Choosing the wrong digital flat iron can lead to damaged hair and hours of wasted time, but picking a good one is easy if you know what to look for. Depending on your priorities, the best flat iron is usually a model that suits your hair type, heats up quickly, and can withstand the rigors of daily use. Cost is another important factor as cheaper flat irons can be comparable to more expensive models.
Flat irons are some of the most versatile pieces of equipment in your beauty arsenal. Not only can flat irons turn unmanageable hair into straight, glossy locks, but they can also create bouncy curls and subtle waves suited for everyday wear and special occasions. Depending on the technique you use, flat irons can also create volume or make your hair lie flat.
Before shopping around for a high-tech digital flat iron, identify the type of hair you have and how it will react when exposed to a heat. The type of hair you have and its length can determine how effective a flat iron will be in creating the style you want. Thick, curly hair might require more passes with a larger flat iron to transform it into completely straight hair, while straight hair can be quickly turned into bouncy curls with smaller sized models. Most flat irons, however, will work on any hair if need be.
When shopping for a flat iron, choose a model that has an interface for controlling the temperature. Flat irons that display the current temperature on a screen are usually capable of reaching a wider range of temperatures. Without this ability to adjust the flat iron's temperature, you must rely on one setting, which can result in heat damage with repeated use.
One of the first things you should determine before purchasing a digital flat iron is the length of your hair. The longer your hair, the bigger you want the flat iron to be in order to reduce the amount of time your hair is exposed to the iron. The quickest way to measure your hair length is to employ the method used by hairstylists, in which short hair ranges from bald to about an inch below the nape. Medium-length hair falls about an inch below the shoulders and long hair below that.
Plate size is another important point to consider. Short hair requires the plates on the iron to be thin, or 1 inch or less in width. Thin plates are also ideal for thin hair and hair with S-shaped curls. Styling tends to be easier with thin flat irons as they can be more easily maneuvered.
Plates of 1 to 1.5 inches (2.5 to 3.8 cm) work well for wavy hair and medium-curly hair. The general rule is the thicker the hair, the bigger the plates should be. Medium-length hair also requires plates within this range for easier styling. One-inch (2.54-cm) plates work well for normal-volume hair, while 1.5-inch (3.8-cm) plates should be used for high-volume hair. Plates measuring 1 inch in width can still be used for styling.
Hair that is frizzy, wavy, or curly benefits most from irons with plates of 1.5-inch (3.8 cm) and above. Plates this size should also be used for hair that is especially long. Flat irons with plates are not ideal for experimenting with styling techniques other than straightening.
Keep in mind that a digital flat iron will behave differently with hair that is in its natural state and hair that has been treated. For naturally frizzy, curly, or straight hair, it is highly recommended that you start with plates measuring 1 inch (2.5 cm). Natural hair reacts differently to varying levels of heat, while delicate, treated hair usually only requires a flat iron with a maximum temperature of 400 degrees F (204.4 degrees C).