What kind of styling tool is best?

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. 


  1. says

    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)

  2. says

    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!

  3. says

    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!

  4. says

    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! :)

  5. says

    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!

    • says

      I was taught when I worked in a salon to use relaxer. I just recently cleaned mine and they both came out looking new (and I had not cleaned them in a long time). You turn the iron on low and let it heat up. You can put the relaxer on with a haircolor brush. You will hear it sizzle for a couple of seconds, depending on how warm your iron gets. You then take a damp towel and wrap it around the iron. The build up should come off. You may have to do it more than once.

  6. says

    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!

  7. says

    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!

  8. says

    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!

  9. says

    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.

  10. says

    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 :)

  11. says

    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.

  12. says

    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!

  13. says

    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?

  14. says

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

  15. says

    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?

    • says

      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 :)

    • says

      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!

  16. says

    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.

  17. says

    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.

  18. says

    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!

  19. says

    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.

  20. says

    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.

  21. says

    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

  22. says

    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).

  23. says

    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

  24. says

    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.

  25. says

    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

  26. says

    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

  27. says

    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!

  28. says

    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.

  29. says

    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

  30. says

    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?

  31. says

    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.

  32. says

    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

  33. Susana says

    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.

  34. says

    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!

  35. claudia says

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

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