If you have natural, coarse hair or a head of super-tight, kinky curls, you know that all of those straighteners that promise to turn your hair into a curtain of silk with just one magical swipe are complete bullshit. Sure, maybe on someone with wavy-to-curly hair, but on your tight, zigzagged curls? Nope, not a chance—unless you want hardcore breakage and damage.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t still straighten your hair at home without frying it; it just means you need to find the proper flat-iron and learn the right techniques first. And to help you out, we went to the pros to tell us their secrets.
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“You can’t just go straight to heat tools if you have super-curly or kinky hair,” says hairstylist Jasmine Santiago. “Natural hair is already dry hair, so applying direct heat from a flat-iron to dried-out hair will strip it of its moisture and ruin your curl pattern.”
Instead, you need to focus on infusing your curls with so much moisture that they won’t fall apart under intense heat, she says.
“It’s so important that you wash with a rich, sulfate-free cleansing conditioner, like DevaCurl No-Poo Cleanser ($19 at Amazon), right before you plan to straighten your hair, and then massage a really thick, moisturizing conditioner, like Tresemme Flawless Curls Conditioner ($10.77 at Amazon), from root to tip, before spraying a leave-in conditioner, like Kérastase Discipline Keratine Thermique ($22.88 at Amazon), throughout your curls,” says Santiago.
And if you just skimmed over the above advice, go back and read it again, because the prep steps are literally the key to straight hair.
“Most people think you need to find something that says ‘heat protectant’ on the bottle before you straighten, but for coarse, curly hair, your heat protectant is going to be moisture,” says Santiago. “After spraying on your leave-in, blow-dry your hair with a comb attachment—my favorite is the Twin Turbo 3200 dryer ($92.96 at Amazon) with the comb attachment ($12.75 at Birth of Beauty)—and avoid a round brush at all costs,” she says. “Comb attachments gently detangle and stretch your curls, while the bristles of a round brush create too much tension on the hair which can break kinky curls.”
Now comes the easy part: flat-ironing it. Now that you’ve prepped your curls for a flat-iron, they should ideally melt like butter over your straightener, with very little resistance.
“Take a small section, place a fine-tooth comb near the top of it, position your straightener right behind it, and slide both down the section at the same time, so the comb paves the way for the straightener behind it,” says Santiago. “Just make sure your straightener has ceramic plates—titanium plates are too harsh on natural hair—and a heat dial, so you can keep the heat between 350-to-400 degrees, or you’ll strip your curls,” says Santiago.
But what you came here for was the product recommendations, right?
Santiago’s favorite flat-iron for natural hair and coarse curls is the Solano Sleek Heat 450 Flat Iron 1” ($199 at Amazon), though she admits that it’s probably not in everyone’s price range. Don’t fret, though, because we found a bunch of flat-irons that are just as effective for kinky curls, without costing you your utilities money.
Scroll down to see the eight best straighteners for your hair, buy one of them, and then revel in the fact that you’ll never have to deal with frizzed-out and damaged hair sessions ever again.
A version of this article was originally published in January 2017.