What the best flat irons have

  • Safety features. Look for automatic shut-off, well-insulated plates and swivel cords. It's also important to consider the likelihood of burning fingers on the exposed sides of plates and with steam.
  • Wide temperature range and adjustability. It may seem obvious to look for an iron that gets as hot as possible, but it's also important to consider the number of temperature settings as well, according to Misikko.com, Also important is how low the temperature can be set -- especially if you have fine, color-processed or easily damaged hair.
  • High-quality plate materials. The best plate materials for flat irons are considered to be tourmaline and ceramic, according to Overstock.com; editors at Misikko.com say that titanium transfers more heat into hair, meaning it may be faster but can also cause more damage. High-quality plates will also hinder any hair pulling and snagging.
  • Lifestyle enhancements. Some irons can be used on wet or dry hair or can be used to curl, flip or wave hair, adding functionality.
  • Durability and warranty. A flat iron is a highly portable appliance that's used frequently. Look for a product with a proven track record and a warranty, and be sure to register your product with the manufacturer.

Know before you go

What is your hair type and condition? Those with thick, coarse hair should look for irons that get very hot and transfer heat well, like those with titanium plates. Buyers with fine hair should shop for an iron with temperature settings that can be set very low and that are adjustable, according to Folica.com. Those with medium-thick, wavy or curly hair will likely be fine with the basic temperature setting on most irons.

What kind of hairstyle are you trying to achieve? Wide plates help cut down on styling time for those with very long hair, but they don't work as well on short hair, according to Stylebell.com. Narrow plates are good for short hair, detail pieces (like bangs) or for curling or flipping hair. If you change your hairstyle often, a 1-inch plate tends to be the most universal.

Do you travel often? If you travel overseas, a dual-voltage flat iron may be a priority, though they're not widely available. You may also want to reconsider how much you're willing to spend on a flat iron if you have to purchase one for home use and a second for travel. Size is also a consideration when traveling, but not all dual-voltage irons are small, according to Folica.com.

How experienced are you? If you've never used a flat iron before, you may want to consider looking at the lower end of price range. Invest in a pricier model once you've identified which features really matter to you, including temperature, adjustability, automatic shutoff, etc. A professional stylist may also be able to help instruct you on temperature and plate material recommendations for your hair.

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