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What is an Ionic Hair Straightener?

By Haven Esme
Updated May 21, 2024
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An ionic hair straightener is an electrical appliance designed to straighten and smooth hair while also improving its strength and overall health. Straighteners generally use heat to press and smooth hair, but the introduction of charged ions is intended to make this process both longer-lasting and less damaging. There are a couple of different varieties, but in general the tools make use of charged ceramic plates or tourmaline, which is a stone. Manufacturers often treat these substances to enhance their ion conducting abilities but in most cases they are natural conductors in and of themselves, too. Just the same, straighteners usually need to be labeled “ionic” in order for consumers to be sure of what they’re getting, and this name usually carries an implication that the tool has been crafted and tested specially to ensure an even delivery of charged particulates. The benefits of using this sort of tool over a more standard variety aren’t widely proved, but include promises of smoother, less frizzy hair that resists damage and stays healthier for longer.

Ion Basics

Ionic hair care is a relatively new trend, but ions are a part of chemistry that’s involved in almost everything. Ions are essentially atoms or molecules that have lost or gained an electron. In general, most atoms and molecules start out with an equal number of these charged particulates, which generate energy. Losing or gaining electrons impacts the behavior of the cell itself.

Most researchers agree that ions and their charges are an important part of hair health, and they may also be able to impact some aspects of human health and mood, too. Most hair stands are positively charged as a matter of course, and ionic hair straighteners usually emit negative ions as a consequence. When the negative particulates interact or come in contact with the positive ones of the hair follicle, they neutralize; in theory, this causes a restoration in electron balance that can improve each hair on a chemical level.

Hair Straightening Generally

Straighters are popular tools that use heat to force kinks and curls out of hair. They work a lot like an iron, and before they were widely available some people actually did use standard irons to flatten their hair. Straighteners are not only safer, but also a lot easier to use — and they typically give much more consistent results, too. Most are made up of two plates attached together sort of like tongs that are heated. Users pull small segments of their hair between the plates and squeeze.

There are many different varieties but most are electrical, which means that they gain all or at least most of their power through a power cord. Many also include steam features that use hot water to help “set” the treatment. In ionic models, manufactures make use of materials that conduct ions, often as plates or small bristles that come into direct contact with hair follicles.

Benefit of Ionic Treatments

An ionic hair straightener is a little bit different in that it is designed also to neutralize the positive ions found on hair. According to most reports, equalizing the cellular composition of hair follicles can give them a smoother, healthier look — though it should be noted that whether they actually are healthier is open for some debate. Results depend at least in part on individual hair characteristics and overall manufacturing integrity of the device. Results of ionic hair treatments aren’t widely established, and things can vary a lot from person to person and tool to tool.

Common Materials

In most cases, ionic straighteners produce negative ions by way of water molecules. Water molecules are usually present in the hair naturally, and the heat combined with ionic transmissions breaks them into fine particles that can re-hydrate and re-condition the hair. Once the molecules are absorbed into the hair, they restore moisture balance.

Most ionic hair irons are made of ceramic material. Non-ceramic irons typically heat the hair’s cuticle from the outside, which can actually cause heat damage. Ceramic material uses infrared heat, which quickly penetrates the hair and typically only focuses on the inside of the cuticle.

Some ionic hair straighteners also contain tourmaline. Tourmaline is a precious stone that generates a vast number of negative ions upon heating. The extra negative ions produced by tourmaline further reduce the probability that the iron will cause heat damage and helps ensure that the hair will be soft and silky.

Purchase Considerations

There are many different straightening tools available in most places, and not all are ionic. Making the best choice is usually a matter of price as well as quality. People who have hair that has become damaged due to overstyling and too much heat often choose ionic hair tools, particularly if they’re going to be using them more or less every day. The constant use of hair dryers and other tools can make hair brittle and possibly cause breakage.

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Discussion Comments
By anon331583 — On Apr 23, 2013

Well said! I've been straightening my hair forever and it is definitely damaging to your hair. But for the last year I've been using the Glamshop ionic straightener almost every day and my hair has never looked healthier. I love it because I can curl my hair with it too. Only paid $110 for it, which is really good considering what you can spend on a straightener.

By LauraStylist — On Jun 30, 2012

Very true. Ionic straighteners are the best thing for hair. They speed up the straightener's efficiency and they smooth out hair a lot faster than regular straighteners.

For extra ionic technology it's always best to use a tourmaline straightener. I use the Karmin G3 because it has ceramic and tourmaline so it's extra safe and incredibly effective.

By Almita — On Jul 29, 2011

@ElbowTickle - A lot of professionals use ionic straighteners, so I think it is safe to say that they work as good as the regular kind. They are very popular in Europe salons and well loved by those that want to get rid of their curly hair.

Ionic straighteners might actually help restore your hair, if you take vitamin D and lots of fish oil -- as your hair grows, it will be healthier. The ionic straightener is about the only thing you can do other than moisturizers to fix the hair you already have.

Right now, the average price of a ionic straightener seems to be around $50USD. If you plan on using it every day, it's probably a good investment. Your hair will thank you.

By ElbowTickle — On Jul 28, 2011

Wow, this sounds like a good idea! I was just trying to figure out how I could keep straightening my hair without damaging it more. I've been making it straight for years now and it's getting really dry. I use moisturizing conditioners and everything -- but I guess it just isn't enough to combat the heat of the hot iron.

Does anyone know if a ionic hair works as good as the regular straighteners? It sounds like one of these might be kind of expensive, so it would be nice to know how well it worked before I got one.

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