Beauty Battle: Flat Irons

Welcome to the second installment of Beauty Battle, where Bostonista pits two beauty products — one high-end, one drugstore — against each other. This week I’m comparing the new John Frieda by Conair one-inch straightening iron against my veteran T3 version.

T3 one-inch flat iron, t3micro.com
Price: $160*
*I actually bought this flat iron a few years ago, and while it’s still available on Amazon.com, it appears that the company is no longer manufacturing them. To ensure accuracy, the price above is for a comparable model on the T3 website.
The hype: The plates are made of ceramic, which supposedly causes less damage to hair than metal plates. These also “harness the power of the tourmaline gemstone, known to impart ionic, infrared heat,” which eliminates frizz and seals the cuticle, according to the website. It carries a two-year warranty.
Performance: A twist dial allows the temperature to be adjusted between 140 and 450 degrees, which means it can be used on a variety of hair textures, and the iron reaches full temperature in just a few seconds. A blinking red light alerts you that it’s on, and once it reaches the set temperature, the light stops blinking. It works great for straightening, but I love using it to create sleek yet bouncy curls and waves. The biggest downside besides the hefty price tag is that there’s no automatic shutoff — which I learned the hard way, after I accidentally left it running after leaving the house one morning and had to deal with baked-on hairspray residue in the evening.

John Frieda Sleek Finish one-inch flat iron, available at some CVS and Best Buy stores and through ulta.com
Price: $49.99
The hype: This iron boasts “advanced ionic power” to leave hair smooth and shiny (and supposedly reduce static), a 15-second heat time, extra-long plates coated with ceramic titanium, and 11 heat settings. It carries a limited five-year manufacturer’s warranty.
Performance: The temperature is controlled by buttons on the handle marked with plus and minus signs, which can be adjusted between 275 and 455 degrees, but the set increments mean slightly less user control. Rather than a light-up indicator, a small digital readout displays the temperature, blinking until the indicated setting is reached. It’s harder to tell from a distance whether it’s on, but it has an automatic shutoff, which is kicks in after 60 minutes. The performance is nearly identical to the T3 for curling, but straightening left me with a slightly less glossy finish. The biggest problem I found was with the positioning of the on/off button and the temperature controls. Since they’re on the handle, exactly where I hold the thing while using it, I accidentally kept changing the temperature setting. Grabbing the handle higher up puts your hand in contact with heat, which is not the most comfortable situation.

The verdict: It’s a tie. The T3 gives greater control over temperature and the iron itself, while the John Frieda version benefits from an automatic shutoff and a more reasonable price point — but both will give you shiny, frizz-free hair. Which, let’s be honest, is all that really matters.

  • Jenna

    I agree that the price point is a huge difference but I think you’re missing one important factor: the damage factor! As a hairstylist i see first hand the difference between my clients who use professional products and drug store products. The results and ease of use are usually similar, but a professional flat iron or hair dryer will keep your hair safe. I use hana products myself and I have been for years, but some of my clients also use t3 and fhi brands. Hope this helps!

    • Tanya Pai

      Jenna, that’s an interesting point. I’ve used my T3 for a few years, and it’s definitely given me my fair share of split ends. I can’t yet say whether the John Frieda iron does the same thing, but presumably both would benefit from being used with a good-quality heat-protecting spray.