Hair styles come and go, but sleek, straight hair is always in style. And while some of us are born with naturally straight strands, a straightening session is often the only way for curly or wavy hair types to get a straight style. But anyone who's ever spent any time with a flat iron or blow dryer knows that hair straightening isn't easy–and can even damage your hair. So we interviewed Eloise Cheung, a New York City hair stylist, to get all of her insider tips and tricks to straightening every hair type and hair texture (without heat damage or frustration).
Whether you want to fly solo and straighten with just a blow dryer or do double duty with both a blow dryer and flat iron, we've broken down everything you need to know about getting straighter hair, below.
If you have almost-straight, wavy, or slightly-curly hair, you can straighten your hair with just a blow dryer. Since you won't be using a flat iron here, your blow drying technique is the key to getting smooth strands. We break down how to properly handle your blow dryer so you can avoid breakage and get smooth, sleek strands in the following steps.
First things first: styling always starts in the shower. For the best clean, you'll want to use sulfate-free hair products, like this THEORIE Sage: Marula & Argan Oil Soothing Shampoo and Condition Set. This shampoo and conditioner not only smooths your strands while you wash, but it also helps repair hair damage (especially important if you resort to heat styling often).
If you have thick hair, avoid volumizing shampoos and conditioners, as these products contain ingredients that create texture by roughing up the cuticle. This can make it harder to straighten your hair, says Cheung.
Once you’ve washed, gently brush through your wet hair with a detangling brush, like EVA NYC Detangling Brush. Then, lightly pat your hair with a microfiber towel like this one from SLEEK'E HAIR, until your hair is damp but not totally dry.
Before you start blow drying, you’ll always want to use a heat protectant lotion or oil like BRIOGEO HAIR CARE Farwell Frizz Blow Dry Perfection & Heat Protectant Crème or NEUMA neuStyling Blow Dry Lotion®. Thermal protectant products help prevent color fade, dehydration and damage to your hair, says Cheung.
Now is also the time to add any straightening styling products. You'll want to use something that helps to smooth, moisturize, and add shine to your hair, and that also has a little control to hold the straightness. Cheung recommends AVEDA Smooth Infusion™ Style-Prep Smoother for a plant-based styling product that will keep your straight style in check, even against humidity.
IPSY tip: Make sure your hair is evenly wet and that some strands aren't dryer than others before you begin blow drying. Also, don't over dry: you’ll be fighting an uphill battle if your hair has already started to dry and is getting frizzy.
It’s finally time to pull out your blow dryer. First, flip your head upside down and brush through your hair with a vent brush (a paddle brush that has gaps in the back to allow air from your blow dryer to flow through). Follow your brush strokes with the blow dryer to give lift at your roots for volume, and also to start smoothing the cuticle. This will also begin to activate your styling products that will help your straightening job to last longer.
Now that you’ve gotten your hair mostly dry, it’s time to smooth in sections. Add the narrow nozzle onto your hair dryer: this will help direct and concentrate the airflow on the targeted area you are working on.
Part your hair horizontally across your head, parallel to your back hairline, and secure small sections with section clips. Make sure there is no excess hair from other sections dangling down: extra hair can make it harder for the air from your hair dryer to get to the roots.
Then, start brushing and blow drying in sections, beginning with a section at the nape of your neck. Use a boar bristle brush, like CURLISTO Medium Boar Bristles Brush. This will pull just enough tension on the roos of your hair, which, when combined with the heat from the blow dryer, will begin the straightening process.
Place the brush underneath the section of hair and wrap the hair around the brush. Direct the air from the blow dryer down the hair shaft, closely following the hair as you roll the brush through the length of the hair. Once that section is dry, repeat this motion on small sections of hair, finishing with the front sections, until the whole head has been dried.
IPSY tip: Have a water spray bottle handy in case any sections start to dry out and frizz before you can get to them. Spritz and re-dampen those dry hair sections before you go in with the brush and blow dryer.
Straightening your hair with a straightener is all about your tools. To get the sleekest of straight hair looks, opt for a ceramic straightener like the FOXYBAE Marble Flat Iron. This straightener not only looks drop-dead gorgeous, but it's infused with tourmaline and negative ions to seal your hair cuticle and cause less damage and frizz as you straighten (and you can even use it to create wavy or curly hair styles, too).
To begin straightening your hair with a flat iron, you'll want to follow steps 1 and 2 from above (the prep is the same). Then, continue on to the steps below.
After showering and applying your heat protectant, you’ll want to dry your hair. While you can air dry, for a faster straightening process, repeat Step 4 from above and use a blow dryer. However, since you’ll be using a hair straightener, you don’t have to be as precise when blow drying your hair. You can create larger sections than above in Step 4, but still point the nozzle down your hair shaft and use a boar bristle brush for the bristle’s straightening effects. Whichever method you choose, you’ll want to make sure your hair is 100% dry before moving on to the next step.
For extra protection against breakage and heat damage, apply more heat protectant directly before using your flat iron. FOXYBAE Cool AF Heat Protectant is infused with added biotin, so it’ll actually help your hair grow longer and stronger as you use it.
Then, split your hair into one-inch sections, clipping the rest of your hair away with sectioning clips. Take your straightener and place a one-inch section in between the plates, then gently glide over the section, maintaining even pressure as you glide through. Continue this motion as you move through all of your small sections of hair.
Cheung suggests considering the direction you want your hair to lie. If you want your hair to hang forward and frame your face, start with the front sections of your hair and work back from there, moving the straightener in a forward direction. If you want your hair to be pushed back and away from your face, start at the back of your head and straighten each section backwards as you move forward.
Now that your hair is sleek and smooth, you want it to stay that way! Use a serum or lotion to seal in your style and prevent frizz from forming, like IGK HAIR Crybaby Anti-Frizz Smoothing Serum. This frizz-fighting serum is infused with coconut oil and prickly pear to add shine and dimension to your straight style.
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