Coolway Go Pro Blow Dryer System
What it is: An ionic hairdryer that styles tresses using low heat, topping out at 299 degrees
How it works: Although this tool comes with good intentions—it relies on an AC motor to increase airflow rather than temperature, minimizing heat-related breakage and split ends—it didn’t live up to its promises of delivering a salon-quality blowout or cutting dry time in half. The kit comes with Coolway’s Transform spray, an amino-acid–rich styling product that helps strands absorb water and thus transfer heat more effectively, making it a necessary first step. After coating wet, towel-dried locks with ample spritzes (up to 50 for long, thick hair), you use the dryer’s highest, fastest settings to evaporate the majority of your mane’s moisture. Then you continue styling, using an even lower heat and speed (there are three options for each), finishing with a cold shot of air to set your completed look. Perhaps because this tester has natural curls, the process proved frustratingly ineffective—it took twice as many passes to get strands somewhat straight and even then, they were frizzy. The Transform solution also left behind a stiff residue, making our hair feel knotty and dirty despite having just showered.
Where to buy: $120 at coolwayhair.com, includes dryer, Transform Spray and Super Boost nourishing treatment
Cricket Ultra Smooth Professional Styling Iron
What it is: A one-inch-wide flatiron whose ceramic-coated plates are infused with argan oil and keratin
How it works: Just like a normal straightener, this one quickly heats up to a maximum of 450 degrees, with the temperature indicated on a digital display. The difference, however, is subtle but noticeable: Strands feel smoother and look less frizzy after just a few passes. The hot tool also won’t leave behind any greasy residue, making this an easy swap for the product-averse.
Where to buy: $90, at folica.com
Sarah Potempa the Jet-Setter
What it is: A cordless, rechargeable travel-sized flatiron that holds up to 30 minutes of stored power
How it works: Switch the 7½-inch-long tool on to boot it up using the included wall charger, just as you would a mobile phone (it takes a few hours to achieve a full charge, indicated when the top light turns green). Once it’s ready, unplug the device and select one of three temperatures: 370, 410 or 450 degrees. Although the iron reaches an impressively high heat, it does so at a slower pace than its full-size brethren—we routinely waited about five to ten minutes for it to fully realize the highest setting. The smaller surface area of the silicone plates also mean they’re less efficient, making this better for touch-ups than styling hair from scratch. On the plus side, the rounded barrel allows you to curl ends and the socket-free convenience can’t be beat.
Where to buy: $99 (car charger $19), at joyus.com
Rowenta Beauty Versa Style Iron
What it is: A combination flatiron and curling tool that heats up to 400 degrees in under a minute
How it works: If you’ve ever been amazed by how some people are able to use a straightener to curl their hair, this multipurpose device facilitates the process. Although the one-inch ceramic-coated titanium plates function exactly as a normal flatiron would, the difference is the barrel’s rounded exterior, which features silicone strips that create soft friction. By clamping down and pulling the tool taut in various directions, you can create one of five different styles: pin-straight, Farrah Fawcett–style flips, loose curls, tight spirals or waves. We managed to master only the first three variations, which is two more than we’re able to achieve with our standard straightener. One downside, however, was that the rubberized edges would occasionally catch our follicles when using the iron in its most traditional manner.
Where to buy: $160, at ulta.com
Rusk Curl Freak
What it is: An automated styling tool that curls hair in a heated-ceramic chamber
How it works: Near replicas of this newfangled curling tool from Conair and Babyliss have also recently debuted, but this souped-up version claims to have the most settings—three trios, to be exact. Choose your desired time (8, 10 or 12 seconds, for an increasingly tighter pattern), temperature (375, 410 or 450 degrees, selected according to hair texture) and curl direction (left, right and alternate for a more natural look). Then place a one-inch section of hair into the barrel, clamp down where you want the curl to begin, and watch mystified as it automatically sucks up strands into the chamber. Hold it in place until you hear a series of successive beeps, then release to reveal cartoonishly perfect, smooth spirals that couldn’t be achieved with a normal wand. Expect there to be some trial and error, however: Our natural inclination was to pull the tool downward while unfurling the ringlets, which only tangled our mane in the machine (and raised our heart rate as we frantically tried to pry it out). The Curl Freak is also extremely particular: Hair needs to be dry, clean and completely snarl-free, otherwise it won’t take. Same goes for if you to try to feed it too much hair—the motor will stop and reverse as the device angrily beeps.
Where to buy: $200, at JCPenney, Manhattan Mall, 100 W 33rd St at Sixth Ave (212-295-6120)