Just like clockwork, as TikTok teens latch onto the aesthetics of the near-distant past, early-aughts beauty codes have returned—and so have the hair straighteners. We’ve been primed for this revival, taking in updated iterations of frosted lips and pastel eye shadow, alongside candy-colored butterfly clips as seen on Olivia Rodrigo. But it’s the pin-straight hair on the Chanel fall 2021 runway that signaled a turn of events. Call it nostalgia or a return to polish after a year of hands-off styling at home—but either way, it’s tempting enough for many to reconsider the appeal of ultra-sleek hair. The timing couldn’t be better, as today’s straightening tools and flat irons are decidedly future-forward, offering customizable settings, cord-free styling, and heat-protective features.
Of utmost importance is temperature control. “It is crucial to use the proper heat setting so you don’t cause unnecessary damage,” says Leigh Hardges, a stylist at Maxine Salon in Chicago. “Using too high a temperature can melt the cortex of the hair, while not enough heat can leave hair looking unfinished with a style that doesn’t last long.” Determining the right temperature—which can range from 170 to 450 degrees Fahrenheit, varying by model—depends largely on hair texture and weight. Thick or curly types call for more heat, whereas those with fine or thinning hair should keep it low and slow.
Then, next to consider is the material of the plates, as they are not created equal. “Ceramic is a more gentle heat, while titanium is more aggressive,” Hardges says of the relative conductivity and the effects on hair. Metals, such as copper or titanium, heat the cuticle first for faster straightening, so it’s best for those seeking speed. Ceramic plates, however, gradually warm the strands from within the hair shaft, causing relatively less damage and imparting shine.
Still, heat of any kind is liable to do some harm, especially on repeat. For that reason, it’s best to limit hair-straightener use to just once or twice a week. (Consider a dry shampoo to extend a style’s lifespan for an extra day.) And a heat protectant is a non-negotiable, adds Hardges, who uses Oribe Balm d’Or heat styling shield on her clients. “I apply the product from the mid-strand to ends of hair before thermal styling.”
For the best results, Hardges recommends the “chase” method: Using a heat-resistant comb, pass through the section you aim to straighten and follow it immediately—chasing it, so to speak—with the flat iron. “This ensures that all strands get evenly straightened, and gives a sleeker, more polished finish,” she explains.
It’s easy work with this collection of next-level hair straighteners. The overarching result is a preternaturally smooth look that lasts.