Curling irons, also known as curling tongs, create waves or curls in hair using a variety of different methods. There are many different types of modern curling irons, which can vary by diameter, material, and shape of barrel and the type of handle. The barrel's diameter can be anywhere from .5 in (1.3 cm) to 2 in (5.1 cm). Smaller barrels typically create spiral curls or ringlets, and larger barrels are used to give shape and volume to a hairstyle.
Crimping irons or crimpers work by crimping hair in sawtooth style. The look is similar to the crimps left after taking out small braids. Crimping irons come in different sizes with different sized ridges on the paddles. Larger ridges produce larger crimps in the hair and smaller ridges produce smaller crimps. Crimped hair was very popular in the 1980s and 1990s.
Here at the Strategist, we like to think of ourselves as crazy (in the good way) about the stuff we buy (like pillows), but as much as we’d like to, we can’t try everything. Which is why we have People’s Choice, in which we find the best-reviewed (that’s four-to-five-star reviews and lots of ‘em) products and single out the most convincing. While we’ve written about the best curling irons, hair dryers, and even a certain curling iron used on the Victoria’s Secret Angels, here, we’re going deep on the best flat irons and hair straighteners on Amazon. (Note that reviews have been edited for length and clarity.)
If you lived through this particular time in our world history, then you probably remember the super straight hairstyles that we all sported a time or two (bonus points if you took a photo of yourself like this in your bathroom mirror using a digital camera!). For reasons we may never know for certain, sharp and straight hair was the hairstyle of choice back in the early 2000’s giving the good old hair straightener somewhat of a bad reputation.
Cleaning your flat iron is critical to ensuring it works as well as it did the first time you used it. Over time, hair product can build up on the plates. This buildup can lead to inconsistent styling results and major snagging. To clean your flat iron, simply wait for it to cool down and wipe the plates with a cotton swab or soft cloth coated in rubbing alcohol.
If you travel abroad often, you won't have to worry about ruining your investment, either, because the GHD Gold has universal voltage. It also features a generously long 9-foot cord with 360-degree rotation to prevent tangling. The automatic sleep mode shuts off the straightener if it hasn't been used in 30 minutes, so you'll have peace of mind if you forget to shut it off in your morning rush out the door. If something does go wrong, the GHD Gold comes with a 2-year manufacturer's warranty.
These ultra-smooth plates are great for straightening stubborn strands like curls and waves and are also ideal for creating natural, finished curls (similar to a curling iron) and even beachy waves. By gliding effortlessly across hairs of all types, without pulling or breakage, the ISA Professional Titanium Flat Iron has the potential to leave your hair looking and feeling healthier after each use.
The last time I used a legitimate curling iron, I was getting ready for my eighth grade Halloween dance. This is not an exaggeration. I’ve been using a flat iron to curl my hair since the very day I learned how. One of my closest beauty-savvy friends showed me the basics, I begged my mom for a great straightener that curls hair, and I perfected the skill by watching flat iron curling tutorials on YouTube. Yeah, there’s a slight learning curve, but once you know how to use a straightener to get curls, you’ll never go back to curling irons again. No clips, no burns, no need for gloves, and one tool covers all your bases.
Eight micro-sensors with HeatBalance technology are used to evenly distribute heat, regulating the temperature so that you spend less time applying heat. As a result, it takes less time to straighten hair, preventing it from damage when styling. Additionally, the 1-inch plate width is wide enough for any hair length, yet narrow enough to style your bangs.
No two heads of hair are the same, so the straightener that does wonders on your best friend's fine tresses may be useless on your curly mane. Luckily, there are many different types of hair straighteners. Some provide higher heat settings and wide plates to tackle thick curly hair, and others have ceramic plates and options for low heat settings that are better suited to easily damaged fine hair.
Flat irons can get pricey, but they’re an investment. The Chi Elite is inexpensive when compared to other high-end tools in the industry, making it a safe bet for those new to hair styling. Though it may be more expensive than some hair straighteners, it offers a high level of quality that the others don’t (not to mention it’s a Chi, which is known for quality). We tested the HSI, which is about $60 less expensive than the Chi Elite, and its cheapness was apparent at first glance. It did nothing for any of our testers’ hair. If you’re a beginner, the Chi Elite is a great first flat iron.
The Bio Ionic worked well on all of our testers’ hair, but it’s best on drier hair with a medium thickness. We spritzed testers’ hair with some keratin smoothing treatment, but the Bio Ionic did a lot of the heavy lifting to make our hair feel softer. The tool gets hot, but not too hot to grip, and it excels at creating the silky volume you want without making your hair pin-straight and flat. One tester put it perfectly: “[The Bio Ionic] is the Rumplestiltskin of hair straighteners. It’s turning straw into gold.”
One of the biggest problems you will face when using a heated hair styling tool is overheating. We’ve all been there: you’re casually straightening your hair when a particularly funny scene comes up on the show you have playing in the background. After a solid minute or two of laughter, you realize (in utter horror!) that your poor hair has been sandwiched in between a couple of hot plates the entire time.
There is a slide at the base which holds the device from opening all the way (easier for storing) but if you slide the piece it allows the flat iron to open all the way. The instructions inside the box don't explain this part, so at first I thought it didn't open very far, but once I figured this out, it became a breeze to use. Speaking of the instructions, they are listed in English, Spanish, French, and German. (I think... I don't speak/read all of those languages, but I believe that's correct.)
“Being a mom of two, it’s hard to have time to get my hair done, but with this, I do my hair in 30 minutes, rather than over an hour. I haven’t bought a new straightener in probably four years, and I bought this with very little expectations. OMG! First of all, not only did it take half the time to do my hair, but it left my hair as amazing as I always wanted it! Super silky-smooth. I then used it to make some curls on my 8-year-old. In less than 15 minutes, I was done with her hair and she was in love with the curls.”
GHD’s “styler” is permanently set to 365 degrees Fahrenheit, which the company says is the highest temperature hair can tolerate before it becomes damaged. As a person who went from a dark brunette to blonde highlights, I can vouch for its straightening power on processed hair. And though I don’t typically think of “comfort” as a flat iron necessity, the springy hinge that connects the two plates really did make it easier to clamp and glide the tool down my hair with minimal effort.