Using any type of hot tool on your hair can come with plenty of surprises, and not all of them are great. When it comes to hair straighteners, noticing a smell every time you use your hair straightener can have many different meanings.
Whether it is a faint burning smell or a little more potent, a bad smell is usually the first indication that something isn’t right.
But, what does it actually mean? Here is what we found out.
1. Your Hair Isn’t As Clean As You Think
While you can use hot tools on three-day-old hair as a way to refresh it and bring some much-needed life back to your tired locks, when it comes to using a hair straightener, isn’t always the best choice.
Unlike a blow dryer which is meant to be used at a distance, hair straighteners pull a section of hair between two hot plates to completely smooth and straighten the hair.
Also unlike hair dryers, straighteners use more direct heat in order to get the job done. If you are using a hair straightener on dirty hair, you are directly introducing high heat to all of the dirt and grime in your hair.
Even if you do your best to keep your hair clean, there are plenty of environmental things that are working against you.
Whether it is pollen or ait pollution, your hair is absorbing them every time you leave the house.
So, if you notice that your hair straightener has a very off-putting smell when you use it on hair that hasn’t been washed for a few days, chances are the reason is just that your hair isn’t very clean. This doesn’t mean that you have bad hygiene, however, it just means that you need to re-think how you refresh your hair in-between washes.
I recommend only using a hair straightener on your hair when it is freshly washed and dried. If you need to give your roots a little refresh and lift a few days in, try using a round brush with a hair dryer instead of running for the flat iron.
Your hair, and your sense of smell, will thank you for it.
2. Your Hair May Still Be Damp
It is always important to remember to only use your hair straightener when your hair is completely dry. Running those hot plates over hair that is even the slightest bit damp will not only sizzle and fry your precious locks, but it can also actually create a dangerous situation for you.
Since a hair straightener is a hot hair tool that needs electricity to work, it is very unsafe to use it on any hair type that isn’t completely dry.
While other hot tools, like blow dryers, are meant to be used when there is moisture in the air, a hair straightener uses direct heat and contact which will not only damage wet hair but can also electrocute you.
We’ve all been in a rush before. Having to quickly style your hair before leaving the house sometimes means that you have to cut corners. But, never cut this corner.
There are few things worse than the smell of burning hair in the air. So, if you think you’ve done your best to dry your hair and find that there is a little sizzle and smell when you pass your flat iron over your locks, chances are your hair is still damp.
To make sure that my hair is always dry before using a hair straightener I like to do the root test.
This is especially important for those girls with very thick hair. Use your fingertips to massage the roots of your hair, this is where the majority of moisture will still be found. If your fingertips come out feeling dry, then you are good to go.
3. It May Be Time To Switch Products
Hair products can be your best friend when it comes to helping your hair behave the way you want it to. From leave-in conditioners to heat protective sprays, these products are meant to be tools for you to keep your precious locks in line.
But, have you ever noticed a weird smell while using these products in combination with a hot hair straightener?
If you’ve experienced this, it may be time to do some research on the products you are using. While hair products are essentially meant to improve the overall health of your hair, some products just don’t behave well when introduced to high heat like the heat used in flat iron.
This is especially true for products that have a more gel-based texture. Gel products are made with drying materials like alcohol. As you should know, alcohol and high heat do not mix well. This can make your hair straightener have a faint burning smell. What it actually is is the alcohol in the product you are using burns off when exposed to high heat.
My advice is to save the gel and hair sprays until after you finish using a flat iron on your hair. However, it is still very important to use a heat-protective hair product before straightening your hair.
Just make sure that the one that you choose has a low alcohol content and features hair-loving ingredients like oil.
4. Your Hair Straightener Might Be On Its Last Leg
Hair straighteners are not meant to last a lifetime. Hot hair tools should be replaced every few years because, after a certain amount of time, they are not only not performing as they should but also start to give off a weird smell.
Hair straighteners that are reaching the end of their life cycle can have a strong burning smell. However, this doesn’t mean that your hair is burning.
It has much more to do with the inner workings of a hair straightener. Over time, the heating coils inside of flat iron will start to wear down and not heat up the way they should.
This can lead to a strong smell. One way you can tell if it is your straightener that is giving out is if it doesn’t get as hot as it used to.
Another reason for a smell coming from an older hair straightener is simply because it hasn’t been cared for properly.
We know that we have to clean beauty tools like makeup brushes and sponges, but most of us don’t think about cleaning our hot hair tools.
The best way to extend your hair straighteners life and keep that dreaded smell at bay is to regularly clean your flat iron. More specifically, clean the hot plates.
Make sure the hot plates on your hair straightener are off and cool and then use a damp cloth to wipe them down. This will remove any excess dirt or product and will help to keep your flat iron working properly for longer.
5. You Might Be Burning Your Hair
The last reason why you might find that your hair straightener smells is simply that you are in fact, burning your hair. It is funny that most of us don’t think of this simple solution even though a hair straightener literally is a hot-plated tool that can easily sizzle your skin. So, why don’t we expect it to do the same thing to your hair?
To avoid the common burn, start by changing the heat setting on your flat iron. If you’re like me, your hair straightener is always set to the highest heat.
This is because we think with the highest heat we can get the best results faster. However, that isn’t the case.
It all depends on the texture of your hair. If you have fine or thin hair, you should never use your flat iron on the highest heat setting. Curly or thick hair can withstand more heat but still should try to regulate how high the heat is.
A burning hair smell can be difficult to get rid of. It can linger in the air for hours. But, did you know that the smell from burning hair can stay on your hair straightener for much longer? When your hair burns, it leaves behind small pieces of fried hair on the plates which means you can smell it every time you turn it on. This is another reason why it is so important to properly clean your hair straightener often.
Read our blog here about 5 reasons ceramic hair straighteners are better.
Wrapping It Up
No matter what the cause of a funky smell on your hair straightener is, it is a red flag that you should take notice of. Whether it is the products you are using or just the condition of your hair, any type of burnt smell should raise some caution.
While most situations have an easy solution, sometimes the only solution is to upgrade your flat iron to a newer model. Also, if you ever get that smell paired with smoke, immediately remove the hair straightener from its power source and dispose of it safely once it cools down. No style is worth starting a fire over. Take care.
- Curl Centric: How To Get Rid Of Burnt Hair Smell On A Flat Iron
- Mums Net: Why Are My New Straighteners Making My Hair Smell?