Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Feeling the Heat: Old School vs. New School

Do you use heat on your hair?  If so, what type of heat implements do you prefer to use?  I use heat on my hair about once a week and although I steadily prefer the convenience of my plug-in ceramics, I also have (and love) my old school stove irons.

Ceramic flat irons have been on the hair scene for forever now with more salons employing these tools than not and with good reason: they heat up quickly and distribute heat more evenly than traditional hair irons.  Ceramics heat hair from the inside out, thus aiding in promoting shiny, straight hair in every pass by laying and sealing the cuticles flat.  For the layperson, professional results can be had in the convenience of their own home.

There are many different sizes and versions of ceramic irons available.  Some have adjustable temperature settings, some do not.  I would opt for the former because while ceramic heat is considered a "safer" heat, you can still burn your hair off if you're not careful.

On the other side of the flat iron coin is one of my traditional thermal irons.  Anyone who has ever been to a black beauty salon should be somewhat familiar with these.  These weighty irons are made of steel and need to be heated by an outside source like a mini-stove/heater (below) or a kitchen stove top. 

(Professional Stove/Heater)
Since the irons rely on outside heat, regulating the heat of the tools is essential.  Whether using a stove/heater with an adjustable setting or not, the hair is heated from the outside in and, therefore, is easier to damage/burn than with a ceramic tool.  Heat checking by using a rag or paper towel is a MUST; if the paper towel burns or turns brown then the iron is too hot and must be cooled before using.

Another tricky thing with using thermal irons are their Marcel handles (named after Marcel Grateau, a pioneer in hair styling).  While a lot of commercial irons use the force of a spring to keep the iron closed while in use, thermals use rotating handles that must be manually opened and closed on the hair to keep it taut all while curling, straightening, etc.  As you can imagine, this requires quite a bit of dexterity on the part of the user which is why they're considered "professional" tools.

Of course, this didn't deter me from buying quite a few thermal irons, including the one above, which is my favorite because of the large barrel.

Having mastered the technique of the Marcel thermals, I decided to add a ceramic curler with the same type of handle to the mix about a year ago. 

This curling iron has a temperature control dial and an off/on button, which suits me just fine.  The smooth, black, ceramic barrel heats up very quickly and provides full, shiny curls.  Love!

So, I know a lot of people are trying to use less and less heat on their hair, which is great, but there's no need to be fearful of it.  As with all things, there's a proper way of how and when to use it.  I would recommend always starting with a clean head of hair, make sure you use a heat protectant, use a heat implement that you're comfortable with and that has temperature control.  Also, I would abstain from using heat on my hair more than once a week.  Fried hair is damaged hair and heat damaged hair cannot be salvaged.  Trust me, I know.

Years ago, a "friend" who worked at a salon did my hair with thermals.  I left the salon looking and feeling all cute only to have chunks of my hair rush down the drain when I washed it in the shower a week later.  She never heat checked the irons before she put them in my hair and basically burned my hair off.  Yeah.  Talk about devastated?  I was.

So proceed with caution, but don't be stifled by fear.  If you don't mind styling with heat, by all means, find the tool(s) that work best for you and style away.

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