Not long ago flat irons were clumpy paddles of metal used to straighten hair, often causing frizz and dryness. Wavy tresses would snag, catch and burn if not flat ironed with care, and dreams of that salon swish were hard to recreate at home. Then along came a new generation of ceramic flat irons, shortly followed by titanium. Engineered for ease of use and good results, the price of these has come down a lot, and there are plenty to choose from for all budgets. Negotiating some of the marketing surrounding these is now the main factor in choosing the right pair for you.
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Ceramic flat irons have plates that are either pure ceramic or made from a ceramic coating over metal. Pure ceramic flat irons are usually more expensive than coated ones. They may be used by stylists but they are also less sturdy. So if you invest in a pair of these, try not to drop them or snap the plates together too firmly. Higher quality ceramic plated irons have the coating baked on for excellent durability. The heating element is sandwiched in between ceramic layers in the plates, and ceramic heating elements are considered to be the best because the way they work minimises damage to hair.
Titanium is a light-weight metal, which can be refined to an exceptionally smooth finish. Like ceramic, the slippery polish of this means plates glide down the hair shaft without tearing or snagging. Hair stylists often use titanium irons because the material has very fast heat transfer. Speed and efficiency in getting hair straight can be counted in seconds for these professionals. This may not be a factor at home. Many high-end titanium flat irons are now designed with a ceramic element inside, so they get the benefits of this less damaging heat system and the best of both materials.
Terminology can be hard to negotiate when choosing ceramic or titanium flat irons. You might find the term ‘ionic’ used on some flat irons and this refers to the negative charge that the heaters in ceramic irons give off. Damaged hair is positively charged so the negative charge helps to counteract frizz and static, leaving hair sleeker. Other common words are ‘tourmaline’ and ‘nano.’ These simply refer to the composition of the material and the ingredients used to make the plates. Tourmaline is a crystal, which may be embedded in ceramic flat iron plates. Tourmaline gives off more negatively charged ions, so helps to keep hair smoother and sleeker than other materials. Nano refers to the particle size of some ingredients. So you could have nano sized tourmaline particles in the ceramic mixture, creating an overall effect. Nano sized silver particles help protect against the spread of bacteria, so may be useful for stylists. These terms are equally in use in ceramic or titanium flat irons, so it is best to decide what your overall priorities are before choosing which material you prefer.
Another important thing when choosing flat irons is to look at the build and the ease of use. Titanium and ceramic are both good quality materials, but there is a big difference in the quality of different models and brands of flat iron. Whatever material you choose, plates should be smooth and fixed without areas that could snag hair. Very cheap ceramic flat irons may only be made from fewer thin coats of ceramic, which can wear and chip easily, so these may prove a false economy in the long term.
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