We tested more than 50 flat irons from more than 20 manufacturers in our penultimate flat iron test. In the latest test, we added another 18 flat irons. To test each iron’s ability maintain straightness, we use swatches from frizzy hair in the Lab. This is done by measuring the width and thickness of hair after being exposed to controlled humidity for 24 hours. The photo below shows a comparison between a straightener that maintains straightness after 24hrs (left) and one that does not.
Each iron is also evaluated for its size and weight, ease-of-use, user satisfaction, ability impart shine and ability to smoothen hair, as well as safety and efficacy. To find the best, we used 4,914 heat data points and 972 survey questions, as well as 108 swatch expansion measures.
What kind of hair straightener are professionals using?
Flat irons can claim to protect hair from damage. Others claim to have the best materials for healthy shine. As a buyer, it can be difficult to know which flat iron is the best.
Professionals prefer titanium flat irons when it comes to material. Eugene Toye from Rita Hazan’s celebrity hair salon, says that titanium is preferred by stylists due to its ability to heat up quickly. Stylist Sabrina Porsche says titanium is heat-reactive, making it silky and smooth. Kevin Hughes, celebrity stylist and artistic Director for Moroccanoil, agrees that titanium is a great flat iron plate. It heats quickly and evenly, which means you can get better results with less time and use less heat on the same hair.
Toye also recommends ceramic or tourmaline, which is “a high-quality ceramic”. Porsche says that these plates are safe for fine hair and don’t get too hot. “Ceramic flat irons are faster and produce less heat, so they can be used more often. Our Beauty Lab professionals have discovered that flat irons in ceramic, titanium, and other materials are great. Don’t get distracted by material claims. Instead, focus on important aspects such as adjustable heat settings, cord length, and budget.
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Here are some things to keep in mind when looking for the best hair straightener
Toye says that other than material, “some aspects that make a great iron include the heating element…a good visual digital thermometer and the quality of plates and the length the cord.” Porsche adds that the best flat irons should be comfortable in your hands and have an even heat distribution so you don’t damage hair. Keep these other things in mind:
You can choose the temperature that suits your hair. Hughes, one of our expert testers, preferred the option to select a temperature range for their flatirons. While most irons can reach temperatures of 430 to 450oF, that doesn’t mean they should be heated up. It is best to start at a lower temperature, and then increase the temperature as necessary. Temperatures above 450oF can lead to hair protein decomposition, which can cause irreparable damage. There is no standard temperature range for different textures. However, we gathered all temperature suggestions from various manufacturers to style fine and medium hair. Medium to normal hair styles at 330 to 370 degrees F, while thick and coarse hair can be styled at 390 degrees.
Hughes says that plates should be 1 inch in width and length. Hughes says that if the plate is too large, it can make it more difficult to maneuver the tool in the hair. A 1.5-inch or 2 inch width is fine for straightening hair if your hair is very long.
Cord length: This is a matter of preference. If you plan to style your hair in a bathroom with an outlet nearby, a shorter cord might be an issue. However, if you have to use your hair to style in front of a mirror, you might want to choose a longer length (or “professional”) length. The average cord length was 8.1 feet. Cord lengths ranged from 5.6 feet to 10.8 feet in our study. Hughes says that swivel cords are a great feature to make it easier to move around.
Hughes says auto shut off: “People are busy, and we can all forget about turning on an iron when we’re running late, so automatic shut-off gives you some peace-of-mind,” Hughes states. Auto shut-off was reliable in our tests. It worked for us when we couldn’t remember how long it took to turn the iron off. However, we recommend that you always power off the tool and then unplug it after using it to make sure it is off completely.
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Jessica Teich, Good Housekeeping Institute’s Deputy Editor, has more than 10 years experience in researching, testing, and writing about haircare products. This includes styling tips such as how to achieve beach waves, how use a diffuser, and how to cut your hair. She is an authority on curly hair and a guinea pig to test new products on the market.