The Ultimate Hair-Straightening Guide: How to Get Super Sleek Strands (Without, You Know, Breaking Them Off)

Expert tips you needed 5 years ago.

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While we love us some curly manes (see: #curlgoals), sometimes we just want a sleek, straight look. We consulted Carrie Hill of Bumble and Bumble Salon in NYC to give us her top tips and tricks for every method.

If You're Using a Blow Dryer:

Before you begin, make sure you have the right tools. Hill and the other stylists at Bumble and Bumble use the Twin Turbo brand, which is 1500 watt. Look for wattage from 1500 to 1800 to ensure a powerful airflow, and use a nozzle, which will help concentrate airflow on the section that you're working on. And don't forget a heat protectant! Hill uses Bumble and Bumble's Invisible Hairdresser's Oil. As for brushes, Hill suggests that you opt for a boar bristle round brush or a mixed bristle brush. If you have curlier hair, go for the mixed bristle brush because the mix of boar and nylon bristles will create more tension for straightening. Pro tip: YS Park makes a really good one.

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But before you even touch that brush, start with a hand dry. One of the most common straightening mistakes Hill sees is "a lot of people skip [a hand dry] and just start blow drying soaking wet hair with a brush, which leaves moisture in the roots." Plus, it can take a lot longer if you don't hand dry first, leading many people to give up before the blow dry is done and leave some hair wet, causing the hair to revert to curls or waves. So what is a hand dry, exactly? Well, Hill explains it as "you just start drying the roots with your fingers and the blow dryer, stretch the hair to begin smoothing it out." Basically, you create tension by pulling on your hair with your fingers, and use a gentle scooping motion to dry the root of the hair and then work your way to the root.

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However, if you have curly hair and know that you are prone to curls around your face, after a towel dry skip the hand dry and go right into a blow out, starting with those front strands. Alternatively, if you have wavy or straight hair and want to build volume, take a bit more time with the hand dry, flipping your head upside down to really get at those roots. For curly hair types, Hill also recommends keeping your blow dryer on high heat and high speed. If your hair is really processed or prone to breakage, it's a good idea to reduce the heat to medium. In order to avoid ending up with super frizzy strands, keep the dryer's nozzle pointed downwards. "A lot of times people will blow dry straight into the hair and that's going to actually open the cuticle and cause it to look more rough and frizzy," Hill says, "so if you keep your airflow pointed down it will help close the cuticle and that's what creates shine and a more smooth look."

If You're Using a Flat Iron:

If you're the kind of person who showers at night and then wakes up to flat iron your hair, you should probably end the habit. "If you do that every day you're going to kill your hair," Hill advises. "I would do a hand dry and smooth the hair as much as you can with the blow dryer so that way you won't have to rely on the flat iron as much. The less flat ironing you do, the better." But, if you are going to go ahead and straighten away, make sure that your hair is 100% dry or you'll be seriously damaging your strands.

It's also important to choose the right tools. Hill recommends investing in a ceramic flat iron, and finding one that had adjustable heat, so that you can turn the heat down if your consistently reaching for your straightener (we like this one from CHI).  To further protect your strands, "keep the flat iron moving on the hair so that it's ever sitting in one spot," Hill says, "or you could burn the hair and potentially break it off." Also, just like with a blow dry, spray on some heat protecting spray before you start.

How to *Keep* It Straight:

After all that work, it only makes sense that you'll want to show off your straight hair for daysssss. To preserve your 'do, use a product with silicone. "Silicones are great for coating the cuticle and preventing moisture from getting back in and reverting the hair," Hill says. When it comes to styling, avoid tight rubber bands to prevent dents, and use clips or loose braids instead. 

Now go flaunt.

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