GRAY HAIR AND BLACK IRON is also an effort to speak to yet another group of forgotten lifters: the garage gorillas and cellar dwellers of the world, who toil in anonymity in home gyms featuring plenty of black iron and not much else. The modern muscle media doesn't have much to say to these men - and may not even know that they exist. But they're there - and they're the backbone of the Iron Game. Always have been, and always will be. They're my heroes. And I wrote this book for them.


Most of the hair straighteners we reviewed heat up in under a minute, but the Cloud Nine Original Flat Iron has to be one of the fastest on the market! In as little as 20 seconds, this hair straightener transforms from cool to hot, hot, hot! With this model, there is no need to wait around for your hair straightener to warm up, which means you spend less time getting ready in the morning and more time getting on with your day.
Our two testers with kinky and thick hair loved the Chi Air Expert Classic Tourmaline Ceramic Flat Iron. In fact, it was each of their top picks, with the Bio Ionic coming in second. The Chi Air reaches 410 degrees F, which is definitely hot enough for thicker and curlier hair types. The speed at which the tool worked was surprising considering the kinkiness and thickness of both testers’ hair. One tester with long, curly hair had to leave early for an event and needed to finish styling. The Chi Air moved through her hair quickly, giving her time to spare. And, even at 410 degrees, our testers didn’t feel like their hair was being fried or that the heat burned their heads. In fact, they complimented how soft it made their hair feel and how comfortable it was to use, unlike the NuMe Megastar which snagged a lot or the HSI Professional Glider which felt hot against their scalps. As one tester said, “Chi is killing it.”
“The temperature of the iron can determine the curl pattern on hair that tends to fall easily, as you might need a higher heat to lock in the pattern closer to the root,” she added. “The internal components of the irons also can determine the curl pattern, and that is why it is important to invest in custom, high-end tools that contain internal heaters that go the entire length of the barrel. The higher the heat, the stronger the curl will essentially be. Low heat will produce a softer finish.”
Working in sections, curl your hair. Using just the wand (and not the clamp at the bottom of the wand that "holds" the hair as it curls), wrap your section of hair around the barrel. Be sure not to overlap your hair, as this will reduce heat and result in limp sections. Use your fingers to hold the edge of the section of hair close to the barrel without burning your hair. Doing this rather than using the clamp will prevent crimps in the curls.
You're on your way to work with your perfectly styled hair, ready for that big client meeting…and suddenly you're not sure if you remembered to turn off your hair straightener. Cue the mind spiral where you imagine being responsible for your entire apartment building burned to the ground. We admit. it may be a bit dramatic, but it's definitely not a good feeling to start the day with.
By-and-large, most people with natural hair have some variation of type 3 or type 4 – which is exactly why low-end hair straighteners can be so dangerous. More curly natural black hair has a tendency to be more porous than other hair types. As a result, it can lose moisture easily and become damaged. With the wrong flat iron, this can lead to split ends and breakage after just a single use.
When we first took the Babyliss out of its box, we were impressed by its super thin design. And when we put it to the test, the tool lived up to our expectations. It felt light, like the Chi Air, and manageable when gliding through hair. Unlike the HSI which felt rickety and bulky, the Babyliss’ design was sleek and professional. It wins as the flat iron we’d expect to see in a high-end hair salon.
In addition to a fast heat-up time and multiple temperature settings, the 9-foot cord and 360 swivel make for easier styling and prevents and tangling. You can also travel with this styling iron thanks to the dual voltage settings. Anti-slip edges and floating plates allow your hair to glide effortlessly between the plates, with no pulling or snagging which can be especially damaging for fine hair.
Flat irons can get pricey, but they’re an investment. The Chi Elite is inexpensive when compared to other high-end tools in the industry, making it a safe bet for those new to hair styling. Though it may be more expensive than some hair straighteners, it offers a high level of quality that the others don’t (not to mention it’s a Chi, which is known for quality). We tested the HSI, which is about $60 less expensive than the Chi Elite, and its cheapness was apparent at first glance. It did nothing for any of our testers’ hair. If you’re a beginner, the Chi Elite is a great first flat iron.
Unlike the plain Jane ceramic plates of most hair straighteners, the tourmaline-infused ceramic plates in the CHI Air Expert Classic Tourmaline Ceramic Flat Iron are designed to keep your hair healthy during styling. Specifically, the tourmaline helps to more evenly distribute the heat during use which, in turn, creates a higher number of negative ions for shinier and healthier looking hair with each use. This reduces the static electricity created, meaning you get a sleeker, smoother style.
We loved the Bio Ionic’s user-friendly design. Two of our favorite features are its bright digital temperature control and the instructions stamped directly onto the tool. It also feels natural in the hand, and its matte finish provides a slight grippiness, but doesn’t pull at the hair when styling. Plus, the tool sports a uniquely shaped plate that’s curved at the tip and makes it really easy to get close to the scalp. One tester who is new to using flat irons said the Bio Ionic felt intuitive and even encouraged her to try harder styles, like creating curls and waves.
When taming coarse, wavy or curly hair, sometimes you need a little to kick it up a notch. That’s why we love that the CHI G2 Ceramic and Titanium Flat Iron can reach a maximum temperature of 475° F and heats up in under a minute! With this hair straightener, say goodbye to wasted time waiting for your tool to heat up, and get styled and out in the door!
The more temperature control options you have, the more control you'll have over the heat you'll be applying to your hair. Keep in mind, any type of heat styling can be damaging to your strands, so you want to take care not to use too much high heat, especially if you're styling daily. Flat irons that have lower temperature options that start around 250 degrees Fahrenheit are ideal for those with thin, damage-prone hair. If you do have thick hair, higher heat settings can help straighten those curls. To help prevent damage, you should start with lower heat first, and then only increase as needed. Keep in mind, anything above 400 degrees has the potential to damage your hair. Even those with coarse, curly hair should stay within the 350-400 degree range to be safe.
No two heads of hair are the same, so the straightener that does wonders on your best friend's fine tresses may be useless on your curly mane. Luckily, there are many different types of hair straighteners. Some provide higher heat settings and wide plates to tackle thick curly hair, and others have ceramic plates and options for low heat settings that are better suited to easily damaged fine hair.
Xtava’s two inch-wide plates are massive, making them perfect for people with thick or coarse hair. Aside from the plates, everything else about this flat iron is fairly standard. You can use it at a temperature range in between 265 and 445 degrees Fahrenheit, the plates are made with tourmaline and ceramic, and it takes less than two minutes for the tool to fully heat.
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