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While there’s no doubt that having your hair relaxed is a perfectly fine option to straighten out afro or natural hair, it’s just so time-consuming, and not to mention the smell from the chemicals - ugh! Having to sit in a chair for hours at a time while keratin bond-breaking chemicals are carefully applied to de-kink and straighten hair is really just not my bag, sis.
So, if you’re like many, many other gorgeously kinky-haired and natural-haired girls out there that aren’t into regular hair relaxer appointments, but still want to rock your own hair straight from time to time, a high-quality straightening iron (along with the best hair dryer) is an absolute essential in your beauty arsenal. But what’s the best flat iron for natural hair?
There’s nothing more disappointing than spending the time to straighten curly hair, only to have it begin to curl up again the next day. Or worse - constant, incorrect use of any heat styling tool can lead to heat damage. I know, I know, I wish it wasn’t so, but that’s just how heat styling works - it temporarily changes the texture of our hair with the heat.
What Does Heat Damage Look Like?
When curly hair gets heat damaged, the natural keratin bonds that hold it together are damaged - just like what happens when you use a relaxer. But unlike when hair is relaxed properly, it’s random sections of hair that fall and loses their curl - leaving you with random, lacklustre strands throughout. If enough of your hair gets damaged, you could completely lose your curl pattern. Yikes! If you’re not sure how to tell if your hair is heat damaged, here are five things to check for.
So when it comes to picking the best flat iron for natural hair, there are a few things to ask yourself if you want to minimise heat damage and maximise the longevity of straightened hair.
Picking the Best Flat Iron: 3 Factors to Consider
1. What kind of technology does it use?
Hair technology is actually really impressive these days, and you’d be hard pressed to find a flat iron that doesn't use a heat protectant technology like ceramic, tourmaline or titanium - or even a combination of all three. Ensuring your flat iron has at least one of these is part of the way there to find the best flat iron for black hair.
2. What temperatures does it go up to?
Did you know that the actual melting point for hair is 451 F? When using a flat iron for hair of any texture, this is really, really important to know. That is a LOT of heat, and while most flat irons don’t actually go that high, sometimes just allowing the straightener to sit for too long on a section of hair can do enough damage.
Even for black hair, the generally recommended temperature is a conservative 365 F - just the right heat to style hair without causing any hair sizzling!
3) What is the size and shape of the flat iron?
There are two factors to look at here - width and length - when picking the best flat iron for African American hair.
Hair that is resilient to straightening, like naturally coarse and curly hair, tends to respond well to wider flat irons - at least 1.25” wide. When you flat iron natural hair, a greater surface area of the hot plates usually means you might only have to go over your hair with a single pass.
However, for a more multi-purpose flat iron (let’s say you want to add in some waves) the standard 1” width is super versatile and is offered by a lot of companies - so you’ll have plenty to choose from.
There’s one more dimension to consider - length. A longer than usual straightener allows you to grab and straighten a wider (NOT thicker) section of hair, so you can smooth down more hair at once - again, making for a speedy process.
We’ve handpicked the best hair straighteners that are perfect for every natural hair texture and every hair length. For everyone from 3a to 4c, we are sure that there is a straightener for you here.
Help! How do I choose a Perfect Flat Iron?
An unbeatable offering from the legendary house of CHI hair styling products, the CHI Pro G2 ticks a lot of boxes for me. I really enjoy the color-coded LED display of the temperature so I know exactly what temperature I’m using on my hair - no guessing games with generically-labelled low, medium, and high-level settings.
The LED display lights up with a different color for each temperature and describes its highest setting at 425 especially for coarse or resistant hair. The LED screen also lends a nice, high-tech feel to the flat iron and you can see exactly what temperature the iron is at.
The settings are technically labelled for different hair types, but for me, this means a greater range of flexibility - you really don’t need to settle down unruly baby hairs with the highest possible temperature! The hot plates are infused with ceramic and titanium technology which helps to smooth down any texture - this combined with the perfect temperature for coarse hair is the PERFECT combo for sleek, straight hair.
It’s slightly wider than the average flat iron at 1.25”, which gives it an edge over other flat irons for Black hair. Because it’s wider, it has a bigger surface area over the hair that you’re straightening - making it possible to literally straighten your hair in one swipe.
Now, the LumaBella Professional Pure Performance styler makes straightening your hair a totally luxurious experience. Equipped with floating ceramic plates (I'll explain a little later), it's guaranteed not to snag hair while straightening, and ensure that every single strand passes between the two plates.
What ‘floating plates’ means is that the plates are not completely fixed and flat to the straightener - they flex a little bit as you pass the flat iron over your hair, ensuring your hair doesn’t catch in the plates. This illustrates exactly what I mean. See how the plates would move with your hair? This makes for snag-free bliss while you smooth out your curls. And did I mention that the ceramic plates help to protect hair from heat damage?
In addition to ceramic plates, the LumaBella has a breakneck speed heat up time of fifteen seconds. I’m pretty sure that’s as long as it takes for me to type a tweet…
One of my favourite features is its temperature memory - once you’ve figured out the perfect temperature that works on your individual hair thickness and curliness, the LumaBella remembers it. It automatically heats up to the last setting used, which is super convenient and very 2019.
It has five heat settings that start from 300 F to 450 F, plus an incredibly convenient LED display that shows you the exact temperature that you’re using on your hair.
The KIPOZI has some of the widest hot plates in this list, making it a great choice for gals who tend to have trouble straightening their hair due to it’s naturally gorgeous but heat-resistant texture. I’ve personally seen how easily this can tame even the densest, tightest curls into straight hair, so I couldn’t leave it off this list. Even the most heat-resistant hair will be tamed by this baby!
Okay, I know I already brought up the 1.75” plates, but they’re key to this flat iron working so well for black hair. The larger plates make it easier to straighten and smooth hair in just one pass thanks to the bigger overall surface area of the hot plates, which also use nano-titanium technology to minimise heat damage to hair. Only having to go over hair in a single pass plus damage reducing technology is the perfect recipe for straight hair with minimal heat damage. Win-win!
It too has a digital LCD display that shows the exact temperature of the flat iron, so you’re always in control of how much heat you’re putting on your hair. It also heats up in a super-speedy 30 seconds, flat - I really like this feature because I know I’ve spent what feels like forever waiting for a flat iron to heat up to do my hair.
So this flat iron actually comes in three widths (1", 1.25", and 1.75"), but the one that I found the most impressive is the 1". I know - I just raved about how good wide straighteners are for black hair, but they're not the be-all end-all for everyone with Black hair.
The BabyLiss Ultra Thin has a key feature that makes it the perfect small flat iron for short hair - it's ultra-slim barrel and 5" length plates.
Even though it’s only a 1” width straightening iron, it’s slightly longer than all the others at 5” long. Flat iron plates are usually only 4”. This means that you can grab a slightly wider - not thicker - section of hair, getting more hair between the plates at once. It’s perfect for girls that have shorter hair too - it has an ultra-slim profile, making it easier to get in closer to roots for better straightening control.
It’s also super light-weight - I know I’m not alone when I say that sometimes my arms ache after using a flat iron for more than 10 minutes, so a flat iron that weighs practically nothing compared to its competitors is always a plus in my book.
Another great option from CHI (is there nothing this company can’t do?), the CHI Pro Air One combines super flexible heat settings with negative ion technology, ensuring that hair stays straight and silky for longer. The negative ionic technology works to reduce static in hair, perfect for my gals out there with fine hair. It smooths hair and leaves it with serious shine!
If your hair is fine (yes, even Black hair can be fine!), it’s going to be more prone to breakage - so you’ll need to use a flat iron that’s designed to straighten hair, without singeing it. Unlike some of the other options on this list, the CHI Pro has a pretty low starting temperature - so you can slowly work your way up to figure out what temperature is the best balance of style and safe for your hair.
It doesn’t come with as many high-tech features as the other straighteners on our list, like an LED display for the temperature. Instead, it keeps things simple with a basic on and off switch, and a dial that can be turned and set to your preferred temperature. This is a great one for girls that want an amazing straightener, but don’t necessarily need all the extra bells and whistles.
When it comes to a flat iron for thick hair, this Conair can't be beaten. This hair straightener comes with super-wide 2" plates, perfect for ironing even the thickest and most unruly hair. Seriously - it is the best flat iron for thick hair.
Why? The 2” plates offer the largest surface area of any flat iron on this list, making the best use of the heating and anti-frizz technology of the plates to straighten hair.
The Conair also utilises floating plate technology - if you go back to where we discussed this earlier in the article, floating plates ensure constant and even contact of the hair with heat, avoiding burning hair and guaranteeing shiny, straight hair. This is an unbeatable combo when it comes to searching for a flat iron for African American hair.
Infused with hair-protecting ceramic and tourmaline particles, the plates also help make sure that your hair doesn’t get roasted - it’s too tempting to leave a flat iron on natural hair for longer, but you are better off to let it cool and do a second pass if it’s not as straight as you want it to be in the first pass.
No list of flat irons is complete without a GHD. You’re kind of kidding yourself if you think a GHD wouldn’t pop up on here! The Platinum Plus literally embodies how far we have come with flat iron technology. There are no manual heat settings - it’s able to adjust itself to your specific hair needs.
Yes, for real.
It boasts a base temperature of 365 F, which is the generally guaranteed highest, yet safest temperature for all hair types. When you use it on your hair - whatever the texture and length - the iron constantly monitors the heat across the plates. With its predictive technology, it can literally tell the thickness of your hair and adjusts accordingly depending on how quickly or slowly you're passing your hair through it. Like seriously, is this the future?
With 1” plates, it’s versatile for girls with short or long natural hair. I really like that using it is basically plug in and go - no need to fiddle with the settings and figure out what heat setting is going to work for you. It’s perfect for gals with thinner hair that don’t need intense heat on their hair.
But What’s the Verdict? What’s the Best Flat Iron for Natural Hair?
Ok, for the bottom line - the most versatile flat iron for natural hair (and I mean all textures of natural hair!) has to be the LumaBella. It offers something for everyone - it has a wide range of heat settings that make it suitable for any hair thickness, texture, and density.
I think all of us will enjoy the floating plates and ceramic technology, making the overall straightening experience super smooth and insanely easy - for all curl types! Whether you’re smoothing down slightly relaxed 2a curls or tightly coiled 4b curls, there’s no more snagging and pulling at hair, I promise!
Plus, at a 1” diameter, it’s not too unwieldy to hold (ie, it’s a total breeze to use) and doesn’t get in the way of straightening hair from the root for a super glossy, stick-straight ‘do.
So, now you know what’s the perfect flat iron for you, whether you want to rock your natural hair or go for a sleek, straight look from time to time. Here’s to good hair days ahead!
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About the author Stephanie Morin
NYC-based beauty and skin care blogger, Stephanie delivers a healthy dose of practical beauty tips for some serious skin care inspiration!