We all know that heat styling our hair is bad for us, but we’ll still avert our eyes and shamefully reach for our trusty styler every time we need to look presentable.
However, over the years, all of the best hair straighteners have developed how they work, offering us different materials and technologies that all claim to reduce the damage on our locks. And, while titanium, tourmaline and ceramic straighteners all have their pros and cons, the latter option seems to be one of the most popular on the market.
So, we investigated whether ceramic straighteners are bad for your hair, how they work and how they measure up against their competitors, so that you can be sure to choose the right straighteners for you.
- The best hair straighteners to invest in this year
- Are steam straighteners better for your hair? Salon experts weigh in
- What are the best GHD straighteners to opt for?
What are ceramic straighteners and how do they work?
Ceramic straighteners are styling irons that use plates made from the non-metallic, inorganic material. They’ve become a popular choice for home styling as, not only are they less expensive than some alternatives, but they make for smooth styling, thanks to their glossy finish. Ceramic plates are also well known for their even heat distribution, which stops hot spots from damaging the hair shaft during styling.
“Ceramic plates are used to ensure the heat is evenly distributed across the entire plate,” explains Ricky Walter, director of London’s Salon64. “This even distribution of heat means that you don’t need to use such a high temperature when styling, making for a better option for your hair’s health and condition. Ceramic plates also help to capture the hair’s moisture and prevent leaving your hair feeling too dried out or dehydrated after use.”
Another plus of ceramic plates is that they produce negative ions, which neutralise the hair’s naturally positive charge, to smooth cuticles, tame frizz and flyaways and leave a smoother finish.
However, when opting for a ceramic straightener, just be sure that the plates are fully ceramic, as some tools use aluminium plates that are simply coated with a ceramic layer. This can take away from some of the advantages of using ceramic, especially when it comes to the even heat distribution.
“The ceramic plating can chip, exposing aluminium, which can catch, split and damage the hair,” adds Craig Taylor, creative director of Hari’s.
What are the alternatives to ceramic straighteners?
“If not using ceramic, your other main material is titanium,” explains Ricky. “This is a tougher, far more durable material and therefore should certainly last you a long time.”
The reliable alternative can reach higher temperatures in a quicker timeframe than ceramic plates, giving longer-lasting results and fast styling.
“These irons tend to be much more heavy-duty, so are perhaps better for thicker, more stubborn hair,” adds Ricky.
Those with fine or fragile hair would probably be better suited to ceramic plates, as titanium may be a bit overwhelming for that hair type. But for those looking for the best straighteners for curly hair, it’s definitely a good option.
Are ceramic straighteners better than their competitors?
“The claims are that ceramic straighteners are more efficient and more kind, especially to fine, fragile hair,” says Craig. “However, anything infused with tourmaline would be my choice of straightener.”
Tourmaline is a crystal that hair-tool manufacturers grind into a fine powder, which is infused into the plates – whether ceramic or titanium – of a straightening iron.
“This makes for a more premium iron and helps prevent damage, overheating and static on the hair,” explains Ricky. “Hair-tool brand Cloud Nine is a huge advocate for ‘healthy’ hair straighteners, so infuses healing minerals into all of its ceramic straightening irons.”
“I firmly believe that it's not the surface that makes the difference in how well stylers perform and how kind they are to the hair – it’s the temperature they operate effectively at,” says Craig. “Tourmaline can distribute heat more evenly and can smooth hair at a lower heat, owing to it having the smoothest surface. So, for me, the best solution is to use a styler with tourmaline-infused plates and turn the heat down to under 180ºC.”
But, unfortunately for all of us heat-styling addicts out there, no matter whether plates are infused with the healing mineral or not, daily use will always still lead to some hair damage.
“Try to use hair tools sparingly,” advises Ricky. “Even the best ceramic irons still create a fair amount of heat, so I’d try not to use them every day.”
The verdict: are ceramic straighteners bad for hair?
So, like any tool that exposes your hair to heat, ceramic straighteners are, of course, bad for your hair. However, the same can be said for the best hair dryers and the best hair straightener brushes on the market as well.
But, if like many of us, you can’t get through the week without reaching for your styler at least a handful of times, then we’d at least go for something that has mineral-infused plates, to try to minimise the amount of heat needed to style your hair.
Of course, we’d say to stop using straighteners altogether would be way forward when it comes to healthy hair, but that’s a challenge for another day...