It's time to part with your old hair straightener.
A wet-to-dry straightener (shudders) may have worked as your middle school flat iron. Your college flat iron may have gotten the job done for the past decade because it technically still works. But we have to unlearn unhealthy beauty routines all the time. Just like we've realized that prolonged falling asleep in makeup years ago can be a bitch to your skin to this day, 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stuck in the wand, that it's extra dry and scraggly, or that it's taking longer than usual to finish a section, your outdated flat iron may be the culprit.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 that scene in The Princess Diaries, I can attest to the fact that finding a straightener that works and holds can feel unending. I 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. Heat protectant often gets downplayed as an extra step if you have time, but that's like chilling in the sun without sunscreen and saying "Hope it's fine."
"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."
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. Several TikTok users suggest preceding each pass with a comb to smooth frizz before the heat gets to it.
Can split ends be repaired?
Despite what Pantene commercials say, healthy hair is a journey requiring more than damage-friendly 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.
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. 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 materials.
Are cordless flat irons worth it?
I have almost dropped my hot straightener on my bare feet when the cord got stuck on a bathroom cabinet knob far too many times to count. In that situation, no cord would be clutch. What wouldn't be clutch is a cordless straightener dying 30 minutes into my long curly hair's hour-long straightening process.
Short battery life is a main concern when it comes to flat irons that don't plug in. Because they're supplying their own power, the massive batteries in some models make them heavier in your hand.
Not all cordless straighteners succumb to these tropes, and not all heads of hair require more than half an hour to style. Plus, being able to touch up your hair without access to a plug is an undeniable plus for traveling.
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 and TikTok, these are the straighteners that stand out as the best:
- Plate size: 1 inch
- Plate type: Titanium
- Temperature range: 200 to 450 degrees
Read our full review on the Lunata Pro.
Lunata's chic matter styler is the best of both worlds. Its battery life is double that of any respectable cordless contenders. Like many of our corded favorites, it straightens beautifully and quickly without relying on scorching heat to do the job — but, you know, without being tethered to a wall.
The titanium plates on this premium styler glide across hair to create premium smooth strands. The rounded edges also make it a reliable curler (or subtle it-girl wave achiever). The price seems steep until compared to the other two cordless models in this list: the Dyson Corrale ($499.99) or the GHD Unplugged ($299.99 and mini).
Easiest To Use
- 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.
Best for coarse hair
- Plate type: Titanium-coated ceramic
- Plate size: 1, 1.5, or 2 inches
- Temperature range: 200 to 450 degrees
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 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.
Best for long or thick hair
- Plate type: Ceramic and tourmaline
- Plate size: 1.5 inches
- Temperature range: 260 to 410 degrees
The T3 SingePass is named after its ability to smooth stubborn curls in a single pass, preventing you from straightening the same strand over and over. For long or thick hair that typically takes forever to straighten, T3 offers an extra-wide version to cover more hair and (hopefully) speed up the process.
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 utilizing the mild, damage-friendly intensity of ceramic.
Best for pixie cuts
- 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.
Best damage control
- Plate type: Copper and tourmaline
- Plate size: 1 inch
- Temperature range: 330 to 410 degrees
Read our full review of the Dyson Corrale.
Dyson's Airwrap gets so much attention that many folks don't even realize that Dyson makes an actual flat iron. Naturally, Dyson went all out with a cordless design (a breakthrough for beauty tools when it arrived in 2020) and naturally, it's $500. Despite the price tag, the Corrale sells out constantly and sees restock scrambles reminiscent of the PS5.
Inside lies some pretty innovative heat styling tech that Dyson says it perfected over seven years and 600 hours of trials. Flexing plates bend around the current section of hair (rather than clamping and tugging), grabbing outermost pieces and applying even tension. The edges of the plates are lined with tourmaline to boost negative ion production, combat static, and promote shine.
Best under $100
- Plate type: Titanium
- Plate size: 1.25 inch
- Temperature range: 280 to 440 degrees
Upgrading from baby's first shitty straightener to a $200 investment can be intimidating. The one created by celebrity stylist Kristin Ess is often regarded as the best drugstore flat iron (if you count Target as a drug store), garnering rave reviews with a price tag under $100.
The proclaimed 3-in-1 tool can straighten, create loose s-waves, or coil polished curls. This isn't anything that most other nice flat irons can't do, but this straightener does put a silky touch on each style that other budget-friendly models can't. You can thank the ceramic heat sensors and titanium plates for delivering even heat to every part of the strand at once, avoiding cold spots that require extra frying.
Best portable straightener
- Plate size: .89 inches
- Plate type: Ceramic
- Temperature range: 365 degrees
A travel-friendly flat iron shouldn't be junky just because it's used less often. Chances are that you'll be relying on it for important events like a work conference or a concert — times you need your hair to look its best and stay that way all day. A lot of cheap models might send you out of your hotel looking like a broom, but the GHD Unplugged will have your back — including in the car on the way there.
GHD's smallest straightener is also its most expensive. That, of course, can be attributed to the fact that it's cordless. 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 packing two tools.
If it's any consolation about the price, GHD is a trusted brand that knows what it's doing. Like the beloved Platinum+, the Unplugged straightens at an optimal temperature of 365 to keep both the number of passes and splitting of hair cuticles low. Though it's not GHD's latest and greatest tech, it's enough for a 20-minute high-gloss touch up when you're in a rush.
- 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.
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.
Best under $50
- 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. Whatever, it's cute.
Budget blowout-style straightening
- Plate type: Brush is ceramic
- Plate size: 4.25-inch barrel
- Temperature range: "Low, high, and cool"
You've probably seen it on TikTok: *the* Revlon One Step. The internet's favorite dupe for the $500 Dyson Airwrap is a hair-drying hot brush that lives up to most of the hype, achieving mostly-straight hair with some added bounce compared to pin straight. Its perforated design distributes hot air through the bristles to style quickly and smoothly.
Despite a mind-blowing 275,000+ reviews on Amazon, the One Step isn't for everyone. The high speed/high heat setting is blazing hot and could wreak havoc on damaged hair. Though it's technically a blow dryer, users are encouraged to towel dry their hair most of the way to avoid going from wet (when the hair is most vulnerable) to dry too quickly.
Best blowout-style straightening
- 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, have become a cult favorite in the beauty industry as well. The internet's current obsession, the 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.
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