Beauty mishaps—whether unintentional or as a result of a hurried schedule—happen to the best of us. Add in an extremely hot flat iron and the fact that you’re already late for work, and it’s no surprise that many of us are unknowingly causing damage to our hair on a daily basis. We chatted with Roch LeMay, Matrix lead educator, about the common mistakes we’re all guilty of when it comes to using a flat iron, and how to safely get straight, sleek hair without causing any further damage.
Flat iron mistake #1: Flattening out volume
Ironing out the kinks in your hair shouldn’t translate into lifeless, limp locks. “The trend movement is about volume,” says LeMay about the sleek, voluminous tresses seen on the runways at Versace and Diane von Furstenberg this season. “Glamourous, with a big finish and lots of volume.” If you’re opting for a pin-straight sleekness, add dimension to the hair with a high-gloss serum or spray.
The fix: Work a texturizing cream through hair for a downtown gritty feel and to add some just-rolled-out-of-bed volume to straight hair. Or try a look straight out of Oscar de la Renta’s Spring/Summer 2013 runway, and add a fuchsia pink highlight for colourful dimension.
Flat iron mistake #2: Not adjusting the heat setting
Just like with the diverse array of targeted hair products, there’s no one-size-fits-all in flat irons, especially when it comes to adjusting the heat setting. “A woman with bleached-blonde hair needs a different heat setting from someone with coarse, curly locks,” LeMay advises. Women with naturally curly hair, for example, require a lower temperature than their smooth-haired friends to tame locks.
The fix: Look for a professional flat iron with a good-quality heat setting control, and ask your hair stylist which temperature is best suited to your hair. “It’s impossible to have one that suits everyone,” he says.
3 more ways to safely get sleek hair on the next page…
Flat iron mistake #3: Straightening wet hair
We all know how tempting it is when blow-drying hair in the morning, to use a flat iron on slightly damp hair—heat is heat, right? Wrong. Using a flat iron on wet hair is extremely damaging, says LeMay. “It creates steam and causes bubbles to form within the hair fibre, which cracks along the hair shaft,” he explains as the cause for damage. When hair crackles, the cuticle, which acts as a shield, flakes off, and the strand is left vulnerable to more breakage.
The fix: “Allow hair to dry completely before using a flat iron,” says LeMay. “This helps to keep moisture in the hair.” It also ensures a smooth, lasting finish. “The blow dry is the most important foundation,” he adds, noting that curly hair needs a careful, thorough blow dry with a round or paddle brush before passing a flat iron through it to last. “You’ll never see a stylist blow-drying hair in any direction!” Point taken.
Flat iron mistake #4: Forgetting to use a heat-protecting product
The only safety net between your delicate tresses and 450 degrees Fahrenheit of concentrated heat should be a thermal-protectant hair product. “It’s very important to prior to application of the flat iron,” he says.
The fix: Apply a heat-protecting product to seal up the hair cuticle and leave a silky finish. Try Matrix Thermo Glide Express Blowout Crème. And invest in a professional hair mask treatment to protect and resurface dry ends to a smooth finish.
Flat iron mistake #5: Using a flat iron everyday
The process of washing hair, then applying heat through blow-drying and styling tools takes a toll on hair—especially when repeated several times per week. But it’s not like we’re planning to stop any time soon. “We have a tendency to forget that hair is an important par of our everyday image,” says LeMay. Focus on cutting down on the use of hot tools where possible, and amping up on thermal and colour-protecting products for good measure.
The fix: Instead of washing hair and re-styling before a night out, mist a thermal-protecting spray into hair and run a flat iron over top to quickly refresh your look. For a more lasting, long-term commitment to straight, sleek hair, opt for a professional smoothing service at your salon. “It won’t leave hair completely straight, but it’ll be easier to manage,” says LeMay, citing the reduced time in blow-drying and styling, especially during humid summer months. And anything that cuts down on styling time and frizz this season is all the proof we need.
Summer hair: The best anti-frizz products
3 chic wash and go hairstyles
5 secrets to younger hair
Glossy hair: The ultimate guide
For the latest in fashion, beauty and culture, sign up to receive ELLE's daily newsletter.