How to straighten hair: a guide

Hair straightening is certainly not a new phenomenon and since the late 19th century, when heating rods were first invented, both women and men have been experimenting with different styling techniques in order to make their locks as smooth and shiny as possible. From curly to wavy frizzy hair, we often want the opposite of our natural look, and with a range of flat irons on the market from brands like Nicky Clarke, Ionika, BaByliss, Remington and Tresemme, technology can make this happen.
But how do you choose the right temperature for your hair type, weight of straightener, heat protection sprays and the type of metal used in the plates? Whether you’re heading to work or want something show-stopping for a friend’s wedding, Tesco Direct have put together a step-by-step guide to straightening hair so that your day-to-day hair styling will be a breeze and special occasions won’t always require a trip to the salon.

Getting started with hair care preparation

Assembling all of the equipment you require is the best way to establish a proper hair care routine. Think about the shampoos and conditioners you need in advance – there are several dedicated straightening products on the market, which contain smoothing agents, while those looking for something a little less expensive could try John Frieda’s Frizz Ease Straight Ahead Shampoo or the Moisture Restoring Shampoo from Sukin.

Select a conditioner that will not weigh your locks down with heavy oils or a heat protection spray to spritz and comb through after washing. This will nourish and protect hair from the heat of the straighteners.

Choosing a straightener

Purchasing the flat irons themselves will depend upon your hair type and the amount of money you wish to spend. Those with very thick, curly hair should opt for thick width straighteners with hotter temperatures – they can reach highs of 230°C – but if your tresses are thinner with waves, a lower setting may be just as effective and safer for those with coloured or treated hair. A large number of straighteners on the market today have temperature controls allowing you to increase or decrease depending on your requirements.

Plate types range from ceramic to tourmaline, titanium, metal and – less frequently – glass. These all essentially work by weakening or breaking the hydrogen bonds in your hair, allowing it to reshape into frizz-free sleek stylings using negative ions.

Ceramic plated straighteners are the most common because they heat up evenly, smoothing your hair out and avoiding any extra warm patches that might burn – a problem that occurs with metal plates.

For good heat conduction and greater ionic output than ceramic plates, light, portable titanium options are the best choice. Tourmaline is often used to enhance other types of plates and it is perfect for heavy, coarse hair. Short styles are best maintained with narrow plates.

Washing and drying your hair

If you’re straightening your hair after washing, it’s important to dry it completely before tackling it with the flat irons.

Time-permitting, air drying is the best method as it means you are not damaging your hair with excess heat. Alternatively, wrapping it in a towel on top of your head for 10 to 15 minutes ensures that it is not dripping wet but rather just damp when you get the hair dryer out. Blow-dry your hair as straight as you possibly can by directing the air flow through the nozzle from root to tip.

The length of time this stage takes will vary depending upon individual hair length and texture. If your locks are not fully dry, you will very often see steam rising from them when you begin using the straighteners. Stop and take extra time with the hair dryer if this occurs.

Combs, brushes and heat protection

Run a wide toothed comb through damp hair before you start blow-drying, or untangle it with your fingers – this avoids the breakage and split ends that a larger paddle brush or round bristle brush would cause. Once your hair is less damp these brushes can be applied to eliminate any knotted sections.

Heat protection products like straightening creams or sprays are suitable for use when hair is wet or dry. Some people also add oil to the ends of their locks for extra protection. Organix Brazilian Keratin Flat Iron Spray, or L’Oreal’s Elnett Heat Protect Spray are just two examples of brilliant straightening products on the market today.


Whether your hair is coarse or fine, curly or wavy, straightening is more successful when you divide it into sections. Quarters or thirds generally work well, although different hair types will require different variations. Firstly divide your hair up with clips or hair bobbles, based on the different layers within your hair, then switch on the straighteners and allow them to heat fully before you start working on each segment.

Achieving perfectly straight hair

You are now ready to begin with the base layer of your hair. Get the right technique by taking the flat iron in one hand and your brush in the other. Slowly run the straighteners over a small amount of hair – from top to bottom – and then brush it.

Repeat this process at least twice for each of the small sections of hair you select within the base layer. Finish the quarter or third before releasing the middle layer of hair from the clip and beginning again.

Finally, complete the top layers and you should end up with a silky smooth, straight style. When you flat iron the last layer, be careful not to lose volume – it might only be necessary to straighten the ends rather than the roots here. Overall, check that you’ve straightened the back fully, as this tends to be the area where curls and waves can hide from view!

Finishing touches

To complete your new straight look, you could pin parts of it to the sides or try curling the ends slightly by twisting the straightening tongs a little when you reach the bottom of each strand. Get glowing locks with a shine spray or serum.

Points to remember

Always be careful when using hot products as they can not only burn your hair but also your hands, face, ears and other body parts. Try not to get hair wet after straightening and remember that, even if you don’t wash your hair every day, you may need to go through the process again the following day to maintain the look.

Some people find that straightening with a hair dryer is enough, so you might want to try this too, while others opt for a professional keratin treatment like the Brazilian Blowout for longer lasting results over several months.