Your Flat Iron Has a Shelf-Life—Here’s How to Know When Time’s Up

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Like with any high-quality possession, if you use it properly, care for it as necessary, and keep it out of harm’s way, it should last you a reasonable amount of time. But, as the saying goes, nothing lasts forever—and flat irons are no exception. The plating (variations of ceramic, titanium, and tourmaline are most common) and size of the iron are the biggest contributing factors to flat iron longevity.

So, how long do hair straighteners last? “If you properly maintain and clean your iron, and it’s a true quality iron, it will last you for years and years,” celebrity hairstylist Gregory Patterson says. “As a professional stylist, I’ve had some of my irons for over ten years.” Keep reading for our detailed expert explanation below.

How Long Do Straighteners Last?

This is a nuanced answer, so it's okay if you don’t leave here with a succinct response. But hopefully, this at least provides insight into what type of flat iron suits your hair best. Once you have your iron, you can take it from there.

To begin, a “true” ceramic flat iron is known to heat evenly and gently, hold heat for longer, cause less damage, and perform best on thin or fine hair. But a “true” ceramic flat iron differs from a cheaper quality “ceramic coated” flat iron. Then you also have titanium for thick, coarse hair (which requires less passes through each strand) and tourmaline, which heats in seconds and is recommended for all hair types. So, the type you use may impact its shelf life.

“True ceramic plates usually have anywhere from three to five layers of baked ceramic, ceramic tourmaline, and ceramic and magnesium,” Patterson explains. “These irons have smoother plate surfaces, higher quality, and properly placed heating coils. They result in even heat distribution across the entire plate and better heat recovery after each pass. They’ll smooth the hair much better and allow you to style at significantly lower heat settings or at the ‘optimal heat temperature’ for all hair types, which is 365 degrees.”

Adds Patterson: “Types of flat irons impact the frequency of replacement. Lower quality irons or ceramic ‘coated’ irons will need to be replaced more quickly than an iron that is pure ceramic or a ceramic combo.”

Size also plays a role because, as Cosmo Prof Ambassador Jon Carlos De La Cruz points out, “the bigger the tool, the harder it is to get to the root.” This, in turn, leads to more passes and more acquired buildup. Excessive buildup is a key contributor to a defunct straightener. De La Cruz prefers titanium flat irons “because they’re more gentle and safer on the hair.”

But, to be clear, “Titanium flatirons aren’t for everyone,” Patterson says. “This especially pertains to people with fine hair, high-level blonde, or weakened, damaged hair. If this sounds like you, stick with ceramic.”

Signs It’s Time to Get a New Flat Iron

1. Distressed Cords

“If your connection cord is at all splitting open, kinked, wobbly, or loose, get rid of it immediately,” Patterson says.

2. Handle Gets Hot Amid Usage

“You should never feel heat on the parts that fit into your hand,” Patterson says. “If you do, the insulation has burned out or one of your heating coils has moved. This is a poor combo.”

3. Plates Have Trouble Heating

“If your plates are no longer heating up well and you have to run the iron multiple times, it’s time to upgrade,” Patterson says. “The iron has had its time, and it needs to be replaced. Continuing to use it multiple passes on your hair will for sure damage and break it. When using a quality iron, you should only have to take 1-2 passes max!”

4. Irremovable Buildup

“If you have years of product buildup on your iron, get rid of it,” Patterson advises. “Your hair is no longer receiving the benefits of the iron’s contact against your hair, and you’re on your way to damage.”

5. Glitches of Any Kind

To sum up the above, “Flat irons need to be replaced when they start smoking, appear dingy, are working less effectively than before, appear burnt on the plates, or if plates aren’t heating up as quickly,” De La Cruz says. “Glitches are always a telltale sign it’s time for a replacement.”

Fave Straighteners of Ours and the Pros

1. Olivia Garden Professional Titanium+Ion Flat Iron

Olivia Garden Professional Titanium+Ion Flat Iron | Mane Addicts
(Image Source: Store.OliviaGarden.Com)

De La Cruz calls popular Cosmo Prof pick his “absolute favorite” because “it gets the job done safely and efficiently, adds shine, is easy to manipulate the hair, and can even be used to curl.”

2. ion Luxe Cordless Flat Iron

ion Luxe Cordless Flat Iron | Mane Addicts
Image Source: SallyBeauty.com)

If you need easy, on-the-go, this is it.

“This is a great iron for light touch-ups and quick fixes,” Patterson raves. “It’s perfect for travel and when you just need a bang smooth, an ends-refresh, or a quick glide over to polish and reduce frizz.”

3. BaBylissPRO Titanium Flat Iron 1.5 inch

BaBylissPRO Titanium Flat Iron 1.5 inch | Mane Addicts
(Image Source: SallyBeauty.com)

Sensibly priced, Patterson praises this ergonomically designed pick because it’s “amazing for textured hair.” It also heats up instantly and is corrosion-resistant to styling products.

4. CHI Original Styling Iron 1-Inch

CHI Original Syling Iron 1-Inch | Mane Addicts
(Image Source: Chi.com)

Simply put: “This put ceramic irons on the map,” De La Cruz raves. You can’t beat the classics, and more than two decades later, this iconic accessory is still sold and touted for its ability to provide silky, shiny, and frizz-free hair instantly.

5. ion Magnesium Flat Iron

ion Magnesium Flat Iron | Mane Addicts
(image Source: SallyBeauty.com)

Patterson calls this “the greatest flat iron, period.” Why, you might ask? It’s designed with patent-pending Korean Magnesium Technology and recovers heat quickly after each pass through the hair, which results in fewer passes, less damage, and salon-quality results.

6. CHI Lava 2.0 Flat Iron

CHI Lava 2.0 Hairstyling Iron | Mane Addicts
(Image Source: Chi.com)

As the name suggests, this game changer from CHI is made with actual lava mineral floating plates. Its heat conductor is known to be the most powerful in the world, allowing you to use lower heat settings while maintaining consistent heat that doesn’t fluctuate like traditional irons or plates. If you want the full review, we’ve got it for you here.

7. Mane by Mane Addicts The Three Way Multi-Use Flat Iron

Mane by Mane Addicts The Three Way Multi-Use Flat Iron | Mane Addicts
(Image Source: ManeAddicts.com)

We couldn’t plug our list of faves without including a standout from our Mane By Mane Addicts collection. The ceramic, nano-coated 1-inch flex plates straighten, wave, and curl. The sleek accessory delivers even, snag-free styling while taming frizz and flyaways, bending, boosting volume, and adding shine. Need we say more?

Still unsure which type of flat iron is perfect for you? Read our detailed guide HERE!