The FlexStyle is not just a serious alternative to the Dyson Airwrap. It’s a great multi-styler in its own right.
If you’ve been hankering after a Dyson Airwrap but can’t justify the expense, this Shark hot air multi-styler could give you what you want without emptying your wallet. We test the Shark FlexStyle.
Design and build
Twists to become hair dryer
Airwrap-style, auto-wrap curlers
The FlexStyle is a stylish five-in-one styling kit. It’s a hair dryer, volumiser, straightener, diffuser and curler in one.
One of its major selling points is that its curling wands are modelled on those from the Dyson Airwrap. Shark calls them “auto wrap curlers” and just like the Airwrap, they use the Coanda effect to draw strands of hair around the curler.
This means that, unlike a traditional hot curling iron, you won’t burn your hair – or your fingers – when using them. They’re kinder to hair and are far easier to use than traditional curlers. They’ll make waves and curls a realistic option for people who’ve never been able to manage these looks previously.
The FlexStyle comes in two colour options: black and rose gold, or “stone” – a gold and beige colourway. We’re testing it in the latter.
In the box, you’ll get the styling handle which – in a clever twist, and in fact, with a clever twist – becomes a 7-shaped hairdryer. To this, you can add the hair drying attachments: a styling concentrator and a diffuser.
Emma Rowley / Foundry
Then there are the styling attachments. There are two auto-wrap curlers (one for either side of your face), an oval brush for smoothing and adding volume, and a paddle brush for straightening.
Emma Rowley / Foundry
The FlexStyle’s handle is cylindrical, with a diameter of 14.5cm and a length of 29cm. In hair dryer form, it’s a compact 22cm but, when in its styling mode with an attachment on the end, it’s almost 44cm, which is longer than most individual stylers.
Still, it’s around the same size as the Airwrap. I didn’t find it to be cumbersome to use but other reviewers have disagreed on this point, so you might want to bear that in mind.
It weighs almost 700g, including the cord and plug, but it’s just 400g without them. It feels light in the hand and is easy to hold while styling. This is perhaps why the length didn’t bother me.
The controls are straightforward, but with enough options to tailor the settings to your needs.
Above the On/Off switch is a heat button that lets you cycle through four heat settings: none, low, medium and high. And above that is the airflow button, which has three power settings. Indicator lights that illuminate in red mean you can check the settings at a glance.
Emma Rowley / Foundry
Placed away from the rest of the controls is the cool shot button, which is used for setting your style. It should be easy to find with a finger while styling your hair, but it took me a while to be able to do so without searching first.
It has a long, 2.44m swivel-set cord that’ll give you plenty of room to manoeuvre.
Attachments are easy to use
You’ll need to prep and watch tutorials to become an expert
Hair dryer is light and effective
I’m someone with limited patience where hair styling is concerned – and even less skill. That’s partly why I wanted to test the FlexStyle. It’s an expensive bit of kit and if I can use it, pretty much anyone can.
If you’re considering buying it, one of the main reasons must be for the Airwrap-style auto-wrap curlers. So these were the first accessories I tested. The marketing tells us that they are easy to use – but is it true?
I’ve never successfully used a curling iron before, except to give myself a few minor burns. So it was with some trepidation that I picked up a curling barrel.
There are two barrels, helpfully labelled left and right. Use them on the indicated side of your head and your hair will curl away from your face. For comparison, the updated Airwrap lets you change the direction of airflow on the curling wands, but if you’re new to styling waves, you’ll appreciate the FlexStyle’s foolproof system.
All you need to do is separate a section of hair and hold its end to the curling barrel. The current of air will pull your hair towards the barrel and wrap it around.
The hair curling process is simple, effective and genuinely a bit of a mini scientific marvel. I’m far from an expert but the following waves took me just a couple of minutes to achieve on a kindly test subject, who has long, thick, straight hair.
Emma Rowley / Foundry
My own hair is thin, flyaway and unhelpfully, neither silkily straight nor reliably wavy. But I was still able to achieve consistent waves that lasted all day with minimal hassle.
Emma Rowley / Foundry
The FlexStyle comes with a styling guide, to help you use the attachments. Still, I’d advise that if you want to make the most of it and create more complex styles, you should find a tutorial to watch online.
I followed the advice given by my colleague Hannah in her excellent review of the Airwrap. I used it on just slightly damp hair, gave it a spritz of salt spray beforehand and, for longer-lasting results, pinned up the curls and used hair spray afterwards.
Although it’s easy to use, you’ll still need to develop your skill, and take your time to style your hair properly each time. If you do, it’ll pay dividends.
The oval brush attachment turns the FlexStyle into a styler that’s similar to the Revlon One Step. You can use it to smooth your hair and give it more volume. Essentially, it’s a blowout tool. Then there’s a paddle brush, which is used for straightening. On my hair, these attachments were effective but had pretty much the same result. However, if you have longer, thicker hair, I imagine that there could be a bigger difference.
The FlexStyle is a good hair dryer. It’s not noisy but then it’s not as powerful as the Dyson Supersonic or (my personal favourite) the Zuvi Halo. However, it’s lightweight, effective and a great option for travel, given that you can save so much space on other styling accessories.
The concentrator works well to create smooth styles and the diffuser has an excellent feature: you can retract or extend the prongs to suit your hair length. The Dyson Airwrap doesn’t include an official diffuser attachment, so the FlexStyle could be a better option if you want to preserve your natural curls.
In use, the attachments click into place satisfyingly and there’s a release button to remove them. The FlexStyle feels robust and well made.
Price and availability – Is the FlexStyle worth the cost?
There’s no getting around the fact that the FlexStyle is pricey at $299.99/ £299.99. But it’s a great all-round styling kit. However, not all styling attachments will be useful for all hair types. People with curly hair or coils may find that there are fewer useful tools.
But there’s a way around this if you’re in the US. You can head to the Shark site and choose the three accessories you want for $279.99. Or you can buy a $299.99 set for either straight & wavy or curly & coily hair. There’s currently no price advantage to buying from any retailer. Any price variation is dependent on accessories.
UK buyers don’t have a customisation option yet. This gives the Dyson Airwrap the edge in this market. Order the Airwrap on the Dyson site and you can take a hair type test and get a customised selection of accessories.
You can buy the FlexStyle from Shark, Currys or Boots, among other retailers, and you’ll get the standard set of attachments as outlined above. The only price difference is dependent on the colourway you choose. The black FlexStyle comes with a case and costs £20 more. If you want the stone colourway, you can buy a case separately from Shark for £22.99.
If you’re in the US, the FlexStyle does not come with a case, although you can find plenty of compatible options on Amazon. Shark also doesn’t offer an official smaller travel pouch if you want to take one or two attachments away with you.
If you’re looking for something even cheaper, then you could consider the Revlon One Step hot air brush for $59.99/£59.99, but this doesn’t offer any additional attachments for versatile styling.
The FlexStyle will popularly be known as the more affordable competitor to the Dyson Airwrap. But it’s by no means a cheap option, either in terms of its build quality, performance or, to be fair, its price tag. For most people, it will be an enviable hair styling kit in its own right. We’d recommend it.
If you’d like to see how it measures up to the Dyson Airwrap, have a look at our in-depth review.