Flat irons are a multifunctional tool found in almost every woman's bathroom. But with so many factors to take into account (hair type, plate material, plate size, and more) and a seemingly endless number of tools to choose from, finding the flat iron that is perfect for you can be complex.
With that said, PEOPLE conducted thorough research and testing to determine which flat irons are worth their weight in gold. We asked testers with different hair types (thin, fine, wavy, thick, and curly) to try 12 different flat irons and record their insights throughout the process. Our testers took note of how smooth the glide felt, how many passes it took to get their hair straight and how easy the iron was to use.
We utilized a meat thermometer to test the maximum heat, used a ruler to verify the cord lengths and used a stopwatch to time how long each iron took to heat up and shut off automatically. We also tested durability by dropping each iron twice at vanity level to see if it would break, chip, or scratch. The winner after these tests was Drybar's The Tress Press.
The flat irons below were considered the best that PEOPLE Tested.
Pros: Drybar The Tress Press straightens hair quickly and effortlessly with a user-friendly interface.
Cons: It uses titanium plates which are more damaging to your hair.
This straightener was a pleasant surprise in its first glide. This Drybar flat iron with titanium blades impressed the testers with its smooth movement on every hair type, its ability to straighten almost immediately and its practicality, including its hard-to-lose bright yellow color and the swivel at the end of the iron which prevents the cord from ever getting tangled.
This tool earned a near-perfect final rating of 4.9 out of 5, with a score of 5 in ease of use, 4.7 in glide performance, and 5 in its straightening ability in the tests we performed in our PEOPLE Tested Lab.
What really stood out to us during our PEOPLE Testing process is how easily it passed the one-swipe test. For naturally wavy hair, the iron straightens and smooths in one swipe at around 370 degrees Fahrenheit, and for naturally curly hair, it also passes the one swipe test at a higher temperature of 440 degrees (still 10 degrees away from its advertised maximum). The naturally straight-haired users reported that the iron glides and straightens quickly while not leaving any static or frizz, a rare occurrence for fine, thin hair.
Testers also raved about the user experience. In a rush to get ready? This iron heats up quickly in just over a minute so you never have to wait long to get started. It has a long (9 feet!) cord, but the built-in swivel prevents it from tangling no matter what you do. And the temperature buttons are also easy to understand and use, with a digital display that clearly displays the iron's temperature. We also found that the results were true to the iron's advertised features, including a one-hour shut-off time and a maximum temperature of 450 degrees (we measured 440).
As a bonus, this iron is also said to be a great tool for also curling your hair as the rounded edges of the iron let you wrap your hair around it to form a curl.
The cons: Titanium blades like the ones in this iron are more damaging to your hair, especially if you already have thin or damaged hair. The difference between titanium and ceramic blades is in how quickly the plates heat up and the method they use to distribute the heat to your hair. While ceramic flat irons take longer to heat up and work by heating your hair from the inside out, titanium blades heat up nearly immediately and heat your hair from the surface. Also, the temperature buttons on this iron are very close to the hot plates which can cause some fear and potential harm to the user.
All in all, if you want an easy-to-use, multifunctional, and effortless option, this is a great way to go.
Pros: It's a sturdy and straightforward model that looks good when left out.
Cons: It takes more time and effort to straighten than others we tested. This is not ideal for curly, type 4 hair.
This iron may not be inexpensive for all budgets, but when compared to our other top performers, this iron has the best bang for your buck. Even though it's the most affordable of our top choices, this 1.25-inch iron feels sturdy and high-quality and gave all our testers a straight and smooth "hair-over" in a couple of passes. This iron received an overall score of 4.4 out of 5, with 4.7 in ease-of-use, 4.3 in glide performance, and 4.3 in straightening ability.
Another aspect that stood out during PEOPLE Testing was its sleek design. The iron's white and gold design can be a unique piece of decor in the bathroom that you don't have to hide in the cupboards. "I love how beautiful it looks," said one of the testers, adding it was "great for a shelfie."
As for how this iron actually straightens, results can really vary with your hair type. For naturally straight hair, this iron successfully passed the one-swipe test with a perfect, smooth result. For curlier, type 4 hair, however, one swipe is not enough even at its maximum temperature.
Other important features in this straightener are the 32-minute automatic shut-off, four temperature settings, and the 9-ft.-long swivel cord that makes it comfortable to hold and use. This iron also took one minute and 16 seconds to heat up to its highest temperature—which, when tested against the meat thermometer, came out to be 431 degrees compared to the brand's claim of 440 degrees (not a game-changing difference).
As for the cons, the user experience is not ideal. Like a few other irons PEOPLE Tested, to change the temperature you have to utilize the power button which is a little confusing and counterintuitive. And once the iron is warm, you might have trouble holding it as it gets hot all-around, not just on the blades. On the bright side, after dropping this iron twice at counter-level, no damage was done.
Pros: It is cordless and built to last. This straightened curly, type 4 hair in one pass.
Cons: It's expensive and heavy — weighing over one pound.
For the price of this iron, you might expect high quality and up-to-the-minute technology, and you'd be right. This flat iron features unique flexing copper alloy plates that conform to the shape of your hair to straighten it in less time and produce less damage to your hair. For one tester, who has curly type 4 hair, the product straightened her hair in one pass on the highest setting — but she thinks she "could have gotten away with using a lower one." For straighter hair, the Dyson also excelled with one pass, leaving no static at low temperatures of 365 degrees.
Speaking of benefits, this iron can be used cordless for up to 32 minutes (we tested it until the battery ran out), making it more practical than ever to style your hair on the go.
Despite its portability, the tool is pretty heavy. Though its weight (1.32 pounds to be exact) doesn't initially seem heavy, after some time with your arms up straightening your hair, you start to feel those extra ounces. For reference, one tester even compared the weight to that of her MacBook Pro. For this reason, it received its lowest rating in ease of use, a 4.3/5. The second (and most obvious) con for this product is its high price tag.
The device says that the iron heats up to 410 degrees. When we tested it with our meat thermometer, we read 411 degrees (pretty spot-on). With a stopwatch on, the iron takes 35 seconds to heat up to that maximum temperature and turns off automatically after five minutes of not being used—which is especially great because it preserves battery life. As far as durability goes, there was no damage at all after dropping the iron a couple of times.
Overall, the iron received a high final rating of 4.8 out of 5. Other factors such as glide performance, durability, and straightening ability all received the top score of 5 out of 5.
Flat irons come in all different sizes, from half an inch to two inches. One-inch plates are the most commonly found size, which can double as curling irons in a pinch. The larger the plates, get the easier it will be to straighten long, curly, coarse, and thick hair in less time. If you wish to style bangs or shorter hair, reach for a plate size that's less than one inch, as it will be easier to get close to your scalp. If you're not sure which plate size is right for you, we recommend opting for one-inch plates as it's the most versatile option.
Though you need at least some heat to straighten your hair, a balance between getting that heat and not damaging your hair is a fine line. Therefore, heat settings are important on an iron so that you can customize them to your specific texture and type and avoid overheating and damaging your hair in the process. For example, thin, damaged, and highlighted textures should use a lower temperature, whereas curlier and coarser hair will most likely need a higher temperature to get the job done.
Finding a tool that heats up quickly is also important, as it's a good indication that the heat will also be distributed evenly and consistently minimize damage to your hair over time.
Flat irons should be seen as an investment as they tend to last many years and may come with a hefty price tag. Therefore, choosing a sturdy and high-quality iron is important so they can survive being knocked off the counter or tossed around in luggage.
After conducting extensive research on flat irons, reading product reviews, and interviewing experts, PEOPLE decided on a final list of 12 to test. Then, each iron was tested by testers with different hair types, and insights were collected for each product. Each flat iron was rated on a 1-5 scale for glide performance, straightening ability, and ease of use.
Our testers took note of how smooth the glide felt and how many passes it took to get their hair straight. We utilized a meat thermometer to test the maximum heat and used a stopwatch to time how long each iron took to heat up and shut off automatically. We also tested durability by dropping each iron twice at vanity level to see if it would break, chip, or scratch.
We created the PEOPLE Tested seal of approval to help you find the very best products for your life. We use our unique methodology to test products in three labs across the country and with our network of home testers to determine their effectiveness, durability, ease of use, and so much more. Based on the results, we rate and recommend products so you can find the right one for your needs.
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