Mistake: Your sections are too large or too thick. Or both.

The Fix: It’s tempting to stuff a lot of hair between those flat iron plates in order to get through your whole head of hair quicker but…don’t. In order for the heat to penetrate completely, sections must be fine and narrow. Yes that’s a bore if you have a lot of hair, but if you want your flat iron hairstyle to look great and to last, you’ll divide your hair into sections, clip away most of it and then flat iron slender subsections, bottom to top, until you’ve smoothed every last strand. Take your time!

The Mistake: You’re skipping heat protection.

The Fix: Flat irons pack a lot of heat, so you should be applying a double dose of heat protection—before drying and again on dry hair before flat ironing. That means working a heat-protective styling hair serum or balm through damp hair, blow-drying or air-drying hair and then misting each of your small sections with a heat-protection spray before flat ironing hair.

The Mistake: You’re not flat ironing clean hair.

The Fix: The best time to flat iron hair is when it’s freshly shampooed, conditioned and dried. Otherwise, you run the risk of pressing dirt and hair styling products into your strands, which will make it feel stiff and look dull. By all means, grab your flat iron for second or third day hair touchups, but concentrate the majority of flat iron work on your hair when it’s fresh.

The Mistake: You’re flat ironing wet or damp hair.

The Fix: This is a huge no. Trying to flat iron when your hair is wet can wreak some serious hair damage on your strands. Not to mention the fact that you won’t achieve the sleek, straight hair results you’re after. You can blow dry or air dry your hair first, but just be sure it’s completely dry before you proceed with flat iron styling. If you have wavy or curly hair and you like it straight, use as much tension as possible to smooth it when you blow dry hair so your straightening iron has less work to do. And if you’re flat ironing your hair and you see steam or hear a sizzle, stop.

The Mistake: You’re using the wrong size flat iron.

The Fix: If you have long and/or thick hair, you’ll have better results with an iron with wider plates—anywhere from 1 ½ inches to 2 inches wide. A larger iron lets you smooth larger sections and cuts down on your flat iron hair styling time. If your hair is short and/or fine, opt for a flat iron that is one-half inch to one inch wide because you will need to work with smaller sections of hair.

The Mistake: You’re on the wrong temperature setting.

The Fix: In addition to flat iron size, flat iron temperature is also a critical factor. The first step is to purchase a flat iron with adjustable heat settings. The default setting on single-temperature irons could easily be too hot or not hot enough for your hair type. What’s more, hair textures are often different in different sections of your head. The hair in back, for example, could be much thicker than the fine sections around your face. An adjustable flat iron gives you the option of changing up the temperature to account for varying hair textures. As a general guideline, set your flat iron between 250 and 300 degrees if you have fine or damaged hair; between 300 and 350 degrees if your hair is medium and average and between 350 and 400 degrees if you have thick or coarse hair.

The Mistake: You’re pressing out all of your hair’s body.

The Fix: In an effort to iron out every bit of wave, curl and frizz, many women flat iron their hair until it’s limp and lifeless. Here are a few hair styling tips for preserving body in your hair when you flat iron:

  • Iron just the middle and ends, and allow natural hair movement to remain near the scalp.
  • Lift each section up off the scalp as you flat iron hair, instead of pulling each section straight down.
  • When you reach the end of each section, twist your wrist and direct the ends away from your face to create some hair movement and bounce.

The Mistake: Your iron is gunky.

The Fix: Dirt, hair products and hair color build up quickly on flat iron plates, and too much buildup can prevent a flat iron hairstyle from being done smoothly and evenly. That’s why it’s important to clean your flat iron regularly—with a damp cloth or an iron cleaner. If the plates become chipped or heavily scratched, it’s time to get a replacement.

The Mistake: You’re not using the best flat iron you can afford.

The Fix: This is a case where quality matters. Better flat irons are generally made with materials like tourmaline, ceramic or titanium that conduct heat evenly and safely while minimizing heat damage. As mentioned, temperature setting options are also important. There are many excellent flat irons in a variety of price ranges. Do your hair a favor and purchase the best flat iron your budget allows.


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