Where would Charlie’s Angels be without the curling iron? Would Jennifer Aniston’s poker-straight mane exist without a blow-dryer and flat iron? Clearly, heated hair appliances are no passing trend — they’ve been essential hairstyling tools for decades. Here’s the lowdown on what’s new and what’s needed to create the look of 2000 and beyond:
Hair Dryers Some believe the higher the wattage, the better. The most powerful, and therefore the fastest available, is 1875 watts although people with super fine hair don’t need such a turbo blast. No matter which wattage you choose, keep the dryer in motion at all times, and hold it about three inches from your head to avoid heat damage. John Stefanick, Senior Stylist at Noëlle Spa for Beauty and Wellness in Stamford, Conn., recommends dryers with three heat settings, but suggests using medium heat most often because the hottest setting may burn the hair. His favorite?The Super Solano, available at major beauty-supply stores. Though hairdryers haven’t changed much since we were kids, both The Sharper Image and Hammacher Schlemmer boast models with ionic conditioning, which bestow positive ions on the hair to ensure shinier, fuller and faster results. Revlon’s 800 Watt Thermal Hot Air Brush is a great time-saving hybrid that dries and styles hair simultaneously. What about all those attachments sitting in your bathroom closet?
According to Stefanick, “Many people lose or throw out the various attachments, when in reality they can be very helpful. The nozzle is especially helpful in concentrating the air flow when straightening the hair.” (Note: Revlon’s Dry ‘N’ Straight Dryer is designed with a special nozzle pre-attached, so there’s no fumbling for it when you’re styling.)
While the original Charlie’s Angels and an entire decade of women relied on curling irons for finalizing their groovy feathered styles, today’s Angels and mere mortals have found a myriad of uses for this tool. Now that “texture” is the focal point of every style, the curling iron serves as the perfect appliance to create those sporadic loose waves and ringlets.
Depending on the barrel diameter — ranging from pencil-thin to two inches wide — you can transform a smooth, demure mane into a trendy runway extravaganza. Just remember, keep the curls uneven in width, length and frequency — the idea is to create a messy, imperfect look. Do this by winding up sections of hair at different lengths — from the ends up, halfway to the roots, etc. And always let the hair cool while it’s on the iron to hold the set longer. Recent technology offers us a few new options, including curling irons with steam, moisturizing instead of dehydrating heat-weary locks. Another twist on the basic model is Jilbere’s Spirals Professional Curling Iron (sold at Sally Beauty Supply stores), which features a spiraled barrel for creating textured waves in a single step.
Cast aside visions of singeing your tresses — The Sharper Image and Jilbere both offer a curling iron with 20 separate heat settings to accommodate the very different needs of fragile, fine hair and coarse curly do’s. Revlon’s 20-setting Radiance Halogen Styling Irons employ a thick-wall halogen bulb to decrease heat-up time and provide even heat distribution.
For those of you determined to conceal your natural waves, the flat iron is a lifesaver. Instead of winding strands around a circular barrel, this iron clamps hair with two flat panels and literally irons out the kinks. You’ll get the best results on hair that’s been blown straight and then misted with a heat-protective spray.
Stefanick also advises finding an iron whose plates match up evenly for the most effective straightening.
Another tip: Clamp hair between the plates and slide the iron down the hair shaft in one fluid motion to avoid creases. Newer versions, such as the Conair Straight Styles Steam Straightener, offer the steam option, and again, this is a great choice for hydrating hair that’s ironed frequently and prone to dryness. Jilbere’s Smooth, Straight & Shiny Iron provides standard flattening with the added bonus of velvety-surfaced plates, which smooth frizz.