June 16, 2023
Let’s go back to 2009. I’m in middle school, rushing to get ready in time to make my first class, flatironing my sopping-wet hair as my mom screams at me for being late (again). In retrospect, I wish she had been yelling at me for basically frying off my hair (apparently, the loud sizzle wasn’t clue enough for me). Fast-forward to 2023: I’m a beauty editor, still always late, always rushing, but I’ve learned that no matter how far behind schedule I am, I can’t damage my hair.
My hair is fine and long (currently reaching a few inches below my bra strap) with a soft wave. It’s also pretty brittle after years of heat (yes, sometimes applied right after exiting the shower) and my refusal to get haircuts. My current routine is as follows: First, a rough dry with a blow-dryer, then I go in with a 365°F iron to get as close to a mirror-like shine as possible.
My hair hates me for the double heat, so I’m always looking for a way to reduce my high-temperature styling time. I was hoping to find it with the latest Dyson hair innovation, a wet-to-dry straightening tool called the Airstrait, which, the brand says, gets the job done without using hot plates. Dyson has truly revolutionized the hair-tool space since the company launched its Supersonic blow-dryer in 2016, and almost every Allure editor has made a shrine to the Airwrap, which debuted two years later. Expectations have been high around here for the Airstrait, the fourth tool in the lineup.
Here, three of my colleagues and I — all with very different hair types — test the Dyson Airstrait to see whether it lives up to the no-heat-damage-while-straightening claims. We also compare it with some of the existing hot tools in our bathrooms.
Overview: The Dyson Airstrait
The Dyson Airstrait is a hair tool designed to simultaneously dry and straighten your hair. James Dyson, founder and chief engineer, told Allure recently that his vision for the Airstrait was to deliver the ease of use that people love about straighteners but without the damaging hot plates. Its goal is to save you time and save your hair from the heat damage a traditional hair dryer and flatiron can cause. The Airstrait looks, more or less, like a typical flatiron, albeit wider and just, well, fancier.
Most straightening tools get the job done with ceramic plates that are heated from within, up to 400°F and beyond, explains Trefor Evans, a cosmetic chemist at TRI Princeton. The heat from those plates removes water from the hair (even when hair is dry to the touch, your hair has water in it). Why is that a good thing? Because driving all the water out of the hair structure creates new temporary bonds in the hair that allow it to be (temporarily) anchored into a straight position when pressed and pulled between two plates.
The Dyson Airstrait draws on the same basic principles of heat and tension but takes a different approach, using only controlled hot (but not too hot) air to change the shape of the hair.
The technology behind the tool:
The motor in the handle of the Airstrait is the same one that’s in all of Dyson’s hair tools, says Dyson engineer Kate Craft. “It is small, light, and powerful enough to generate the airflow needed to dry and straighten hair simultaneously,” she explains. (When Dyson launched the Supersonic hair dryer in 2016, Allure reported that the motor was three times lighter, six times faster, and one-third the size of the average blow-dryer motor.) The motor in the Airstrait, Craft continues, powers 13 blades inside the handle to rotate up to 106,000 times per minute and propel almost 12 liters of air through the machine per second — enough air pressure to straighten hair as it dries.
On the tool’s color-LCD screen, you can choose whether to straighten wet or dry hair and your preferred heat setting. “When you switch from wet to dry, the unit allows for the selection of different temperatures and different flow settings,” says Craft.
In dry mode, the Airstrait uses lower airflow with temperature settings of 250°F, 285°F, and “boost,” which goes up to 320°F and is recommended only for touch-ups. When working with wet hair, higher airflow is required and you can choose from three different heat settings that start much lower: 175°F, 230°F, and 285°F. (To ensure temperatures stay in check, the Airstrait has thermometers in its arms.) No matter the mode you choose, there’s also a cool-shot option to quickly bring down the heat and lock in your style.
How exactly does it straighten without heated plates?
This question has been floating around the Allure office. The Airstrait certainly isn’t the first wet-to-dry tool we’ve tried — earlier this year, GHD launched a pretty great one, the Duet Style. But the difference between the Airstrait and wet-to-dry tools that came before is, instead of traditional hot plates, this device features unheated tension bars along the top side of the arms to clamp the hair when straightening. These bars act as plates, Craft explains, applying tension for a smooth finish, but put less pressure on the hair. And, one more time: They are unheated. It’s only high-velocity hot air — coming out of 1.5 mm gaps in each arm of the tool and projected down at a 45-degree angle — that straightens the hair as it dries it.
Does the “no damage” claim check out?
“No hot plates. No heat damage.” That’s the claim Dyson makes with the Airstrait. As of press time, the brand was not able to provide information on the testing it had performed to back this claim. But Evans from TRI Princeton thinks it's a reasonable one (noting that he has not tested the tool himself). “At heats this low, this tool is unlikely to cause damage to even wet hair,” he says. “Once you go above 375°F, that’s when a hot tool becomes damaging to the hair.” Remember, the Airstrait’s highest heat setting is 285°F, with a touchup boost setting at 320°F (for use on dry hair). It's worth noting that the GHD Duet Style also makes a no damage claim — it does have hot plates, but they only reach 248°F, with airflow going up to 302°F.
To prevent the frizz, dullness, and split ends associated with heat damage, “a device used on wet hair would have to remove the water without creating extreme heat or steam,” Joshua Zeichner, MD, a board-certified dermatologist and director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, previously told Allure. Most of the Allure editors who tested the Airstrait say they noticed minimal steam during the styling process.
How I tested:
All of this sounded great to me, but it was time to put the device to the test. I started the trial with my normal wash-day routine, using my current favorite shampoo and conditioner, the OGX Thick & Full + Biotin & Collagen Shampoo & Conditioner, following up with a K18 treatment and some heat protectant from Tresemmé because, while the Airstrait box says “no heat damage,” this tool would still be directing a lot of hot air at my hair.
After towel-drying my hair, I gave it a quick rough dry with the Airstrait. “Rough dry?” you ask. Yes. I discovered that if you hold the arms together and lock them shut, the Airstrait can double as a blow-dryer. You’re welcome. I found this rough-dry step crucial because the clamps were a bit too bulky to get really close to my roots. If I had just gone in and started clamping my hair through the arms, the roots would have stayed damp and lacked volume.
As someone with long, wavy, not super-thick hair, I was pretty confident this tool would work for me. Sure enough, it did exactly what it said it would. I chose the highest heat setting in wet mode, went over each section four or five times, and in 30 minutes my hair was bone-dry. (My usual routine of blow-dryer followed by flatiron typically takes an hour.) Even better, my hair looked like I’d gotten a fresh cut and blowout (mind you, I haven’t had a trim in a year).
However, my hair was less shiny than I would have liked. With my Airwrap or flatiron, I get a glass-like finish — I didn’t get that with the Airstrait. For a high gloss, I had to go back over my hair with a traditional flatiron, bringing my total styling time to about 45 minutes. Still, a 15-minute savings.
This tool has some pretty fancy technology, but my favorite feature is simply that it automatically pauses when not in use. Set it down and after three seconds, the Airstrait stops blowing air to preserve energy (and not send anything flying across your bathroom counter).
My only complaint? It’s a little heavy, weighing in at 2.2 pounds. Halfway around my head, I felt my wrist getting sore. Comparatively, the Corrale, Dyson’s more traditional flatiron, is almost a full pound lighter at 1.23 pounds, and its Supersonic blow-dryer is about 20% lighter at 1.8 pounds.
Jessica Cruel, editor in chief
Hair Type: 4B Curls
“For this review, I did a split-head test between the Airstrait and my Revair, both are wet-to-dry tools and both straighten. The Revair is like a vacuum for your hair — it pulls it into a tube to straighten it and get the water out. You can adjust the tension to get the hair as straight as possible. It’s very bulky, though, and has to sit on the bathroom floor or counter — you could never travel with it. The Airstrait is easy enough to slip into a suitcase.
"After using both tools, my hair felt very similar on each side. The Airstrait got it a little flatter, but that’s because I used smaller sections and went over each slowly, two to three times, based on the tutorial I got at the Airstrait launch event. The whole process took almost an hour for half of my head; the Revair took 30 minutes for the other half.
"With the Airstrait, I also experienced that burning smell you get when using a traditional flatiron and, because there is not as much tension, the Airstrait didn’t leave my ends as straight as the Revair did. I kept thinking: The Airstrait needs a comb to clip on it to increase the tension and get better straightening for my hair type.
“Overall, I’m going to continue to use the Revair or my beloved Dyson Airwrap. The Airwrap’s brush attachment dries and straightens my whole head in an hour, while the Airstrait takes close to two hours — and I would still want to go in with another tool for a smoother finish. The Airwrap brush attachment also gets my ends straighter than the Airstrait did."
Jesa Marie Calaor, senior editor
Hair Type: Medium-coarse, wavy hair
“My hair dries poof-y, so I had my doubts that the Airstrait could subdue it without heated plates. Before styling, I towel dried, prepped my waves with the Lolavie Glossing Detangler, and divided [my waves] into four sections. Then I pressed the “on” button and ran the tool down smaller sections, about an inch and a half thick.
“After I finished styling my entire head — which took about 20 minutes — my hair was straight and extra-soft. Like, really soft. And my ends didn’t feel as thirsty as they do after styling with other wet-to-dry tools.
“I did, however, have flyaways, and my hair wasn’t as shiny as it would be if I hit it with a traditional flatiron — though it was a bit shinier than after an at-home round-brush blowout. For a more finished look, I smoothed those flyaways with a few sweeps of the R+Co Dart Pomade Stick and massaged a few drops of Gisou Honey Infused Hair Oil along the lengths of my hair for more shine. For maximum smoothness and minimal flyways, I found the trick is to move slowly. According to my stopwatch, it took 11 seconds to move the tool down my longest layer, which is about 17 inches.
“Overall, I prefer the experience of the new wet-to-dry GHD Duet Style that I’ve been using for the last few months. I can get shinier hair with less effort and time. The Airstrait is more comfortable in my hand, but I found the process of using it a little tedious. I have to move the tool slowly down my hair two or three times, which is frustrating when I’m in a rush — which is almost always!
“That said, the Airstrait felt gentler on my hair than the GHD Duet Style did, and is certainly less damaging than doubling up with a blow-dryer and flatiron. If I was heat-styling more than my usual two to four times a month, I’d be much more motivated to use it.”
Talia Gutierrez, associate manager of special projects
Hair Type: Coarse, wavy, very thick hair
“Getting my hair straight is a whole frickin' process. Before a flatiron lays its hot plates on a single strand, I've already endured close to 24 hours of air-drying time. If I don’t have a full day to wait and I use a blow-dryer, my hair turns into a gigantic puffball, requiring many passes to iron it out. The idea of cutting down drying and styling time with the Dyson Airstrait almost sounded too good to be true. I was definitely down to try.
“Straight out of the shower, after a rough towel dry, I turned the Airstrait to wet mode and put it on the highest heat setting (275°F) and airflow. With the same amount of hair as I would blow-dry with a round brush, I saw my hair dry within seconds of passing my strands through the clamps (with little to no visible steam). Like my fellow testers, I soon realized that the slower I went, the straighter, glossier results I got.
"I needed 10 slow passes on each section of hair to get it straight, which took a total of 45 minutes. At the end of the process, my hair was straight, but not the silky, pin-straight finish I like best. To achieve that look, I grabbed my flatiron to pass through each section again (though just once instead of the three or four passes I would do with a flatiron on air-dried hair). With the addition of that step, the styling time went up to 55 minutes, 10 more than it usually takes me when flat-ironing after a rough blow-dry.
"My biggest takeaways: I definitely felt like there was less heat on my hair and, after using a flatiron on top, I got a softer, shinier finish than I would after using a flatiron on my air-dried hair. As for day-three touch-ups, the Airstrait worked wonders on my front pieces and the hair along the nape of my neck, which is usually the first to curl.
"Ultimately, though, this tool is not worth it for me and my very thick, wavy hair. I prefer either a pin-straight finish or a bouncy blowout, and the Airstrait can’t give me either. Out of curiosity, I tried curling my hair with it, but the intense airflow blew my hair out of the clamps as I twisted the tool around.”
Price and value
The Airstrait is not cheap. At $499, you really have to love styling your hair straight to purchase it. Its closest competitors, the Revair and the GHD Duet Style, cost about $100 less, and some of our testers preferred their results. We found that unless you already have relatively straight hair, the Airstrait on its own is not going to give you a super shiny finish.
It’s a great option, though, for someone with wavy hair or looser curls who prefers a softer — not silky sleek — take on straight hair and is a frequent heat-styler. The Airstrait’s combination of hot air and tension instead of high-heat plates will definitely keep your hair healthier in the long run.