Hair straighteners – where would we be without them? For me personally, it doesn’t bear thinking about. Of course, the thing that makes every pair of hair straighteners out there do their job correctly is a high amount of heat. We’re talking an extremely high amount of heat, and that’s when we need to talk about hair straightener safety.
Any sort of styling is going to damage your hair a bit – but heat styling more so, regardless of how low of a temperature setting you use.
Your average set of hair straighteners tend to operate at somewhere between 100-200 degrees Celsius, sometimes exceeding that. Some straighteners operate at one fixed heat setting (a prime example of this is the infamous GHD IV styler, which fluctuates between 175 and 185 degrees Celsius constantly), and some allow you to choose between several different temperatures.
So, if the heat from your straighteners causes a noticeable amount of damage to your hair (dryness, frazzling, snapping – we all have it!), imagine what it could do to the rest of you?
Seeing as the idea of a heat-free hair straightener is make-believe (for now, anyway), it’s important to be aware of what steps you can take to massively increase your safety whilst using hair straighteners (and any other heat styling tools you may have, for that matter).
Slow and steady
A large portion of burns are caused by speedy styling. Styling tools aren’t the easiest things in the world to use (especially for the less co-ordinated amongst us, like myself), and the addition of having to use them in a mirror can make for an extremely fiddly task.
If you can, try and spend a bit more time and thought on styling your hair. Think carefully about your movements, and really focus on keeping your fingers away from the source of heat. It can be tricky to do so in a mirror, but practice makes perfect.
If you can’t set aside any extra time in the morning for styling, try doing it at night when you have more time – you’ll find that you only need a quick touch-up in the morning, if at all.
Be aware of your environment
It’s important to think about whom else is around you whilst using heat styling tools.
For adults, it’s common knowledge to be careful with anything that may possibly be extremely hot – I.E. hair styling tools. A grown person knows that a pair of straighteners left lying around still have the potential to be switched on or cooling down, and will therefore avoid touching them.
A baby, pet, or somebody else fairly unassuming won’t know any different, though. Even if you leave your straighteners somewhere safe, there’s still a slight risk of them being disturbing whilst still at a high heat.
However, even if it’s just you in your household, or if everybody else at home is clued up on hair straighteners, it doesn’t hurt to learn how to store your straighteners correctly.
It’s important to think about hair straightener storage as where you place your straighteners whilst you’re using them, and where you place them after you’re done.
- However far you are into your styling session, make sure that you never leave your straighteners hanging off the edge of a counter or with wires trailed out across the floor – this poses the risk of somebody snagging themselves on the straighteners, be it yourself or someone else.
- Never place your hair straighteners on the floor, regardless of what kind of flooring you have. Leaving your straighteners on the floor makes it so much easier for someone to stand on them. Besides this, straighteners can easily burn carpet, and can be a fire risk on wooden flooring.
- Invest in a heat-proof pouch or mat. Many straighteners tend to come with one nowadays. They give you a heat-resistant space to place and store your straighteners, as opposed to leaving them on a bare counter top.
- Always triple check that your straighteners are switched off before leaving them unsupervised.
A lot of it is purely common sense, though. It’s also important to give your straighteners plenty of time to cool down before leaving the house or travelling with them – remember; some straighteners can take up to an hour to cool down fully.
Don’t forget to accessorize
There are many accessories on the market that’ll amp up your hair straightener safety even further.
If you’re particularly concerned about burning your fingers, or if you find that your straightener is a bit too hot to handle for long periods of time, purchase a pair of heat-resistant gloves. They’ll protect you against the high temperatures of the straightener, but will still give you the mobility needed to style your hair as you please.
There are also the common heat mats and heat pouches, as well as heat-resistant plate guards which slide over the end of the straightener.
What if I do burn myself?
I’m yet to find someone who has used heat styling tools without burning themselves at some point in the past.
Most heat styling burns tend to occur on the following places;
- Fingers – if they’re placed near the heated part of the styling tool, it’s extremely easy to catch yourself here.
- Face/neck/ears – the top of the ears in particular can be easily caught in amongst your hair.
- Feet/ your lap– it may be that you drop or knock your straighteners whilst they’re in use or cooling down, or that they’ve been left on the floor whilst cooling down.
Of course, accidents happen – you’d be surprised at how often people have sat on hair straighteners, or picked them up by the heated plate end without thinking.
The severity of hair straightener burns can differ – it depends how hot your straighteners are, whereabouts the burn is located, and how long the straighteners were in contact with your skin.
It’s only natural, then, that how you treat a hair straightener burn is going to vary massively also.
As a general piece of advice, the best thing to do is (once you’ve removed the source of the burn from your skin, of course), is to cool the skin down as soon as humanely possible. As soon as you cool down the burn, it will stop penetrating any further into your skin and doing any more damage. You could use cold water or a cold compress, but no matter what you do, don’t use ice – it can freeze your skin, and totally interrupt the healing process.
Whatever cools your boots, try and use it for as long as possible. Aim for 10-20 minutes if you can. Feel free to take an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory such as aspirin, too.
Once the skin has properly ‘cooled down’, it’s time for some serious aftercare.
If you have any of the following lurking around your home, apply them to the wound liberally;
- A topical steroid- 1% Hydrocortisone will do the trick
- Antibacterial cream
- Pure aloe vera gel
- A burn relief gel
- Vitamin E cream
Whichever of these you choose to use, make sure to always keep the burn moist – it’ll speed up healing, and the constant moisture means that your skin will be less likely to scar. Whatever you do, don’t use anything oil-based on the burn.
It may also help to apply a loose bandage to the wound. Avoid touching it, and whatever you do – do not pick at the burn. This delays the healing process even further, and you’ll be more likely to end up with scarring.
Please note that this advice is for first-degree burns only. If your skin starts to blister, or is very red, sore, and swollen, go to your doctor as soon as possible.
Hair straighteners can open you up to a world of styling opportunities – if you’re safe with them, that is.