Ultimate Guide to Hair Tools

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Shopping for a new styling tool can be quite the challenge. With salon-savvy terms like “tourmaline” and “ionic” splattered all over the packaging, it’s tough to figure out what everything means, and more importantly, what makes the tool great. We’ve translated “hair tool lingo” and gathered some of our favorites so all you have to worry about is which style to try first. 

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You may think that blow-dryers serve one purpose and one purpose only: to dry hair. That may have been the case in the past, but not anymore. As technology advances, blow-dryers are now being designed to include all sorts of special functions that work to also enhance the look, feel and health of your hair. Click through to see what you should consider when buying a new blow-dryer. 

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If it’s made with tourmaline: 
Tourmaline is a semi-precious gemstone that’s used in hair dryers because when exposed to heat, it works to target negatively charged sections of hair and split large water droplets into smaller ones that evaporate almost immediately. This helps dry your hair quicker while preventing damage. 

If it’s made with ceramic:
 Ceramic dryers help distribute heat evenly throughout the hair, so that no one section overheats or dries out. 

If it’s made with ionic technology: 
Ionic hair dryers are great for frizzy hair or those who are prone to damage. Over time, your hair will become smoother and shinier due to negative ions that work to neutralize your hair’s positive charge. 
“Ionic dryers can be one of two kinds: Electrically generated (no natural mineral), which means it has no far infrared energy and therefore doesn’t condition or dry hair as fast, or natural ionic mineral-infused (silicone is the number-one mineral in the blend),” says Alli Webb, founder of Drybar. 

The “cool” button: 
A “cool” button can be used at the end of your drying to add shine, reduce frizz and help set your look—not to mention it also feels really good on the back of your neck after a piping hot blow-dry.

The diffuser attachment: A diffuser attaches to the end of your blow-dryer to dry your hair a little more gently, which reduces frizz and helps tame curly or unruly hair without changing its natural shape. 

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Drybar Buttercup Blow Dryer
The official blow-dryer used at Drybar salons across the country, its lightweight, professionally crafted design delivers super drying power while conditioning your hair to leave it looking silky, smooth and frizz-free. If you’ve ever had a blowout at Drybar, you know what it can do. $190, drybar.com

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Toni & Guy Tourmaline Ionic Dryer
Featuring three heat settings and two speeds, this sleek blow-dryer features tourmaline ionic technology that conditions the hair for maximum shine and a cool shot button to help lock in your style. Two attachments are included, including a concentrator to force airflow to desired spots, and a diffuser, which adds volume. $40, target.com
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Theorie SAGA 3100
Assembled piece by piece by a team of Italian craftsmen, this high-performance drying system has a 30,000-hour motor life and delivers heat at more than 300 degrees for a super fast drying time. Multiple functions, including a cool setting and two concentrator nozzles give you everything you need to create the perfect style. $225, yourtheorie.com
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Curling Tools
Available in all shapes and sizes to create every type of curl on every type of hair, curling irons have become increasingly versatile throughout the years to give you everything from tight prom curls to loose, beachy waves. Here’s the 411:

Spring curling irons: The most common of the bunch, it uses a clip to hold in your hair as you maneuver the tool—a great one to start with if you haven’t used a curling iron before. 

Clipless curling irons (or wands): These tools allow you to wrap your hair around the barrel and hold it with your fingers as you curl, rather than clipping it in place, meaning you won’t be left with an annoying indentation. But, make sure to wear the heatproof glove that comes with the tool so that you don’t burn your fingers or wrist while you’re wrapping and holding your hair. Also, many clipless irons come with multiple barrel sizes that are easily interchangeable so you can create different size curls for a variety of looks.

Hot curlers (or rollers): Great for a longer-lasting curl and more volume on the top of your head.

Why does the size of the barrel matter?
“The size of the barrel depends on the type of the curl you are going for,” says Nunzio Saviano, expert hairstylist and owner of Nunzio Saviano Salon in New York City. “For a tighter curl, use a small iron (1-inch), and for loose, beachy waves, use a thicker barrel (1.5-inch). It’s more about the length of your hair than the thickness, but I do recommend that people with coarse hair use a smaller barrel to better hold the curl.”

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Sultra The Bombshell 1.5-Inch Rod Curling Iron
A must-have for styling color-treated, dry or damaged hair, this clip-free, smooth rod curling iron features exclusive ceramic technology and a dual-heating component to create loose, romantic waves that last all day. $130, sephora.com
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CHI Smart Magnify Ceramic Rollers on a Platform
Designed with a ceramic core that distributes heat quickly and evenly, these high-tech rollers sit on a platform with built-in LED blue light purification technology that reduces bacteria buildup on the rollers to help maintain clean curls. A light turns red on each roller when it’s ready to use and a self-regulating temperature feature protects your strands from overheating, which can prevent breakage. $99.50, qvc.com
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Revlon Perfect Heat Curling Iron
Perfect for taming frizzy hair, this baked ceramic- and tourmaline-coated curling iron works to evenly distribute heat into your locks while sealing the cuticle to create perfectly shiny, loose curls. And it shuts off automatically, so no need to worry when you leave the house. $17, revlonhairtools.com
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Straightening Tools
Post blow-dry, your hair may still not be as straight or frizz-free as you’d like. That’s where flat irons come in. And now, with a variety of tools to choose from, all of which claim to give you silky, smooth strands, how do you know which one will be the perfect fit for you? We did a little digging, see what we found on the next slide. 

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Flat irons with tourmaline-infused plates: A great option for those with frizzy hair because it increases negative ions, which seal your hair’s cuticle and boost shine.

Ceramic irons: Flat irons with ceramic plates create a far infrared heat that enters the hair shaft, locks in moisture and reduces static electricity. “Ceramic flat irons are known to have even heat distribution, which can also cut down on damage and hot spots,” says George Gonzalez, celebrity hairstylist and owner of George the Salon in Chicago. “I always recommend ceramic or tourmaline tools, which I personally use when styling my clients’ hair. A tool with a combination of the two will be most effective. However, you must be aware of how it’s made. Even if an iron says it has these two components, parts of it may just be coated in ceramic or tourmaline, whereas more expensive versions will contain a higher percentage.” 

Titanium-infused plates: These tools are often used by salon professionals and are great for smoothing and straightening thick or coarse hair.

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ghd eclipse
Using patented tri-zone technology that features three advanced sensors in each plate for consistent heat flow, this savvy styler can smooth even the toughest of hair textures with precision-milled plates that create long-lasting style. It also features universal voltage so you can have great hair wherever you go. $245, ghdhair.com/us
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Sedu Revolution Diamond Styling Iron
Designed with diamond dust-infused ceramic tourmaline plates that act as a natural heat conductor to protect hair from damage, this lightweight, one-inch styling iron feels smooth and sleek, just like your hair after one use. Dual voltage and an auto shut-off mode add function and convenience—perfect for the stylish woman on the go. $180, ulta.com
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Rowenta Straight Express Iron
Part flat iron, part comb, this salon-quality straightener features ultra-durable, titanium-infused plates and a heated, integrated comb that stretches and smooths hair for a frizz-free look. A digital screen displays the temperature and a tourmaline-boosted ceramic coating protects your tresses from overheating. $180, ulta.com
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Travel Hair Tools
A blow-dryer, curling iron and straightener can take up the bulk of the room in your suitcase, which doesn’t leave much room for multiple pairs of shoes. And, let’s face it, hotel room hair-dryers never quite do the trick. Luckily, we have these travel-friendly tools, which give us a much better option.
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amika Mini Ionic Dryer
Decked out in a fun, hippie-chic design (as so many of amika’s tools are), this compact yet powerful dryer features tourmaline-infused ceramic technology that polishes your locks and eliminates frizz. It also includes world voltage compatibility to keep your hair looking great wherever your travels take you. $52; loveamika.com
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Sarah Potempa Jet-Setter
A quick way to style anytime, anywhere (no outlet necessary!), this cordless, rechargeable styling iron can straighten or curl with professional-grade silicone heating plates that adjust to three temperature settings. $99, sarahpotempa.com
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Conair Mini You Curl
Housed in a heat-resistant travel pouch, this mini (6-inch) ceramic curling iron is dual voltage for traveling ease and heats up in 30 seconds to give your hair a quick pick-me-up when you’re on the go. $25, conair.com

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