For the past decade ghds have been the gold standard of straightening, the default term for heat stylers and beloved of salons and shoppers. So when the British company behind this phenomenon promises to deliver a new generation tool, the ghd eclipse, interest in the hair industry is understandably high.
The launch, with much fanfare in Sydney last month, comes amid perceptions that ghd may have been resting on its laurels, relying on clever marketing as much as innovation to maintain its pre-eminent position while other tools have been quietly making inroads on its reputation, if not significantly on its sales. (Cloud 9s, launched several years ago, feature advanced temperature control and come from a credible crew involved with ghd originally. A newer Australian competitor, the H2D, is due to arrive in New Zealand along with ghd's eclipse next month and this lower-priced tool has met with good word-of-mouth after advance testing by leading hairstylists.
Within the mass market sector, the quality of devices has also improved.
A bit like a heavily hyped communications industry tech launch, the ghd eclipse when it is finally revealed, proves to be an upgrade rather than an entirely new device. It does feature interesting new technology, however, allowing it to style more quickly at a lower temperature which has to be good for hair health. Extra sensors in the plate allow a constant temperature to be maintained. The eclipse will suit some users especially well, notably those with coarse or wiry hair that has previously been difficult to straighten safely because it requires extended heat exposure to achieve the effect.
I'm left wondering why, if the new styler is better for hair, it doesn't become the company's default setting, replacing the classic V which superceded the IV model.
But as with the iPhone, there's varying priced versions to choose from and alternatives to consider, so it pays to check out both the aesthetics and performance as we do today.
Two of Auckland's leading hairstylists explain what to look for in a styler, with both advising that the bargain buy may not prove as sound a long-term investment as one that costs three times the price. Viva concurs. A reputable lower-priced brand can do a good job, but if you are looking for a salon-style finish, then consider a professional standard product.
Is it worth paying top dollar for a straightener?
Mana Dave: I definitely feel it's a case of you get what you pay for. The cheaper brands don't have the same quality of technology that the more expensive brands do.
Lucy Vincent Marr: The key reason is quality technology, good materials, consistent heat and temperature settings combined with the right ceramic materials.
What's the appeal of the premium products?
Vincent Marr: I think the thing they [ghds and Cloud 9s] have covered most is the ergonomics and slim-line feel. The design is more refined so doesn't pull at the hair like the cheaper mass brand ones can do. So they end up feeling nicer/easier to use, don't catch the hair and provide the best heat.
What should you look for when choosing what styler would best suit your needs?
Dave: Shop around. It's important that you think about how often
you will use your irons and also what looks you want to achieve with.
What's the most important think people who straighten their hair should know?
Vincent Marr: Use thermal protection tools. I have done a lot of research into ingredients lately and there are some really amazing ingredients that provide outstanding antioxidant protection and will help maintain the integrity of the hair.
Do you need a different approach with different hair types?
Vincent Marr: Yes. Hair that is more robust (thicker) and in healthier
condition can handle higher temperatures while more porous, chemically damaged hair
that is finer in texture needs a gentler approach.
Dave: Most of my clients who are having concerns with the condition of their hair, I always recommend that they reduce the amount of times that they use their irons, and when they do, that they are only doing it with a heat protectant.
Hot Tip: A lot of clients when they use their irons sweep over a certain section about four or five times quite rapidly. This is ineffective and inefficient. You're much better off to give each section one good sweep.
1. ghd classic IV candy collection styler - $289 (classic IV $279, gold V classic $319)
My first ghds changed my life - I could at last style and control my hair without spending 30 minutes in front of the mirror. Revisiting the ghd IV was a little disappointing. The plates were very slippery, which is great for not overheating your hair, but I found it difficult to control the straighteners and get my usual style - not poker straight, but with a natural curve. Equally, it was difficult to straighten my fringe. The outside of the straighteners seemed very hot, and although the non-adjustable temperature was okay for my medium to thick hair, I wonder how fine hair would hold up. Not a great result for these old favourites. - Beth Walsh
2. L'Oreal Steampod - $339.
The Steampod straightener left my hair feeling smooth and soft, without the usual flyways to which my hair is prone, with no need to use my usual finishing product. It's bulkier than most straighteners currently on the market, which makes it a tool for longer hair. It's easy and convenient enough for everyday use, with temperature control for different thickness hair. Having to keep the wand the right way up is a little restrictive, so not a tool for a range of looks, but if you favour a classic, sleek look this will get you there without the usual pitfalls of heat-styling tools. There's a lot of hair out there which would benefit from a little moisture infusing steam which comes from a refillable clip-on water container attached to the unit. - BW
3. ghd eclipse - $350
The new ghd straighteners have a chrome trim which I found made them less comfortable to hold than earlier straighteners. However, they performed much better than the ghd IVs, giving a great finish, my fringe was easy to straighten, and the outside of the straighteners were cool enough to hold allowing greater control. Again, the fixed temperature was okay for my hair, but surely being able to adjust the temperature to suit your hair condition and thickness would be an advantage. ghd know how to package their product - these come with a great heat protective mat and soft heat proof guard for the plates. - BW
4. Cloud 9 - $350
A slender straightener with adjustable temperature control, which allows the temperature to be lowered for finer hair around the face. The body of the straightener stays cool enough to hold the outside of the plate end, allowing the straightener to be taken close to the scalp and the ability to create a range of styles. Gives a nice, smooth finish. Also comes with a heat guard. - BW
5. Remington Salon Pro Frizz Therapy with Smart Sensor and Colour Protect Straighteners - $189.99 each
The only difference between these two hair straighteners are their respective "anti-frizz" and "colour protect" conditioners infused into the ceramic plates. Remington says the conditioners work in the Pro Frizz tool to protect hair from the effects of humidity, and in the Colour Protect to seal colour into the cuticle, but as to their effects I couldn't tell much of a difference with short-term use. Each comes with a handy bag, a long swivel cord, temperature lock, auto-off feature, and one side serves as a counter rest - though the body doesn't seem to get too hot. The temperature range is 160C-230C, which is a little on the high side, according to my hairdresser. Still, each straightener has a heat sensor option to monitor the level of moisture in the hair and adjust accordingly. They feel comfortable in the hand, the screen display is clear and useful, and each produces a satisfactory, sleek result. - Shandelle Battersby
6. Remington Salon Pro Styles Unlimited - $129.99
This styling tool has two different functions: it can either straighten or curl the hair. But the tool is very narrow at its tip meaning you have less area available to grab the hair for straightening, so it's really only good for curling when the plates are locked together in conical wand mode. My major concern with this tool is the barrel itself - it has no protective barrier. With its temperature reaching 235C, this could cause serious problems if it touches your skin. The curling works well, so if you're careful these will do the job. A picture guide on the product's box explains four different types of curls, so you've got plenty of options to try. - SB
7. QVS Sectioning Clips (set of two) - $5.99
These clips are what you need to get hair out of the way as you work around your head styling in sections. Light but with a rubberised finish for extra grip.
From selected salons (for locations of ghd ph 0800 880209, Cloud 9 ph 0800 252 530, H2D (07) 8478350, L'Oreal ph 0800 657 666), or for Remington from leading electrical suppliers and department stores. QVS from pharmacies and department stores.