Creepshow's Hairstylist Dishes on Season 2's Best Styles and All the Wigs Used to Create Them
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Working on the hair and makeup team for a production like AMC's Creepshow isn't for the faint of heart — and that's not just because of all the spooky beauty looks that are created in the process. The horror anthology show's lead hairstylist, Katie Ballard, recently spoke to us about what it was like to work behind the scenes on the show, creating a handful of looks for each character that require everyone on set to "bring their A-game" every single day of filming.
"I've never seen a crew bring more passion and drive to the table than I have on Creepshow," Ballard told POPSUGAR. "The thing that I think sets [this team] apart is the amount that we accomplish in such a short amount of time. It's not only an anthology series, but we have two stories per episode. This means that we're establishing a new cast for each story, often with only a couple of days notice as to who our cast is, and we're prepping for each episode while also filming one or two other stories simultaneously. If that's hard to wrap your mind around, imagine how we feel."
That hard work showed in the series' second season, which is currently airing on AMC. For more behind-the-scenes beauty secrets — and a look at how the team's passion and hairstyling know-how applied to the hair looks from this season — keep reading.
White TV news anchors suspended for wearing Afro wigs on-air
To celebrate temperatures dipping into the 70s after a sweltering weekslong heatwave, Arkansas’ KATV anchor Chris May and meteorologist Barry Brandt wore Afro wigs — and viewer reception was chilly.
The Little Rock-based station quickly suspended the two white news anchors, and canned their boss, after the broadcasters wore the African American-style hairpieces during an evening weather report, which aired at 10 pm on September 16.
“Swift action was important to hold the responsible parties accountable,” a spokesperson told AdWeek of the newscast.
During the inflammatory segment, dubbed “return to the 70s,” May and Brandt sported wigs modeled after Afros, a hairstyle popular nearly five decades ago, the Arkansas Times reported. May later shared a Twitter photo of their controversial cosplay, which has since been deleted.
The fraught forecast caught the attention of African American activist Dr. Anika Whitfield, who issued a complaint to WATV, in which she wrote that the stunt was a perpetuation of “systemic racism” to have a “European American man” wear an Afro wig.
After receiving no response, Whitfield reached out to John Seabers, a Sinclair Broadcast Group vice president and group manager in charge of local stations in Arkansas, Texas and Oklahoma.
He issued the following apology: “We apologize to all viewers who were rightfully offended by the segment, and we promise to enact and enforce new measures to prevent future incidents from occurring.”
Sinclair has since indefinitely suspended both May and Brandt, who have worked at the station for more than 20 years, the Daily Mail reported. Sinclair Broadcast Group also fired their boss, longtime news director Nick Genty.
Seabers later appeared on a Zoom call with Whitfield, as well as members of the Central Arkansas Association of Black Journalists, to apologize for the incident, according to the Arkansas Times. He was joined by regional news director Blaise Labbe, an African American man who is temporarily filling Genty’s position at KATV while the news purveyor searches for a replacement.
Seabers called the cultural Afro-priation “abhorrent” and “juvenile,” adding that he was especially disappointed as the staff had undergone six weeks of racial sensitivity training prior to the segment. Meanwhile, Dorothy Tucker, president of the National Association of Black Journalists, said that the episode followed another ugly incident, in which a “Mammy doll” was left in the KATV newsroom to greet a new black anchor, Arkansas Business reported. She tweeted a photo of the figurine, which sported a stereotypical handkerchief’d head.
KATV has since pledged to implement “further training for sensitivity and workplace conduct, in line with our commitment to ensuring events like this don’t happen again,” the spokesperson said.
Labbe said that KATV was striving to add more African Americans to the station’s news roster.
However, not everyone thought the segment was so insensitive. One commenter on the Arkansas Times site wrote, “Good grief. As evidenced by all the comments here there were tens of thousands of white guys with ugly Afros in the 70s and 80s. She had to lean way over to get hit by the pitch. I can’t believe they apologized.”
“I’m African American and I saw the weather report with the wigs,” added another gawker on Arkansas Business. “I really didn’t think too much about it. Everything is not racism. There were white men in the 70’s who wore Afros just like blacks. I think sometimes we go overboard. Its a shame someone had to lose their job over this.”
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How we picked
Why you should trust us
We interviewed two dermatologists to learn how heat styling affects hair: Melissa Piliang, who specializes in hair disorders at the Cleveland Clinic, and Rebecca Kazin, an assistant professor of dermatology at Johns Hopkins. We also spoke to Allen Ruiz, Aveda’s global director of hair styling; Perry Romanowski, a cosmetic chemist; and Jim Shapiro, an electrical engineer. We spoke to a second engineer at a large research university just long enough to get his informed opinion that there’s no obvious mechanism for a lot of the claims that hair dryer manufacturers make. In addition, we consulted hair-dryer-related patents.
Who this is for
If you can’t leave the house with wet hair for aesthetic reasons or because it’s below freezing outside and you don’t want your head to be covered in icicles, you need a hair dryer. You also need one if you plan on using other hot tools on your hair: Make sure you’re really getting your hair dry if you’re going to take a flat iron to it (smushing hair between two hot pieces of metal is really bad for it if it’s still wet, according to our dermatologist sources). But even if you normally let your hair air-dry, blow-drying it could help protect it from breakage.
Despite what magazine lists and advertisements would have you believe (hair dryers for coarse hair! hair dryers for thin hair! hair dryers for dry hair!), hair dryers are one-size-fits-all. No dryer will make your hair more marvelously voluminous and glossy than another. What your hair looks like comes down to technique, products, and, in large part, its natural characteristics.
How we picked
The packaging for hair dryers is adorned with a ton of buzzwords and specs. Most of these “features” are useless at best and pseudoscience at worst. There are no clinical studies examining whether one type of hair dryer is better for your hair than another—at least, none that we, nor the dermatologists we interviewed, could find.
For all the words and phrases associated with hair dryers—“tourmaline,” “ionic,” “ceramic,” “conditioning nano beads”—hairstylist Allen Ruiz told us he looks for two qualities in the appliance: “hot and fast.” (And that said, in our testing, differences in heat and speed from dryer to dryer often failed to noticeably affect the dry time.)
The hotness and fastness of a hair dryer are connected to the wattage, but they’re not perfectly correlated: A very high-wattage dryer can produce more heat than a lower-wattage one, but that doesn’t mean it will. Most hair dryers (including most of our picks) are about 1,875 watts anyway. And according to engineer Jim Shapiro, “Essentially all of the energy used by each dryer will be converted into heat, so don’t expect or look for much difference among the dryers here.” For all the buzzwords and superlatives you can find on the side of hair dryer boxes, the key specs don’t vary much from model to model.
Beyond heat and speed, we considered the following features:
- Heat settings: Multiple settings are a must-have. They mean you don’t have to keep blasting your hair on high—and incurring more damage—once it’s mostly dry. And once your hair is totally dry, hitting the cool-shot button, according to many stylist opinions we read, helps seal your hair cuticle, keeping your hair feeling smoother. (Even if you don’t personally notice a difference, the cool air also feels nice when your head is hot.)
- Cord length: An often-overlooked but important feature is a cord that reaches from the outlet you want to plug your dryer into all the way to the spot where you want to stand to dry your hair. Many bathrooms have an outlet near enough to the mirror that a short cord doesn’t matter. But if your mirror is more than three steps from an outlet, there’s no way around choosing a dryer with a longer cord; it’s unsafe to add an extension cord to a device that draws as large a wattage as a hair dryer. Avoid the problem by going with a longer cord in the first place. How long depends on your outlet situation, but in our testing a minimum of 6 feet was most comfortable.
- Weight: The lighter the dryer, the easier it is to hold for a longer period of time. In our testing, a weight difference as small as two-tenths of a pound made a big difference in how a dryer felt overhead.
Weighing the dryers on a postage scale. Photo: Michael Hession
Cord length measurement. Photo: Michael Hession
- Attachments: The best dryers are compatible with diffusers and concentrators and preferably come with them. A diffuser is an attachment that helps dry curly, wavy, or textured hair gently so it maintains its natural shape. If you have straight hair or are trying to straighten your hair with a dryer, you don’t need a diffuser, though a concentrator attachment can help. See the How to dry your hair section for more info on how a diffuser can help minimize damage to your hair.
- Removable filter: A hair dryer with a filter you can easily pop off the back is much easier to clean. Without a removable filter, cleaning is kind of a pain because you have to take the hair dryer apart (video).
Hairstylist Allen Ruiz told us he looks for two qualities in the appliance: “hot and fast.”
Objective features aside, the main thing that separated the dryers we loved from those we didn’t was a bit harder to quantify: how they felt in our hands. In addition to weight, that overall feel depends on the following factors:
- Button placement: Buttons that are placed either entirely on the front of the dryer or entirely on the back so they don’t poke your hand and are hard to hit accidentally make the experience of using a dryer nicer.
- Handle shape: The wider and straighter the handle, the harder it is to grip, typically.
- Sound: A dryer’s sound shouldn’t be annoying; most dryers operate at the same decibel level (59 to 90), but some dryers can make whinier noises than others.
- Vibration: Dryers that don’t rattle and vibrate much have a more pleasant feel.
We did not consider folding or other “travel” hair dryers. Instead, we prioritized certain features, including nozzle length and body weight. Travel dryers sacrifice comfort (their handles are typically clunky) and have additional components that can break. Some of the truly compact ones offer a smaller design at the expense of solid wattage, the ability to attach a diffuser, and the inclusion of a cool-shot button. Judging from how budget dryers performed in our tests, we can say that any hotel hair dryer offering over 1,800 watts should give you the same results as a spendier one that you bring from home.
Ultimately, because we found so many dryers that fit our criteria during our first round of research, we chose to test an initial group of 15 models that had great reviews from other sources, such as Good Housekeeping (which, unlike most mainstream magazines, has a testing strategy for its recommended dryers), as well as Amazon, Sephora, and drugstore websites. In 2020 and 2021, we added to that original testing pool another 24 highly rated hair dryers.
How we tested
We took basic stats on our dryers, using a weather meter to test the speed and heat and a postage scale to weigh them. We also measured the cord lengths. Often our own readings disagreed with the manufacturer-stated specs. We found that on the top setting, most dryers blew air at about 40 mph as measured a couple of inches away from the nozzle. That blowing air was around 200 °F (more if we held the dryer in place for a few moments). Although some dryers achieved faster wind speeds than others, interestingly that didn’t end up translating to notably or consistently faster dry times once we used them on our hair.
All of the dryers took more or less the same amount of time to dry hair.
For the initial iteration of this guide, we timed the models drying a swatch of hair from a wig wetted with 5 grams of water, with the dryers on their highest setting. We tested the dryer that had an on/off switch for ions, the Harry Josh model, in both positions. If there were big differences in the quality of the air a dryer gave off, they would show in these tests.
Two things became clear after our first round of swatch time tests: First, all of the dryers took more or less the same amount of time to dry hair. Little things, such as how close we held the dryer or how the hair moved around, were what really made the hair dry faster or slower. Second, in this round we also found that many of the dryers had designs that made them annoying to use. (See the Competition section for more details.)
With a few dryers eliminated, we put our favorites through some more time tests with the hair swatch and then brought them home for a couple of weeks and used them in our daily routines, timing how long they took to dry hair and feeling for any general differences in the quality of the resulting blowout. We found basically none. Many of the dryers we looked at had marketing copy claiming that they were some percentage faster than the competition and that they would leave hair looking better than the competition—promises often corroborated by Amazon reviews. There could well be a collection of slow dryers out there that make your hair look like crap and that everyone else is comparing these models with, but we didn’t seek them out.
Since originally publishing this review, we’ve continued to test our picks over the course of months and years for durability, paying mind to the subtle aspects of user experience that become apparent over long-term use.
Our pick: Rusk W8less Professional 2000 Watt Dryer
The Rusk W8less Professional 2000 Watt Dryer offers all the features you need in a hair dryer while costing a fraction of the price of a luxury model. The W8less is one of the lightest, fastest, and hottest dryers we’ve tried (1 pound, 55 mph, and over 245 °F, respectively). Those are the only features that matter for drying your hair efficiently.
The Rusk W8less offers two speeds and three temperatures, plus a cool shot. Photo: Rozette Rago
The Rusk W8less comes with a concentrator nozzle but no diffuser. Photo: Rozette Rago
The buttons are all nicely placed—easy to push but hard to press accidentally—and the cord is long enough (8 feet) to reach distant outlets. Unlike on other dryers, the cool-shot button is wide, so holding it down for several seconds isn’t uncomfortable.
The housing is nice: It’s glossy white, and the logo is understated. The handle is slightly curved, with a notch at the top. The sound of the air is smooth. The dryer comes with a concentrator, too.
Most important, the Rusk W8less takes about the same amount of time to blow-dry hair as dryers that cost hundreds of dollars. It’s capable of making your hair look just as nice as any other dryer.
The Rusk W8less comes with a two-year warranty.
Flaws but not dealbreakers
The Rusk W8less doesn’t come with a diffuser. If you have curly hair and prefer using a diffuser to dry it, you have to buy one separately (though it’s best to buy a hair dryer that comes with one, like our budget pick). We’ve seen the price of this dryer fluctuate a lot on Amazon, which can be frustrating if you’re taking your time to consider a purchase; on the other hand, you could score a surprise deal.
Budget pick: InfinitiPro by Conair 1875-Watt Salon Performance AC Motor Styling Tool
Upgrade pick: Dyson Supersonic Hair Dryer
It’s no more effective than our other picks, but if you want the most pleasant hair-drying experience possible, the Dyson Supersonic Hair Dryer provides that. This dryer has an unusual design that makes it extraordinarily nice to use. It doesn’t vibrate whatsoever (all other dryers vibrate just a little, and the effect is not especially noticeable until you hold one that doesn’t), and its simple-to-switch magnetic attachments make styling with a diffuser or a concentrator easier. The dryer has a 9-foot cord.
The Dyson offers the fastest wind speed of all the dryers we’ve tested (88 mph measured at a distance of 2 inches) and ties our top pick for the hottest air at over 245 °F, the highest temperature our weather meter could measure. However, in our tests the air speed tangled our hair more, and Good Housekeeping found even the lower speed settings to be too strong. (For an additional $40, you can buy Dyson’s Gentle diffuser.) Although other reviewers (video) have found that the Dyson can sometimes dry hair a tad faster than the competition, after we put in a week of careful timed testing on our own hair, we found that this wasn’t consistently true: Drying hair with the Dyson sometimes took a bit longer than with our top pick.
The concentrator and diffuser attachments connect to the nozzle magnetically, a nifty feature we haven’t seen on any other dryer. They don’t get burning hot, as they’re made of two layers of plastic with a gap of air between them, so you can rotate or remove them mid-session, unlike on other dryers, where you must handle attachments carefully or angle the dryer awkwardly to switch them.
The attachments for the Dyson connect magnetically. Video: Sarah Kobos
The attachments are easy to adjust. Video: Sarah Kobos
Although the Dyson dryer’s feel and attachments are improvements over those of our other picks, we also found features we didn’t like and a few that we were neutral on.
The position of the speed and heat buttons on the back of the dryer’s head makes them hard to reach, and the cool-shot button is in an awkward spot at the very top of the handle. If you don’t change speeds and temperature a lot, though, the button locations might be a bonus, as they are hard to hit accidentally. Meanwhile, the cord has a small power bar near the plug, which itself is bulky.
The motor sits in the handle of the dryer, rather than in the head, and the handle is straight and a tad thicker than that of the Rusk. Dyson says the motor placement makes the weight of the dryer more balanced, since it’s not top-heavy. The difference isn’t huge, but over weeks of using the Dyson dryer, we found ourselves appreciating the configuration. If you have trouble gripping a typical dryer, the weight distribution of this one might make gripping easier, a reader told us.
The motor sucks air through a fine mesh from the bottom of the handle rather than through a grill at the back of the dryer, and the company claims it’s difficult for long hair to get stuck in the filter as a result. (Much of Dyson’s $71 million research and design tab for the dryer went into the motor, which is a smaller version of the motor found in Dyson’s handheld vacuum cleaners.)
At 1 pound, the Dyson Supersonic is the same weight as our top pick, the Rusk W8less. One tester found that the heavier cord tired out her arms when she was drying the top of her head, though resting the power bar (which most dryers do not have) on the counter helped. The sound the Dyson emits is a high-pitched whine with none of the low rattle that other dryers put out. Whether this sound is more pleasant, as the company claims, is a matter of personal opinion, though. As with any dryer, the sound of whooshing air is physically impossible to eliminate.
Despite the Dyson’s flaws, one tester found herself reaching for it consistently over our other picks in 2016, when she initially tested it, and again in 2018, when she did a second round of testing. Overall, compared with other dryers we’ve tested, this one truly feels like a luxury to use every day. If you decide that the Dyson dryer might be worth $400 to you, we recommend purchasing it from Sephora, which has a generous return policy. Dyson also sells refurbished versions of this hair dryer at reduced prices on eBay. These units carry a one-year warranty but are non-returnable.
Upgrade pick: RevAir
If you have hair that is damage-prone or very curly, or if it takes forever to blow-dry, the benefits of the RevAir might be worth its extra expense (for additional details, read our full RevAir review). This unconventional hair-drying vacuum is expensive, bulky, and loud, but it’s extremely effective, providing a particularly gentle, expedient way to dry your hair. It relies on “reverse air” suction to simultaneously dry, stretch, straighten, and smooth hair.
The RevAir is a different animal from the other, more conventional hair dryers we recommend, so comparing specs such as wind speed doesn’t make sense. But anecdotally, we found that this unique appliance consistently dried and straightened our tester’s curly hair much faster than any traditional dryer, with minimal tangling and hair shedding. Other reviewers’ reactions to the RevAir vary by hair type: For those with finer, less curly hair, it tends to be an appealing novelty (video) not necessarily worth shelling out for, while those with Type 3 or 4 curl patterns tend to find it revolutionary and worth the splurge (video).
It has a 7-foot hose that attaches to a 9-inch heat-producing wand. At 2 pounds, the wand alone is heavier than any of our dryer picks. Rather than raising the dryer to your hair, however, you insert sections of your hair into the wand; the device then quickly and gently sucks the damp hair dry. It offers seven suction power levels and three heat settings (high, low, or the no-heat cool shot).
The RevAir has no purpose other than hair drying and straightening; it doesn’t accommodate (or need) attachments such as a diffuser or concentrator. It’s also huge. Unlike our other picks, it doesn’t easily fit in bathroom cabinets or on a countertop: Altogether it weighs 10 pounds and is the size of a small microwave.
The RevAir comes with a one-year warranty, half the coverage period of the Rusk W8less and the Dyson Supersonic.
Do ionic hair dryers work?
A common feature that hair dryer makers tout is the ability to make hair shinier. When we asked hairstylist Allen Ruiz about the best way to get shiny hair, he said: “Use a product that leaves the hair shiny and smooth.” Which is to say, shiny hair doesn’t really have anything to do with the dryer. Cosmetic chemist Perry Romanowski told us that the only things a blow dryer could do that styling products couldn’t were to “dry the hair more uniformly and keep hair straight.” Straight hair can be shinier hair: On straight hair, the cuticle—the outer, scaly layer of a strand of hair—lies flatter, reflecting light. But even if your goal is to have shiny, straight hair, the only dryer qualities that can help you achieve that more effectively are good old “hot and fast.”
You’ll see plenty of features—ceramic coils, an ion generator, tourmaline—noted in marketing materials and pretty much every other dryer buying guide. But those are features of nearly all dryers. We visited the hair dryer section of Sephora twice while writing this guide and failed to extract any logical reason from the salespeople as to why their curated selection of designer dryers were better than other options.
Ions are technically able to reduce frizz—but only frizz from static. Wet hair cannot hold a charge.
One thing that you should definitely avoid are retail employees who tell you that a $200 dryer is special “because it has ions.” Mainstream magazines and hair dryer packaging commonly promote ions as a feature that makes hair less frizzy and more shiny. Hair dryers do produce ions, which are just particles (of air, in this case) that are charged (negatively, in this case). We found a report in which a high school physics teacher put an ionic dryer in front of a device that measures ions, and lo, it found something to measure.
But because almost all hair dryers are “ionic,” it’s hardly a thing worth debating, except for academic clarity. Our tests (below) didn’t show any meaningful difference with ionic settings on or off.
Engineer Jim Shapiro’s opinion: “Ions? Please.”
Ions are technically able to reduce frizz—but only frizz from static. If you brush your hair while blow-drying it—or you just exist, in the winter months, depending on your hair—positive charge can build up, causing strands to repel away from your head and stick out. But wet hair cannot hold a charge. A blast of negative ions from a hair dryer on dry hair would bring it back to a neutral charge, but if you have a huge static issue, you can also just use a smoothing cream (which is easier to fit in a bag anyway) or a tiny bit of water.
Another claim regarding ions is that they can break up water molecules and speed up drying time. We couldn’t find any reason this would be the case, and neither could the engineers we spoke to. Doctor and prominent skeptic Ben Goldacre has questioned the ions-make-water-droplets-smaller phenomenon, too, on his blog Bad Science. Still, for good measure, we planned to test an ion-button-equipped dryer with and without ions in effect, just to see for ourselves if we were missing something.
Finally, sometimes makers of hair dryers with an on/off ion button claim that the feature is there so that you can use the dryer with the ion button set to “off” for fine hair to make it more voluminous. This could possibly work only if you were going for the kind of volume produced by static electricity.
As for other features, the dermatologists we interviewed recommended ceramic-coated coils. They provide “a more even heat” than other materials, according to Melissa Piliang. All hair dryers work by heating up an element, such as a metal coil, and then blowing air over it, carrying the heat to your head. Ceramic material does heat up faster and radiate heat more evenly than iron or nickel. (Many space heaters also employ ceramic elements.) But the engineers we spoke to were skeptical that this component makes much of a difference in drying hair: Radiant heat isn’t really helpful “unless you expect to direct the heat far from the dryer,” said Shapiro, such as if you were trying to use a dryer to heat a room for some reason. Any heating element in a dryer gets the heat to your head via the blowing air. And though ceramic material does heat evenly, we couldn’t feel a difference in the heat coming from the dryers we tested with ceramic coils versus those made with other materials. Regardless, you should move your dryer around as you do your hair, so the exact evenness of the heat coming from the dryer doesn’t matter too much. The bottom line is that most hair dryers have ceramic-coated elements anyway; don’t let a box’s claims fool you into thinking you’re getting something special.
Another material commonly found inside hair dryers is the mineral tourmaline, which is supposed to help reduce frizz. Even a piddly little wall-mounted hair dryer in a hotel one tester stayed at while writing this guide claimed to have it. The mineral is very pretty, but as Shapiro said: “Tourmaline? Please, squared.” It’s impossible to see the tourmaline because it’s ground up and in the barrel of the dryer, and it doesn’t have to be present in large amounts to be advertised on the box: Patents for gemstone dryers that we read involve a slew of minerals that manufacturers use to coat the inside of the dryer. Rebecca Kazin told us that she looked for tourmaline in a hair dryer but that there were no clinical studies on its being better for hair. Her exact words were: “I believe in tourmaline.” We read—in a patent—that heated tourmaline can emit electromagnetic radiation that can alter the structure of your hair. The person who holds that patent also has one for a device that diagnoses “body deficiencies” (the patent is not specific, but it does say you treat them with drugs) by measuring a person’s electromagnetic field. (Patents can give you a great idea of how something is supposed to work but are not necessarily fact-checked for scientific accuracy.)
You can ignore claims about “conditioning nano beads” or “silk proteins” that are, supposedly, infused in the heating elements and barrels of some dryers. “That is just marketing hype,” Romanowski said.
How to dry your hair
To our surprise, we found that blow-drying might be better for hair than air-drying, for a couple of reasons. Extended contact with water causes the stuff in between a hair’s cuticles, called the cell membrane complex, to swell and bulge, weakening the hair slightly. As a result, putting your hair up in a ponytail when it’s wet can cause breakage, as dermatologist Rebecca Kazin pointed out, because the strands are weighed down with water. One small study found that blow-drying while holding the dryer 6 inches away from your head actually causes less overall damage than air-drying. Using a hair dryer still causes more damage to the outer layer of hair, but if breakage is a problem for you, blow-drying your hair on a low setting could be helpful.
Dermatologist Melissa Piliang advised that “it’s best to embrace your natural texture” and not fight it when you are choosing how to dry your hair, because doing so can make it frizzier over the long run. Ads for hair products and articles in mainstream magazines like to equate healthy hair with smooth and shiny hair. But shininess isn’t the same as health—we checked with dermatologists.
One small study found that blow-drying while holding the dryer 6 inches away from your head actually causes less overall damage than air-drying.
All hair dryers cause some damage. Hair cuticles are “kind of like shingles on a roof,” Piliang explained. Heat causes them to dry out and peel up, which can let in moisture and increase frizz. Some hair is just naturally more dry to begin with, which means it starts out more prone to frizz.
Clipping up hair and blow-drying in sections can help hair dry faster and minimize damage. Photos: Michael Hession
Clipping up hair and blow-drying in sections can help hair dry faster and minimize damage. Photos: Michael Hession
To minimize damage, Piliang advises decreasing the overall time you have to spend pointing hot air at your hair by towel-drying it first. Then, blow-dry it in sections. Clip some of your hair up in a half ponytail, dry what’s underneath, and then undo the ponytail so you’re not just subjecting the same dry strands to direct heat. While you’re drying, hold the blow dryer so that it shoots air downward, with the grain of the hair cuticle, rather than against it. Although no conventional dryer we’ve tested has proven notably faster than another, following this method (versus drying hair without pinning it up and going in sections) reliably saves us a couple of minutes in drying our hair.
Don’t keep blasting your hair with the highest heat setting, Piliang said. When your hair is almost dry, turn the dryer to a lower setting. (Cooler air takes a little longer to finish drying hair; personally, we’re too impatient for this.) Also, don’t use a metal round brush to style your hair, she told us; it just transfers heat directly to your hair, which is bad for the cuticles. Use a plastic brush and “keep things moving,” she said, so you’re not blasting any one spot with heat for too long.
If you have curly hair, don’t brush it as you are drying it, as that will just ruffle the cuticle (unless you are trying to straighten it). A diffuser will help you work with your natural hair shape, an approach that is less damaging to your hair than trying to make it do something it doesn’t naturally do. Most, but not all, blow dryers are at least compatible with a diffuser, and you can buy one easily if one doesn’t come with the dryer. “I prefer a diffuser with ‘fingers’ in it for creating really defined curl,” hairstylist Allen Ruiz told us. “You want to work section by section and make sure to tilt and lean your head as you go, gently [putting each] section of curls into the diffuser.” (Here’s a video that shows what he means.)
What about the Harry Josh Pro Tools Pro Dryer 2000?
What about the Dyson Airwrap and the Revlon One-Step?
The Dyson Airwrap is a multipurpose styling tool with a number of attachments that can curl, straighten (with a brush), or blow-dry hair (with an add-on that looks like a thinner, oval version of the Supersonic head). We haven’t taken a wind meter to it, but the company says the dryer-attachment-equipped Airwrap is not as powerful as the Supersonic and is meant to get hair a bit dry before you use the other attachments, which, unlike most other curlers and straighteners, can work on damp hair. It also isn’t compatible with a diffuser or concentrator.
Three testers with different hair types and textures had polarized opinions on the $550 Airwrap, especially when comparing their brush-attachment blowout results with those they achieved with the $60 Revlon One-Step Hair Dryer and Volumizer, a revered hot-air brush that’s a best seller on Amazon. Neither the Airwrap nor the One-Step Hair Dryer and Volumizer is a standard hair dryer, so we didn’t compare them against our picks for this guide. We did attempt to test the styling tools against one another, but we found that comparison, well, hairy.
What about paddle-style hair dryer brushes?
10 best flat irons of 2021, according to celebrity hairstylists
Ceramic vs. tourmaline vs. titanium flat irons
The three most common flat iron plates are ceramic, tourmaline and titanium. Each one will straighten hair, but different attributes make each more beneficial for certain hair textures, ranging from fine wavy hair to kinky coils.
Ceramic flat irons
Bertin said that ceramic irons are the most affordable option out of the three types of hair straighteners. They don't get as hot as titanium and tourmaline, which can be a good thing, depending on your hair’s health and texture.
- Hairstylist Courtney Foster and Bertin agreed that ceramic flat irons heat up "fairly quickly," provide even heat distribution, glide through the hair smoothly and leave behind a glossy sheen.
- They also agreed that those with thick, coarse hair should pass on ceramic flat irons.
- After the ceramic-coated plates wear down or chip away, "the not-so-safe-metal" — usually aluminum — is exposed, which "can really wreck your hair."
- Ceramic flat irons are ideal for those with dry, damaged or fine hair, said Bertin.
Tourmaline flat irons
According to the pros, tourmaline plates contain silicate and straighten the hair with less heat.
- Tourmaline hair straighteners smooth the hair cuticle and add moisture-locking ions to the hair. "These ions help balance out dry and damaged hair, leaving the hair silkier with no frizz or flyaways," Foster said.
- Because the flat iron plates are coated with tourmaline, Bertin advised that you keep an eye out for wear and chipping to avoid potential heat damage.
- Bertin added that you need fewer passes to get your desired effect because the heat distribution of tourmaline is the best of the three.
Titanium flat irons
Titanium is a strong, durable metal best suited for professional salon use, said Bertin.
- Titanium flat iron plates heat up the quickest, he said.
- Foster, founder of Courtney Foster Beauty, added that a titanium iron also heats evenly, which allows for fewer passes over the hair and gives "much better results than the ceramic iron."
- Bertin added that even if you have hair with minimal damage from heat or chemical processing, titanium flat irons can mess up your hair.
Best flat irons of 2021
Once you’ve determined which flat iron works best for your hair’s natural texture and fullness, where should you start looking? We consulted experts and found 11 celebrity hairstylist-approved flat irons in various price points.
1. CHI Original 1-inch Ceramic Iron
Foster's favorite ceramic iron is the 1-inch version from CHI, which she called "a nice introductory iron that is priced reasonably and provides a nice finish to the hair." The flat iron uses negative ions to add moisture and shine to your strands. It takes 30 seconds for the hair straightener to reach a pre-set temperature of 392 degrees Fahrenheit. The ergonomic design helps make it easier to curl, wave and straighten your hair. The CHI ceramic flat iron boasts a 4.5-star average rating from more than 5,900 reviews on Amazon, where it is currently marked down nearly 70 percent off.
2. BaByliss PRO Mini Nano Titanium Ionic Flat Iron
"The BaByliss almost needs no explanation, as it's compact, thin and perfect for all those trouble spots where your normal flat iron can't reach, like your temples, part or neckline," said celebrity hairstylist Kristen Shaw. At just under $30, you get a powerful 6-inch-long flat iron with .5-inch-wide plates that heat up to 430 degrees Fahrenheit. Toss the hair straightener into your weekend bag or purse for quick touch-ups on the go. The Mini Nano flat iron earned a 4.4-star average rating from nearly 4,700 reviews on Amazon.
3. Revlon Salon Straight Copper Smooth
Caile Noble, the hairstylist to Julia Roberts, Cindy Crawford and Kirsten Dunst, called the Revlon Salon Straight Copper Smooth his "one-stop and favorite flat iron" for all hair types. The adjustable heat ranges from 180 to 455 degrees Fahrenheit, which allows you to tailor the temperature to your hair texture. (Remember: The coarser your hair, the higher the temperature you can get away with using.) "The added attachment works wonders on thicker hair to give added control and better results while styling," he said. "And the copper plates evenly distribute heat, resulting in less damage and added frizz control. Who doesn't want that?" If you prefer larger flat iron plates, then go for the XL version that is 1.5 inches wide or the 2-inch option. It boasts a 4.5-star average rating from nearly 1,600 reviews on Amazon.
4. T3 Lucea Straightening and Styling Iron
Kiki Heitkotter, hairstylist to Busy Phillips, Michelle Williams, Reese Witherspoon and Lili Reinhart, "loves" using this "versatile" hair straightener on clients. The flat iron has nine heat settings, "making it very easy to customize the amount of heat for your specific hair type [and] causing less damage, which is a huge bonus for our hair," she said. Heitkotter also likes the flexible plates, which "allow the flat iron to grip the hair with even tension." The T3 Lucea is the No. 1 bestseller in its class on Sephora and it received a 4.8-star average from 75 reviews on the site.
5. ghd Classic Original IV Hair Straightener
Shaw, who works with Chloe Sevigny and Emma Watson, keeps this ceramic flat iron on rotation. "It's one of my favorites due to its semi-rounded edges, which increase the preservation of your hair's integrity and strength, so you don't accidentally repeat creases with frequent styling, which ultimately breaks your hair," she said. The flat iron heats up in 30 seconds to one temperature setting — 365 degrees Fahrenheit— and shuts down after 30 minutes of non-use. This ghd hair straightener boasts a 4.5-star average rating from nearly 1,600 reviews on Amazon.
6. Dyson Corrale Hair Straightener
Foster's favorite tourmaline iron is the Dyson Corrale hair straightener. "The quality and price tag makes this flat iron like the Rolls Royce of hair tools," she said. Shaw, who helps Hillary Swank, Jodie Comer and Shailene Woodley primp for the red carpet, also keeps this hair straightener in her pro kit. The cordless flat iron "will straighten your hair at the fastest speed without burning it and leaves your strands shiny," she said. It offers 30 minutes of cord-free use, three pre-set heat seeings — 330, 365 and 410 degrees Fahrenheit — and automatically shuts off after 30 minutes.
7. L'Oréal Steampod
Bertin, who works with Letitia Wright, Katy Perry and Cara Delevingne, is also a fan of the L'Oreal Steampod. The ceramic flat iron uses steam — rather than dry heat like other hair straighteners — to achieve sleek strands. "This infusion of moisture (water) conditions the hair while straightening and allows for a longer-lasting style that will stay frizz-free," he said.
8. Cloud Nine Original Flat Iron
Bertin "loves" the Cloud Nine flat iron, which is available in four sizes — Micro, Touch, Original and Wide. It also has seven temperature settings, ranging from 212 to 392 degrees Fahrenheit,which he noted is “really helpful to pinpoint all hair types." The ceramic plates are infused with minerals, "so you get a gorgeous, snag-free glide," Bertin added. If you're unsure of which size hair straightener is best for you, then follow Bertin's tip: "Smaller plates are better for short hair, whereas larger plates are better for longer hair. The plate size won't affect the finished product, but it will affect the speed at which you get there."
9. Kristin Ess 3-in-1 Flat Iron
"This flat iron has beveled edges, making it user-friendly and less likely to get bends and creases in the hair," said Heitkotter. With 1.25-inch titanium plates and four pre-set temperatures that heat up to 440 degrees, you can "glide (the flat iron) smoothly through your hair, giving you a shiny end result." There's also a 9-foot-long swivel cord and automatic shutoff after 30 minutes of non-use. This 3-in-1 Kristin Ess flat iron is a top three bestseller on Target.
10. Bellami Triple Shine Original Flatiron
Ruslan Nureev, who works with Jessica Alba, Karlie Kloss, Bella Hadid and Jasmine Tookes, is "obsessed" with the Bellami Triple Shine flatiron. The hair straightener, which is available in three sizes — .5-, 1- and 1.5-inches — heats up to 430 degrees in 60 seconds. It also has graphene, black diamond and ceramic plates, which "makes the hair very shiny in one pass," he said.
Do flat irons damage hair?
Foster said that flat irons do not damage hair. However, improper use, like utilizing a temperature too high for your hair type, can "run the risk of damage." Bertin agreed, adding that heat damage is "irreparable and has to be grown out." That means it's safest to start with a lower temperature and increase if necessary. He said the cuticle, or outer layer of a hair strand, can "very easily" become damaged by heat over 356 degrees Fahrenheit or 180 degrees Celsius, "if care isn't taken to do quick passes on a low or medium temperature with a flat iron." Damaging that cuticle layer will make your hair more porous, which means it will struggle to hold on to moisture, explained Bertin. When heat is applied to hair, he noted, its moisture content begins evaporating, which causes dryness and breakage.
Although hair straighteners are safe to use, hairstylists we consulted advised against using flat irons — or any hot tool, for that matter — every day. “Even with the best heat protectants in the game, heat, whether that is from a flat iron or a hair dryer, is not something you should be exposing your hair to every day,” added Bertin. He said those with afro-textured hair should consider flat ironing their hair at most once a week because "our hair is naturally more fragile and dry, so flat ironing any more than that is a huge no-no." Depending on the health and dryness of straighter hair types, you can get away with flat ironing more often, but Bertin advised against everyday use if you want healthy hair.
Catch up on the latest from NBC News Shopping guides and recommendations and download the NBC News app for full coverage of the coronavirus outbreak.
Nicole Saunders is a former associate commerce editor for Select on NBC News, covering wellness and lifestyle.
At walmart wigs
10 of Nicole Kidman's most talked-about wigs, ranked
- Nicole Kidman has been wearing wigs in her movies and TV shows for years.
- Her worst wigs can be seen in "Lion," "Boy Erased," and "Big Little Lies."
- On the other hand, people applauded her hair in "Birth" and "The Undoing."
- Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.
Nicole Kidman wore her worst wig to date in the film "Lion" from 2016.
In "Lion," Kidman played the lead character's adoptive mother. For the role, she wore a curly, orange wig, which makes the actress look like an older Annie.
Despite the blunderous wig, Kidman scored an Oscar nomination for the role.
While promoting the movie on "The Graham Norton Show" in 2016, Kidman revealed that straightening her naturally curly hair over the years had caused irreparable damage.
"I have to say, anyone who has curly hair who's young: Keep your curly hair, don't straighten it," she said. "After a while you don't get your curls back. They just kind of become frizz mass."
For "Boy Erased" in 2018, she wore a white wig.
In an award-winning performance that was applauded by critics, Kidman plays another mother in "Boy Erased," but this time her character outs her son as gay and forces him into conversion therapy.
Her wig is almost as bad as the character herself. The too-white hair is teased so much that it seems to be floating above her head for most of the movie.
"It's shocking to see the actress looking so unlike herself," Isabel Jones at InStyle wrote in 2017. "To be honest, the style doesn't look half bad on her. If anyone could pull off the '80s-esque 'do, it's Nicole."
The actress wore a strange gray and white wig in 2017's "How to Talk to Girls at Parties."
For this movie, Kidman played Queen Boadicea, a punk rock star. In the film, Kidman wore heavy make up and a mullet-type wig.
"Kidman can be seen doing her best Edward Scissorhands impression with a choppy gray-and-black wig," Melissa Minton wrote at W Magazine in 2018. "Her bangs and the front of her hair are cut bluntly, with the back spiked up in a demented version of Kate Gosling meets Cruella de Vil."
Her choppy, brown hair in 2018's "Destroyer" was too distracting.
Kidman played a cop who goes undercover as a gang member. While transforming into the character, the actress wore a choppy wig that was so bad it distracted audiences.
"I'm ashamed to admit it, but I have to be truly honest: I couldn't get past the hair. Nicole Kidman looks as if she's wearing a leftover wig from the '80s production of A Chorus Line," Katherine Monk wrote at The Ex-Press. "Stiff, lifeless and cosmetically teased, it sits like a frizzy helmet, almost destroying her authentic performance in Karyn Kusama's Destroyer by signaling something fake."
To transform into Gretchen Carlson for 2019's "Bombshell," Kidman wore a stiff wig that barely moved.
Kidman played Fox's news anchor Gretchen Carlson who blew the whistle on sexual harassment within the network.
According to The Washington Post, the wig cost between $7,000 to $10,000. Hairstylist Anne Morgan won an Oscar for achievement in makeup and hairstyling for the movie, alongside makeup designer Kazu Hiro and makeup department head Vivian Baker.
Kidman's "Big Little Lies" wig reminded us that friends don't let friends get bangs.
In "Big Little Lies," Kidman played Celeste, a wife who is juggling the pressure of raising two children in an upper-class community and the effects of living with an abusive husband.
To take on the role of a housewife, Kidman donned a strawberry blonde wig with bangs. The sweet style did not match Kidman's striking face. Jackson McHenry at Vulture even said Kidman's character looked like "a very sad Nintendo Mii."
In 2021, she wore a long, blonde wig to play Masha in "Nine Perfect Strangers."
Kidman played a Russian woman with a dark past who now runs a mysterious wellness retreat. In the show, the actress not only puts on a Russian accent but also wears a blonde wig. It isn't distracting like some others in the past, but it certainly is long.
"In 'Nine Perfect Strangers,' Nicole Kidman once more wears a Wig with a Life of Its Own," Caryn James at the BBC wrote in 2021. "Now the wig is pale blonde, straight, and the length of a small child."
In "The Hours," Kidman transformed into Virginia Woolf, and the wig definitely helped.
In "The Hours," Kidman took on the role of Virginia Woolf. Along with a prosthetic nose, the actress wore a wig that was tied up in the back.
The hair helped her transform into the writer and transported her to a different time period. In 2003, she earned an Academy Award for best actress for the role.
The short pixie cut looks so natural on Kidman in 2004's "Birth" that you almost can't tell it's a wig.
In "Birth," the actress played a woman who becomes convinced that her dead husband was reincarnated into a young boy.
For the role, she hid her hair under a pixie-cut wig that somehow made her look even better by highlighting her striking features. It proved that Kidman should play with the idea of going short in the real world.
This is an opinion column. The thoughts expressed are those of the author(s).
Netflix hitSquid Game is disturbing in its violence, but there's no denying the nine-episode show is beautifully shot. There's the unnerving Red Light, Green Light robot girl; the pastel-candy-colored stairways in the building where the doomed contestants live; and, of course, the striking costumes: red for most of the guards, green for the contestants, and an impressive Darth Vader-like dark metal look for the mysterious Front Man.
Yes, the series is more of a trick than a treat for the characters, but it's likely you'll see their distinctive outfits at Halloween parties and events come late October.
"The Squid Game staff uniform is going to be the #1 Halloween costume this year in Korea," one viewer tweeted.
If you want to dress up as a Squid Game character, the good news is the costumes aren't complicated. You can certainly assemble your own, and if you don't have the time to do that, online stores are already selling completed versions.
Squid Game contestant costumes
The contestants essentially wear white T-shirts under green track suits with white trim. They're recognizable as Squid Game characters and not just joggers thanks to a three-digit white number (between 001 and 456) on their backs and on the left side of the front of the jackets, as well as on their shirts.
It's not tough to make that costume yourself. Google "green track suit" and you're off to the Red Light, Green Light races. Don't forget the numbers -- you can grab some fabric and make number patches that will last, or for a one-night party, just cut the numbers out of paper and then glue, tape or pin them in the right spots.
Entertain your brain with the coolest news from streaming to superheroes, memes to video games.
Pick your number carefully. Seong Gi-hun, the closest thing the show has to a hero, is No. 456. Crafty Cho Sang-woo, the pride of his hometown, is No. 218. Elderly Oh Il-nam is No. 001, scrappy North Korean defector Kang Sae-byeok is No. 067, and brutal gangster Jang Deok-su is No. 101 -- for him, you'll want to get your artist friend to draw a snake tattoo on your face.
And if you're going to a frat party and want the easy laugh, maybe you'll choose No. 069, the desperate and unnamed husband who's playing the deadly game with his wife -- the dirty joke hidden in his number gets at least one rich patron to bet on him to win.
If you like props, a sack of marbles, used in one of the games, might be a fun addition. And don't forget to load up on fake blood and smear it in various spots, as none of the contestants make it through unscathed.
You can buy the costume if you don't have time to put it together from various sources. The major costume manufacturers aren't going to have time to put them together for sale, but cosplay and artist sites are already offering them.
SPCosplay is selling the track suit on Amazon for $48 (£35, AU$66). XOCostume has it for $66 (£48, AU$91). Warning: There are many other sellers, but whomever you choose, you're going to want to check on delivery dates -- Halloween is coming up, and some sites ship from Asia, which lengthens delivery time. Also verify whether the suit is sold in Asian clothing sizes, which are smaller than US sizes.
Squid Game guard costumes
Honestly, the red-clad guards have cooler costumes than the competitors in track suits. They wear red hooded jumpsuits that zip up the front, with black belts. No numbers for them, but they do wear freakish black face masks with either a triangle, circle or square on the front. And they carry threateningly large weapons.
This costume's a little trickier to make on your own, but it's still very doable. Search on red jumpsuit (though a tracksuit would do in a pinch, as long as it has a hood). The best way to make the face mask is probably to acquire a fencing mask, but also, some costume stores sell something they call a ghoul's mask or an invisible man mask, black cloth that's meant to completely hide your face. You can apply your own triangle or other shape easily enough with white tape.
If you're buying the costume complete, same caveats as above apply -- look carefully at sizing and delivery dates. XOCostume sells the Squid Game staff outfit for $56 (£41, AU$77), and Etsy sellers are also on the bandwagon -- here's one for $50 (£36, AU$69).
Squid Game Front Man costume
The Front Man is the boss of the guards, though it turns out he too has bosses of his own. His costume is probably the coolest and the most difficult to make on your own. He wears an unusual black mask with sharp angles, and a long black coat and gloves. The coat and gloves are simple enough to buy (ideally, the coat would have a hood), but assembling your own mask is tougher.
If you want to DIY the Front Man mask, there are patterns for 3D printers that look pretty good. You can also buy the mask completed. Here's one on Etsy for $43 (£31, AU$59), and surely more artists will be making them soon.
Red Light, Green Light Squid Game costume
One of the more novel looks in the game is that of the giant robot schoolgirl who runs the Red Light, Green Light game, the very first game in the show. There didn't seem to be any completed outfits for sale online, but this is easy to assemble yourself. Just get a yellow shirt, top it with an orange jumper, and fix your hair in short ponytails or braids (or wear a wig). Then creepily say, "Red Light! Green Light!" and keep turning around quickly to stare at people. That's pretty much it.
All nine episodes of Squid Game are now available on Netflix.
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