How to Flat Iron Your Hair Like a Professional Stylist

The right flat iron, combined with solid technique, can get you sleek, healthy locks that look professional.
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Sleek, glossy hair might look natural on celebrities like Mila Kunis and Angelina Jolie, but their hair stylists probably played major parts in getting those locks to sit smoothly. Modern flat irons boast tourmaline or ceramic plates -- which help the proteins in the hair to reshape -- minimizing the damage to your tresses after you've finished styling. Professional stylists have a pretty standard bag of tricks they utilize to help create that smooth finish, and all of the required products can be purchased at your local drugstore.

  • Smoothing shampoo and conditioner
  • Smoothing heat protectant
  • Fine-tooth comb
  • Large alligator clips
  • Round brush
  • Hair dryer
  • Flat iron

1 Tress Prep

2 Condition your hair with a smoothing shampoo and conditioner

Wash and condition your hair with a smoothing shampoo and conditioner; this will encourage your hair to get that sleek finish. If you have especially fine hair, look for a combo of a nourishing, volumizing shampoo and conditioner to amp up the lift in your hair so it doesn't fall completely flat after styling.

3 Dry your hair

Towel dry your hair until it is just damp and not dripping wet. Spritz a smoothing heat protectant throughout your entire head of hair from root to tip. Comb your hair very gently with a fine-tooth comb to spread the product evenly onto the strands.

4 Draw a horizontal part

Draw a horizontal part from the top of the right ear around the back of the head to the top of the left ear. Clip up the hair above the horizontal part with a couple of large alligator clips.

Separate a 2- to 3-inch-wide section of hair from the loose hair below the horizontal part. Place the round brush underneath the section of hair at the scalp. Turn on your hair dryer to a medium-to-high heat setting.

Apply the hair dryer directly over the hair captured on the round brush. Pull the brush down towards the tips of your hair, keeping tension in the brush as you follow along with the hair dryer until you reach the tips. Move slowly so that the warm air and brush can work their magic to dry and smooth out your hair shafts.

Repeat the hair-drying process with the next 2- to 3-inch-wide section of hair, and continue until all of the hair below the horizontal part is dry and smooth.

Release the hair from above the horizontal part and repeat the hair-drying process on 2- to 3-inch-wide sections of hair until your entire head of hair has been blown dry and feels soft. This process will prepare the hair for the flat-iron treatment, and it will limit damage by removing moisture in the hair shaft before you apply the iron.

5 Shine Lockdown

Draw a horizontal part with a fine-tooth comb from behind the right ear back around the head to the back of the left ear. Clip up all of the hair above the part to keep it out of the way.

Separate a 2-inch-wide section of hair from the loose hair. Place the opened flat iron under the section about 1/2-inch away from the scalp and clamp the iron closed over the hair. Pull the flat iron down towards the roots with the hair held perpendicular to the head. As you pull the flat iron down, follow directly behind the flat iron with a fine-tooth comb. This process will help the hair to sit smoothly as you flat iron. Move the iron slowly enough to allow it to smooth the proteins, but don't stop moving the iron as you go down the entire length of the hair.

Keep working in 2-inch-wide sections with the loose hair until it is sleek and smooth. Unclip the hair above the horizontal part and draw a new horizontal part that begins parallel to your right eye and ends parallel to your left eye. Clip up the hair above the part.

Flat iron the newly released section of hair, working in 2-inch-wide sections until it is all smooth. Remember to keep that tension in the flat iron as you move and to use one fluid, clean motion to get that glossy effect.

Release the hair that has been clipped up with alligator clips. Draw another horizontal part that lines up with your eyebrows and clip up the hair above the part. Continue to flat iron the newly released hair in manageable sections.

Release the hair at the crown of your head, and flat iron 2-inch-wide sections of hair. To smooth out the roots of the hair near the scalp at your part, insert the fine-tooth comb into the hair right at the root. Place the outside edge of the flat iron -- where there is ambient heat -- over the comb, and gently pull the comb and flat iron down together about 2 inches. Repeat this comb-and-flat-iron process until you have removed any leftover ridges near the scalp.

Comb through your entire head of hair a final time with a fine-tooth comb to create a final smooth look.

  • Purchase a high-quality, smoothing heat protectant with moisturizing and smoothing elements.
  • Always work with tourmaline- or ceramic-plate flat irons to avoid damage to your hair.
  • Purchase a flat iron with a width of 1 to 2 inches. This width is ideal for working in small sections and producing sleek strands without excess heat.
  • Remove all excess moisture before flat ironing your tresses.

Sarah Vrba has been a writer and editor since 2006. She has contributed to "Seed," "AND Magazine," Care2 Causes and "202 Magazine," among other outlets, focusing on fashion, pop culture, style and identity. Vrba holds an M.A. in history with an emphasis on gender and fashion in the 19th century.