How to Choose a Hair Straightener?
The top performers in our review are Farouk Chi G2, the Gold Award winner; Corioliss C3, the Silver Award winner; and Rusk Professional Str8, the Bronze Award winner. Here’s more on choosing a product to meet your needs, along with detail on how we arrived at our ranking of 10 products.
Hair straighteners are excellent styling tools that can help you straighten and style your hair, no matter your hair type or length. With a high-quality hair straightener, also known as a flat iron, you can achieve that popular sleek and modern look without damaging your hair. When looking for a hair straightener, it is important to know your specific hair type in order to invest in the right type of flat iron for your hair.
The right hair straightener, especially when used in combination with curling irons, can result in a great hairstyle. In order to achieve and prevent as much heat damage as possible, it is critical to find a quality hair straightener that has the right balance of heat, performance, usability and safety and convenience for your specific hair type. For more information about straightening and styling your hair, see our reviews and articles about hair straighteners.
Plate Material: Which is Best for Your Hair Type?
In looking for a high-quality hair straightener, you will encounter four types of plate material: solid ceramic, tourmaline-infused ceramic, titanium-infused ceramic and solid titanium. Each type of material or combination of material is better suited for certain hair types over others. For example, while ceramic is compatible with all hair types, in that it generally won’t damage it, it is really best for fine or thin hair. Likewise, solid titanium is used pretty much exclusively on thick or coarse hair.
Ceramic is known for its ability to hold heat well and evenly, which means there won't be cold spots anywhere on the plate. It also reduces the likelihood of your hair being damaged by heat. Titanium heats up faster than ceramic and holds high heat effectively, while also keeping the heat distributed across plates. In addition, it can hold a higher ionic charge, keeping your hair smooth. It is recommended that people with fine or thin hair use ceramic or ceramic-based plates, as this type of hair is easier for heat to penetrate and affect.
While ceramic and titanium are considered to be the two ends of the plate material spectrum, there are also mixtures of materials that yield varying results. Tourmaline, a naturally-occurring semi-precious gemstone, is commonly added to ceramic plates to add shine, insulate hair from too much heat and distribute heat evenly. Titanium combined with ceramic, as found in the Farouk Chi G2, allows a wider temperature range capacity, which typically gets a better straightening or styling response from any hair type. It is recommended that people with thick or coarse hair use titanium plates, since this type of hair is harder to heat up and affect.
Hair Straighteners: How We Tested, What We Found
To test the hair straighteners, we gathered volunteers who had a variety of hair types, from fine and thin to thick and coarse. We used irons with appropriate plate materials and temperatures for our volunteers’ hair types. Volunteers were told to run the straightener through their hair up to three times, in order to minimize potential heat damage. Below are some of the important things to note when considering which straightener will be best for your hair.
Performance: Heat and Plates Make for Effective Straightening
The most important part of our testing was how effective each straightener was at straightening efficiently. A flat iron that can straighten on the first pass is ideal, as multiple passes can increase risk of heat damage.
In our hands-on testing, we found that the best straighteners heat up quickly, stay evenly hot between passes and straighten with the fewest passes. Some straighteners heat up in under 30 seconds, while others take up to a minute or longer. The best models have an indicator that lets you know when they reach your desired temperature. Most of the straighteners stayed quite hot during our testing session, and they had consistent heating across both plates, which in turn created an evenly-heated look on the testers' hair.
Heat is the most critical component of any hair straightener, and it has many important facets you will need to consider depending on what type of hair you have. From plate material and size to heat settings, it is important to match these features to your hair type in order to find the ideal straightener for you.
Generally, the functional temperature range for straighteners is from 200 to 410 degrees Fahrenheit. A temperature much below 200 degrees will not yield good results with your hair, while most hair starts to burn if exposed to temperatures over 410 degrees for a length of time. However, even in the flat irons we tested, there are temperature settings available below that range, as in the Amika Digital Titanium Styler, and above that range, so you can easily find one that best suits your needs.
Most straighteners with ceramic or ceramic-based plates will give you access to the lower part of that range. Likewise, titanium-plated straighteners typically reach up to around 450 degrees Fahrenheit.
Infrared heat is an added bonus for hair straighteners, as it emits a different kind of heat that uses longer wavelengths and heats hair from the inside out. Because this type of heat is less stressful to your hair, it leaves your hair feeling smooth and silky. Infrared heat is found in some of the straighteners we tested, including the Corioliss C3.
Several straighteners have safety features, such as an automatic shut-off feature or sleep mode, which will turn the device off for you automatically even if you forget to do so. Most are set to automatically shut off or enter sleep mode after a specific period of time.
User Experience: Light and Manageable Wins the Day
The best hair straighteners will do more than take care of your hair: they will be easy and pleasant for you to use. The best hair straighteners we tested had intuitive interfaces, were lightweight and easy to hold, and they were able to straighten effectively.
One feature that is especially important is that the body of the straightener stays cool while using the iron, which not every iron is capable of doing. Some got incredibly hot, making it difficult to continue using them.
We considered the weight of each straightener because a lighter model will be easier to maneuver, and using a heavy or cumbersome straightener is unpleasant and fatiguing, especially if you have a lot of hair. The lightest flat iron on our lineup is the Conair Infiniti Pro. Some of the straighteners have thumb grips or a soft rubberized feel overall, which also make them easy to hold.
Most of the straighteners have rounded edges on the plates, making them amenable to flipping or curling your hair. All of the straighteners have floating plates as well, which means the plates can be pressed into the plate cavity of the straightener to spread your hair out evenly across the plate. This flexible plate setting also works to optimize pressure and contact with your hair as you straighten it, reducing the potential for contact heat damage.
A popular straightener feature is a 360-degree swivel cord, which helps keep the straightener cord out of your way as much as possible while you style your hair. Additionally, a long cord lets you have more freedom of movement while you straighten your hair, so you aren’t tethered to an outlet.
Features & Accessories: Extra Niceties
There are also a few smaller yet still convenient features to consider in looking for a straightener. Some have the option for dual voltage, making it compatible with international electric outlets. Some also include a travel bag to protect the device as you travel. A few flat irons come with a thin heat glove, which you can wear as you straighten your hair so you don’t burn your hand, and others come with a tiny vial of argon oil or a similar additive which can help make your locks look healthy and shiny. None of these are essential for straightening, but they make nice extras.
Most straighteners come with some type of a warranty from their manufacturers, generally lasting from one to two years. However, there are longer warranties; the Conair Infiniti Pro model we tested offers a five-year warranty. All the manufacturers offer customer service either via email or telephone, so you can contact representatives in case there is any issue with the product or you have a question about it.
Top Ten Reviews seeks, whenever possible, to evaluate all products and services in hands-on tests that simulate as closely as possible the experiences of a typical consumer. We obtained the units in our comparison through retail purchase. The manufacturers had no input or influence over our test methodology, nor was the methodology provided to any of them in more detail than is available through reading our reviews. Results of our evaluations were not provided to the companies in advance of publication.
Hair Straighteners: Our Verdict and Recommendations
Three hair straighteners – Farouk Chi G2, our Gold Award Winner; Corioliss C3, our Silver Award Winner; and Rusk Professional Str8, our Bronze Award Winner – rose above the rest in our comparison, mostly due to their temperature options, efficient performance, positive user experience and features designed for safety and convenience. These are the factors we focused on in our rankings. The Farouk Chi G2 edges out the other two because of its extensive temperature flexibility, efficient performance and ease of use. The best hair straighteners, typically priced just under $100, are lightweight and have wide and fully-adjustable temperature ranges, infrared heat and digital displays. As you choose a hair straightener, it is important to focus on features that help performance, such as the plate material and heat capacity, rather than free extra inclusions.