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Find out everything you need to know about the different types of hair straightener plates. This guide will tell you what you need to know to pick your perfect flat iron.
When it comes to flat irons, there is a ton of different options. From width, to temperature ranges, to colors, there’s a seemingly endless variety.
One feature that differs, but tends to go unnoticed, is the type of plates. The materials and shape of a plate can actually have a large impact on styling.
If you’re not sure to begin when shopping for your flat iron, here is an overview of this important feature:
The material that the plate is made out of is the thing you need to take note of first. This will have the greatest impact on styling, and on your hair.
Metal is the most common material available.
It has a number of benefits, the most practical one being that it’s cheap. Apart from that, metal has a high heat transfer rate, which essentially means it heats your hair more efficiently. That means faster styling, and a better hold on whatever style you choose.
It’s what makes metal the perfect choice for coarser hair types. With effective heating, this material is capable of penetrating through the layers on each hair shaft.
Unfortunately, that same benefit is a detriment to more delicate hair. For fine or delicate hair, that high heat transfer makes it easier to cause heat damage while styling.
For fine hair, only use devices with this material on low temperatures. Anything below 300 degrees Fahrenheit is a good starting place.
Ceramic flat irons are the other most common options.
The main benefit of ceramic is that it heats evenly. Even heating means that you get more consistent styling. You don’t have to worry as much about those stray bits of hair that just refuse to cooperate.
It also means less damage to hair. With a consistent temperature, you know your device isn’t going to overheat any part of your hair.
As such, ceramic is ideal for fine or delicate hair. With this material, you have a lot more control, which means you’ll be better able to mitigate any heat damage.
Unfortunately, it’s not always a great choice for coarser hair types.
With coarser hair, you want the high heat transfer of metal. Even heating isn’t as much of priority, because coarser hair isn’t as easily damaged.
Also, ceramic devices tend to max out at around 400 or 410 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s rare to find an option that will go above that.
Really coarse hair can be styled at those temperatures, but it’s not as efficient as styling above 410 degrees. Normally, you shouldn’t be using anything above 425, however, having a hot enough device is a must.
Tourmaline is a material that’s commonly added onto the surface of a device. It’s usually billed as Ceramic Tourmaline, since tourmaline on its own isn’t an effective material.
Tourmaline is a gemstone that’s sometimes added to ceramic plates. The benefit is that it generates negative ions, which are good for hair.
It’s a nice touch that makes for cleaner styling. However, it’s not something you need to go out of your way to look for. In most cases, you can get the same, or better, results from a good hair care routine and styling products.
Although each device has the same basic shape, there are a few ways that it can vary. Here are the two basic variations to know before you shop.
The width of a device is important depending on the type of styling you do.
The standard width of plates is around one inch. That’s the most common size that you’ll see. These options work well for all types of styling, whether that be straightening, curls or waves.
Larger options, at 1½ to 2 inches, are better for straightening.
That’s because the larger width means that more surface area. With each pass, a large part of the heated surface will be in contact with your hair. Ideally, this makes straightening more efficient.
However, you can also do large waves and flips, by turning the device as you straightening. (In most cases though, loose curls and waves are easier to achieve by using a large curling iron or wand.)
Smaller options, are designed for shorter hair. With a width under one inch, these are capable of styling bangs, or just shorter hair in general.
The smaller width means you can get in closer to the scalp. That’s why it’s better for shorter strands.
You can also use these options for create small, delicate curls. For example, you can curl the baby hairs around your face for a romantic look.
If you’re not sure which one will work for you, go with the standard size. That size works for a variety of styling needs and hair lengths. It’s the best option if you just need a general device.
The other important shape feature is the edge. You can choose a device with a beveled edge, or the usual rounded edge.
Beveled edges are great because they create a softer edge for your hair to glide along.
With regular straightening, this isn’t as much of an issue. Your hair will generally be in contact with the flat part of the device, as opposed to the sides.
With curling, however, your hair is getting pulled along the edge of the plate. Have a softer angle on the edge, allows it to glide easier.
This means less damage to your hair, since you’re not tugging on it as much. You’re also less likely to get those harsh lines that occur when you angle the flat iron too sharply.
Apart from the general construction, there are a few other features that you can add on to flat irons. Here is an overview of the two main ones:
Floating describes the ability of the plates to move with pressure. They’re flexible, not fixed, so they can move from side to side as you style.
The movement is gentle, of course. It’s not as if they’ll be wildly tottering around while you’re styling your hair. Instead, the device glides with your hair, shifting according to where you apply pressure.
This feature is designed to limit tugging and pulling while you straighten. It’s a bit gentler than fixed options, because it moves with your hair.
As such, you’re less likely to cause breakage, especially when you’re doing styles that require a lot of tugging. Curling and doing waves, for example, require you to pull your hair against the device.
In these instances, having that extra flexibility is safer for hair.
This feature is probably the least common of the features listed, but it’s no less valid. For this feature, the device comes with a comb that sits at the edge of the plate.
It has really short teeth, so that it doesn’t get in the way when you’re straightening. But it still functions the same way any other comb would.
The main benefit of this is that it can help sort and flatten your hair as you straighten.
When straightening, it helps to make sure that the section you’re working with lays flat, and doesn’t have knots. If the hair is too bunched up, it won’t straighten effectively. That means you’ll have to make multiple passes on the same section, which can lead to heat damage.
The comb helps take care of that for you. The teeth untangle knots and guide the hair into an even, flat layer. This allows for more effective straightening.
Speaking frankly, you can achieve the same effect by simply by brushing your hair and working in small sections. To that end, it’s not a necessary feature. However, it can still be helpful to the right user.
You can also get devices where the comb is removable. That way you can try this feature, and just discard it if you don’t like it.
Selecting the Right Feature for You
With so many different options, it can feel a bit overwhelming when shopping. Is the beveled edge best? Should you get a wider device? Which material is better?
These questions all have to be answered, and the right answer for you may not be clear. Luckily, it’s easy to find a good device.
Most flat irons are designed with the most general audience in mind. They’ll straighten and curl, so you can use them for a variety of styles. They also work on most hair types, although they may not be as efficient for one hair type over another.
Because of that, you can use most devices without issue.
The only time you really need to dig into the different features, is if you have a particular need.
For example, you may be interested in trying out a particular material. Or maybe you prefer to curl with your flat iron, so you want one with floating plates and a beveled edge. You may even have hair that is extra delicate or extra coarse, so it doesn’t work well with most tools.
These are all specific concerns, so you can choose the right features accordingly.
They key is to know the different types of hair straightener plates, and pick the features that are right for you.