Hair Straightening Irons

Sunday, 16 March 2008 | Tags:

To give your hair a smooth, sleek look, hair straightening or flat irons work like a curling iron, without the curl. We learn more about these hair styling tools.

The Basics

  • Flat irons or straightening irons have two flat plates that you clamp over your hair and run down the length of hair to straighten or smooth it out.

  • Look for more than just an on/off switch so that you have control over temperature and can choose a lower heat setting to avoid damaging your hair.

  • Professional brands usually have higher wattage than drugstore brands, around 135-170 watts. Higher watts will mean higher heat, which you’ll need if you have longer or curlier hair.

  • If you have frizzy hair, use a lower wattage tool (around 40 watts) or lower heat settings, since the drying effect of the iron can lead to more frizz.

  • The plates come in different materials:

    • Ceramic plates are said to be the best, heating quickly, distributing the heat most evenly. Ceramic may overheat, however, and damage your hair.

    • Some irons boast gold-plated plates. Gold is an excellent heat conductor, but unless it’s quite expensive, it may just be gold coloured metal. Save gold for your jewelry!

    • Metal plates are the most common and least expensive. The tool can be heavier and take longer to heat up than ceramic. Hair snags easier with metal plates, which causes drying, split-ends, and breakage.

    • Teflon-coated metal plates are meant to keep the hair from sticking.

  • Plates with rounded edges can leave a smoother finish. Sharp, square-edged plates can leave a kink if held for too long.

Other Considerations

  • Typical operating temperature of a flat iron is around 120°C (248°F), sometimes hotter. Be certain that your hair is completely dry so that you aren’t “cooking” your hair. Always move the flat iron continuously over your hair (never stop in one spot, like a curling iron). If you hear any sizzling sounds, let go of your hair immediately.

Be Aware

  • Some straighteners claim to emit negative ions to apparently revitalize and strengthen your hair. Our physicist tested one such product and concluded that the only thing emitting from the iron was heat; it was a negative on the negative ions.


We invited some wavy and curly-headed helpers to try styling their hair with some straighteners.

We tested: .  
  • Conair: $29.99
. . Well.ca Drugstore.com
  • Vidal Sassoon: $25.99
. . Sears.ca
  • Remington: $32.99
. . Drugstore.com
  • BaByliss: $129.99
. .

(Note: prices listed above are approximate and in Canadian dollars)

Styling Test

  • The Vidal Sassoon and the Remington took almost 15 minutes to heat up (but promised a 60-second heat up time)

  • The Vidal Sassoon and the Remington were also a bit too heavy and awkward to use.

  • The BaByliss was a favourite among our testers for its different settings, fast heat-up time, ease of use and the effects seemed to last longer.

  • The Conair came in second, but didn’t quite compare exactly to the quality of the expensive BaByliss.


The BaByliss was the favourite for its fast heat-up time, ease of use, and lasting effects. However, it was also the most expensive tool. The Conair is a much more economical alternative, with almost the same results.


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