A ceramic flat iron, also referred to as a hair straightener, is a heated hair tool used for straightening and smoothing wavy or curly hair. A ceramic flat iron consists of a handle attached to two flat plates that heat up. The plates are made of ceramic, because ceramic has been found to be gentler on the hair than other materials used for hair straighteners.
There are other types of flat irons as well. Some less expensive flat irons are made with aluminum plates, but these are not generally recommended because they can be very drying and damaging to the hair. Flat irons made with tourmaline are another, more expensive option that produce results similar to ceramic flat irons. When purchasing a flat iron, make sure that it has a comfortable grip that will not heat up and burn the hands.
A ceramic flat iron will generally produce smoother, shinier hair because the ceramic plates distribute heat more evenly, and maintain a steadier temperature. They will also reduce frizz. Ceramic flat irons generally produce heat from 100 degrees Fahrenheit (about 38 degrees Celsius) to 400 degrees Fahrenheit (about 200 degrees Celsius). The lowest heat possible should be used to prevent damaging the hair any further. Nearly all flat irons offer variable heat settings, along with a digital temperature readout or indicator light to show that the iron is hot. Most take only a few minutes to fully heat up.
A ceramic flat iron can be purchased in different widths. The standard size is one inch (2.54 cm), but larger or smaller ones are available. Smaller straighteners can be effective on thinner, shorter hair, and can get closer to the roots--for example, to straighten bangs. Larger straighteners work best for long, thick hair because they reduce the time required to straighten.
When using a ceramic flat iron to straighten hair, most experts suggest thoroughly washing, conditioning, and then drying hair first. Styling cream or gel can then be applied, and it is a good idea to use a heat-protective spray before straightening to prevent damage to the hair. The hair should then be straightened in small sections to ensure the best results. To help hair remain straight all day, finish up with a glossing cream or finishing spray. Hair straighteners can also be used to curl pieces of hair, but a curling iron is likely a better bet.