In a hurry? Here’s how we ranked the top 5 contenders for the best flat iron of 2017
Best Flat Iron 2017
9.5 Our Score
9.3 Our Score
8.5 Our Score
7.3 Our Score
6.8 Our Score
Believe it or not, just fifty years ago the accepted method of straightening hair was to spread it out on an ironing board, cover it with a towel, and run a clothes iron over it. The technique created absolutely gorgeous, ruler-straight hair – that is, until the inevitable accident. Hopefully, today’s women will never know how awful badly-burnt hair can smell.
Modern – and safe – hair straighteners became available short time later, but didn’t really come into their own until the big hair craze of the 1980s had passed. Since then, a flat iron has become an essential tool for any woman who styles her own hair, even if it’s only used for touch-ups after a visit to a salon.
Original consumer flat irons featured two aluminum (or later, ceramic) plates, and most gave the user little ability to adjust the temperature. Updated versions of the ceramic flat iron are still in use today but many more choices are now available, utilizing a variety of different metals and coatings and providing total control over their performance. They work quickly, they’re convenient, and they also don’t damage hair the way that early models (or a clothes iron!) once did. Even better, many can also be used to create curls and fabulous beach waves.
We’ve chosen five top models to nominate for the title of “best flat iron of 2017.” But the enormous range of materials and sizes on the market can be confusing, so it’s important for you to figure out the type of hair straightener that best fits your needs. To do that, you’ll need to answer three questions:
- What are the characteristics of my hair: thick or fine, curly or relatively straight, short or long?
- What do I plan to do with my flat iron: just straighten my hair, or do more extensive styling as well?
- How much do I want to spend?
Armed with this information, you’re ready to check out our buying tips and best flat iron reviews.
Buying the Best Flat Iron Tip #1: Choose the Proper Size
As you probably know, most flat irons look somewhat like staplers, with two identical heated plates facing each other. The width of the plates varies widely. You can choose a small hair straightener with narrow plates ranging from half-an-inch to one-inch thick, or a large iron with plates as wide as two inches apiece. The most commonly-sold size is one inch.
It’s crucial to match the size of your flat iron to your type of hair. Thinner plates are the right choice for short hair because they let you get closer to your scalp. Plates over an inch wide naturally cover more area and are better for long hair, allowing you to get your work done faster. Large plates are definitely necessary when working with thick, long hair. The best flat iron for “normal” hair typically has one-inch plates.
There are some exceptions. Some women with long hair that’s thin or fine prefer to use smaller irons because the heat is easier to regulate; the big plates on larger irons can quickly dry out or fry thin hair. And a smaller-sized iron is perfect for doing detail work like waves, twists or curls.
Buying the Best Flat Iron Tip #2: Heat Matters
Those 1960s girls who used clothes irons to straighten their hair weren’t only tempting fate. The high temperatures they were using did long-term damage to their hair. (Some of us were there, and remember it well.) All of today’s decent hair straighteners will allow you to adjust temperature settings, but excessive heat can still do great damage and low heat may not be sufficient. The flat iron you choose must be able to deliver the proper temperatures for your hair type in order to avoid problems.
Thin or fine hair should be straightened at no more 200-275°. On the other end of the spectrum, temperatures as high as 400-450° may be necessary to work with extremely thick or coarse hair. Some flat irons don’t offer settings that low or that high, so always check.
Buying the Best Flat Iron Tip #3: Types of Plates
Once upon a time, flat iron plates were made of aluminum. They got hot, but temperatures were difficult to control and the irons damaged hair badly. You still may see aluminum hair straighteners in the drugstore. Stay away from them.
The first real improvement was the use of ceramic plates, still quite common today. They’re the least expensive option to offer so-called ionic technology, which is said to release negative ions that smooth hair cuticles. The process theoretically leads to smoother, healthier and shinier hair with less frizz; some scientists say that’s just marketing talk, but ionic models do seem to produce better results. Just be sure that the plates are ceramic and not ceramic-plated because heating is uneven with the latter, and when some of the plating wears away you’ll just be using hot metal to straighten your hair – not a great idea. Ceramic flat irons are the best choice for fine hair.
More modern models have plates made from a combination of ceramic material and either tourmaline or titanium. They each feature ionic technology (and are said to produce more negative ions), and are more durable, scratch-resistant and smoother than ceramic. Titanium transfers heat the fastest and is the heaviest-duty option for thick, curly hair, while tourmaline is a better choice for straightening “normal” hair. They’re both preferable to plain ceramic plates in most cases, if you have the budget for them.
Alright, enough preliminaries. Let’s get down to business.
Best Flat Iron of 2017: Our Five Choices
1. Solano Sleekheat450 Professional Flat Iron– WINNER Best Flat Iron of 2017
You may have seen this flat iron in your local salon – it’s that good. The Sleekheat450 is available as a 1″ or 1¼” model with ceramic/tourmaline plates; the mix makes this hair straightener ideal for most hair types. Those specs aren’t uncommon for flat irons, though. Extra design features are what makes this Solano so good.
First, the plates are beveled so they pass through hair without catching or snagging. That’s not normally a major issue with tourmaline flat irons, but it does still happen; the ability of these beveled plates to adjust to the contour of your hair does away with the issue completely. Next is the Sleekheat’s use of far-infrared heat, which straightens hair from the inside out to minimize the damage that can be caused when relying solely on direct contact. Finally, the temperature range of the Solano runs all the way from 170° to 450°. That makes this flat iron just about the most versatile we’ve ever seen.
As with most top models there is an instant heat recovery feature, and even though the Solano is a bit slower than some irons to heat up, it still takes less than a minute for it to be ready for use. We do wish it had auto-shutoff built in, however.
Performance is the true measure of flat irons, and the Sleekheat450 delivers. Even with 1¼” plates, it straightens thick or coarse curly hair like a hot knife going through butter, and can be backed off to 200° for a solid job on thinner hair. You’ll probably pay more for this flat iron than any of the others on our list, but it’s worth the price.
2. BaBylissPRO Nano Titanium-Plated Ultra-Thin Straightening Iron RUNNER UP Best Flat Iron of 2017
We’ve always loved BaBylissPRO products and their latest flat iron has reinforced those feelings. It’s available in three sizes: 1”, 1½” and 2”.
The Nano Titanium is one of the rare products that lives up to its billing. It really is “ultra-thin,” making this tool extremely lightweight, easy to use and better for styling tasks than you’d expect from an iron with plates that are 1-2 inches wide. The five-inch long plates are also longer than those on most competitors, allowing you to straighten a lot of long hair in one pass.
If you’re wondering about the “nano” part of nano-titanium, it means that tiny pieces of titanium are infused into the surface of the plates to make them even better heat conductors than solid titanium plates. This BaBylissPro heats up fast and straightens difficult hair faster than just about any other flat iron, and although it’s not quite as effective against frizz as the Sleekheat450, it still does a great job minimizing the issue.
The “450” represents the highest temperature this model can reach, and there are 50 settings below that. Like the Solano, the BaByliss uses far-infrared heat to do its work, emits a large number of negative ions to maintain and improve hair health, and unfortunately, doesn’t offer an auto-shutoff feature.
Great control, fast straightening, silky results and a choice of sizes to fit almost any type of hair. There’s not much to dislike about the Nano Titanium from BaByliss. This came VERY close to winning the best flat iron of 2017 poll.
Very good performance at a price that’s about 20% of what you’ll pay for the Solano? Yes, please. Don’t get us wrong; the HSI Professional isn’t the highest-quality flat iron on our list. But it’s a ridiculous value for the price, meaning it may be the best flat iron for you.
This is a one-inch ceramic/tourmaline model that will do an OK job on very thick or coarse long hair, but its best use is for somewhat shorter locks which will slip easily through the plates without snagging or catching. It heats up quickly, maintains steady temperatures, and allows you to adjust the heat from 240-410°. That may not be low enough for severely-damaged, thin hair, or high enough for some African-American hair, but it’s a good range for everyone else. (For some reason, the bottom of the dial is marked 140° but the HSI Professional won’t actually go that low.)
This flat iron releases negative ions and has the far-infrared technology we’ve discussed previously, leaving hair soft while minimizing damage and doing a good job on frizz. There’s no auto-shutoff, but we do like the 360° swivel cord that makes it easy to maneuver the HSI around your noggin. It’s one of the few flat irons that you can use overseas, too, with 120V and 240V compatibility.
That leads to one question: why is the HSI Professional so inexpensive? There are two reasons. First, the company has released new, higher-priced straighteners so this is an older model. Second, this isn’t as solid or durable as the products we’ve ranked higher. Even so, it’s more than enough flat iron for most women, and you can grab it at a price that can’t be beaten. If we were going to award the best flat iron for women on a budget, hands down the HSI is the winner.
The T3 Singlepass 2 was strongly in contention with the Solano Sleekheat450 for the top spot in our rankings – until we found that the highest heat setting for the Singlepass 2 is 410° and the lowest setting is 260°, with only three settings in between. That compares quite unfavorably with the Sleekheat’s 170-450° range. And since you’ll have to pay a comparable, premium price for the Singlepass 2, the temperature issue was enough to knock this flat iron down to #4 on our list.
For hair that doesn’t require very low or very high temperatures, though, this is a well-built one-inch ceramic/tourmaline straightener with beveled plates like those on the Sleekheat, which does a terrific job. The company says the performance is due to “rapid response digital T3 Singlepass technology.” We don’t know what that means, but we do know that the flat iron glides perfectly through hair and leaves it straight and beautiful with one pass – which is all that really matters. The feature list is good, too: one hour auto-shutoff, a long 360° swivel cord, 120/240V capability and included sectioning clips.
T3 is a well-respected company and makes outstanding products; this is one more, as long as you don’t need a flat iron that can deliver the proper temperatures for thin or very thick hair. If we were going to award the best flat iron for normal hair, this might have been #1 or #2 on our list.
Chi specializes in hair tools for salons, and the Original Pro is a nice, reasonably-priced flat iron that’s quite similar to the HSI. One-inch ceramic/tourmaline plates? Check. Ionic technology and far-infrared heating? Check. Heats up quickly? Check. Eliminates most frizz and leaves hair shiny, straight and smooth? Check. Auto-shutoff? Unfortunately, no check.
There’s a big reason why the Chi ranks below the HSI Professional on this list, however. It’s a single-temperature unit, only capable of operating at 405°. That’s fine for the average user with thick hair, but definitely way too hot for those with thin or fine hair who will find their locks fried in a jiffy, and probably not hot enough for women with extremely thick or coarse long hair. In other words, the Original Pro is a stellar performer but a one-trick pony, perfect for the type of hair it’s designed for but the wrong choice for everyone else.
In the hands of an experienced hair stylist that works fast, this might be the best flat iron on the market, or at least one of them. This is a lightweight and popular flat iron that’s a good buy for those with medium-length hair – as long as it’s not too thick or too thin. Had it been here when it was time to create this review, the Chi Pro G2 Digital may have beat out the HSI in our best flat iron of 2017 poll. Unfortunately a back stock issue with Amazon kept it out of our hands while we were crafting this post. It appears those issues have been resolved now, and you can read our Chi Pro G2 digital flat iron review
That’s a wrap on our best flat iron of 2017! We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention a couple contenders that for one reason or another didn’t hit the top 5, but were very highly regarded by our review panel. The Izutech KTX450 LT and the Paul Mitchell Neuro Smooth were VERY close to making our best flat iron list. It wasn’t even like they were #6 and #7, they were #5a and #5b. Both are definitely worth considering!