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There are some people out there who have no idea what my natural hair is like. It's not the colour I change, but the style, and I've been murdering my natural vague ringlets with GHDs or Latin American equivalents for over 7 years now and some people have never seen me any other way. Before that I'd only had the odd go with a hairdryer, but I soon realised that straighteners had the potential to be a bit more lethal, and after a few near misses involving my body and my furniture, I got hold of one of these mats.
The idea behind this mat is simple: it is a safe, heat-resistant place where you can rest your straightening irons during and after use.
This mat is mainly black, and made of a material that feels a bit like fuzzy felt, only thicker. It is approximately 30cm by 20cm which is not huge but it's certainly big enough, as it's only the ceramic plates you need to lie on it, not the rest of the straighteners. The material is also quite flexible, and I often wrap my straighteners in the mat when I'm taking them away with me, as it keeps them protected and ensures I also don't forget the mat. Wouldn't want to get my fingers burned, either literally or figuratively, by wrecking a hotel desk while using it.
There's little to say about how to use the mat - you just position the hot plates on it whenever you need to put your appliance down. For me this is quite a bit while I'm doing my hair, as I need both hands to section it off into manageable chunks, and of course afterwards too, as straighteners stay hot for quite a while.
The great thing about this mat is that it really does do exactly what it says on the tin. The material acts as a barrier between the hot straighteners and whatever is beneath them, be it your lap (ouch) or a dressing table or desk top. Even when they are at their hottest, the mat protects the surface below meaning there's no chance of burn marks or setting fire to anything. You can also unplug the straighteners and leave them here to cool down without worrying that they'll leave a mark. The mat is not entirely non-slip, but it does have a textured surface which prevents it slipping and sliding all over the place. The mat never gets hot either, so you don't have to worry about that when putting it away afterwards.
Before I got this, I would regularly spend the drive to work worrying that I'd left my straighteners on, and they'd burn the house down in my absence. I think I only did so once (leave them on, that is, not set the house on fire) but it's something I still fret about, only now I reassure myself that it doesn't matter so much, as the mat will save the day.
My only niggle with this mat is the way it grabs hair and won't let go. I'm a bit of a moulter, and that's something I couldn't even begin to hide with this out on my dressing table. Strands fall as I style my hair and stick to the mat, eventually giving it such a furry coating that I have to make a concerted effort to de-hair it. I can imagine that if I didn't do this, I might get the odd sizzling hiss from your straighteners if I put them on a bed of hair.
This mat costs under a fiver online. I've had mine for more than 5 years, and it's still going strong. The only deterioration in that time has been a bit of bobbing on the mat itself, as material can do, but it is no less effective and is not getting thin in places or showing signs of wear. Aside from pulling off the hair, I have not cleaned or washed it in this time, as it is not visibly dirty or stinky.
I wouldn't be without it because it saves me having to be super careful with where I put down the straighteners, and when I'm in a rush to get my hair done and leave the house this saves valuable time. It is of course not brand-specific, hence the low price, but then who wants to fork out more for a branded item to accessorize, when the better thing to spend money on is the straighteners or other heated appliance.