The Best Flat Irons

The best flat irons style your hair at the lowest temperature with the fewest passes. The surest way to do this: accurate heat settings and high-quality plate materials. We culled a list of the top 1-inch models with floating plates made from titanium, ceramic or tourmaline, and tested them on multiple hair types to arrive at our top picks.

How We Chose the Best Flat Irons

1-inch plates

Size matters. With plates too big or too small, you’ll have to make multiple passes. This exposes your hair to high heat longer and increases the risk that you’ll do damage. According to Janine Jarman, owner and operator of acclaimed Hollywood salon Hairroin, a 1-inch-wide plate will do for most people, and if you want to use your iron for anything other than straightening, like creating curls or waves, you’ll need a 1-inch plate; anything larger won’t make the waves or curls tight enough. She also pointed out length is important too. “You need plates to be at least 3 inches long, or close to it, so you’re not spending a ton of time with small sections.”

Floating plates

Floating plates flex as you bend your wrist or move your head while styling, which helps limit breakage or kinks in your hair. You can tell an iron has floating plates by pressing on the side and seeing if there’s any give. If they don’t move, don’t buy.

Adjustable heat

When you apply heat to your hair, which is not a living thing, you’re essentially cooking it. And, just like food, it’s easy to overdo it. Short of actually searing your hair, you still run the risk of drying out each strand, which can lead to breakage and split ends over time. Every head of hair is different, and each type of hair has an optimal flat-iron temperature. Some locks need extremely high temperatures to relax — coarse hair or those with kinky hair need 380 degrees F or above. Others need hardly any heat at all — fine or damaged hair should be good below 300 degrees.

Top sellers across three sites

We want to make sure our top picks are easy to find on popular websites. After all, it doesn’t matter if a flat iron is a top pick if you can’t buy it easily. Since we couldn’t test every flat iron, we wanted to make sure the ones we did test were highly rated and available through Amazon, Ulta or Sally Beauty.

Hand tested on a variety of hair types

We wanted our top picks to style a variety of hair types. Our testers’ hair ranged from fine and color-treated to thick and kinky. While not every top pick is the perfect fit for each tester, every flat iron did style their hair (even if some tools took longer depending on hair type).

Product-flat-irons-for-flat-irons

We started with six flat irons, but the HSI Professional Glider Ceramic Tourmaline Ionic Flat Iron (furthest left) and the NuMe Megastar Hair Straightener (second from right, pink) didn't make the cut.

We started with six flat irons but ultimately dropped two because they didn’t work well on any of our testers’ hair. The inexpensive, but highly rated HSI Professional Glider Ceramic Tourmaline Ionic Flat Iron was bulky and awkward. Testers said it felt like two pieces of plastic passing through their hair. We thought the NuMe Megastar Hair Straightener, a popular and more high-end tool, would be a clear contender for our list. However, testers said it snagged hard against their hair to the point of hurting. It was also difficult to hold closed when styling. Because both of these flat irons received such low ratings among our testers, we didn’t include them in our top picks.

The 4 Best Flat Irons

Best for Volume and Speed
Bio Ionic 10X Pro Styling Iron
Bio Ionic
An elegant, high-quality flat iron worthy of the price.
Pros
Vibrating plates
Adds volume and smoothness
Easy to use
Cons
Expensive

Why We Chose It

Vibrating plates

At first, the Bio Ionic 10X Pro Styling Iron’s vibrating plates seemed gimmicky. But we were surprised at how effective they were when styling our hair. Our testers found the vibrating plates made straightening their hair go faster with virtually zero snagging. Engaging the vibration was also simple — click the power button and tap the plates together and you’re ready to go.

Adds volume and softness

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.”

Easy to use

We loved the Bio Ionic’s user-friendly design. Two of our favorite features are its bright digital temperature control and the instructions stamped directly onto the tool. It also feels natural in the hand, and its matte finish provides a slight grippiness, but doesn’t pull at the hair when styling. Plus, the tool sports a uniquely shaped plate that’s curved at the tip and makes it really easy to get close to the scalp. One tester who is new to using flat irons said the Bio Ionic felt intuitive and even encouraged her to try harder styles, like creating curls and waves.

Bio-Ionic

The Bio Ionic didn't snag when we used it on our hair.

Points to Consider

Expensive

At $230, the Bio Ionic is pricier than any of our top picks. But you get what you pay for. You can truly do with your hair whatever you desire — straight or curled — in one pass. And, if you’re worried about it breaking a few years after purchase, the Bio Ionic comes with a five-year warranty. By investing in a better-quality tool up front, you won’t have to replace your flat iron every couple of years. Plus, the Bio Ionic goes on sale every now and then, so it’s worth keeping your eye out for deals.

Best for Thick, Kinky and Curly Hair
Chi Air Expert Classic Tourmaline Ceramic Flat Iron
Chi Air
Light as a feather, but strong enough to straighten thick or kinky hair.
Pros
Great for kinky and thick hair
Lighter design
Auto shutoff
Cons
Heat settings hard to read

Why We Chose It

Great for kinky and thick hair

Our two testers with kinky and thick hair loved the Chi Air Expert Classic Tourmaline Ceramic Flat Iron. In fact, it was each of their top picks, with the Bio Ionic coming in second. The Chi Air reaches 410 degrees F, which is definitely hot enough for thicker and curlier hair types. The speed at which the tool worked was surprising considering the kinkiness and thickness of both testers’ hair. One tester with long, curly hair had to leave early for an event and needed to finish styling. The Chi Air moved through her hair quickly, giving her time to spare. And, even at 410 degrees, our testers didn’t feel like their hair was being fried or that the heat burned their heads. In fact, they complimented how soft it made their hair feel and how comfortable it was to use, unlike the NuMe Megastar which snagged a lot or the HSI Professional Glider which felt hot against their scalps. As one tester said, “Chi is killing it.”

Product-Chi-Air-for-flat-irons

The Chi Air works great on curly and kinky hair types.

Lightweight design

The Chi Air is similar to other Chi tools and has that iconic sleek design with gold plates. However, one feature our testers believe makes the Chi Air stand out against the Chi Elite and others is that it’s so lightweight. True to its name, the tool is lighter than other flat irons which makes it easier to manage when styling. One tester believed the light design even made it snag less when passing over hair.

Auto shutoff

If you have trouble remembering to unplug your flat iron before heading out, you’ll appreciate the Chi Air’s one-hour automatic shutoff. Since people have preferences regarding auto shutoff this wasn’t a criteria for us, but our testers thought it was helpful. One tester said she often leaves her flat iron on in the morning and invested in a timed switch to make sure it’s off. So if you’re forgetful when it comes to turning off your tools, then auto shutoff might be an important feature for you.

Points to Consider

Heat settings difficult to read

Unlike the Bio Ionic’s handy digital temperature control, the Chi Air uses a small dial on the side of the tool that’s harder to read. The dial’s placement makes it not only more difficult to get an accurate reading, but also more prone to being hit by your hand and switching to a new temperature. That being said, most of our testers didn’t mind this minor inconvenience since they don’t expect to change the tool’s temperature often.

Best for Experienced Users
Babyliss Pro Nano Titanium-Plated Ultra-Thin Straightening Iron
Babyliss
A one-pass flat iron perfect for professionals and experienced users.
Pros
Smooth finish
Ultra thin design
Works fast
Cons
Gets extremely hot
No exact temperature

Why We Chose It

Smooth finish

If you’re a professional or more experienced with a flat iron, then it’s worth considering the Babyliss Pro Nano Titanium-Plated Ultra-Thin Straightening Iron. We were impressed with how well it worked across all hair types. It’s one of two top picks that straightened all of our testers’ hair in one pass (the other one that could do this was the Chi Air). And, like the Bio Ionic, the Babyliss leaves hair feeling smooth and voluminous.

Ultra thin design

When we first took the Babyliss out of its box, we were impressed by its super thin design. And when we put it to the test, the tool lived up to our expectations. It felt light, like the Chi Air, and manageable when gliding through hair. Unlike the HSI which felt rickety and bulky, the Babyliss’ design was sleek and professional. It wins as the flat iron we’d expect to see in a high-end hair salon.

Works fast

The Babyliss gets hot quickly and moves through hair fast. This is thanks to its thin, lightweight design and the fact that it stays consistently hot. Our testers were amazed that it passed through their hair so quickly and left it smooth without feeling damaged or fried. Plus, when being styled by someone else, our testers said it didn’t snag their hair.

Product-Babyliss-for-flat-irons

The Babyliss gets hot fast and works quickly.

Points to Consider

Gets extremely hot

One of the Babyliss’ major drawbacks, and why we only recommend this flat iron for experienced users, is the outside gets hotter than any of our other picks. Hot to the point that it was too hot to hold. One tester said she was “afraid to accidentally touch the top of it.” Others said they could feel the heat against their scalps. At first, another tester said she didn’t mind the heat. This was moments before she burned the top of her hand when it merely grazed the side of the tool.

No exact temperature

For such a high-end flat iron, we were disappointed that the Babyliss doesn’t have a precise temperature display like the Bio Ionic. Our testers were confused by the settings, which had numbers going up to 50 vs. actual temperatures. The numbers represent a range, but you have to look through the instruction manual to figure out what that is. One tester summed it up perfectly: “I don’t want to read an instruction manual to use a hair straightener.”

Best for Beginner Users
Chi Elite Flat Iron
Chi Elite
A sleek and simple flat iron backed by the Chi name.
Pros
Easy to use
Auto shutoff
Inexpensive
Cons
Heavy to hold
May snag hair

Why We Chose It

Easy to use

The Chi Elite Flat Iron has all the features Chi flat irons are known for. Like the Chi Air, it comes with a one-hour shut off and temperature dial to ensure you’re getting the correct heat. It also worked across all hair types and was specifically good on kinky, curly and thick hair. One of our testers even said it “work[ed] better than the Babyliss” and that styling her own hair with it was “not as uncomfortable.”

Auto shutoff

Automatic shutoff isn’t a feature we included in our criteria since people have varying opinions about it, but we liked that the Chi Elite has this. Especially for new users who might forget to turn off their flat irons. Like the Chi Air, the Chi Elite will shut off after one hour. However, if you’re working with kinky hair, auto shutoff may be a problem. Traditionally this hair type will take longer to straighten due to detangling and the fragility of the hair.

Inexpensive

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.

Product-Chi-Elite-for-flat-irons

The Chi Elite is affordable and works well on all hair types.

Points to Consider

Heavy to hold

Though it has most of the same features as the Chi Air, testers didn’t like the weightiness of the Chi Elite. This might not be an issue for most people, but we could imagine our arms getting tired in the middle of styling. The Chi Air might be a better investment if a heavier flat iron could pose a problem for you.

May snag hair

Unlike a few of our top picks, one of the biggest drawbacks our testers had was that the Chi Elite sometimes snagged their hair. One of our testers said the Chi Elite “felt a little rough,” while another said she “liked the [Chi] Air better than the [Chi] Elite. [The Chi Elite] feels bad clamping down.”

Guide to Flat Irons

How to find the right flat iron for you

Consider your hair type

Do you have curly, dry hair? Thick, color-treated hair? Short, straight hair? Fine, kinky hair? Finding the right flat iron for you really depends on your hair type. Heat and plate types are an important factor in this. Your flat iron should reach and maintain the right temperature and be made from the plate material that works best for you. While most will work well on a variety of hair types, pay close attention to reviews from people with hair similar to yours (bonus points if they include before and after pictures).


Hair Type

Temperature

Best Plate Material

Coarse or thick


380°F and above

Titanium

Wavy or curly

350°F – 370°F

Titanium

Medium thick or straight

330°F – 350°F

Titanium/Ceramic

Thin

300°F – 330°F

Ceramic

Fragile or fine

240°F – 300°F

Ceramic

Synthetic


Lowest available setting

Ceramic

Study flat iron features

Both inexpensive and high-end flat irons come with a wide range of features. If you plan to travel out of the country often, then a tool with dual voltage might be a good option. Or you might find that the Bio Ionic’s vibrating plates are something you can’t live without after trying. A long cord that swivels at the end of the handle to ensure ease of use might also be an important feature for you. Some features you might not need include pads to rest your flat iron or gloves to protect your hands — both accessories our testers didn’t think were necessary. When researching flat irons, make a list of your must-haves and make sure the one you choose includes your top features before purchasing.

Examine warranties

Not every flat iron comes with a warranty, but if you’re buying a higher-end model then it most likely does. Warranties are good if you intend to purchase a more expensive flat iron that should last a few years. However, if you plan to buy a cheaper tool that you intend to replace anyway, a warranty might not be too important.

Explore timed switches or auto shutoff

For some people, automatic shutoff is a critical feature since forgetting to unplug your flat iron could lead to a fire. However, others aren’t fans of auto shutoff since that means their flat irons could turn off while they’re still styling their hair. If this is the case for you, we recommend investing in a timed switch. That way, you can program the switch to turn off at a specific time and your flat iron will shut off as well.

Flat Iron FAQs

Do I need a heat protector?

Heat protectants contain ingredients that coat hair and slow down heat induction. Janine Jarman says, “Blow dry your hair properly; use a heat protectant product; and with the right iron, you should not have to make a bunch of passes to get the results you want.” We used TRESemmé Expert Selection Heat Protection Spray, Keratin Smooth. Most of our testers liked how it worked on their hair and felt a noticeable difference when using it. Our tester with kinky hair didn’t use the product because she knew it wouldn’t work on her hair. Instead, she recommends using an oil (like an Argan oil) or a hair grease to add moisture to the hair, which makes it easier to straighten.

Can I use two hands on the flat iron?

According to Jarman, you should never have to use both hands to clamp the iron down on your hair. You not only risk burning your fingers on the plate end, but this can pull at your hair and break it. High-quality, modern irons are designed to clamp together from the handle end only, so if you find that your iron requires pressure on both ends, it’s time to upgrade.

Do I need to section my hair when straightening it?

There’s no use cramming a bunch of hair between two hot plates if not all of it will actually get ironed. Making small sections is annoying, sure, but if you try to iron too much at once, it won’t work and you’ll end up going back over the hair multiple times anyway, which can cause damage. This is especially important for those with kinky or tightly coiled hair. If you don’t section your hair, your flat iron won’t work the way you want it to.

Do I need to clean my flat iron?

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.

The Best Flat Irons: Summed Up

Best for Volume and Speed
Best for Thick, Kinky and Curly Hair
Best for Experienced Users
Best for Beginner Users
Flat Iron
Bio Ionic 10X Pro Styling Iron
Chi Air Expert Classic Tourmaline Ceramic Flat Iron
Babyliss Pro Nano Titanium-Plated Ultra-Thin Straightening Iron
Chi Elite Flat Iron
Price
$230
109.99
$139.99
$99.99
Dual Voltage
X
X
Plate Type
Ceramic
Tourmaline Ceramic
Titanium
Tourmaline Ceramic
Maximum Heat
450 degrees
410 degrees
450 degrees
410 degrees
How Quickly Does It Get Hot?
30 seconds
30 seconds
30 seconds
30 seconds
Auto Shutoff
X
Warranty

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