The hair tool that eclipses all others

TOTAL ECLIPSE: The ghd Eclipse styler, $350.
TOTAL ECLIPSE: The ghd Eclipse styler, $350.

It's always ‘new new new!' and ‘better than ever before!' but are the latest products on the market worth tossing your old tools for? We test out three new styling gadgets.

GHD ECLIPSE ($350, from ghd stockists)

There has been a lot of hype about these straighteners and the zeal with which they are demonstrated at launches verges on cult-like. It's true that hair straightening wasn't really hair straightening until ghd launched its first heated tool in 2001(previous straighteners paled in comparison at its time of launch), but "ground-breaking new generation styler set to redefine hair styling all over again" is a pretty big statement. Essentially what makes this tool different from others is the realisation that "the hotter the plate, the better the job" isn't actually true.

ALL STEAMED UP: The L'Oreal Professionel Steampod, $339.
ALL STEAMED UP: The L'Oreal Professionel Steampod, $339.

Hot irons often climb past 250C. While that's effective for straightening, those high temperatures can do monumental damage to the hair shaft. Ghd found the optimum temperature for effective styling is actually 185C - which will apparently style effectively whether your hair is Nordic or African, and without the damage. The new Eclipse styler has six heat sensors that read your hair temperature and maintain a constant 185C all the way through. It's also insulated, so you can get the wand closer to your scalp without scorching it or your hands.

So does it work? And is it worth the whopping $350? I've seen it straighten and smooth tough-as-boots afro hair in just one swipe, and give volume and movement to the softest, most flat of hair types - without blow-drying first. My dead straight hair will usually drop a curl in minutes, but the Eclipse allowed my mess of ringlets to last much longer than usual. And for regular users of hot tools, you can sleep easy at night knowing that you're no longer damaging your hair.

L'ORÉAL PROFESSIONNEL STEAMPOD ($339 from L'Oreal Professional salons)

HOT STYLES: Remington Styles Unlimited, $129.95.
HOT STYLES: Remington Styles Unlimited, $129.95.

The Steampod launched in professional hair salons in 2012, but just last month a version was released for at-home use. Theoretically the Steampod sounds like a genius invention, and under the trained hands of a pro stylist it's pretty good.

It's the world's first-ever steam tool, using high pressure steam to straighten your hair while helping the hair to absorb whatever treatment you may have applied beforehand. For those who can afford a weekly trip to the salon, this is an alternative to the hair mask and blow-dry, but for home use I'm not so sure.

My first gripe is that it's a clunky, confusing machine, with a steam wand, removable comb, power cord and steam tube as well as a separate water reservoir (that despite the suction cups still managed to spill on the floor).

As well as the machine itself you're expected to purchase an array of Pro-Keratin Steampod Products to treat the hair while you steam.

My second gripe is that it's not really what it says it is. Sure, it has steam pouring from its wand, but while it claims to heal your hair rather than damage it, there are two hot iron plates attached as well. Your hair is steamed, and then run through the hot plates. You may be treating your hair but you're also damaging it the same as you usually would with your irons.

While the Steampod will tame curly or unruly hair, don't expect a totally hair-ad worthy sleek effect. The job left frizzy halos on both my curly-haired girlfriend's hair and my own, so you'll need to go over and smooth with product or another hot iron.

So is it worth it? It is if you have the dosh to get it done regularly in a salon, but for at-home use I get a better effect by doing an in-shower hair mask and then straightening my hair with standard irons.

REMINGTON STYLES UNLIMITED ($129.99 from Farmers and electrical stores)

While other brands focus on preventing heat damage with new tech inventions, Remington's latest release sticks to doing what the company Remington does best - straightforward, affordable styling tools.

It's a great multi-tool; the cone-shaped wand allows you to straighten and do large waves at the base, and create ultra-tight curls at the smaller end. It doesn't yell it from the rafters like ghd does, but it also has a technology that ensures even heat is maintained for consistent styling. With a top heat of 235C it may not be as kind to your hair as the other tools, but its settings are adjustable, so in theory you could get ghd's "proven ideal" 185C. The only downfall of this product is that the wand gets rather hot, so it's recommended you wear the glove provided while styling.

If you're after the Rolls-Royce of hair tools then the ghd is the tool you'll want, but for an everyday styler that's more versatile than most, the Styles Unlimited is fine and a great price too. Just remember to use a heat protectant prior to each use.

WIN! We have a ghd Eclipse styler, worth $350, to give away. Simply fill in the form below to be in the draw.


COMPETITION TERMS AND CONDITIONS 1. The Promoter is Fairfax Media through its website (the "Promoter"). 2. ELIGIBILITY: Employees and immediate families of Fairfax New Zealand and Electrolux, associated sponsor(s) and their immediate families are not eligible to enter. 3. HOW TO ENTER: Entry is free. Entry is by filling out the competition form within the article. One entry per person. 4. DATES: The competition closes on Friday April 19, at 9.59am.The prize draw will take place after 10am on Friday March 19. 5. PRIZE: A ghd Eclipse styler, valued at $350.