10 Best Hot Tools, Hair Dryers, and Curling Irons, According to Industry Insiders

A good hot tool—be it a hair straightener, blow dryer, curling iron, or one of the new hybrid multitaskers—can transcend routine and become a quiet revelation. Even air-drying diehards, wary of heat-induced damage, would be wise to reassess the category, given the technological innovations that make it that much easier to gently finesse the hair. It is, after all, a moment to relish stylistic versatility. At the same time we’re seeing a wholesale embrace of natural texture, there’s also an impulse for short-term transformation. An intuitive, easy-to-maneuver tool can make all the difference. 

The recently revamped Dyson Airwrap styler is one such example, functioning as a hair dryer or curling iron, depending on the attachment. (A number of accessories are typically included, although the exact lineup varies.) Here, a proprietary airflow technology encourages hair to wrap around the cylindrical barrel, no hands or special skills needed; this also minimizes direct contact with the heating element, thereby reducing damage.

Capable of creating loose waves with all-day hold—something of a personal miracle—the Airwrap has become a go-to for my type 2C curls, which have no discernible wave pattern and typically frizz up under a diffuser. The tool circumvents this by harnessing the Coanda effect, an aerodynamic phenomenon by which fast-moving air will closely follow the shape of a nearby surface—in this case, drawing in the hair around a rotating barrel. While the initial usage required a bit of trial and error, as I’d never before used a curling wand, the movement and volume it delivers has made it an everyday device—a revelation for me, who otherwise relied on a wash-and-go style.

That’s just one way a hot tool can be a game-changer. Backstage at Peter Do’s spring 2023 show, hairstylist Jawara Wauchope was giving the cast (even those with tight coils) near-uniform straight hair. The vision was futuristic and gender-agnostic (models in the tailored collection included Lee Jeno of the K-Pop group NCT and the artist Maia Ruth Lee), and the Dyson Supersonic hair dryer was in steady rotation. “The wide-tooth comb [attachment] really gets through and loosens up the curl for tightly textured hair, which cuts down the time,” said Wauchope, conscious of maintaining hair integrity. He then followed up with the brand’s Corrale hair straightener for a sleek finish, locking in the shape with a mist of hairspray.

That runway directive underscores the point that today’s hot-tool styling is less about trend or conformity; it’s about having a point of view and a means of expression. With that in mind, we’ve canvassed a mix of professional stylists and creative leaders for the hot tools that get the job done.