There’s a lot to consider when shopping for the best hair straighteners.
For one thing, these heated hair tools ain’t cheap. The average pair of hair straighteners can easily set you back over £100. Which, buying one of the best hair dryers aside, is almost certainly the costliest hair styling product you are likely to invest in.
According to global market research firm Mizzouri, 45% of women in the UK aged 12-65 use hair straighteners, but that doesn’t mean we all have the same criteria for what makes the best hair straighteners.
The same study investigated women’s reasons for using electrical tools, and found that 28% wanted less frizz, 31% wanted more volume, and for the 47% who washed, dried and styled in the morning, quick results were the most important factor. Basic straightening aside there are so many amazing uses for hair straighteners that it’s vital to pick the right model for your hair type and styling needs.
How to choose the best hair straighteners for you
Price is a sensible place to start. There’s no denying the best hair straighteners are big-ticket items, and price tags can run up to £400 for the latest models. But, there are also plenty of perfectly reasonable stylers out there that have plenty to offer the more budget-conscious buyer.
Think about how you plan to use your straighteners. Do you have frizzy or kinky hair that you straighten every day? If so, customisable heat, floating plates and intelligent features that protect your hair’s health should be a top priority.
Perhaps you embrace your natural texture and only straighten on occasion. In that case you can probably get away with a bit more heat and a bit less focus on daily care. Instead, look for wider plates and ionic technology for extra smoothing.
For fine or flat hair you may well use your straighteners to wave and curl as much as you do smooth. If so, long narrow plates and a curved outer edge will make life a lot easier.
Interestingly, the events of 2020 may have changed our styling habits for good, as many of us took a break from daily heat styling and focused on our hair’s condition. “As a result of reduced exposure to extreme heat, heavy styling-tool users are noticing a healthy change to their hair,” agrees A-List stylist Jen Atkin. “There is a desire to maintain this. We are anticipating a trend for more people looking to achieve their same desired style, but with less heat.”
It’s this anticipated focus on clever technology rather than extreme heat as well as supreme convenience and – yes I’ll admit it – a touch of status symbol starpower that makes the Dyson Corrale our best overall hair straightener in 2020.
However, obviously, £400 is not a realistic beauty budget for everyone and you definitely don’t have to spend that much to get a great hair tool. For effective daily smoothing that won’t set you back the equivalent of a new washing machine or week in Europe, Nicky Clarke Touch Control Ceramic Straightener has much to commend it at a very reasonable £59.99.
The best hair straighteners you can buy right now
If you can invest, this is the straightener to beat. If not, then it’s simply the one to dream about
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
There are so many reasons why the Dyson Corrale is the perfect straightener but there’s one big one why it might not be, so let’s get that out of the way. Of course I’m talking about the price. Either £399 is a reasonable expenditure, just about do-able if you save up or it’s totally out of the question for you. If the latter is the case, that’s fine! Scroll on down the page, there are plenty more stylers in the sea.
If you can invest, here’s why you should: much like the Dyson Supersonic Dryer, the Corrale pushes the hair-styling experience forward. And despite packing in lots of clever features, using it feels simple and familiar. There’s nothing about this straightener that would confuse a first timer – all that complex technology is hidden away inside.
The smoothing tourmaline plates are floating and uniquely flexible (hence those little “teeth” you can see at the side). This means it’s impossible to clamp the hair and frazzle it, even if you really tried. Those plates also make creating waves significantly easier, even for people like me without the knack. I was able to rotate the styler a full 360 degrees and pull a shiny curl out the other side without it tugging or getting caught. I cannot stress enough how unusual that is. Actually I can – it has honestly never happened with any other straightener.
Heat control is central to the Corrale experience. Choose from three heats on an LED screen; 165°C, 185°C, 210°C, and sensors check the plates 100 times per second so that the temperature is perfectly maintained. This is crucial, as hot spots and temperature spikes are notoriously damaging to hair. It’s also cordless or can be used plugged in – whichever you prefer. The cord is attached with a magnet, which is handy, albeit slightly too easy to knock back off. In exchange for wire-free convenience, the Corrale is a touch heavier than your average straightener, but that weight is so well balanced it doesn't feel unwieldy. Bonus marks for an unusually good charging to styling time ratio. A 40-minute charge buys you about 30 minutes of styling, which should be ample for just about any head of hair.
Looks-wise this may not be the most elegant shape, but its chunky body and sliding lock feature have a certain utilitarian appeal and that trademark Dyson pop of fuschia livens the optics up a touch.
Nicky Clarke Hair Therapy Touch Control Ceramic Hair Straightener
A whizzy touchscreen device that offers up a few luxe surprises
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
Somewhat disproving the old ‘you get what you pay for’ adage, celebrity hairdresser Nicky Clarke’s new straightener offers a good deal more than expected for a (relatively) low investment.
The sleek and slimline straightener looks attractive enough with its tactile matte coating and snazzy touch-control display. Plug it in and turn it on using a little silver button and LEDs offer a very impressive eight temperatures in gradients of 10 degrees from 160 to 230. Often the worry with touchscreen devices is accidentally pressing things you don’t want to, but here a handy padlock button locks your chosen temperature in place. Really the only thing worth worrying about is the natural human inclination to whoosh right to the top of the heat scale and stay there – 230 degrees is far too much heat for the majority of hair types, so try to show restraint, as the device won’t intuitively do it for you.
The gold-toned plates are made of glossy ceramic and the mineral tourmaline, which helps smooth the hair as it goes. I did find the slimline nature of the styler made it light and nimble but the flipside of that is it doesn’t capture all that much hair in every pass. Anyone with very thick, curly or textured hair might need to factor in some extra styling time.
A few little extras make this a cut above your usual reasonably priced styler, namely the ultra-long three-metre cord and a handy little lock at the base of the device, which keeps the plates together for travel and storage.
T3 Lucea ID Smart Straightening & Styling Iron
Plenty of Intelligence on offer and a little bit required in return for this smart styler
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
T3 is the master of bespoke hair-styling experiences (see the Cura Luxe dryer in my best hair dryers guide for evidence). But how do you get personal with straightening? You create a bespoke Heat ID profile that the Lucea ID remembers, then styles your hair at its temperature sweet spot henceforth. That’s how.
And what exactly does that mean in practice? A little bit of intelligence on your side. Luckily, like any modern tech company T3 makes the initial set-up process as smooth as a sheet of straightened hair. Yes, you will need to read the instructions, but it’s a glossy photography-heavy booklet packed with advice on selecting the right hair thickness, length and condition options for you. Once all the info is inputted and locked on the device’s touchscreen display you’re off! It’ll remember your ID for next time, or allow you to switch it up and work in manual mode should you choose.
Another great feature is Refresh mode, designed for day two when full-whack heat isn’t needed but a little style touch-up is. This mode, plus the Lucea’s gorgeous pearly finish with metallic accents, have convinced me that it must have been designed by a woman. Or at least someone who truly understands how we actually style our hair day to day, who knows that we’d like our tech to look gorgeous and perform. Oh and that sometimes we need a bit of saving from ourselves in the heat department.
At the risk of getting so carried away by the features I forget to mention what my hair was like after trying it, let me tell you: very nice. It was straight, glossy and smooth, which is what you want, and all of the above happened quickly thanks to unusually long plates. As an aside, the touchscreen did come with a few warnings about not pressing it in the wrong place at the wrong time, which indicates that accidents may be possible. That said, I tend to get a bit fingers and thumbs while styling and didn’t fall foul of any issues, so perhaps it was just over-cautiousness on T3’s part.
Babyliss 9000 Cordless Hair Straightener
A long-awaited cordless option that matches up for power and results
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
It’s not strictly true to say there were no cordless straighteners before this, but there really weren’t any worth bothering with. A disappointing drip feed of clunky, weak devices that couldn’t hack half a head of hair without needing charged preceded the Babyliss 9000, so no wonder it’s been met with a glowing reception.
It certainly matches the big boys and their big long wires for power and straightening results. It runs on a lithium-ion, high-performance battery and offers three heat settings, 160°C, 180°C and 200°C. The plates are of the floating ceramic variety, they heat up very quickly and evenly and maintain your chosen temperature throughout. One or two passes per section straightened my hair satisfyingly, although I did hear the occasional clicking noise, which I assume was the floating plates adjusting to my hair.
So far, so ‘what you’d expect from a premium straightener’. But what about that cordless capability you ask? Overall, pretty impressive. Imagine being able to give your hair a from-the-handbag restyle after work the way you would reapply your lipstick. Imagine styling your hair while keeping an eye on small children running from room to room. Best of all, imagine getting to a hotel and not having to boggle at how far away the plug socket always is from the one good mirror. This is the true beauty of the Babyliss 9000. Yes, it’s packing a bit of extra weight, and that’s particularly noticeable while you’re using it. The charging time could also be improved. At the moment you get 30 minutes styling for three hours of charge. But most heads of hair take far less than half an hour to straighten, so as long as you’re relatively organised about charging between uses that shouldn’t be too much of a problem.
L’Oréal Professionnel SteamPod 3.0
Best straighteners for curly hair
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
Better shine, less damage. A little bit fiddly, but a winner for curly hair
Steam hair straighteners have come a long way since the models you might remember from the 1990s. And L’Oréal Professional’s latest, the SteamPod 3.0, is a perfect example of how the benefits of these devices can outweigh their drawbacks.
Shall we start with the benefits? Steam is an excellent styling aid to have at your disposal as it’s both ultra effective at smoothing and not nearly as damaging as direct heat. In this device, the steam flows out from above the ceramic floating plates and below a little comb. The idea is that your hair is exposed to the steam first, then the plates and the comb so instead of getting all frazzled and parched as you straighten, it’s filled with moisture and left glossy and sleek. Certainly there’s no denying that this element works very well, with one pass my hair was smooth and noticeably shiny without any disconcerting ‘burning hair’ smell (it happens sometimes).
Now onto the drawbacks, and there are a few. For one thing the SteamPod is larger than most modern straighteners, which makes it a bit more difficult to control. There’s also no getting away from the fact that the water cartridge, although happily now built-in, in contrast to the 2.0, still requires a little bit of faffing around. This is particularly true as the instructions state you should only use lime-free demineralised water in the device and the warranty doesn’t cover scaling should you disobey. That said, demineralised water is available for about £10 for 20 litres online, and that quantity would probably last for years.
Overall, these complications might be off-putting enough for someone of my hair type – fine, relatively well-behaved – to give it a miss. But for other hair types it could be a game changer. Steam is known to be particularly effective at gently smoothing curls and coarser hair, which often suffers extreme dryness due to regular straightening at the highest heats. In the spirit of fair testing I had a curly, thick-haired colleague try the device as well and she is now entirely sold, reporting that you can straighten much larger areas at once and she’s far less worried about frazzling her hair when she uses it. I don’t think I’ll be getting it back.