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How should I use a flat iron?

Answer: Flat irons can be great tools for straightening curls and waves, smoothing out frizz and achieving a sleek look. If you’re not careful though, you can seriously damage your hair. Even if you’ve been straightening your hair for years, there may be some tips and tricks you don’t know about.

Check out these 10 do’s and don’ts to for using a flat iron, and soon you’ll be straightening your strands like a pro!

Do use a hair protectant spray. Oscar Blandi Pronto Dry Heat Protect Spray is one of our favorite heat protectors. The paraben-free formula is enriched with proteins to nourish, strengthen, and protect — and it sprays on dry so you don’t fry your locks. A great budget heat protectants is Not Your Mother’s Beat the Heat Thermal Styling Spray, which leaves a light, fruity fragrance. It even protects against UV rays.

Don’t use your flat iron on wet hair. When hair is wet, it’s at its most fragile. To avoid unnecessary breakage and damage, make sure hair is dry before applying direct heat. Otherwise, water trapped in your hair can actually boil, causing split ends and brittle hair.

Do choose a flat iron carefully. Ceramic or ceramic-coated irons work great for any hair type — from thin, fine hair to course, thick hair — and are known for distributing heat evenly. If you hair is medium to course, titanium plates also work well. Thinner irons are typically better at straightening curly hair at the root and are more gentle on thin hair. It’s also important to make sure your iron has an adjustable heat setting so you can choose the temperature that’s right for your hair. Speaking of which…

Don’t ever set your flat iron’s temperature above 450 degrees. At 451 degrees your hair will burn. For thin, fine hair, 300 degrees should be enough to smooth and straighten. For normal hair, you can go up to 350 degrees, and a temperature of around 400 degrees is usually sufficient for even the coarsest hair.

Do separate your hair into sections before straightening. Not only can you make sure that you’re not missing any spots, but you can also make sure that you’re not running the iron over the same section of hair more than once. This can actually be worse than using a too-high heat seating.

Don’t pull your hair while running your flat iron through it. Many people are in the habit of gripping hair and pulling the flat iron though. By just gliding the iron over your locks, you’ll prevent unnecessary breakage and brittleness.

Do condition your hair regularly if you use a flat iron. Any heat applied to hair — flat irons, curling wands and blow dryers  — will eventually cause dryness. It’s important to regularly condition hair every time you shampoo. It’s also a good idea to apply a deep conditioning treatment once a week if you regularly style with heat.

Don’t overuse your flat iron. Even careful use of heated styling tools can damage your hair over time. Try to limit  your use of a flat iron when possible by extending the length of your style with tricks like dry shampoo and headbands to hide greasy roots.

Do keep your flat iron clean. Product and natural oils can build up on your flat iron and cause uneven heating, damage to your hair, and split ends. To clean your flat iron, allow it to cool a bit after using. It should be warm but not hot. Then, use a slightly damp terrycloth towel (dampened with warm water — never cold!) to wipe residue off the plates. Use a damp cotton swap to clean in cracks and ridges. You can also try using a product made especially for cleaning hot styling irons, like the Hot Tools Styling Iron Cleaner.

Don’t use old, damaged, or broken flat irons. It simply isn’t safe! In addition to damaging your hair, you could potentially burn or electrocute yourself.

What are your favorite tips for using a flat iron?