The process of the classic “press and curl” has come a long way from the hot-comb and hair-grease days. We’re not talking about your average blowout here. Getting coarse, thick, or curly hair straight requires more than a round brush and blow dryer. You need to know the proper technique and own several different hot tools to achieve a silky finish on natural textures — and even some pros can’t do it without snapping a comb in half, popping the nozzle off the blow dryer, or causing permanent damage to your curls.
Before you trust a blowout bar with your delicate strands, we challenge you to try straightening at home (you just might get better results). We’ve enlisted the help of Johnny Wright, celebrity hairstylist and artistic style director of Amla Legend, to break down the 10 major mistakes you’re making when you flat-iron your curls — with easy fixes. Plus, he reveals the frizz-fighting trick he uses on the first lady to keep her natural hair sleek after a workout.
The Mistake: Not Rinsing Out Conditioner Properly
Ever put the flat iron to your hair and smoke appears? That’s probably because you didn’t thoroughly rinse all the conditioner from your curls or you applied too much product before blow-drying (more on this ahead). Johnny insists that the best way to prevent damage is by styling with little or no product. So make sure you rinse thoroughly before leaving the shower.
The Mistake: Working With Large Sections
Sectioning is key to getting all of your hair dry, including the back (which tends to be the most coarse and hardest to reach). Larger sections might seem ideal for saving time, but working with small one-inch portions will ensure that every strand dries from root to ends.
The Mistake: Using a Comb Attachment on Your Blow Dryer
We get it: using the classic comb attachment to tangle through our curls is easy, but the stiff tines can cause breakage. To get a faster, more precise blow-dry, use a concentrator nozzle (which focuses the heat directly where you want it) with a Denman brush. The flexible rubber brush will ensure you have a firm hold without pulling at your hair. Before you pick up the blow dryer, grip your hair at the roots with the brush (bristles facing out). Place the nozzle on the bristles, and slowly pull both tools in a downward motion. Repeat on the same section a few times. The rubber bristles will carefully straighten your hair and make sure heat is evenly dispersed.
The Mistake: Blow-Drying in the Wrong Direction
At the crown of your hair, blow-dry in an upward and back motion to create volume. Use a downward motion on the back and side areas.
The Mistake: Buying a Flat Iron Without Temperature Control
If your flat iron only switches on and off, it’s time to invest in a new one. “You want to use one with a variation of heat because everyone’s hair texture is different,” Johnny said. Most of the time, you don’t need to work with your tool on the highest 450-degree setting. If you touch up daily, turn the dial down to help minimize heat damage.
The Mistake: Skipping a Comb When You Flat-Iron
Use a small rat-tail comb under your flat iron to keep hair detangled as you straighten and to create volume, otherwise you’ll end up with that limp, lifeless look.
The Mistake: Applying Too Much Product
Using too much of your favorite finishing oil can turn your satin-soft style into an oily, stiff helmet. Lightly mist on your favorite shine serum, like the Amla Legend Silkening Oil Mist ($10), a few inches away from your hair for a healthy, glossy shine.
The Mistake: Wrapping Your Hair Without Clips
There’s nothing worse than spending an entire day styling your hair, only to wake up the next morning looking like a frizz ball. To keep your style sleek, wrap your strands at bedtime. Brush the hair around the head, then use large styling clips to keep your hair in place. Place a scarf over everything to keep it secure all night. Then, remove the clips to prevent dents and bends when you take it down in the morning.
The Mistake: Burning Your Edges With the Wrong Tool
A one-inch iron is great for tackling the majority of your hair, but investing in a small half-inch flat iron will help you get closer to your roots without burning your skin. Don’t be afraid of using an edge control gel to tame pesky flyaways. But be sure to follow Johnny’s number-one rule for styling product on straight hair: use sparingly. A little really goes a long way.