Hair dresser using an electric flat iron

For men or women who wish to have the option of a straight hair style without using a chemical straightener, an electric flat iron is an ideal appliance. Although specific flat irons vary somewhat by manufacturer, the basic design is much the same for every model. The essential parts of a flat iron are the same no matter which model you choose.

How Flat Irons Work

A flat iron temporarily straightens the hair by applying heat to the hair shaft. The flat iron is allowed to get hot. The flat iron is guided from the scalp to the ends of the hair in order to straighten the hair. The process is repeated until the flat iron has been applied to all the sections of the hair. The hair remains straight until the next shampoo or unless it becomes wet--for instance, in the rain.

Heating Elements

Flat irons are constructed with heating elements that become hot when the flat iron is plugged into an electrical source and the power switched on. Some flat irons are battery powered, in which case they heat up simply by being switched on. The electrical current from the cord or the battery is converted to heat by the heating element, and this heat is then applied to the hair.

Straightening Plates

The parts of the flat iron that come into contact with the hair are called the plates. There are two plates on a flat iron. The plates are located at each end of the two straight elements that make up the body of the flat iron. The plates receive the heat which is collected by the heating element, and transfer the heat to the hair shaft.

Clamp and Body

Flat irons usually do not have a separate handle. Instead, they are made up of two straight elements joined together at one end by a flexible clamp. The other end of each straight element has the plates attached. The flat iron is grasped by the clamp end with each section of hair pressed between the two plates as it is being straightened.


Flat irons vary in cost depending on the features included. Flat irons with uncoated metal plates are generally the least expensive. However, most flat irons have ceramic or another form of coating on the metal plates to minimize hair damage. Flat irons also often feature a swivel cord to make it easier to maneuver the appliance. Most flat irons are designed for use with dry hair, although some flat irons may also be used on damp hair.