CNN Underscored March 7, 2023

CNN Underscored


The 31 best hair styling tools (under $200), according to pro hairstylists


There’s nothing we love more than high-quality products at a great price, and that doesn’t change when it comes to hair styling tools. We’re no strangers to the luxury all-in-one options available on the market, but sometimes you don’t need all the bells and whistles. You’re just looking for something that gets the job done, and does it well.

“There are lots of affordable options in hairstyling tools, so you really don’t need to sacrifice anything to be budget-friendly,” explains celebrity hairstylist Joseph Maine. Taylor Morozova, a professional hairstylist based in Palm Beach, agrees with Maine. “There are a lot of great budget options that just aren’t as flashy,” she explains. “I would focus on what the tool boasts, versus the brand name.”

So what should you be looking for in a high-quality hair tool? “Materials and customizable heat settings are most important to me,” Maine explains. “Ensuring that the heated plates or iron are constructed of a material that distributes heat evenly and as safely as possible like titanium or ceramic,” he shares. “Also, customizable heat settings are important as different hair textures and qualities require different thermal settings.”

With a little practice and the right equipment, achieving your dream blowout or the perfect beachy waves doesn’t have to be so complicated, or cost so much. Ahead, we’ve consulted professional hairstylists on the tools they use and trust — from curlers to straighteners, blow dryers, and more — all under $200.

Best Hair Dryer Under $200

Buttercup Blow-Dryer

“This ultra-powerful 1875-watt motor with ionic technology provides a shiny, frizz-free blowout in 20% less time than most professional dryers,” explains Toni Landsberg, Drybar stylist and the brand’s senior director of global education. “Plus, the negative ion generator blows billions of negative ions into the hair to seal the cuticle and help reduce frizz while drying.”

FHI HEAT Platform Nano Power Salon Pro 2000

“I have repurchased this hair dryer twice,” shares Raven Hurtado, a stylist at Maxine Salon in Chicago. “The air pressure is strong, it dries hair fast, and also smooths out thick or coarse hair,” she explains. “You get the option of adjusting the pressure speed to low, medium or high, and also a cool shot button to lock and hold the shape.”

InfinitiPRO by Conair AC Motor Hair Dryer

“I like this because it has an AC motor for fast drying and a long lifespan,” explains Michael Dueñas, a celebrity hairstylist and founder of Veluer Creative. “And, it includes several attachments for styling versatility.”

RUSK Engineering Speed Freak Professional 2000 Watt Dryer

“This is a powerful and affordable consumer dryer,” explains Maine. “It’s great for people with really dense hair that often struggle to blow dry their hair quickly.”

AireLuxe Professional Hair Dryer

This is what Morozova offers to her clients that opt out of the Dyson Supersonic. “It’s lightweight and dries the hair very fast,” she explains.

Best Straightener Under $200

T3 Lucea Professional Straightening & Styling Iron

When it comes to Olya Iudina’s favorite straightener, the stylist at IGK NYC opts for this styling iron from T3. “It has great quality ceramic plates that provide snag free glide through any type of hair,” she explains. “It’s wider, and the longer blades save a lot of time on styling.”

BaBylissPRO Nano Titanium Ultra-Thin Straightening Iron

“I like that this is slim so you can reach baby hairs, it also heats up quickly,” shares Hurtado, who calls this straightener her current fave. “It’s made of titanium, which is great for thick hair but generally works well for all types of hair.”

CHI Original Ceramic Hair Straightening Flat Iron

If you’re looking for a no-frills, sturdy straightener, Maine recommends this flat iron which he describes as “a classic go-to choice.”

Mane Squeeze™ 1" Titanium & Ceramic Flat Iron

“I love this straightener from Gussi, although I would call it a styler because you can do so much with it,” shares Morozova. “I love the beveled edges which make it easy to get close to the root but also makes curling with the iron easy as well,” she explains. “Plus, how cute is that design? I'm a sucker for colored tools.”

The Tress Press Straightening Iron

“This dual-purpose iron allows you to quickly style even the thickest hair into super-sleek straight looks or add a bit of wave or curl,” shares Landsberg. “Rounded edges allow you to wrap hair around the barrel for easy curls and waves,” she explains, making it perfect for those seeking a versatile straightener.

Trademark Beauty Sunny Styler Styling Iron

Maine’s favorite straightener, this two-in-one tool “has innovative air cooling vents along the side of the plates and outside of the iron that reduce the thermal temperature while styling,” he explains. “You can easily straighten and curl with the rounded shape of the iron, while the cooling feature also helps lock in the style and increase shine.”

Remington Pro 1" Pearl Ceramic Flat Iron

“I like this because it has ceramic plates infused with real crushed pearls to help reduce frizz and damage, and multiple heat settings for all hair types” explains Dueñas.

amika The Confidante Moisture Maintenance Styler

Dueñas raves that with one pass using this straightener, “your hair is perfect.” It’s also a great option if you’re hoping to retain moisture in the hair, he explains.

Best Curling Tools Under $200

Hot Tools Pro Artist 24K Gold Curling Iron

Incredibly affordable and super popular among the pros, both Hurtado and Dueñas recommend this Hot Tools option. “I like it because it has a fast heat-up time, a strong barrel that doesn't chip or crack, and a wide range of temperature settings for all hair types,” explains Dueñas. “The gold barrel heats evenly all around so you get an even curl,” adds Hurtado.

Drybar The Mixologist Interchangeable Styling Iron Kit

“This modular styling tool features three interchangeable attachments which snap easily into the handle to create a variety of styles,” explains Landsberg.

Rock N' Waver 1" Digital Tapered Curling Wand

“I love this curling wand, it has a digital temperature gauge, a nice taper, and even heat throughout,” shares Morozova. “It’s perfect to get beachy waves and is very beginner friendly.” If you’re looking for different barrel sizes, the brand carries a couple different options (including this 1-1/4"one) which Morozova also recommends.

Bio Ionic Long Barrel Styler Pro Curling Iron 1"

“If you have shoulder length or longer hair this curling iron is a must,” shares Morozova. “It has an extra-long barrel which allows you to curl more hair at once which is a huge time-saver, “ she explains. “The one-inch version is the most versatile in my opinion.”

Trademark Beauty Mood Interchangeable Iron Styling Kit

Maine’s favorite curling tool, this three-in-one kit includes a single handle with a ceramic curling iron, wand, and waver that all fit into a compact travel bag. “The irons are all ceramic and the premium handle has digital temperature control,” he shares, “it’s really everything you need in one.”

Best Combs and Brushes Under $200

D3 Original 7-Row Styling Brush

“You just can't go wrong with a classic Denman brush,” shares Morozova. “It’s great for every hair type and can be used to detangle hair, define curls, and achieve more volume at your roots,” she explains. “There are limitless possibilities and the knock-offs don’t cut it.”

Wet Brush Pro Flex Dry

“I like this because it has flexible bristles that glide through tangles with ease,” explains Dueñas, “and a non-slip grip for easy styling.”

Ceramic+Ion Speed XL Round Thermal Brush

A favorite of Hurtado’s, this brush features vents that “help air flow evenly through the hair when you’re using a hair dryer,” she explains. Since the bristles are soft yet strong enough to grip your hair, she describes, you won't experience any tugging on your hair. 

Raincry Smooth 2.0 Large Brush

“This brush will last you years,” shares Dueñas. “With the staggered bristle set up, you eliminate creases in your hair when you pull with extra tension.”

Super Lemon Drop Daily Detangler Brush

Landsberg calls this the “ultimate detangler for wet or dry hair.” It’s “great for all hair types including extensions,” she explains, and “works through tangles without tugging or pulling.” If you’re constantly on the go, the travel-sized option is easier to fit into smaller bags or purses.

Ion Ceramic Thermal Blowout Concave Brush

“This concave brush makes a great companion for creating bouncy blowouts,” shares Maine. “It glides through the hair and conducts heat well for curled looks.”

Yves Durif Vented Brush

This is Iudina’s favorite brush, and she swears that “there’s no better option for wet or dry hair.” No matter how tangled your hair might be, she raves, this can detangle it in a matter of seconds.

Trademark Beauty Tame Your Mane Smoothing Hair Brush

This brush “combines the best of both wet and dry brushes,” explains Maine. “It’s gentle on tangles but firm enough to create slick styles,” he shares.

Y.S. Park Basic Cutting Comb

“My favorite combs to use are Y.S. Park combs because they can withstand heat up to 430 degrees,” explains Hurtado, “and they’ll last you for quite a few years.”

More Popular Hair Tools Under $200

Kitsch Satin Heatless Curling Set for Hair

For those trying to avoid heat all together, this curling set is a great tool. “It's super effective for hair types that respond well to air drying,” explains Maine. Hurtado is also a fan of similar tools, explaining that they work particularly well for those who don’t have the time or energy to curl all their hair in the morning. “Sleep with it on or leave it on for 20 to 30 minutes, and you get glamorous curls,” she explains.

Caruso 30 Piece Molecular Steam Hairsetter/Hot Rollers

“These are my go-to,” shares Dueñas. “They keep hair very shiny, work on all textures, and give a longer and stronger hold than anything else on the market.”

SSEN Clips

“I absolutely love these clips,” shares Morozova, who uses these to section off hair for any type of styling. “They are super durable and hold the hair perfectly.”

The Double Shot Oval Blow-Dryer Brush

This tool is perfect for providing “volume, waves, or even defined curls in one, simple step,” explains Landsberg. Plus, it’s available in three different sizes from 1.5" to 2.4" barrels.