Creating a salon-worthy blowout at home isn’t easy, but there are various tools that can help you out, including curling wands, hair dryers or, the most versatile of them all, flat irons. With a flat iron, you can straighten or curl your hair and create beach waves or flippy ends. Flat irons also help you save space when traveling since they can perform the same functions as a round brush or curling iron, minimizing your need to bring extra hair tools.
Flat irons provide sleek, long-lasting looks that smooth the cuticle and lock in a specific style with minimal tension and less repetitive passes on the hair fibers, says Bridgette Hill, a certified trichologist and scalp expert.
To help you find the best flat iron for your hair type, we spoke to experts and hairstylists about what to know about flat irons and how to protect your hair from heat damage. We also gathered their recommendations for the best flat irons to shop.
How we picked the best flat irons
When shopping for a flat iron, our experts recommend looking at the following factors:
- Plate type: There are three main types of flat iron plates: ceramic (good for dry, damaged or fine hair and generally more affordable), tourmaline (good for all hair types) and titanium (the most durable and good for coarse thick, curly and coily hair).
- Plate size: Most flat iron plates are available in sizes between 1 inch and 2 inches (our experts recommend avoiding options larger than 2 inches). Smaller plates are best for those with short hair and offer more styling versatility, whereas larger plates are best for those with long hair.
- Heat settings: The amount of heat your hair can tolerate depends on the type of hair you have. Fine, less dense hair doesn’t need much heat to straighten it, so consider setting your flat iron’s temperature around 250 degrees Fahrenheit, which can still provide smoothness without permanently damaging the hair’s structure, according to according to Shawn Harvey, hairstylist and owner of ShawnCutMaster Inc, a hair salon in Pennsylvania. For medium-thick hair, consider using a temperature between 250-350 degrees Fahrenheit; thick and coarse hair will need slightly more heat to lay the hair’s cuticle flat and give maximum shine, so you may want to use a temperature between 350-400 degrees Fahrenheit, according to Harvey. Our experts recommend looking for models that have multiple temperature settings so you can tailor the amount of heat to your specific hair type. Some flat irons have a digital display that lets you know the exact temperature.
- Price: Ceramic-plated flat irons are typically more affordable, while durable titanium flat irons will have a higher price tag (upwards of $150).
Best flat irons to shop
Below, we rounded up our experts’ recommendations for the best flat irons to shop, all with varying plate types, sizes and heat settings.
This cordless Dyson Corrale makes styling your hair faster and effortless, according to Kyle DeToure, a Washington-based hairstylist and colorist. Instead of the traditional ceramic or titanium plates, the straightener has magnesium copper alloy plates (the only iron on this list with this type of plate), which decreases the need for repeated passes and causes less heat damage to your hair, according to the brand. The flat iron has 30 minutes of cord-free use, three pre-set heat settings — 330, 365 and 410 degrees Fahrenheit — and automatically shuts off, according to Dyson. The brand also has a newer version of this straightener, called the Dyson Airstrait, which uses hot air to dry and straighten your hair instead of hot plates.
Plate type: Magnesium copper alloy | Plate size: 1 inch | Number of heat settings: 3 | Digital display: Yes | Max heat: 410 degrees Fahrenheit | Automatic shut off: After 10 minutes
Harvey recommends this tourmaline-infused ceramic iron from Chi because it gives hair a smooth finish. It takes 30 seconds to heat up to the maximum temperature of 425 degrees Fahrenheit and the plates allow for even heat distribution for less damage and frizz on all hair types, according to the brand. “Its sleek design also makes it easy to straighten, curl or wave effortlessly,” says Harvey.
Plate type: Ceramic and tourmaline | Plate size: 1 inch | Heat settings: 5 | Digital display: Yes | Max heat: 425 degrees Fahrenheit | Automatic shut off: After 60 minutes
T3 is a quality hair tool brand, according to Tina Malhotra, a stylist at Mia Wagner Salon in New York City. This highly rated option from the brand has nine heat settings that you can adjust using the built-in digital display. The flat iron also includes a smart microchip that monitors heat fluctuations and maintains a consistent temperature while in use, according to the brand. The flat iron is available in both a 1-inch and 1.5-inch version.
Plate type: Ceramic | Plate size: 1 inch | Heat settings: 9 | Digital display: Yes | Max heat: 410 degrees Fahrenheit | Automatic shut off: 60 minutes
David Jones-Muñoz, a stylist and owner of Salon Dumbo in Brooklyn, says he keeps this flat iron handy and loves that it has a small curve to help create a beachy wave. Although it does not have a digital display, it has smart technology that helps the straightener maintain a preset temperature throughout styling, according to Ghd.
Plate type: Ceramic | Plate size: 1 inch | Heat settings: 1 | Digital display: No | Max heat: 365 degrees Fahrenheit | Automatic shut off: 30 minutes
You can use this tool, which has a 4.5-star average rating from over 850 reviews on Amazon, to create straight, wavy or curly hair while also locking in moisture, reducing frizz and enhancing shine, according to Kristin Ess. Reviewers say it’s easy to use because it heats up quickly, glides without any snagging or pulling of the hair and has a long cord that doesn’t get in their way. Like other options on this list, it shuts off after 30 minutes of inactivity, but it also comes with a heat-resistant travel cap to protect the surfaces you place your hot tool on.
Plate type: Titanium | Plate size: 1.25 inches | Heat settings: 4 | Digital display: Yes | Max heat: 440 degrees Fahrenheit | Automatic shut off: After 30 minutes
This flat iron from Paul Mitchell has an easy-to-read digital temperature display and heats up and cools quickly, says Harvey. The slim design lets you be precise and get close to your roots as you straighten or curl your hair thanks to its rounded edges. It is available in two sizes including 1.25 inch plates and 1.5 inch plates, which is a great option for those with long, thick or coarse hair, according to the brand.
Plate type: Ceramic | Plate size: 1.25 inches | Heat settings: 8 | Digital display: Yes | Max heat: 410 degrees Fahrenheit | Automatic shut off: After 60 minutes
If you want to style your hair quickly, consider this BaByliss flat iron which has elongated plates to help you do it faster. This flat iron, which has a 4.7-average star rating from 6,668 reviews on Amazon, heats up to 450 degrees Fahrenheit and can straighten or create waves, according to the brand. Reviewers say it works on all hair types, including fine and very coarse hair, and leaves frizz-prone hair frizz-free. This flat iron is also available in a larger size with 1.75 inch plates.
Plate type: Titanium | Plate size: 1.25 inches | Heat settings: 5 | Digital display: Yes | Max heat: 450 degrees Fahrenheit | Automatic shut off: n/a
The Cloud Nine flat iron, which comes recommended by London-based hair stylist Stefan Bertin, is available in three sizes: 0.5 inches, 1 inch and 1.5 inches. It has seven temperature settings, which is helpful for determining which temperature works best for your hair type, according to the brand. The ceramic plates are infused with minerals (including tourmaline), so you get a snag-free glide, says Bertin. The tool takes 20 seconds to reach its maximum temperature and has a protective guard to keep your surfaces safe from heat damage.
Plate type: Ceramic and tourmaline | Plate size: 1 inch | Heat settings: 7 | Digital display: Yes | Max heat: 392 degrees Fahrenheit | Automatic shut off: After 30 minutes
Malhotra recommends this flat iron, which she says she has used at her salon for years. It has 1.25-inch plates (it also comes in a 1.5-inch version) and has rounded edges that can make it easier to style your hair into waves, curls or flips, according to the brand. The flat iron heats up to 450 degrees Fahrenheit in 45 seconds and has a customizable shut-off setting that allows you to set a timer for when you want it to turn off automatically for added safety, according to Paul Mitchell.
Plate type: Titanium | Plate size: 1.25 inches | Heat settings: 4 | Digital display: Yes | Max heat: 450 degrees Fahrenheit | Automatic shut off: Yes, after 120 minutes or sooner based on customization features
NBC Select associate reporter Bianca Alvarez recommends this flat iron from Drybar, which she uses to get pin straight hair as well as waves. The ergonomic hot tool, which reaches 450 degrees Fahrenheit, has four small plates that require fewer passes, creating less heat damage, according to the brand. “I have medium, dry hair and after using this flat iron, my hair looks way less frizzy because I’m able to get close to my roots and take it all the way down to my ends in one go,” says Alvarez.
Plate type: Titanium | Plate size: 0.5 inch | Heat settings: 5 | Digital display: No | Max heat: 450 degrees Fahrenheit | Automatic shut off: After 60 minutes
Jones-Muñoz calls this flat iron a “workhorse” and says he likes using it at his salon because of its thick, durable plates. The temperature, which is adjustable, works well for his clients, and he prefers the brand’s ceramic plates over titanium because it offers a better “pull” on the hair, making it easier to style.
Plate type: Ceramic | Plate size: 1 inch | Heat settings: 5 | Digital display: No | Max heat: 450 degrees Fahrenheit | Automatic shut off: n/a
How to shop for a flat iron
In addition to the plate materials noted above, our experts recommended looking at some additional features, including the size of the plates and a digital display to monitor the temperature.
Plate size and shape
“Smaller plates are better for short hair, whereas larger plates are better for longer hair,” says Bertin. However, the plate size won’t really affect the finished product, but it will affect the speed at which you get there, according to Bertin.
Once plates get to 2 inches wide or above, there’s less versatility and less chance that you’ll move the straightener quick enough without burning the hair, according to Jones-Muñoz.
If you’re looking to use a flat iron for curls and beach waves, consider using flat irons with rounded edges that allow you to curl your hair onto the back of the straightener without much tug and pull, says Jones-Muñoz.
Flat irons vary in price based on multiple factors, including plate quality and material, size and brand recognition.
“If you’re using it for a quick touch-up or once a month, then you could go with something that’s a little less expensive,” Jones-Muñoz says. More durable straighteners (like those with titanium plates) are on the pricier side, but they will be less likely to wear and chip with frequent use.
Our experts agree that flat irons should have a button or knob that displays the temperature you’re using. Harvey recommends flat irons with a digital display, which indicates the exact temperature the iron reaches and any fluctuations.
Meet our experts
At Select, we work with experts who have specialized knowledge and authority based on relevant training and/or experience. We also take steps to ensure all expert advice and recommendations are made independently and without undisclosed financial conflicts of interest.
- Bridgette Hill is a Palm Beach, Florida-based certified trichologist and former hairstylist. Her areas of expertise include scalp health, styling and cutting.
- Stefan Bertin is a London-based hairstylist, whose specialties include editorial styling, textured hair and more.
- Tina Malhotra is a New York City-based stylist at Mia Wagner Salon. Malhotra’s areas of expertise include cutting, coloring, styling and treatments.
- Courtney Foster is a certified trichologist and owner of Courtney Foster Beauty, a hair salon in New York City. Her specialties include cutting, coloring, styling and scalp health.
- Kyle DeToure is a Washington-based hairstylist and hair colorist with expertise in balayage, editorial styling and French and British haircutting.
- Shawn Harvey is a Philadelphia-based hairstylist and owner of ShawnCutMaster Inc, a hair salon in Pennsylvania. Her areas of expertise include curly hair cutting, styling and coloring.
- David Jones-Muñoz is a New York City-based stylist and owner of Salon Dumbo in Brooklyn, whose expertise includes cutting, styling and coloring all hair types.
Why trust Select?
Mili Godio is an editor at Select who has written a variety of beauty and skin care stories, including stories on the best tinted moisturizers, dry shampoos and dark circles treatments. For this article, Godio spoke to seven hair care experts about what to look for when shopping for a flat iron and rounded up their favorite ones to shop.