What kind of styling tool is best?

05
23
It’s hard to know what to look for when shopping for hair products or tools unless you have your stylist along with you. And with all the contradicting information about which is best, it’s hard to know what’s true or not!

After being in the industry about 10 years, I’ve had my share of experience with styling tools, and seen what lasts and what doesn’t. I’ve learned that as technology improves, so do our tools, so investing in the right one will be totally worth it.

First, lets break down what words are commonly affiliated with styling tools (both curling and flat irons)

Ceramic: I remember when tools started to become ceramic. It was a step up from simply being “ceramic plated”. Ceramic irons produce even heat, as opposed to a pulsating heat, that should maintain a steady temperature well. It’s gentler on the hair than traditional metal plated irons. 
Tourmaline, or Tourmaline Ceramic: Having a tool with tourmaline in it almost always means it will heat up rather quickly. It’s a mineral that produces negative ions when heated up, and leads to a smoother cuticle in the end. 
Chrome: Chrome is probably the most popular metal of choice for creating styling tools before ceramic. It’s quite hot, almost cooks the hair, and does not produce even heat. In general, it should be avoided. 
Titanium: Titanium is lightweight, heats up quickly, and maintains an even heat throughout the use of the tool. It’s found mostly in high end irons. 
Gold: A lot of Hot Tools irons are gold-plated (typically 24k), which means they get hot and stay hot. They also typically have a heat dial which allows you to control the temperature (very important feature) so you don’t do excessive damage to the hair. While I’d still say Ceramic or Tourmaline is better than Gold, Gold is not bad for your hair. 

So if you are shopping for a new tool, look for descriptions using words like “ceramic, tourmaline, or titanium”. These will be high quality, produce steady heat (so you don’t get the weird wavy look on flat ironed hair) and should be rather durable. 


My favorite flat iron of all time is the GHD 1” (both classic and professional are great). After spending money on 4 Chi flat irons for my business, and watching them all fall apart, I finally invested in a GHD and have been happy ever since. Although Chi is probably the most popular flat iron out there, it is not the best. If you own a Chi and are happy with it, keep using it! If it breaks, instead of replacing it with another Chi, look into purchasing a GHD.

My favorite curling irons are Hot Tools. I’m still using the curling irons I received in beauty school from Hot Tools. They heat up quickly, have not chipped at all, and are absolutely essential for any bride or bridesmaid ‘do. I’ve also used Babyliss, and I’ve been pretty impressed with their curling iron as well!

As far as inexpensive tools go, I can’t recommend based on experience. The only “cheaper” iron I’ve used is the Hot Tools 1 inch flat iron, and I was fairly impressed with the capabilities. It doesn’t come close to GHD, but neither does the price!

So when you are shopping for a new tool, make sure you look at what it’s made with. And check with the store on their return policy–oftentimes you can return tools even after 30 days of using it. 

Leave a Comment

Comments (91)

  1. Posted May 23, 2013

    I love your opinions. Can you provide recommendations for hair dryers? I’m in the market, and am ready for an upgrade!

    • Kate says
      Posted May 23, 2013

      I love my Rusk Speed Freak!

    • Martha says
      Posted May 23, 2013

      I’ve been in the market for a new hair dryer as well. The one Kate recommended is on sale at Ulta for $79.99, with 20% off, brings it down to $68.00 and free shipping. I just ordered it! 🙂

    • Claire says
      Posted May 23, 2013

      Awesome info! I was wondering the dame thing about a hair dryer.

    • Posted May 23, 2013

      Thumbs up to the Rusk Speed Freak! It’s awesome. A little on the heavy side, but it does a really great job. You may be able to find it cheap on Amazon.com. That’s where I bought mine last summer and it’s done great ever since!

  2. Posted May 23, 2013

    The only plus side to a CHI would be that they come with a lifetime warranty, so when they break you pay $25 for a new one, instead of full price.

    • Kate says
      Posted May 23, 2013

      GHD does as well

    • Kate says
      Posted May 23, 2013

      WAIT- I’m wrong. It’s either 12 or 24 months.

    • Angie says
      Posted May 23, 2013

      Actually Chi closed down their refurb location in Texas and it no longer exists… +1 point for GHD 🙂

  3. Posted May 23, 2013

    Have you ever used Infrashine flat irons? After years of trying many different brands, we have found them to be the best.

  4. Posted May 23, 2013

    Hi Kate!
    What kind of tool would you recommend for a lot of waist long hair? I often have the problem with curling irons, that there have to be a lot of layers of hair to fit on a curling iron… or am I just doing it wrong? (Sorry for my English)

    • Unknown says
      Posted May 25, 2013

      I use my GHD’s to curl my 1/2 way down my back hair.

  5. Posted May 23, 2013

    Thanks for this post. I live in the UK and I don’t think we have Chi flat irons (or straighteners as we call them here!)but I’ve always used GHD. We don’t get hot tools either, and I have been trying to get a good 1 inch curling tong for a long time so I’ll have a look at the babyliss ones, especially now that I know what I should be looking out for!

  6. Posted May 23, 2013

    gracias!

  7. Martha says
    Posted May 23, 2013

    I have a Babyliss titanium flat iron but have wanted to try the GHD.

  8. Posted May 23, 2013

    These are great! Do you have any tips on cleaning your styling tools? After a while mine get build up on them and I don’t want to put anything on my tool that will harm it. Thanks!

  9. Rachel says
    Posted May 23, 2013

    Not sure why, but there is an error with the javascript that won’t allow me to reply directly to Mallory.

    @Mallory, the CHI is also a 2 year limited warranty, not a lifetime. Unfortunately, the limited warranty is just that — pretty limited. I’m on my second CHI too, I just wanted to let you so you don’t buy another based on bad information! 🙂

  10. Jessica says
    Posted May 23, 2013

    I used to hate the thought of spending a ton of money on a good flat iron, but after using cheap ones for a few years I finally invested in a Croc (the brand my stylist used) and noticed a HUGE difference in my hair. I have had the Croc for over 5 years and it still works great. I will never hesitate to spend money on quality hair tools again!

  11. Posted May 23, 2013

    I have been in the market for a new flat iron as my CHI isn’t cutting it anymore. This post came at the perfect time, thank you 🙂

  12. Posted May 23, 2013

    I’m going to start shopping for a new flat iron soon. Perfect timing for this post! Thanks for sharing!

  13. Kristin says
    Posted May 23, 2013

    I would love to see a blog post on how you clean your flat iron and curling irons!

  14. Posted May 23, 2013

    I bought a GHD flat iron nearly a year ago, based on your recommendations then, and I really love it. I had been afraid to spend so much on one, but it made such a difference – I have curly hair, and now when I straighten it, it stays straight and feels so much smoother. Thank you!

  15. Sandy says
    Posted May 23, 2013

    Just thought I’d tell you that I just went to look at the Rusk Speed Freak hair dryer on Amazon. At the end of the page, it had that ‘people who viewed this also viewed’ section…two pics that were there… Aquage Uplifting Foam and GHD. 🙂 how cool is that!

  16. Sandy says
    Posted May 23, 2013

    Just thought I’d tell you that I just went to look at the Rusk Speed Freak hair dryer on Amazon. At the end of the page, it had that ‘people who viewed this also viewed’ section…two pics that were there… Aquage Uplifting Foam and GHD. 🙂 how cool is that!

  17. Posted May 23, 2013

    Thanks for this post! It was very useful for me! I currently have a Chi flat iron, and while I was happy with it when I first got it, a few years later, it doesn’t seem to work as well. It takes longer to heat-up and doesn’t get as hot as it used to. Once my Chi dies, I will be investing in the GHD.

  18. Rachael says
    Posted May 23, 2013

    What tool do you suggest using to get wave curls? I’ve tried watching YouTube videos on creating them with a flat iron but let’s just say the end product was nothing similar 🙂

  19. Lisa says
    Posted May 23, 2013

    Thanks for the tips…I’ve had a Hot Tools curling iron for years that finally gave out. I think I’m sticking with Hot Tools.

  20. Unknown says
    Posted May 23, 2013

    I appreciate posts like this. I love that you do a good mix of tutorials with informational posts. They really help out a lot. Thanks Kate!

  21. Posted May 23, 2013

    Awesome. Thanks for the tips! Now I just need to stop being lazy and actually style my hair!

  22. Laura says
    Posted May 23, 2013

    I love curling irons, but the one you recommend from hot tools appears to be damaging to hair since it is just gold. Is it damaging to hair and should I look for ceramic tourmaline or something else?

  23. Posted May 23, 2013

    Uh oh, looks like I may need to go shopping this weekend for some new tools. Bummer! 😉 Thanks for the information.

  24. Erin H. says
    Posted May 23, 2013

    Have you ever tried “Hot Tools Professional Blue Ice Titanium” products? Would they work well considering they are a Hot Tools product?

  25. Mallory says
    Posted May 23, 2013

    I have been an avid user of Croc flat irons. I love it. Only problem is I’m on my third or fourth one. I think if my new one ever breaks, I’ll look into the GHD.

    One thing I’m clueless about is hair dryers! I hate mine. It’s heavy and doesn’t dry my hair fast. I need something that can get through this super-thick, frizzy hair. Do you recommend anything?

    • Posted May 25, 2013

      I’m on my 2nd FHI blow dryer….LOVE IT! I’ve tried all the cheap brands at Target, Walmart, and Sally’s. nothing compares to the heat and speed of my FHI 1900 🙂

  26. Andrea says
    Posted May 23, 2013

    Great tips! Any recommendations for hot rollers?

  27. Ashley says
    Posted May 23, 2013

    What about gold curling tools? Is the ceramic/tourmaline really a lot better?

    • Ashley says
      Posted May 23, 2013

      Thank you for including the gold tools! =) I’m glad to know the gold curling iron I have is not bad for my hair, I have a Hot Tools gold iron and I do love the temperature control dial!

  28. Posted May 23, 2013

    I bought a GHD last May after I read one of your blog posts that talked about it. I watched your “Flat Ironed Straight” video several times to see how the flat iron worked and I loved the way it made your hair look. So, I purchased one and was ecstatic about using it. But, the first time I used it, it fried the ends of my hair. I had to wash that part of my hair and put product on it so it would smooth down. I was so disappointed. I thought, “Maybe it’s my hair.” So, I got about 5 inches cut off my hair. NOT because I wanted the GHD to work. It was disgustingly hot outside, so I wanted my hair off of my shoulders. But, even after I got home and used it, it still didn’t do well on my hair. I ended up taking the GHD back and purchasing a CHI, which I’ve been pleased with ever since. I think if the GHD had heat settings, it would have worked better on my hair.

  29. Rhonda says
    Posted May 23, 2013

    Hot tools are some of the best I’ve ever used! Also love Jilbere d’Paris!

  30. Ginny says
    Posted May 23, 2013

    I have a Babyliss Flat Iron and it is the best thing ever. It never breaks and is still like new 3+ years later!

    Ginny
    http://www.moderncommonplacebook.com

  31. Heather says
    Posted May 23, 2013

    I’ve bought both the GHD flat iron you’ve raved about the the Rusk Speed Freak hair dryer and love them both!! My hair dresser commented on how much better my hair has looked since I saw her last (I live two hours away from her so I don’t get to come in for trims as often as I’d liked) and she was impressed with how much better my hair looked compared to when I was using cheaper tools.

  32. Posted May 23, 2013

    I LOVE my hot tools curling irons. After buying two (different sizes) I will never go back to another brand. I bought my last one on Black Friday for like $40!

  33. Posted May 23, 2013

    I agree about chi, I see so many flat irons and dryers returned every week. I got a steal on a babyliss for 9.99 at bed bath beyond and it works great! I just ordered a babyliss curling iron from Amazon too. hope it’s just as good.

  34. Posted May 23, 2013

    I’d also recommend to always go online and register your tools If the company provides a warranty and you’re not the type to hold on to receipts. most places, like ulta have a 60 day return policy, after that it reverts to the manufacturer.

  35. Posted May 23, 2013

    Everybody say GHD is the best. I’d love to try but it’s too expensive for me considering I have straight midi-hair and I only use the iron from time to time and to give the final touch to my hair. I use a Rowentta and it’s pretty good

  36. Posted May 23, 2013

    While the ceramic and tourmaline barrels may “slide” off the hair better, they still generate the same direct heat to your hair that can be damaging. A 400 degree gold iron and a 400 degree ceramic tourmaline iron will both do the same damage to your hair of not protected. (Think of it this way- touch either to your skin and they’ll both burn you! It’s just like coated non-stick pans and stainless steel pans.) The only real difference is that the tourmaline DOES generate & release negative ions to smooth the hair by closing the cuticle (like an ion dryer will).

  37. Posted May 23, 2013

    You always have excellent topics, and this one is so helpful too. Thank you, Kate!

  38. Posted May 23, 2013

    I have extremely weak and painful wrists, so I can’t lift or hold anything for any length of time, but my T3 Tourmaline Hair Dryer is extremely light weight (just 22 oz.) and I LOVE IT! I noticed someone was asking about hair dryers and wanted to add my experience with that one.
    http://www.sephora.com/featherweight-2-P375968?skuId=1444751

  39. ....... says
    Posted May 23, 2013

    thank you for this super informative post. I am actually about to buy my very first curling iron which is a little insane considering im 23 but its true nonetheless and it’s really good to know info about them that I may have otherwise not even considered! xx. gigi. food and beauty blogger @ http://www.gigikkitchen.blogspot.com

  40. Posted May 24, 2013

    I have had my Nano Titanium by BaBlyliss for about 2 years and love it. Its time to invest in a good blow dryer now. Thanks for the info. 🙂

  41. Posted May 24, 2013

    I swear by Hot Tools

  42. Posted May 24, 2013

    I have had my GHD for almost 4 years and it still works like new! I love it and I love the way it makes my hair and doesnt damage it near as much! I highly recommend it!

  43. Posted May 24, 2013

    Bought the exact Hot Tools curling iron showed above ^ For 31 dollars today. (: Very excited to have a smaller barrel seeing as I just got shorter layers cut.

  44. Posted May 24, 2013

    I loved the curling irons.

    christian websites

  45. Posted May 24, 2013

    Thank you so much for this information Kate. I will have to look into these tools for myself as most of my hair styling tools are breaking.

    Paula @ http://paulavaughan.blogspot.ca/

  46. Posted May 24, 2013

    Kate, I notice that in your earlier videos you are using a gold curling iron and in your more recent it is purple (I assume ceramic). I really want to get a good curing iron and I was just wondering which you like better. All of the links for Hot Tools curling irons take me to the Gold series ones. If you had to choose only one curling iron which would it be? Thank so much!-Crystal

  47. Unknown says
    Posted May 25, 2013

    I love, love, love my GHD’s for both straightening and curling my hair!!! I haev to say they really helped my confiedence when I first got a pair way back in 2003!! Those were when I was home in the UK and were the wide plate ones- now my sister has them. I use the 1 inch version III here in the US, but am in the market for selling them on so I can buy the dual voltage version IV. They are in great condition and I still have the box, any suggestions on where to sell them? – Miriam

  48. Posted May 26, 2013

    I was wondering if I could ask a question here. I’ve been using the same flat iron for about 5 years now. It works fine but I was wondering if the effectiveness of the product on your hair slows down with age. It mechanically works fine but should they be replaced after so many years….just curious!

  49. Posted May 26, 2013

    Love this review post! Would like to see one about hairdryers. What should we look for when buying one? Thanks.

  50. Crosby says
    Posted May 27, 2013

    Hi Kate–what about blow dryers? Should you invest in one of those expensive ones, or does it matter?

  51. Posted May 28, 2013

    I currently use a Chi straightener, but that’s honestly just because I worked for the company last year. I love it, but I don’t have to use it much since I have naturally straight hair. I just wanted to throw it out there to people looking into buying their products, I’d really think about it before doing it. That’s coming from someone who actually worked there.

  52. Posted May 28, 2013

    It must depend on your child because I tried others after using honest diapers on my son and they failed us several times. I went right back to honest diapers and no more leaks. I have also tried other brands but they just don’t work for my son. Funny how each is different.
    honest company reviews

  53. Posted May 30, 2013

    I have naturally curly hair, but I would love to curl themnwith an iron and have nice set curls…but it seems kind of silly to straighten my hair than curl it again! How do u suggest to do it?

  54. Posted June 2, 2013

    great post! What about curling wands? I’ve been looking into those as well for pretty curls.

    Have you heard/seen the miracurls by babyliss? check it out on youtube, supposed to be out this month.

  55. Detry says
    Posted June 3, 2013

    我們的uslagami不僅可以充分利用那些誰不知道我們。保存你的空閒時間,我們會為你做你的工作。 论文代写

  56. Posted October 2, 2013

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  57. aim4Him says
    Posted October 29, 2013

    What about a keratinperfect flat iron…better, worse, the same as GHD?

  58. Posted January 30, 2014

    I bought a GHD last might when I scan one in all your web log posts that talked regarding it. I watched your “Flat ironed Straight” video many times to envision however the flat iron worked and that i treasured the approach it created your hair look. So, I purchased one and was rhapsodic regarding victimization it. But, the primary time I used it, it cooked the ends of my hair. I had to clean that a part of my hair and place product thereon therefore it might sleek down. i used to be therefore defeated. I thought, “Maybe it’s my hair.” So, I got regarding five inches bring to a halt my hair. NOT as a result of I needed the GHD to figure. it had been sickeningly hot outside, therefore I needed my hair off of my shoulders. But, even when I got home and used it, it still did not act on my hair. I terminated up taking the GHD back and buying a CHI, that i have been happy with ever since. i feel if the GHD had heat settings, it might have worked higher on my hair.

    Hair Styling Tools

  59. Posted February 11, 2014

    Thank you! Haha, I’ve never used GHDs before but they seem to be THE ultimate brand when it comes to hair straighteners. 🙂

    YSB Trading Inc.

  60. Posted February 21, 2014

    CHI is horribly overrated and GHD doesn’t have enough heat settings in my opinion. I would go with Karmin hair tools, they’re better quality and better equipped. 10/10

  61. Posted April 4, 2014

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  62. Susana says
    Posted August 1, 2014

    For someone who is just learning how to curl hair, which is best to use (aka the easiest): a flat iron or a curling iron? I’ve watched your tutorials and have tried with the flat iron, but the end product is disastrous! Thanks for your help.

  63. Lakshmi says
    Posted December 2, 2014

    Thanks for the detailed article. Wish I could buy the gold plated straightener 🙂

  64. Melissa says
    Posted December 15, 2014

    The Karmin hair iron is a really good!

  65. Kathy says
    Posted January 7, 2015

    I would definitely have to agree with you on the CHI Flat irons, I loved mine until they started breaking!! Recently I have had really good luck with the Paul Mitchell Flat irons. If anything happens that flat iron I will definitely have to Check out the GHD!! Thanks Kate!

  66. Kate says
    Posted February 5, 2015

    Karmin makes the best in my opinion

  67. Koel says
    Posted March 26, 2015

    According to my opinion, Babyliss Flat Iron is the best in the market.

  68. claudia says
    Posted May 15, 2015

    Hi, I need help on chosing a good brush to used for blow drying my hair. What brand do you recomend?

  69. ettamaxwell says
    Posted September 11, 2015

    Definitely Karmin 😉

  70. cecilybanh says
    Posted October 2, 2015

    Karmin is the best 🙂

  71. Cassie says
    Posted June 3, 2016

    This was SUPER helpful. I’m eyeing the new “Tyme” curling tool since my curls usually fall after being curled with a curling iron. They do tend to stay better from a wand, but not too sure as to why. They also stay better when I curl with my InfraShine straightener, but I’m not very good at curling with the straightener nor the wand. I want something easy and Tyme looks easy, but it’s $200! And it’s “gold plated titatnium”. Decisions… Decisions…

  72. asanka says
    Posted August 4, 2016

    helpful article..i thing best is helen..