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Which Hair Styling Tool Material is Right for You?

BY: Jolene Gilbert | Feb 22, 2017

blonde woman heat straightening wavy hair with hair styling tool

In their quest to find the best hair styling tools, most people find themselves asking the same questions. Is ceramic, tourmaline, or titanium the best? What does ionic mean, and do I need it? We break down the confusing buzzwords to give you straightforward answers to these questions—and help you determine the best match for your hair type:

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What is it?

Ceramic is clay that is hardened by heat into a smooth, even surface. It can be used in the heating element or body of the hair styling tool, or as layers of coating.

How does it work?

When heated, ceramic emits far-infrared heat. This gentle, deeper penetrating type of heat gives off negative ions to counteract the positive ions in dry, damaged hair. This helps seal in moisture and can lead to silkier, smoother strands.

Why it matters

  • In a ceramic hair dryer: The far-infrared heat works from the inside of hair out, which is gentler and can speed up drying time.
  • In a ceramic hair straightener or curling iron: The super-smooth material takes a while to heat up, but once it does, ceramic maintains a constant, steady temperature that straightens hair evenly.

What to know

The highest-end ceramic tools are made of 100% ceramic. But that can get pricey, so lower- to mid-range tools have layers of ceramic coating over metal, usually aluminum or titanium. Ceramic is also relatively soft and can wear away over time or chip if dropped, meaning it is less durable. Plus, a chipped ceramic hair straightener can snag or pull on your strands.

Did You Know? Ceramic, tourmaline, and titanium tools are all considered ionic because they all produce negative ions


What is it?

Tourmaline is a crystalline mineral that is ground up and infused into a coating. The coating is then applied to metal or ceramic plates.

How does it work?

Tourmaline is very similar to ceramic in that it emits far-infrared heat and is ionic, although it can create up to 20 times more negative ions than other materials.

Why it matters

What to know

Tourmaline is probably the best all-around hair-styling-tool material for salon-quality results because it gives hair such a soft, smooth, and shiny finish. But it doesn’t work as well on thick or coarse hair types.

Did You Know? 1-inch plates are standard for straighteners, but the plates should be smaller if you have short hair and larger if you have long hair


What is it?

Titanium is a lightweight, yet super-strong metal. It heats up extremely quickly and gets hotter than the other materials.

How does it work?

Just like ceramic and tourmaline, titanium creates negative ions and far-infrared heat. But the heat transfer is much higher for titanium, which means it can be too hot for delicate hair.

Why it matters

  • In a titanium hair dryer: The material is ultralightweight, which makes titanium tools the easiest to handle while styling. Also, because the temperature is higher, hair dries quickly.
  • In a titanium hair straightener or curling iron: The high heat transfer means faster results, which reduces heat contact time and potential for damage.

What to know

Higher heat and faster styling time almost sounds too good to be true. And for some hair types, it is. If your hair is delicate or you leave the tool in one place for too long, the higher temperatures can fry your strands.

The Best Tool Material for Your Hair Type

Whichever hair-styling-tool material you pick, make sure you apply a hair oil or heat protectant before using a hair dryer or straightener.

Recommended Material Ceramic or tourmaline Tourmaline Titanium Any material
Recommended Heat Setting Lower than 360º Around 365º to produce shine without burning Between 380º and 410º; do not go above 420º Lowest possible setting that still produces desired results

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