Everything you thought you knew about hair straighteners is wrong

It’s time to part with your old hair straightener.

A wet-to-dry straightener (gulp) may have worked as your middle school flat iron. And your college flat iron may have gotten the job done for the past decade because it technically still works. But just like we learn that no, moisturizing once a week won’t prevent wrinkles (unless you’re Elizabeth Warren), blasting your locks with 400 degrees on the daily will come back to haunt you.

Bringing self-care to your hair routine means investing in a reliable straightener. Not only are hair tools a true “you get what you pay for” purchase, but they actually have an expiration date: After four years, the plates start to crack, lift, and heat unevenly, causing hot spots that can scorch one end of hair and leave the other wavy. If you’ve noticed your hair getting stuck in the wand, that it’s extra dry and scraggly, or that it’s taking longer than usual to finish a section, your outdated flat iron may be the culprit. 

Coming from someone who grew up with hair that wasn’t afraid to break a brush like Anne Hathaway’s character in The Princess Diaries, I can attest to the fact that finding a straightener that works and holds can feel unending. I recently went on a quest to replace my ancient Chi, and I learned some things.

Can you straighten hair without damaging it?

Ah, the age old question. At the end of the day, there’s no fool-proof way to put heat on your hair without feeling the effects eventually. Heat-free methods like meticulous air-drying are thrown around as alternatives, but totally advising against heat is as successful as abstinence-only sex ed. Luckily, there are tricks to hold off intensive heat damage.

If you listen to nothing else in this article, listen to this: Don’t rely on the hottest setting to get the job done faster. Like paper, hair burns at 451 degrees Fahrenheit. Sure, hair won’t spontaneously combust, but regular exposure to high heat is the main cause of permanent damage. I talked to Jon Reyman, owner and master stylist at NYC salon Spoke & Weal, and learned something that I’ve definitely screwed up over the years: Extra high heat once is more damaging to hair than low heat in multiple passes.

Another line of defense comes in the form of thermal protectant sprays. These are often seen as an extra step if you have time, but that’s like chilling in the sun without sunscreen and saying “Hope it’s fine.” 

Creating tension from root to tip can decrease the number of passes needed to get a strand straight. Guiding the iron through the hair with a heat-resistant comb will also make the process much smoother. Reyman’s number one tip? Work quickly. 

“Think of heat protectant as an oven mitt,” Reyman says. “The mitt gets hotter than your hand, but if you are holding a very hot pan, your hand is going to burn eventually. Keep high heat contact to a minimum, and never rest an iron on your hair for long.”

Can split ends be repaired?

Despite what Pantene commercials say, healthy hair takes more than conditioner. Brace yourself, then Google “split ends under a microscope.” Those jagged edges are pieces of the outer layer of the cuticle that have literally snapped. At-home remedies ain’t bringing those back to life.

The American Association of Dermatology has even confirmed that you can’t 100% repair split ends. Strands can be sealed temporarily, but the only way to permanently get rid of split ends is by cutting them off

Which plate type is best for your hair?

When heat contact is minimized, it leads to less damage, so it’s more about which straightener has consistent heat settings that can smooth your texture with as few strokes as possible. Plate type is less important, but this Bustle interview describes how certain plate materials may be safer on different hair textures.

Let’s break things down:

  • Ceramic is the default. It provides balanced heat, smooths frizz, and creates a smooth surface for any hair type to float over without snagging. Damaged hair can catch a break from the balanced heat and lower damage potential of a ceramic flat iron. This mild intensity also keeps processed hair more vibrant over time.

  • Tourmaline is a semi-precious crystal that typically generates the most negative ions of the three. It’s an especially useful weapon against frizz or dull hair, but quickly turns damaging when too hot. It also corrodes easily and is a smarter purchase for occasional events that require really shiny hair.

  • Titanium is similar to tourmaline but is a metal with a higher heat threshold. It gets super hot and does so within seconds, and the heat stays constant throughout the barrel. If your unruly tresses have you ready to give up, the fierce conduction of titanium could do the trick. This is clutch for thick hair, but will cause more harm than good on fine hair.

“Ionic” is buzzword you may hear a lot in hair care conversations. The heated plates on many flat irons produce negative ions that attach to your positively-charged hair, ultimately minimizing static and promoting shine. (Science!) Tourmaline and titanium emit negative ions at an exponentially higher rate than ceramic, but flat irons advertised as “ionic” are probably still one of these three.

Which hair straightener is best for each hair type?

After reaching out to stylists via Instagram, comparing online reviews, interviewing the owner of a salon, and watching a slew of beauty blogger reviews on YouTube, these are the nine straighteners that stand out:


Turns off after 30 minutes of inactivity • Uses smart sensors to keep optimum styling temperature consistent • Good option to protect processed hair

No temperature leeway for stylists • Not great at curling hair

GHD is pioneering smart flat irons that sense hair and readjust plates to the safest temperature.

1. GHD Platinum+ Professional Performance Styler

The future of hair straightening is GHD’s Platinum+, which adapts by the second to stay heat safe and consistent.

  • Plate type:
    Ceramic
  • Plate size:
    1 inch
  • Temperature range:
    Fixed at 365 degrees Fahrenheit

This brand’s title doubles as an acronym for “Good Hair Day.” One session with the GHD Platinum+ proves that it lives up to its name.

Self-proclaimed as the “world’s first smart straightener that predicts your needs,” the Platinum+ is built with sensors that monitor the heat of your hair 250 times per second and adapts the temperature to ensure that both plates are working at 365 degrees Fahrenheit. GHD has found this to be the sweet spot that straightens hair in a single pass without burning. Just to be sure that you don’t creep toward the 400-degree danger zone when you’re in a hurry, GHD has completely taken away the heat adjustment button. GHD claims that the Platinum+ offers twice the color protection and keeps hair 20% shinier than other flat irons.

At a media event for the launch of the Platinum+ styler, GHD global ambassador Adam Reed expressed how the smart technology helps him in the salon: “No matter whether a client has super thick hair or incredibly fine hair, I know that by using platinum+ I will get a consistent result and a beautifully smooth finish across every hair type.” This will also make an easy process for people who have had trouble getting their hair to hold a style in the past. However, stylists who prefer to experiment may feel restricted by the absence of temperature control.


Rounded tip to reach roots • Vibrating plates reach every inch to iron out spots that you missed • Massive temperature range • Great at curling hair

Heat doesn’t stay consistent near far end of plates • Expensive

Unique vibrating plates and a vast temperature range make this high-end flat iron a favorite of stylists.

2. Bio Ionic 10X

The vibrating plates of the Bio Ionic 10X prove that speedy straightening doesn’t have to involve high heat.

  • Plate type:
    Ceramic
  • Plate width:
    1 inch
  • Temperature range:
    280 to 450 degrees Fahrenheit

Another high-end flat iron that’s creating some buzz is the Bio Ionic 10X. Like, literally buzzing — the sonic vibrating plates of this professional styler apparently speed styling up so much that you can finish your whole head in 10 minutes (well, depending on your hair type). 

You know those stubborn kinks that won’t smooth unless you go over them five times? They are no match for the oscillating plates on the Bio Ionic. The rapid pulses spread strands out and pull curls taut to cover every inch as you pull the straightener through, shortening the number of times you have to go back and touch up a section.
Reviewers on Influenster have noticed how quick the Bio Ionic 10X makes the tedious process, and users with curly or thick hair were amazed at how their hair held throughout the day. The plates are also infused with natural volanic minerals, and though we’re not sure if that actually does anything, this iron does leave hair pretty damn shiny.

The Bio Ionic 10X is a really versatile option, too. The unique pointed barrel and rounded tips let you reach roots easily and glide through hair like butter when using it as a curler. With temperature settings ranging from less than 300 (a rarity) to 450 degrees Fahrenheit, it’s a favorite of professional stylists who need to work on an assortment of hair types without switching devices for every client.


Comes in three sizes • Customizable heat with 50 settings • Straightens coarse hair like it’s nothing • Titanium doesn’t corrode easily

The titanium plates of the BaByliss Pro Nano heat up in a flash and float through thick and coarse hair with ease.

3. BaByliss Pro Nano Titanium-Plated Straightener

Unruly hair is no match for these smoothing, A1 heat-conducting titanium plates.

  • Plate type:
    Titanium-coated ceramic
  • Plate size:
    1, 1.5, or 2 inches
  • Temperature range:
    200 to 450 degrees Fahrenheit

BaByliss shows up in nearly every search of “best hair straighteners” or “best flat irons” on Google and is one of the most trusted flat iron brands on the market. Multiple
stylists in Influenster reviews and those we spoke to on Instagram mention that the BaByliss Pro is their go-to when they have a full schedule and need a flat iron that works on any hair type in the chair.

According to color psychology, light blue is associated with reliability and tranquility. We’re not sure if that has anything to do with why BaByliss chose baby blue as the brand’s representative shade, but it’s a perfect reminder of how dependable and effortless this flat iron is. Titanium is a crazy-good heat conductor — not only because it heats up almost instantly, but because it can stabilize and transfer heat quickly. This is especially notable for coarse hair that deserves more styling options than simply cranking the heat. The stable warmth of the plates is able to flatten thick hair in fewer passes than usual and do so without snagging or frizzing. And while ceramic and tourmaline will corrode over time, titanium will last.

The fact that the BaByliss Pro Nano straightener offers 50 heat settings from 200 to 450 degrees speaks for itself. If you’re new to straighteners, it’s a great way to experiment at precise temperatures to find one that works for your hair type. However, the intense heat conduction is probably much more than fine hair can handle on regular basis.


Unique tapered plates for straightening at the scalp • Heats up quickly • Extremely customizable temperature range

No automatic shut-off • Reports of paint chipping off

These tiny precision plates make styling short hair near the root, neck, or ears possibly without burning skin.

4. Bedhead Pixie On Point Straightener

Short hair styling is a breeze with Bedhead’s Pixie straightener, with tapered plates designed specifically for reaching the root.

  • Plate type:
    Tourmaline-ceramic
  • Plate size:
    0.5 inch
  • Temperature range:
    140 to 450 degrees Fahrenheit

After the big chop, you may find yourself having to re-learn everything you thought you knew about hair styling. That, or you’ve always been a pixie cut person and are simply tired of your only options being compact travel irons with no temperature control.

Bedhead’s half-inch Pixie Straightener is a tool designed specifically for short hair, rocking tiny tapered plates to get close to the root or areas near the ear or neck without touching skin. The end where your hand sits is still the size of the average 1-inch straightener, keeping the wand easy to control and precisely angle toward tricky spots. Variable heat as low as 140 degrees Fahrenheit allows people who just cut their hair off to start over post-damage to style that virgin hair as safely as possible.

Longer short cuts (like three or four inches) can expand to curling or a chic messy ‘do, as the mini plates are small enough to grab and wrap strands. YouTuber
Queen of Bomb Ass Hair, known for her colorful, shaggy pixie cut, reviewed the Pixie On Point straightener and could not stop asking, “Why didn’t anyone think of this earlier?”

The metallic blue paint is definitely cool, but Amazon reviewers seem to share the experience of the paint chipping off dramatically over time. This is expected with ceramic flat irons (especially cheaper ones), but it’s annoying nonetheless.


Works extremely fast, even on thick hair • Does a decent job of detangling • Digital display • Most importantly, cute!

Can’t make defined waves • Heavier than a flat iron • Awkward on short hair and baby hairs

Not to be confused with Drybar’s dryer brush, this heated paddle brush straightens quickly and preserves body.

5. Drybar Brush Crush Heated Straightening Brush

Add some life to straight hair with this heated paddle brush that offers a blowout *without* a Drybar appointment.

  • Bristle type:
    Ceramic
  • Brush width:
    2 inches
  • Temperature range:
    360 to 450 degrees Fahrenheit

When straightening, there’s a fine line between sleek runway straight and lifeless looks-like-a-broom straight. If your hair has a problem with the latter, the Drybar Brush Crush can breathe some life into your hair without needing multiple tools to do the job.
Using hot irons to style hair and using a paddle brush to aid in detangling and adding volume have been hair techniques since the 1900s. The Brush Crush is like if those two things had a baby, using ceramic heated bristles that produce negative ions to smooth hair while combing through it. Though it’s best to detangle hair as much as possible before styling, the Brush Crush provides another defense against knots and keeps you from having to pick up a comb.
The daisy yellow Brush Crush may look cute and innocent, but this innovative design truly does a number on all hair types. While the bone-straight finish of your typical flat iron makes split ends even more obvious, the paddle brush design allows you to spread strands and flip ends to give a more natural look. Heated paddle brushes are also particularly effective in smoothing thick hair that refuses to spread out and straighten when pressed between plates.


Internal microchip keeps heat consistent • Comes with a heat-resistant cap • Extremely powerful for its size • Worldwide voltage

Can’t adjust heat • Fixed temperature is too hot for damaged or colored hair

This mini luxury styler provides a glossy finish in no time, but the non-adjustable heat may be a deal breaker.

6. T3 SinglePass Compact Styler

Adorable, easy to pack, and super hot, this compact styler works quickly but will destroy damaged hair.

  • Plate type:
    Ceramic and tourmaline
  • Plate size:
    0.8 inches
  • Temperature range:
    Fixed at 410 degrees Fahrenheit

A travel-friendly flat iron shouldn’t be junky just because it’s small and you won’t use it as often. We’re willing to die on this hill. Chances are that you’ll be relying on a mini styler for important events like a work conference or a concert, and these are the times you need your hair to look its best
and stay that way all day. (Looking for a travel curling iron? Check out
our helpful guide.) A lot of cheap travel straighteners might send you out of your hotel looking like a broom, but the T3 SinglePass Compact Styler will have your back.

Knowing a flat iron was made by T3 is a kiss of confidence right off the bat. The brand prides itself on smart technologies that protect from heat damage and minimize frizz. The SingePass is named after its ability to smooth even the most stubborn curls in a
single pass, preventing you from straightening the same strand over and over. An internal microchip scans the barrel to ensure that no piece of the hair is exposed to overheating, and the custom-blend plates are enriched with just enough tourmaline to promote shine while keeping the durability of ceramic.

With plates just .08 inches wide, this compact model is small enough to fit in the pockets of gym bags or carry-ons, plus comes with a heat-resistant cap to pack before the plates cool. It’s also extremely effective as a curler so you can skip bringing two tools.

But everyone has one major bone to pick with this iron: It’s locked at  410 degrees Fahrenheit. With such a focus on damage prevention and only needing one pass to straighten hair, you’d think T3 would provide options. That scorching temperature may be good for quick styling when you’re on the go, but colored or already-damaged hair will be singed.


Low-heat air from high-speed jets causes significantly less damage • Comes with a slew of high-tech attachments • Basically a blowdryer and straightener in one

Too large to reach roots • Not good for tightly-coiled hair • Ridiculously expensive

Damaged hair will be thankful for Dyson’s innovative styler that avoids scorching plates all together.

7. Dyson AirWrap

Damaging plates who? Dyson’s latest innovation gives straightening some life with high speed, low heat air jets.

  • Bristle type:
    Ceramic
  • Barrel length:
    1.2 or 1.6-inch
  • Temperature range:
    Fixed at 302 degrees Fahrenheit

Dyson, the air benders behind the iconic cordless stick vacuums and tunnel-shaped fans, has taken over a third category that we probably won’t see iRobot or Shark in anytime soon: beauty. The Dyson AirWrap is mainly known as a curler, but switching attachments turns it into a straightening styler that achieves a smooth blowout with lots of body.

This innovative tool is able to make hair bounce with life because
it’s not killing it. Smart heat control keeps the styler’s air at 302 degrees Fahrenheit or lower instead of scorching hair between two plates (which are normally at least 365 degrees). The AirWrap replaces that antiquated iron design with a tiny digital motor that forces jets of air down via slots around the barrel, curling the sections wrapped around it or brushing it straight (depending on the attachment).

You can also experience the magic of Dyson’s bladeless hair dryer with the AirWrap’s included mini attachment for drying damp hair to the “ideal moisture level” for curling or blowing out. Though it’s not as powerful as a full-sized Supersonic, the AirWrap’s price tag could be justified by the fact that it’s essentially a blow dryer, heated paddle brush, and curler in one. Plus, a styling tool that causes considerably less damage pays for itself by decreasing your need for constant haircuts and an arsenal of heat-protectant sprays.

Pictures of the AirWrap don’t do it justice, as it’s much bigger than you’d expect. It’s great for a head of long hair, but probably too bulky to get close to roots on short hair or unwind tight ringlets.


Extremely straightforward • They last FOREVER • Great for curling with a straightener

Easy to accidentally turn off

Simplistic styling and infinite positive reviews make the original Chi a forever top contender.

8. Chi Original Ceramic Hairstyling Iron

Chi continues its reign as flat iron royalty with the original ceramic Chi, which will probably last you forever.

  • Plate type:
    Ceramic
  • Plate width:
    1 inch
  • Temperature range:
    200 to 450 degrees Fahrenheit

In the past 10 years, I’ve been in three long-term relationships — but have only gone through one Chi. While this cult-favorite brand now offers high-tech options like a flat iron infused with volcanic lava, the original Chi is still ol’ reliable.

On its face, there’s nothing super groundbreaking about this Chi best seller. The plates are ceramic, it uses an old-fashioned dial for temperature control, and maxes out at 410 degrees Fahrenheit. But a styling tool doesn’t gain 4.6 out of 5 stars from over
12,000 Influenster users for no reason — it just plain
works. Inside of those ceramic plates lies infrared technology that balances heat across the plates and will help you achieve a straight style that’s locked in for days. It’s also one of the easiest straighteners to flip or curl hair.

But where the Chi really proves its worth is in its durability. No other brand garners as many anecdotal reviews as the Chi, all from users who have had theirs for forever and are only replacing it because it finally died after, like, a decade. Though ceramic is known to chip, Chi seems to have found the secret formula for everlasting life. And at an affordable price point, you really can’t go wrong.


Digital display • Decent at curling hair • Heats up quickly

Probably won’t last for more than a year • “Anti-static” technology isn’t legit • Only one plate is floating

This budget straightener can’t compete with nicer models, but it makes a cute gift for tweens.

9. Remington S5500 1″ Anti-Static Flat Iron

This Remington straightener won’t stand the test of time, but it’s great for a tween who needs a cheap starter flat iron.

  • Plate type:
    Ceramic
  • Plate width:
    1 inch
  • Temperature range:
    310 to 410 degrees Fahrenheit

Choosing a flat iron just because it’s inexpensive is usually a terrible idea. Cheaply-made plates are usually metal coated in ceramic and prone to seriously fluctuating, ineffective heat. The natural reaction is to crank the temperature up or to hit the same strand over and over again, and that’s when hair can get really damaged.
The Remington S5500 serves as *somewhat* of an outlier. For a super affordable price, this adorable purple straightener offers titanium-plated coating for easy gliding through different hair types and a digital temperature display to keep heat control simple. Does it have any nice tech features? No. Will it stop working after a year or two? Probably. But  as a tween’s starter straightener, it’s more effective than other cheap options and creates decent curls, too.
There’s only so much a cheap straightener can do, and throwing in terms like “anti-frizz technology” (whatever that means) can’t be taken too seriously. Though the titanium-ceramic plates will do a decent job of smoothing curls and boosting shine, Amazon reviewers note that you can still tell that this straightening job was done by a $20 straightener. Remington also mentions floating plates, but it’s important to note that only one plate is floating and the other is static — which kind of defeats the purpose of plates that swivel to close the whole way. Whatever, it’s cute.