Hot Comb vs Flat Iron: What’s the Difference and Which Should You Use

Hot Comb vs Flat Iron: What’s the Difference and Which Should You Use
April 18, 2021 Ellis James
Curls and waves have made a major comeback in recent years, but for many, there are still times when straight, smooth and glossy locks are the desired outcome. With a multitude of gadgets on the market that claim to provide silky smooth results, it can be difficult to determine which of these tools is actually the best for YOUR hair type. As such, we’ve set out to determine which is best in the battle between hot comb vs flat iron, and which you should use to straighten your tresses.

Hot Comb vs Flat Iron 

It’s important to know how to use these tools for your own safety, as well as the safety of your tresses.

Read on for more information, as well as a detailed explanation of how to use each. Find out which tool is best for your needs!

What Is a Hot Comb?

 

Hot Comb Hair Straightener, Electric Heating Comb, Portable Travel Anti-Scald Beard Straightener Press Comb, Ceramic Comb Security Portable Curling Iron Heated Brush


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A hot comb is a hair tool that has been used for many decades. Originating in the early 1900’s, there have been multiple attempts to improve upon hot combing devices that eventually led to the hot combs tools that we use today.

In a nutshell, a hot comb is a heated device used to straighten the hair. It is traditionally used in professional settings. However, it is now easier than ever to get your hands on a hot comb, and people with kinkier and curlier textures, especially in the African-American community, have been doing so for years.

 

What Is a Pressing Comb?

Hot combs come in two categories: electric hot comb and manual pressing comb.

The first type, an electric hot comb, is often readily available in stores and online, and is the easiest to use of the two.

The manual hot comb, otherwise known as the pressing comb, is trickier to use, is often found in professional salons and will require a stove or portable heating device.

Electric Comb vs Pressing Comb

Electric combs will typically come with a plug-in and will have adjustable dials for setting the comb to the perfect temperature for your hair type.

A manual pressing comb will be put on a stove or heating device and will be heated to the desired temperature. This method is often reserved for professionals because it will require skill not to scorch your hair. However, people have been pressing their hair this way for years at home using caution and care.

Bear in mind that many people often use the term “hot comb” and “pressing comb” interchangeably. No matter which term is used, the distinction between whether or not the tool is electric or manual will still need to be made.

 

Annie Straightening Comb, Fine Teeth

 

What Does a Hot Comb Do?

Just like a flat iron, the main purpose of the hot iron comb is to break the hydrogen bonds in the hair, causing a sleek and straight result. If you weren’t aware, it is the hydrogen bonds in your hair that causes it to curl or kink up. When these bonds are broken, the hair can no longer stay within its curled state, and as a result, it hangs smooth and straight.

Pressing hair with hot comb is achieved by heating the comb and running hot tool through the hair.

This hot comb looks just like a normal comb, but is thicker and may be gold in color. As the comb heats, the “teeth” in the comb get hot, as well as the “spine” or back of the comb which serves to hold all of the teeth in place.

As you comb through your hair, the heated teeth as well as the spine of the comb will work to straighten the waves and texture in your hair to yield similar results that a flat iron would.

Andis 38300 Professional 450ºF High Heat Ceramic Press Comb with Dual Voltage and Auto Shut-off, Gold, 1 Count

 

Can a Hot Comb Straighten Hair?

A hot comb can, and does, straighten hair. Even difficult to straighten hair types will benefit from using a hot comb, and it is even recommended for those with fine to medium density color-treated hair as well. The trick is tweaking your method when using a hot comb.

Those with thick or coarse hair may find that the hot comb doesn’t do as great of a job as a flat iron. However, some, especially in the African-American community, often love hot combs as they target the root of the hair causing the hair to lay flatter than a flat iron might.

 

Is a Hot Comb Bad For Your Hair?

As with anything else, a pressing comb can cause damage to our hair if you aren’t careful or don’t use the proper technique. Below, we will detail how to use a hot comb properly, but in short, you’ll want to avoid too many passes over the hair with this heated device, and you’ll want to protect your hair with the use of emollients or hair protectants that can shield your tresses from unnecessary damage.

Moreover, you’ll want to bear in mind that hot combs can cause major damage and trauma to the hair and scalp if used incorrectly, especially when using a manual pressing comb. Special attention must be paid to the temperature of the hot comb, how close to the scalp the comb is placed and how many times the comb will be passed through a particular section of hair in order to prevent burns and breakage from happening.

 

Can I Hot Comb My Natural Hair?

Yes!

Hot combs are often used for natural hair, and in some cases, is the preferred method of straightening. This is because of the hot comb’s ability to get so close to the roots.

Just be sure to use hair protectant of some sort and to straighten the hair using the method in the video below after parting dry hair into tiny sections for best results.

If you want to see the difference between using a hot comb and using a flat iron on natural hair, take a peek at this video done by BlackOnyx who is the owner of the popular natural hair brand known as Alikay Naturals for a demonstration of both a flat iron and a hot comb on her tightly coiled 4C hair.

 

Can You Use a Hot Comb on Caucasian Hair?

Using a hot comb on white hair can be done, and sometimes is recommended, especially if the hair is already color-treated or damaged. Hot combs are ideal for fine to medium density hair of all sorts, and works particularly well on people with loose waves.

The trick, however, is to ensure that the hot comb isn’t too hot before straightening the hair. If your hair isn’t difficult to straighten, you’ll want to purchase an electric hot comb, as these will have adjustable dials that will enable you to use less heat for better results.

Be advised that if you have fine to medium density Caucasian hair and apply on it a hot comb that is too hot, there is a chance that your hair could break off. You’ll want to avoid this at all costs and use the lowest heat possible on your hair.

 

Can I Use a Hot Comb on Electric Stove?

Yes! You can use a pressing comb on either a gas or electric stove. Many use portable stoves for their manual pressing combs as well. Just be sure not to get confused though… it is crucial that you DO NOT heat an ELECTRIC hot comb on a stove of any type. Electric pressing combs should never be externally heated!

 

Annie Small Professional Ceramic Thermal Instant Heat Stove for Hair Styling Curly and Straight - Heating for Hair Tools and Combs

 

Can You Use a Hot Comb on Weave?

In general, it isn’t advised that you use a hot comb on a weave or wigs. There are several reasons for this.

First, if the hair is synthetic, it will burn easily, especially with a manual pressing comb. The tool will become way too hot and will likely melt your weave or wig.

Second, because hair needs to be thoroughly detangled before beginning the hot combing process, you may find yourself more exasperated by the straightening procedure. After all, you’re likely to run into, and create, multiple tangles along the way.

Lastly, using a hot comb on weave or wigs isn’t recommended because a flat iron is the better overall choice. You’ll get a straighter result in less time and with less effort. The risk of burning or melting your weave or wig hair is much lower provided that you use the flat iron on the correct settings.

 

Can You Hot Comb Relaxed Hair?

Ideally, hot combs should be used on natural hair. However, people with processed hair, such as relaxed hair, can use it too. In some cases, a hot comb may be preferred for relaxed hair over flat irons, because it is a gentler method of heat, especially when using a heat adjustable electric comb.

When hot combing relaxed hair you’ll want to take the same precautions you would with any other heated styling device. Because relaxed hair tends to be fragile, you will want to avoid using the hot comb often and certainly not use it everyday. Moreover, be sure to prep your hair with a  protectant beforehand to ensure your locks don’t become scorched.

 

How to Straighten Hair With Hot Comb

In order to straighten your hair with a hot comb, follow these specific steps:

  1. Prep Your Hair – Ensure that your hair is both clean and completely dry. Never use a hot comb on hair that is wet or damp. Likewise, you should avoid using water-based moisturizers on your hair after you’ve dried it. This is true for heat protectant products, as well. Instead, try applying any water-based products or protectants while your hair is still damp and then allowing your hair to air dry, or blowing it dry, before attempting to straighten.
  2. Detangle Your Hair – This step is crucial! Prior to using your hot comb, you’ll want to detangle your hair thoroughly. Neglecting to do so will hinder the hot comb from gliding through your hair and the comb will get caught on kinks and snags which will prevent the hot comb from straightening your hair, at all.
  3. Section Your Hair – As the comb heats, section your hair into sections. How big the sections are will depend on your hair type. The thicker and coarser your hair, the tinier your sections will be. This will allow you to get closer to the root. If you have tighter curls or waves and simply want to loosen them, you may skip the step of sectioning and simply pass the comb through the hair while being careful to avoid the scalp until you achieve the desired results.
  4. Heat Your Comb – If using an electric comb, set the comb to the temperature you want using the adjustable settings. If using a manual comb, you’ll need to heat your stove on low and leave the manual pressing comb there for about 30 seconds before use. Test the manual hot comb on a paper towel before applying it to your hair. If it turns the paper towel brown or black, you’ll need to allow the comb to cool. Applying a comb that is this hot to tresses will scorch them.
  5. Check Your Technique – Once your hair is prepped and ready, take a thin section of your hair and gently pass the comb through. When doing this, always tilt the comb backward so that the spine of the comb is touching your hair with every pass. Believe it or not, it is the spine of the comb that does most of the straightening. The teeth of the comb don’t straighten as well on their own, especially for coarser hair textures. Check below for a demonstration of the best technique for straightening your hair using a hot comb.
  6. Turn off the heat Source – Once you are done, turn off your heat source. Make sure that it cools completely, and if you are using an eclectic comb, be sure to keep the comb out of the way of pets and small children until it has completely cooled.  Follow up with any finishing products for gloss. Never apply water-based products after straightening your hair.

 

What Is a Flat Iron?

CHI Original 1" Flat Hair Straightening Ceramic Hairstyling Iron 1 Inch Plates

What Is a Flat Iron For?

Similar to a straightening comb, you can use a flat iron for straightening hair. Flat irons work by breaking the hydrogen bonds in the hair that makes it naturally curly.

What Does a Flat Iron Do?

A flat iron presses your hair in between two metal or ceramic plates to straighten the hair, leaving it glossy, smooth and straight.

Difference Between Flat Iron and Straightener

Many times, people refer to flat irons as straighteners, and indeed, they are. However, not all straighteners are flat irons.

In fact, hot combs are also known and classified as straighteners, as straighteners refer to any device that can make your hair straight.

Confused? Check out the difference between various types of hair straightening tools in more detail.

How to Straighten Hair with Flat Iron

As far as the process, many of these steps you’d follow using a hot comb you’ll follow for a flat iron as well. These include:

  1. Prep Your Hair – To properly straighten your hair, you’ll want clean and dry hair. As previously mentioned, always make sure that you apply any water-based protectants and moisturizers prior to drying your hair.
  2. Detangle Your Hair – Working out the tangles and kinks in your hair is important when flat ironing because if you don’t do this, your knots and tangles will only get pressed in the iron which will reinforce them. Instead, work through any tangles that might be present, beforehand.
  3. Section Your Hair – This step is key when using a flat iron. Smaller sections means straighter and glossier results. Always section your hair when using a flat iron.
  4. Heat Your Flat Iron – As you are sectioning your hair, you may go ahead and have your flat iron heating. In general, heating flat irons will likely take longer than heating a hot comb, so be sure to have your flat iron heating up at least 1-2 minutes before you start using it.
  5. Check Your Technique – Pass the flat ion through the sections you’ve created slowly and purposefully. Avoid passing over one section of the hair too many times as this will likely cause damage. The slower you go, the straighter the hair and the less passes you’ll need to do. Just be sure that your iron is set at the right temperature to avoid heat damage.
  6. Turn Off the Heat Source – Once finished, turn off your flat iron and store it safely out of reach until it cools. As always, apply any finishing products for gloss. Avoid products that are water-based.

 

Flat Iron vs Hot Comb: The Showdown

Is Hot Comb Better Than Flat Iron? Straightening Comb vs Flat Iron

For Black Hair

Which is better for black natural hair?

So, are hot combs for black hair better or a flat iron? In short, it will depend on who you ask, their hair type and what they’re trying to achieve.

In general, a pressing comb on natural hair can be used, particularly for edges. The small hair around the perimeter of your hair are often difficult to straighten, but because of the design of the hot comb, it can get close to the root of your edges creating a straighter look.

And although people in the African-American community have used a pressing comb natural hair for ages, many attest that flat irons have been simpler to use, have caused less trauma and damage to the hair and scalp.

When selecting a flat iron, be sure to pick the right coating. Titanium coating is recommended for coarse and kinky textures while ceramic might be best for fine to medium densities.

This titanium plated flat iron works well to straighten AND curl:

BaBylissPRO Nano Titanium 1

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And this ceramic flat iron would be perfect for fine to medium hair:

 

HSI Professional Glider | Ceramic Tourmaline Ionic Flat Iron Hair Straightener | Straightens & Curls with Adjustable Temp | Incl Glove, Pouch, & Travel Size Argan Oil Hair Treatment | Packaging Varies

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Nevertheless, hot combs still have their place. A hot comb for edges is a great idea . Also you may be able to use a hot comb for afro hair to create a straighter style.

 

For Short Hair

Which is better for short hair

When hot combing short hair, you’ll want to be careful. Hot combing short natural hair is certainly plausible, but hot combing short hair that is already straight might prove to be annoying and less than productive.

In this battle, we believe a flat iron wins out. But not just any flat iron. Those with shorter do’s will want to opt for a slim and smaller version of a flat iron that has metal plates designed for shorter locks.

Terviiix Small Flat Iron for Short Hair, Temperature Adjustable Pencil Flat Iron Fast Heat Up, 3/10 Inch Beard Straightening Iron Dual Voltage with Tourmaline Ceramic Plates, Auto Shut Off

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For Fine/Thin Hair

Which is better for thin hair?

In all honesty, thin hair could stand up to a flat iron if used on the right setting. But a person with thin or fine hair may find that their hair responds just fine to a hot comb.

In fact, if using an electric hot comb on low heat, this tool might even be preferable as it won’t cause as much heat damage as a flat iron might, provided that it is on the correct setting.

 

Gold N Hot Professional Styling Comb with Mtr (Multi-Temp Regulator)

 

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For Caucasian Hair

Which is better for white hair?

Using a hot comb on white hair is perfectly fine, despite what many believe.

However, no matter your race, you’ll want to pay close attention to the type of hair you have. Some Caucasian people have coarse, thick, frizzy and unruly hair.

The trick will be figuring out what works best for you. In many scenarios, an electric hot comb will work just fine, especially on a low setting, especially for those with thin or fine hair, but for curly girls with thick tresses, it might be better to stick with a flat iron.

 

Electric Hot Comb by Teviiix, Pressing Combs for Black Hair, Wigs & Beard, Anti-Scald Straightening Comb with Keratin & Argan Oil Infused Teeth, Temperatures Adjustable, 60 Min Auto Shut Off

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Hot Combs and Flat Irons Straighten Best

To close, though flat irons are more popular than hot combs, hot combs certainly hold their own in terms of their ability to get hair straight. Which tool you choose will depend on the type of hair you have and what you are comfortable with. Consider purchasing one of each to see which you prefer.

For more information about hair tools and what’s best to use for you and your hair type, check out our blog:

Comments (4)

  1. Lovely 6 months ago

    Informative post! I haven’t tried hot comb yet, but I would love to. Thanks for sharing!
    xoxo
    Lovely

  2. Nancy 4 months ago

    It is so interesting to learn about flat combs! I haven’t used them before but they seem easy to use. It’s important to have the right kind of hairspray to prevent burns. I didn’t know you can use it with electric stoves too. I am a huge fan of using the flat iron. They are versatile in many ways! Thanks for sharing these tips!

    Nancy ✨

    • Ellis James Designs 4 months ago

      Happy our post introduced you to flat combs and helped you get to know other products too!

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