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When you want something like a one pass flat iron, what you’re really asking for is high, even heat, and an effective plate coating and design. This seems pretty basic, but it’s a lot to ask from a flat iron.
Complicating matters is the fact that there is no one product that will work for everyone. Different hair types and thicknesses are going to require different types of irons. And even within those divisions, personal taste and technique is going to divide who finds what product usable.
It’s a tall order, certainly, but it’s not impossible. Finding the right device comes down to the technique you use when styling your hair, as well as the features you prioritize.
Before you start getting into the features, it’s important to think about how you’re straightening your hair. Technique is a determining factor in whether or not you have to go back over your hair again.
While there is a general technique that works for most flat irons, it’s important to note that each device will have it’s own recommendations. Check the manual for any additional information. You can also look up video reviews to see what others have to say about using the product.
Aside from those exceptions, the general technique for straightening is fairly simple: start near the scalp and pull the device downward. Your motion should be both gentle, and slow. You also need to keep your movement steady so that you don’t end up burning one part while not giving enough heat to another.
Once you’ve gone down the length of that section and the ends are between the plates, hold them there for just one extra second. This will help prevent that little flip at the bottom that usually causes people to have to go over a section multiple times.
As for the amount of hair, this depends on your hair type. With fine hair, you’ll be able to use a larger section than with coarse hair. However, for all hair types, you shouldn’t be using too large an amount.
One technique to figuring out the right amount, is to grasp your hair between your thumb and index finger, putting pressure there as though the two fingertips were the plates of the straightener. (You want to focus on pushing the hair into a single layer.) The maximum you can hold comfortably there, without having a lot of hair slipping out, is a good starting place. Add or subtract hair from that, depending on your preference.
If you’re struggling to keep track of your sections, it helps to divide your whole head of hair into three or four big chunks before you start. Let one near the bottom of your head loose first, complete it, and then let another one loose.
Along with technique, the temperature you set your device at can make a difference.
Even as someone with thick, curly hair, I don’t like to advocate for higher temperatures. I used the max temperature on my straightener as a default when I was starting out, and it certainly didn’t do my hair any favors. It wasn’t until I had sustained a regrettable amount of heat damage that I finally figured out that lower temperatures can work too.
However, if you’re looking to make a single swipe and be done with things, you’re probably going to need a higher temperature. My usual temperature is anywhere from 390 to 425 degrees Fahrenheit, depending on how lazy I am on that given day, or how difficult my hair is being. If my goal was a single brush over each section, I would probably go with a minimum of 435, maybe even something closer to 450.
In theory, it’s not as terrible to use a higher temperature for this scenario, because you’re not really exposing your hair to the temperatures for an extended length of time. If you’re only doing a single swipe at a higher than normal temperature, than the damage may not be as sustained as it would if you were going over each section meticulously. However, if you do have the time and the patience, I still recommend using a lower temperature.
For your specific case, go with what you’re comfortable with. It’s possible the temperature you regularly use is already hot enough, you just need to work on your technique. If you’re trying it out at home, I would up the temperature in increments of 5-10 degrees, depending on what your device allows. If you start to smell burnt hair, you’ve definitely gone too far.
And of course, all of this is relative to your hair type. I use temperatures upwards of 425 degrees because my hair is thick and coarse. If you have fine hair, your range should be lower than mine.
When buying a one pass hair straightener, here are some features to look out for:
This is more of a preference than a necessity, but I think most people will still appreciate the precision that more temperature options affords. Depending on your device and your technique, you may be flirting with the highest temperature you can get to before your hair starts to sustain too much damage. In that case, having a device with a lot of temperature options is going to help you push those limits that little bit further.
I usually don’t like titanium, but in this instance, there are some benefits that I feel are worth mentioning.
Titanium is naturally ionic. It won’t produce as many negative ions as tourmaline, but it should still help smooth out your hair. It also has a higher heat transfer rate, which in this case, is great. Heat will reach your hair faster, which saves you from having to expose your hair longer. On the other hand, this means the potential for heat damage is also greater if the device is used carelessly. This is particularly important since titanium usually won’t heat as evenly as pure ceramic plates. You will get certain spots that are different in temperature, which can limit its ability to be a good, single swipe device.
However, the heat transfer rate is key for people with thicker, coarse, or naturally curly hair. If your hair is too stubborn for a ceramic straightener, maybe consider this material.
It’s important to note that there is a difference between a ceramic coating, and an actual ceramic plate. Most listings don’t really specify, so you have to look for words like “coating”, if they’re present. Ceramic coating will still give you most of the benefits, however, it’s even, steady heating properties will not be as efficient.
With the right ceramic, you have a device that’s going to heat hair evenly and make it less frizzy. It’s also going to allow your hair to slide through the device easier, since the finish on the plates resists static, and is smooth.
Ceramic does have a lower heat transfer though. It’s going to take longer for the heat from the device to reach your hair, so you may have to use higher temperatures with this sort of device.
It this case, tourmaline is more of an added benefit. It’s not really necessary for important factors like heat transfer. Although, it can create an even smoother finish than ceramic, which can help hair slide through the plates easily.
The biggest benefit of tourmaline is that it produces a large number of negative ions. This helps your hair lock in moisture, and can prevent frizz. So while it’s not going to assist the overall efficiency, it is going to make your style look better.
It’s a small touch, but I’ve found that floating plates can give you a smoother experience when you slide the device over your hair. The term floating plates basically means that the plates will adjust slightly to wherever you’re putting the most pressure. So they’ll actually tip towards whatever direction you’re pulling your hair the most. This allows your hair to move between the plates with less resistance, which is obviously a useful feature when you’re trying to make a single, easy swipe.
I don’t usually pay attention to plate width, but I think it’s important to point out given the issue in question. Wider plates can, in theory, make it easier to get hair done with a single swipe. Since the plate is wider, you have more room for error in terms how much hair you can use. Even if you do happen to get a larger piece on accident, the wider plates should still be able to handle things. As a whole though, I think this feature comes down to personal preference. If you like wider plates, it shouldn’t be a problem. But if you prefer smaller plates, that should still be workable.
On the user’s end, a one-pass device comes down to techniques and suitability. When straightening, you want to make sure you’re using a steady, slow motion, and holding the device on the ends for an additional few seconds. You also want to make sure you’re using the appropriate temperature for your hair type.
When it comes to the device, you want to choose a material that’s going to work for you. Titanium is best suited for thicker, coarser hair, since it has a higher heat transfer rate. Ceramic is better for fine hair, since it’s more prone to damage, and doesn’t require as high a temperature as coarse hair does.
Things like floating plates, or wider plates, are optional, and really depend on your own preferences.
One Pass Flat Iron Top Picks
With the background knowledge out of the way, you’re probably starting to think about which device would work best for your hair. Here are a few options to get you started with your shopping:
HSI Professional Ceramic Tourmaline
- Ceramic tourmaline, floating plates
- 8 heat balance sensors
- Auto shut off
- Max temp 450 Degrees Fahrenheit
- LCD temperature display
- 360 swivel cord
I like this option because of the heat balance sensors. Usually, features like this are listed to emphasize how they are trying to make sure that the heat is even, and constant. When you’re trying to limit how often you go over a section of hair, this is obviously a plus. I also like the digital temperature read out since it should help you be more exacting, although it’s not clear how many temperature options you get.
- Ceramic and crushed pearl, floating plates
- Max temp 450 degrees
- Swivel Cord
- Auto shut off
- LCD temperature display
- Temperature lock function
This is another option with an LCD temperature display, but no clear information on just how many temperature setting options there are on the device. It does have a temperature lock function though. I like this because you won’t have to worry about accidentally bumping any buttons during styling. With something like this, where temperature is important, it’s nice to have that extra peace of mind.
Another major difference is the plate material. Although this option is also ceramic, it doesn’t have tourmaline. Instead, they claim to have crushed pearls are part of the coating. This is supposed to make the finish even smoother, which is a good quality for making less passes. And you still get the even heating benefits of ceramic.
- Titanium plates.
- 1.75” plate width
- Max temp 450 degrees
- Auto shut off
- LCD temperature display
This one, in addition to the LCD temperature read out, lets you switch between Fahrenheit and Celsius, and also indicates what hair type is good for the temperature you’ve selected. (The categories are fine, damaged, and healthy.) Although, again, it’s not clear how many temperature settings there are.
This option has titanium plates, which may be a better for anyone with coarser hair. It’s also the only option on the list with wider plates.
If you’re trying to maximize the efficiency of your straightener, there’s a few factors to consider. Make sure you’re using an effective technique first. If your straightener still can’t keep up, get a new one with more appropriate features. First, think about your hair type. Different hair types will work best with different materials and styles. Secondly, pay attention to plate type as well as the temperature settings, as both of these features can make a difference in your user experience.
There are efficient options out there, and they don’t always cost a ton of money. With a little patience and a little background research, you can find a one pass flat iron that’s efficient, and works for you.