Understanding Your Tools – Flat Irons

Flat Irons are almost forgotten in a consultation for chemical treatments. Have you ever had a client come in and while you are pre lifting very little lift occurs? This article will inform when the modern day the flat iron came to the market, how the hair structure changes and correct ways of helping damage hair.

In 2001,  Martin Penny, Gary Douglas, and Robert Powls from Britain started a company known as, Great Hair Day or better known as, ghd.  They  bought the rights of the hair straightening iron from a South Korean inventor, Tae-Choel Kim.  The ghd luckily started at a rapid speed. By the time ghd actually began advertising for the product in 2003, flat irons were already popular in hair salons in the UK. In 2004, ghd entered the North American market and once again ghd flourished. The company was bought several times and is worth now over 500 million dollars.  Consumers and professionals alike, fell in love with this tool.  What they didn’t know is; the flat iron will change the structure of your hair insistantly.

Remember hair is not alive. Interesting, the same protein (keratin) is what your nails and outer layer skin is composed of. Just imagine, taking a flat iron to you skin or nails. The same damage occurs to your hair, you just don’t feel or see it as if you ran a flat iron over your skin. Makes you rethink a little bit?

Hair is composed of three layers:  the cuticle, cortex and medulla.  The cuticle is the outer layer. Its job is to be the sealant of the other two layers and is translucent.  The cortex is the middle layer. This is where your hair color, texture, and strength resides. The inner layer is the medulla and it is the marrow of the hair shaft. Scientist still question its true purpose because in some hair it  is not even present, usually in very fine hair.

When you flat iron your hair you instantly burn open the cuticle. This leads to “fly aways”, breakage, dulling of the hair. If you have colored/ bleached your hair, even worse. It will cook the color/bleach compound into the cortex and bond it. Changing and damaging not only the cuticle, but the structure of the cortex as well. This is why when you are trying to pre-lift a clients hair, who flat irons their hair daily with high heat,  you will only get it to lift just slightly. If there is previous haircolor within the cortex, it will be baked into the cortex.  If this is the case, you will start see the hair lifting in a cheetah sense, some parts will be more damaged so you’ll have orange, golden and platinum results just in one area. The hair will feel like melted plastic and its elasticity will be next to none. Seeing and feeling this is telling you right away the hair is severely damage. There is no repair but to either grow out the damage hair and cut. It is important for you to educate your client on the damaging effects flat ironing has on the hair.

 JAAD ( Journal of American Academy of Dermatology) has many articles on hair breakage and damage from the flat irons. JAAD has come to the conclusion no matter if it is metal or ceramic coating flat iron, both do equal significant damage to the hair. One is not better than the other. The majority of flat irons are ceramic coating of metals which are also used  in the automotive and aeronautical industry. This is called thermal barrier coating. It allows for the heat distribution to disburse more evenly and effective. This is the only difference between metal and ceramic flat irons. Flat irons highest heat is usually around 410 F. Remember again, sliding a flat iron on your skin and what damage would occur almost instantly.  “Studies have shown that temperatures of 347°F to 410°F for 5 minutes are sufficient to damage the hair; if the heat is applied to damp or chemically treated hair it temperature is much lower when damage begins.”  Proper use of flat irons involves application of the implement to dry hair, and specialized products may be applied to the hair before pressing to help prevent the burning and allow for smoother hair that remains straight longer. The temperature setting on the device should be set no higher than 347°F or on the low/medium setting. JAAD also states people who use flat irons should only use this tool once a week and if you have chemically treated hair you probably shouldn’t use one at all.

The hair is damaged. How can I repair, mend, or fix it? There are a few ways. Mayonnaise treatments are exceptionally useful to any type of damaged hair. Mayonnaise is pure protein, just like your hair. You need to use real mayonnaise, not miracle whip or anything similar. On dry hair, scoop out as much mayonnaise to cover your entire head of hair. Place a bag on your head and let it sit for 30 mins. Rinse with cool/lukewarm water. Then lightly condition your hair to remove the smell. Depending on how much your hair is damage, depends on how many times you need to do it. If I have a client who has over processed hair, I usually start them on a mayo treatment of twice a week for 2-3 weeks then for the remainder 3 weeks, once a week. Another treatment is a deep conditioner with keratin. These products may be pricey, but they help sooth the damage hair strands. Just think if your were sick and needed the medication to help get your better, most likely you find a way to purchase the medicine. Always do a cool down rinse after you wash your hair. This helps bond the hair together.

In the end, please be careful of using the flat iron. Make sure your clients understand the tool they are using and the effects it will have on their hair. If you need to ask me any question please feel free. I am always willing to answer any question you have concerning your hair.

This article is published on Pulse Magazine – LinkedIn


Ceramic flat irons: Improper use leading to acquired trichorrhexis nodosa Mirmirani, Paradi, Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology , Volume 62 , Issue 1 , 145 – 147

Comments are closed.