FLAT IRON TECHNOLOGY CLASSby Laura Carson Miller
…Science fact or science fiction? Get your flash cards out!
The newest flat-irons sound like something out of an episode of Star Trek. How do you know what the new terms really mean and which type of flat-iron suits your needs in your salon? To keep you from pulling your own hair out, we´ve asked two independent beauty scientists to explain the terms to us laymen. What we found is that how these scientific technologies act on or affect hair is largely unproven, although many ‘sound´ plausible, and that the terms are being used interchangeably by almost every flat-iron manufacturer.
Stylists are not convinced either. And they truly don´t know the meaning of all these buzz words and how they relate to choosing a flat iron. Michele Coulter, owner of City Salon by Michele Coulter in Atlanta, G.A., admits she is not up on all the new terminology, but ‘I am not one to buy into the latest gimmick,´ she adds. Michele says she only knows if she likes a flat iron if she actually tries it. This sentiment was echoed by Roxanne Zobava of Cortex Salon in Atlanta, G.A., who uses an FHI ceramic flat iron, is very pleased with it and has not felt the need to explore any further. Both stylists stress the importance of heat protective hair products with their clients who frequently use flat irons.
Check out the marketing buzz words most manufacturers are using and learn the facts behind the fiction…
Science Fiction: “Our tourmaline technology produces up to 20 times more moisture-locking ions than other professional irons. Being solid ceramic versus a coat of ceramic, it allows for more crushed tourmaline gemstones, thus producing more negative ions and creating shinier, silkier, and more reflective hair.”
Science Fact: “If the hair is not damaged, it will look shinier and feel smoother. Ions have nothing to do with it,” says Perry Romanowski, and Independent Cosmetics Scientist. “Tourmaline is simply a silicate, a precious stone, a type of inorganic material. There is no scientific evidence which supports the “20 times more” claim or any indications of what type of ions are formed. Ions have to be some kind of element or compound so there is no such thing as simple ‘negative ions.´ The only reference is that tourmaline produced Hydroxyl ions when put in contact with the water. There is no evidence that these ions have any positive effect on hair. Further, there is no published scientific report to demonstrate that Tourmaline flat irons create less static than ceramic ones. Another cosmetics scientist and experienced developer of cosmetic products in the U.K. further explains, “Tourmaline does have unusual electrical properties — It could have some effects on the hair, but it has not been studied or proven.”
Science Fiction: “Ionic technology emits negative ions, which neutralize the positive ions that cause static in the hair. It breaks down water molecules to 100 times smaller, allowing moisture to easily and quickly absorb into each strand, therefore creating softer, smoother hair.”
Science Fact: Both scientists quickly point out the obvious: “Water molecules are always the same size and cannot be changed. In addition, when exposed to heat, water simply evaporates when it gets hot enough — it cannot be pushed into the hair shaft by any means.” They also agree, “hair carries both a positive and negative charge but it´s not ‘caused´ by dryness or lack of moisture. It is the result of damaged proteins caused by heat, styling, the environment, friction, and the sun. The cuticle does not become more open because of ions and cancelling positive charges does not smooth down the cuticle. It is more the case that damaged hair becomes more positively charged.” But on heat damage — all the manufacturers agree: use the irons on the lower settings except in the case of extremely coarse hair or when used in conjunction with Brazilian Keratin Treatments which require the 450 degree heat setting. In fact, consider warning your clients on the constant at-home use of flat-irons: At a recent annual meeting of the American Academy of Dermatology (A.A.D.), Dr. Paradi Mirmirani, from the Department of Dermatology at The Permanente Medical Group, presented evidence that when ceramic flat irons are used improperly or too frequently, hair breakage can occur. “At home, use the device on the lowest heat setting, and avoid using them on wet hair,” advises Dr. Mirmirani. A.A.D. member Amy McMichael, M.D., Associate Professor of Dermatology at Wake Forest University School of Medicine, suggests that clients should be warned of frequent flat iron use: “Take one or two weeks off per month or at least several days off between flat-iron use.” Hence, no flat irons are ‘healthier for your hair´ no matter what the packaging says.
Science Fiction: “The Ionic Energy and the Silver Nano Technology kills 99.9% of bacteria and air-borne viruses.”
Science Fact: Nanotechnology is the big science buzz word for employing smaller particles of anything, but that doesn´t have any relation to the action of flat-irons. And, says Romanowski, “The high temperature from ANY flat iron will kill bacteria and viruses. Nano technology won´t make a bit of difference.”
Science Fiction: “Far Infrared Rays heat the hair from the inside out, causing less surface damage to straighten hair faster hence reducing damage.”
Science Fact: Romanowski explains, “All of these flat irons work the same as regular flat irons. They transfer heat from the surface through the hair not the other way around. It would be possible to heat the hair from the inside out, but it would have to work like a microwave-oven — which is not the environment in which a flat-iron works. Even if you could do it, there is no evidence that it would make a noticeable difference.” One of the manufacturers admitted that he doesn´t prescribe to this notion and says, “I actually think this would fry up the hair from the inside out — you want to protect the inner core of hair from this damaging heat!”
FLAT-IRON FEATURE FACTS THAT MATTER
What type of heater does it have? What size is it in relation to the plate? PTC are the smaller, older models and typically heat only 40% of the plate size so heat recovery is not efficient. PTFC heaters are upgraded from these and now many brands Like FHI Heat, Barbar Artist, and Izunami, have come out with their own proprietary heaters. In fact, most of the real advances in flat irons are in heater technology as manufacturers look to boost the effectiveness of heat recovery in between strokes, while lowering the cost.
How is the plate made? Titanium is a solid plate that is lightweight and long-wearing. If plates are ceramic, ask how many layers coat the base — the more the better — all the way to solid ceramic. The fewer the coatings, the faster the plates may show wear or snag hair.
How much does it weigh? You have to think about how much you use an iron during a day because you run the risk of occupational wrist and arm hazards if you choose an iron that´s too heavy.
Will you give stylists a discount? No explanation needed…ask for it!
Can I try it for a week? How does it work for you? Everybody´s needs are different and the job you may want the irons do may be different on each head of hair. One iron´s design may be more compatible with your wrist movements versus another. You may want to keep a few types of irons on hand in your salon. The best way is to ask for a trial on any iron you are considering.
Ask about additional features: Is the temperature adjustable? Can I turn off the ion charger? Is it adaptable for traveling to different countries? Does the cord swivel?