2014 Marks The Return Of The Flat Iron


I remember the first time I flat ironed my hair the way some people remember their first drink—it was that whole I-know-this-is-wrong-but-it-feels-so-right thing. It was 2001, I was 13, and the era of Britney, Jennifer Lopez, and Tara Reid's flat, shiny, overworked and impossibly cool hair was reaching its apex.

So it’s the last day of sixth grade. I’m at a friend’s house getting ready for the first party of the summer, and watching Save The Last Dance, as one does. It’s a house party, my crush is going to be there, and I’m wearing a turquoise halter top. It all feels very adult. My friend offers to straighten my hair.

Up until this moment, I had simply dealt with my indecisive collective of waves and curls by binding them aggressively with a hair tie or occasionally mustering the courage to tame my frizz with the blow dryer/round brush method. But straightening was a different animal entirely. The straightener (a metal, Hot Tools appliance) promised to deliver not just less wavy, but stick straight hair. My friend pulls the iron from roots to ends, and I watch in awe as I am transformed into a real life teenager. I had literally never felt cooler.

Fast-forward to the present, and I would definitely refer to myself as a bonafide flat iron expert; a veteran, if you will. Don’t mistake this as bragging, because I am not proud. I did untold damage to my hair (not to mention my psyche) for over a decade. I spent most of that period convinced that, unlike all other humans, my hair just didn’t grow. And that it had nothing to do with my straightener’s 428° plates.

If I'm doing the math, and I am, that's nearly half of my life spent under a parched sheet of permanent split ends. Straightening had become a habit, that, thanks to the "Embrace Your Natural Texture!" movement of the past few years, I nearly kicked. But just when I thought I would never look back, Spring 2014 came rolling in with its cadre of sleek-haired editors, actresses, and models, and not an ounce of blowout body or bounce—the kind of flat that only an iron can produce. Elizabeth Olsen's boasting curve-less silken lengths for the Miu Miu campaign and for life in general, Kate Moss the Younger (a.k.a. Lottie) made her modeling debut with stick-straight plates of hair, and Eva Chen’s tenure at Lucky has been rife with an iron-leveled, chin-swinging coif that gives her penchant for girly skirts the air of a woman in leather pants. That, my friends, is the flat iron effect. And it's everywhere.

If you’re eager to follow suit, take a moment and heed my words. The first being ceramic. I don’t even know if metal-plated irons are sold anymore, but they should be illegal. Avoid anything that is labeled “wet-to-dry.” Let common sense be your guide, i.e.: lowest possible temperature setting. I realize it’s tempting to crank that baby up and watch the magic happen, but taking it low and slow prevents you from burning off the ends of your hair. Small sections, low heat, happy camper.

Which brings me to heat protectants—you need them. My go-to spray is Bumble & bumble Styling Lotion. It provides volume, hold, and a thin coat of heat armor, and has a non-aggressive, clean smell. And when my exhausted lengths are really feeling the heat, I reach for Kérastase Nutritive Nectar Thermique. It leaves my hair unbelievably soft, making it feel and look healthy despite the fiery flat iron hell it's living in.

Whatever heat guard you use, be judicious and disperse evenly—if you put too much product in your hair while it's wet, all your ironing efforts will be for naught. My guilt surrounding the use of heated tools makes it impossible for me to employ them in tandem and feel OK about it. As such, I always let my hair air dry before I straighten. If you need to blow dry first (places to be, etc.), spray or rub a bit more protectant into your hair just before ironing.

To finish off your newfound sleekness, oils are a worthwhile investment, as you essentially just cooked the naturally-occurring ones out of your hair. Shu Uemura Essence Absolue is my favorite hair product of all time. I’ve run the oil gamut, from earth-grown coconut to manufactured Moroccan, and Shu always wins. A little goes a long way (a bonus since it’s relatively pricey), but you can also apply enough for Cousin It onto just your ends and it will absorb completely without weighing them down.

Now prolong the final product by skipping the shower (less washing, less ironing, less damage). Psssssst! Dry Shampoo has yet to disappoint me; I always get excited about no-frills products that actually work. It’s super cheap, smells like baby powder, and has been successfully feigning hygiene for the Van Paris women for generations.

Admittedly, the resurgence of ironed maidens has tempted me to reignite my old flat iron flame. We were, after all, in the longest committed relationship of my life; it’s only natural to crave the familiarity. I love my iron, but I have to remind myself that I love me more. I'm going to continue to get to know my awkward waves—though sometimes clumsy, embarrassing, and not always cool, they’re mine. It's the healthy, responsible choice. But I certainly won't be slut-shaming you for having any trysts with the ol' straightener. Just try to iron responsibly.

—Calin Van Paris

Calin Van Paris is a writer and product junkie based in the San Francisco Bay Area. Photo of Riley Montana by Emily Weiss. 

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  • Kira

    Love this post! I have relatively straight hair and STILL spent years doing untold damage by trying to remove every ounce of body and make it even straighter! Glad I finally saw the light.

  • Bella

    Good luck ladies! I did this all through the 90's and noughties, everyone actually thought I was Chinese (I am a yellow skinned half black, half white), but for the past year I have embraced my natural curls and I won't be looking back. My GHD's are unemployed, I've realised that my hair grows as quickly as it did when I was a kid, that you don't need products to get your hair to shine....I'll enjoy all your looks though!

    • Tiffany S.

      If you would like to give your GHDs a happy home...

  • estheresther

    "Ironed Maidens"! Amazing.

  • http://loveloosh.com/ Elizabeth Allora

    Straightening my hair has always been easier than embracing my natural waves- the outcome is never consistent! A good drug store brand heat protectant is Tresseme heat tamer protective spray.

    • http://www.fancyalterego.wordpress.com/ Heather P.

      I've been using that brand's heat protective spray for years, and I still love it. Granted, I also try to keep the heavy heat styling to 1-2 times per week. And thank goodness for dry shampoo and ponytails!

  • Clever Girl Reviews

    I've been so upset at this trend! What am I supposed to do with my wild hippie hair now!

  • http://www.getmadcute.com/ MADCUTE

    No not again!

  • Jessica

    This is great! I have naturally curly hair... and I LOVE it! I did recently get a fringe, so I do like to straighten that... but otherwise, I really love the bedhead look... lots of volume... maybe even a bit of frizz. Just to show that I cannot be bothered. ;) I do think the sleek look is pretty too... very chic. I suppose I'll have to try out the straight look a couple of times. ;) I also LOVE the Pssssst Dry Shampoo... it's fantastic!
    Jess (www.frostingandfacials.com)

  • amandavasilikos

    I remember the first time I straightened my hair too. It was truly an epic moment!

  • Hailey

    This post is awesome. I straighten my hair often and don't want to damage it any more than it already is. Great advice, thank you!!

    Follow my blog for updates on fashion, music, beauty and more:

  • murt

    I am a bit older than you are but I have similar memories of flat-ironing my hair as a teenager........ actually all of my friends and I were obsessed with stick-straight hair in those days - I remember my friend really damaged her hair by trying the japanese chemical hair straightening method soon after she had dyed her hair haha.....

    ETA: my hair is very very thin though, so it looks pretty horrible straight - so I got over the straightening hair thing pretty quickly.

  • Anna

    My story exactly. Having learned about ~hair science~ the hard way, with 13 years of straightening iron use I do feel like quite the expert but your product recommendations sound pretty great and I'm gonna check them out!

    Also, I managed to discover alone the way that this look isn't for me. It takes a very different face shape/bone structure. Plus I feel like a fourteen year-old Disney Channel singer with that kind of hair.

  • Bells

    Would love to see a Top Shelf with Edita Vilkeviciute! :)

  • http://analeote.blogspot.pt/ Ana Leote

    Since I got bangs the flat iron is my new bestfriend!


  • Chantel

    Nice post. I always flat iron my hair.

  • bambi

    I love Nectar Thermique! The first time I used it I thought it didn't do anything special to my hair and just kept it in my cabinet. This winter I decided to give it another try by putting it on my hair before blow drying. Love the result: soft, smooth and frizz free hair! Pricey but worth it :)

  • Officetramp

    I know that this is completely off topic but i love the photo of Jourdan and Chanel as Chanel is SMILING, i think models should smile more, it's nice to see and a nice change! It's funny how happiness in fashion can be slightly subversive....

  • Bella

    I'm lucky and my hair is naturally straight! It looks like I straighten it everyday but my hair is just that way. I guess I'm in luck for the hair trend of 2014!

  • Teckie

    Aveda Damage Remedy daily hair repair - it's truly magnificent. It would be awesome to see some recommendations for the least-damaging flat irons. I'm ready to ditch the old CHI for something new.


  • cassandra_dee

    Well, the last time pin-straight hair was in style, I was an awkward and self-conscious teenager deluded into believing I had BORING (i.e. the wrong kind) pin straight hair because I was unable to make it sufficiently voluminous like in the magazines. I was also at the mercy of my hometown hairdresser(s), who I mistakenly believed to be much more talented than they were. I was so busy wondering why the layers and round brushes weren't doing their job that I totally did not notice that I already had awesome hair!

    But if this is really a thing...I conveniently have the same center part, one-length cut I escewed in middle school, so this time around I'm just gonna rock it au natural.


Bumble and bumble
Bumble and bumble Styling Lotion
Kerastase Nutritive Nectar Thermique
shu uemura art of hair
Shu Uemura Art Of Hair Essence Absolue
Pssssst! Instant Dry Shampoo Spray