Whether it’s the added convenience they bring, or the fact they can save you time, space and money, multistylers have become a must-have hair tool.
As their name suggests, multistylers allow you to create multiple hair styles with a single product. Each has a barrel upon which you attach and detach accessories. A motor in the barrel produces hot air and depending on the accessory you use, you can control this hot air in a way that creates waves, curls, bouncy blow dries or sleek, straight styles.
Since 2018, Dyson’s Airwrap multistyler has dominated the market, and earlier this year it upgraded the appliance as well as its attachments. Other brands have attempted to emulate Dyson’s success and features with somewhat mixed results –but the closest like-for-like tool we’ve tested is the new FlexStyle from Shark. Not only does it offer a very similar selection of accessories with an almost identical design – at more than half the price – but the FlexStyle is the first styler outside of Dyson’s range to feature the so-called Coanda effect. This airflow phenomenon promises to curl your hair faster and easier by automatically wrapping each strand around the barrel.
With these similarities in mind, we’ve put both models to the test to see how they compare on performance, usability, design and price. Speaking of prices, you might be able to get the Airwrap for less right now, so we suggest checking to see if there are Dyson Airwrap Black Friday deals available. Also, take a look at the Dyson promo codes currently available for potential extra savings.
Dyson Airwrap vs Shark FlexStyle: range and price
The FlexStyle launched in September and is available in the US and UK exclusively from Shark, but is expected to launch in third-party retailers “in the coming months”. Being a much older product, the Dyson Airwrap is more widely available and is sold in the US, UK, Australia and across Europe, Asia, Latin America and Africa. With Black Friday just around the corner it would be worth keeping a look out for any Dyson Airwrap Black Friday deals because you could save between $50 - $100.
In the US, the FlexStyle is available in a silver and gray design and can be bought as one of three bundles. The cheapest “build your own styler” bundle costs $249.99. It includes the drying unit and your choice of any three attachments out of a total of five. These attachments are an oval brush, a paddle brush, a styling concentrator, a diffuser and a pack of two Auto-Wrap curlers.
There are then two bundles that cost $269.99 each. The first includes the dryer with the two Auto-Wrap curlers, the oval brush, the styling concentrator and diffuser. The second includes the two curlers, oval brush, paddle brush and styling concentrator. The former is designed to suit curly hair types, while the latter is best suited for people looking for straight styles. You can’t currently buy attachments separately.
In the UK, there is a single £299.99 FlexStyle bundle available in a black design. This bundle is better value than in the US because not only does it come with all five attachments as standard, it also includes a storage case. As you can read in our Shark FlexStyle review, the lack of storage and vast number of large attachments for the US model is a significant pain point.
Look out for any Shark promo codes that can also help you save as you buy.
By comparison, the Dyson Airwrap is available in significantly more colors – a limited-edition blue and rose gold design, a fuschia and nickel model, and two copper and nickel versions (one in which the main barrel is copper with nickel accents, and another in which the barrel is nickel and the accents are copper). There used to be a blue and copper version but this appears to have been discontinued with the release of the blue and rose model.
In the US and Australia, all models of the Airwrap cost $599.99 and AU$899.99 respectively. In the UK, the limited-edition model costs £499.99 yet each of the other color options are slightly cheaper at £479.99. Earlier in 2022, Dyson re-engineered the Airwrap and its attachments to update their technology and make them more powerful and effective, and all of the models available from Dyson’s site feature this upgraded technology. However, you can buy refurbished versions of the first-generation model either from Dyson directly, or third-party retailers, for $499/£379 in the US and UK.
Dyson Airwrap vs Shark FlexStyle: attachments
Across all regions, the 2022 model Airwrap ships with a Coanda smoothing dryer attachment, one soft, and one firm smoothing brush, two Airwrap barrels in 1.2-inch (30mm) and 1.6-inch (40mm) sizes, a round volumising brush, and a storage case. The UK and Australian models additionally come with a filter cleaning brush. This filter brush is more to do with the maintenance of the styler rather than styling itself so is a relatively small omission in the US version.
If the standard Dyson bundle either doesn’t quite cover all your styling needs, or you want to add more options, you can additionally buy extra attachments. Each one costs $39.99/£30/$99 and include: replacements of all the standard accessories; upgrades of all the standard accessories (for people who own the first-generation dryer but want the re-engineered accessories); attachments better suited to fine hair – a 0.8-inch (20mm) Airwrap barrel, and small versions of the firm, soft and volumizing brushes; and a wide-tooth comb for curly and coily hair.
There used to be a Dyson Airwrap bundle for curly and coily hair types on sale in the US, in which the soft smoothing brush was replaced by a wide-tooth comb attachment yet this is currently out of stock and has been for some time.
Dyson Airwrap vs Shark FlexStyle: design
In addition to the various color options available across both the Shark and Dyson range, there are a number of similarities, as well as some notable design differences between the stylers.
Starting with the similarities, both stylers feature a long main barrel attached to an 8ft-long (3 meter) cable, and both of these cables have bulky power packs located around a third of the way down. Albeit Shark’s pack is significantly larger than Dyson’s. At the base of the respective barrels are vents and fans for the motor.
The FlexStyle’s barrel measures 11.5 inches (29cm) without attachments, while the Airwrap is 10.25 inches (26cm) long. When the FlexStyle barrel is rotated, this overall length drops to 8.5 inches (21.5cm).
At first glance, the Dyson barrel looks thinner than the FlexStyle but this is because it has an oval design, whereas the FlexStyle’s barrel is circular. Both have a circumference of 5.5 inches (14cm). In our experience, the FlexStyle’s round barrel is easier to hold and feels more comfortable than Dyson’s barrel.
The longest attachment on the FlexStyle is the 6-inch Auto-Wrap curler which, when in use, takes the total length of the styler to a somewhat cumbersome 17.5 inches (44.5 cm). The longest attachment on the Dyson is the 7.5-inch long AirWrap curler, taking the total styler length to 17.75 inches (45cm). A minimal difference.
Both stylers offer three heat settings, and three speed settings plus a separate cold shot button. On the FlexStyle, the setting buttons are placed at the bottom of the barrel. It takes slight force to use these buttons but the benefit of this is that it’s difficult to switch between settings accidentally. However, because these buttons sit alongside the air vents for the motor, we often found ourselves blocking the fan when switching between modes.
On the Airwrap, the buttons are instead near the top of the barrel. This puts them more closely in line with where your hand naturally sits, which makes it easier to control mid-style. It also prevents the issue with the motor vents.
The most notable difference between the two stylers is Shark’s rotating barrel design which transforms the FlexStyle from a wand to a standard hair dryer.
This feature is accessed by rotating the top-third of the barrel so that it sits at right angles to the handle. Not only does this mean that the FlexStyle can be used as a hair dryer in its own right – the Dyson offers a hair drying feature but you have to add an attachment to access it – but it allows for more versatility. For instance, this design enables the use of a diffuser on the FlexStyle.
This isn’t possible on the Airwrap because trying to get underneath the hair to dry curls on the Dyson’s wand would be unwieldy and unintuitive. In fact, one of our biggest complaints about the Airwrap is the fact that you always have to have the drying attachment to hand, as well as whichever styling accessory you plan to use. It’s a small inconvenience, granted, but is one that the FlexStyle navigates with ease.
When it comes to space, neither styler is easy to store due to the sheer number of attachments and accessories they ship with. However, the Dyson attachments are more sleek and compact compared to those on the FlexStyle. Both the oval and paddle brushes on the Shark model are on the large side, much larger than the size of a regular hairbrush. As is the diffuser. On the flip side, however, these large dimensions are also what makes the styler well suited to longer, thicker hair.
Dyson Airwrap vs Shark FlexStyle: usability
Due to the large number of attachments, neither styler is particularly simple to use, yet neither is overly complex either. It takes a fair amount of swapping attachments in and out and fiddling with settings for each style, yet this isn’t difficult. It’s just time-consuming.
Each of the attachments across both stylers are twisted and locked into place at the top of the main barrel. They can only then be removed when the unlock switch (depicted with an open lock icon) on the side of each styler is activated. The use of an unlock switch may add an extra step to your styling routine but it prevents the attachments from twisting and moving mid-style.
If you want to just dry your hair, or remove excess moisture before switching to one of the other attachments on the FlexStyle, you can simply rotate the barrel on the FlexStyle and use it as you would a standard dryer.
Or you can add the styling concentrator. Both are easy to use and feel intuitive. To do the same on the Airwrap, you have to attach the Coanda smoothing dryer and twist the knob on the top of the attachment to switch between Drying and Smoothing mode. The Drying mode acts as a styling concentrator for wet hair, while the Smoothing mode is for use on dry hair to smooth flyaways. We love that a single attachment offers multiple options but it can be a little fiddly and feel a little awkward as you move the wand around your head.
If you’re looking to create a bouncy blow dry finish, or add volume to your style, you’ll need the oval brush on the FlexStyle, or the round volumizing brush on the Airwrap. Both effectively grab the hair but can be easily run through and rotated through each strand to style as you dry. They can be used to add flicks, waves and even curls or, each can be placed at the roots and held in place for a few seconds to set volume to any style.
The paddle brush on the FlexStyle, as well as the two smoothing brushes on the Dyson, are much simpler. You can run each through strands of hair like you would a regular hair brush, keeping it face down to smooth the cuticles. If you want to add subtle volume, angle whichever brush attachment you’re using up and under your roots for a few seconds before passing through the rest of the strand.
For curly hair styles on the FlexStyle, we rotated the barrel and used the standard hair drying feature to knock out about 50% of the water from our hair. We then manually scrunched curls with our hands before attaching the diffuser and holding these curls in place inside the attachment. There wasn’t an option to create the same style on the Dyson.
One of the biggest selling points of both the FlexStyle and Airwrap, and what makes them the most like-for-like multistylers we’ve tested, is that they both promise automatic, almost hands-free, curling using the 'Coanda' effect. This is produced when a fast-moving jet of air clings to the surface of whatever it’s traveling over. It’s seen when wind blasts air over the wings on a plane, or as an F1 car drives at high-speeds in a wind tunnel, for instance.
In the case of the Airwrap barrels, swirling airflow is blown out of slits across the attachment and causes the Coanda effect to attract and make strands of hair “cling” to its surface. This hair is then wrapped around the curler and remains in place until the dryer is switched off. It’s also possible to easily change the curl direction – between clockwise and anti-clockwise direction – on the Airwrap by twisting the cooling tip left or right. Switching the direction of your curl allows you to create different styles.
The process and effect is the same with the Auto-Curlers on the FlexStyle, yet in order to change the direction of the airflow you need to swap between two attachments. This makes it trickier, not to mention more time-consuming.
To get the most out of each of these attachments, you should start by drying hair until it’s around 80% dry. This takes a fair amount of trial and error. If your hair is too wet, the hair won’t easily wrap around the barrel. If its too dry, the desired styles either won’t take, or won’t hold as well.
Dyson Airwrap vs Shark FlexStyle: performance
The FlexStyle hair dryer on its own is fast and effective. It took us 2 minutes and 47 seconds to go from wet to dry hair, which puts it on par with the Dyson Supersonic. Our hair was a little frizzy and flat when dried in this way, but no more or less than when drying with most other hairdryers.
Unsurprisingly, because the Airwrap and Dyson Supersonic use the same technology, the Coanda smoothing dryer scored almost identically, at 2 minutes 46 seconds. However, the finished style was improved with the Airwrap than the FlexStyle. The hair was as flat, but it was far less frizzy.
Using the oval, and paddle brush on the FlexStyle extended the drying and styling time a little – 3 minutes and 50 seconds and 4 minutes, respectively – but because both brushes are styling as they dry, this can save you time in the long-run. Interestingly, considering that the overall standard drying time was the same across both stylers, the Dyson Airwrap dried and styled the hair much faster with all three brush attachments – the soft smoothing brush, the firm smoothing brush and the round volumising brush. The times were 3 minutes 45 seconds, 3 minutes 49 seconds and 3 minutes 2 seconds. This is highly impressive given that each one is also styling and smoothing as it dries.
In terms of using the two respective round brush attachments to add volume and bounce, the Airwrap once again outperformed the FlexStyle. Not only did its round volumising brush give our hair decent lift, this volume stayed in place for hours. The FlexStyle’s oval brush produced similar results to begin with but it fell flat within half an hour.
The diffuser on the FlexStyle was a welcomed addition and it worked as we’d expect. Holding it closer to the head created the most defined curls and, thanks to the rotating nature of the drying barrel, this was easy and comfortable to do. Without a similar attachment, we can’t compare this performance to the Dyson however.
Onto curling. Using both the Airwrap barrels, and FlexStyle’s Auto-Wrap Curlers was a frustrating experience. The Airwrap seemingly grabbed and clung to the hair more effectively than the FlexStyle, and being able to instantly switch curl direction helped to dampen this frustration. However, on both stylers the airflow had a tendency to either pull in hair from other sections, or to blow it in various directions while you’re setting each curl. This resulted in an increased, and unwanted, amount of frizz and flyaways.
Despite both brands’ promises about effortless curling, neither work as well as expected. It takes time to get the process right – the most success we had was when we held a strand of hair about half way up the shaft, at right angles to our head before switching the styler on, which itself is a fiddly process.
Holding the curl in place for around 10 seconds on your desired heat setting before pressing the cold shot button helps them set the style. To create even longer-lasting curls, switch the dryer off and catch the curl as you pull out the dryer. You can then either hold the curl at your roots until it feels cool to the touch, or wrap the curl and pin it.
The whole process is time-consuming and overly complex – it took us more than 20 minutes to style hair on the first time using the Auto-Wrap curlers, and a little over 12 minutes with the Dyson. There’s a lot of turning the dryer on and off, multiple wrapping attempts, waiting, holding curls and separating sections. The fact the curls then don’t hold for long, in our experience, after all that effort is disappointing.
Dyson Airwrap vs Shark FlexStyle: verdict
In the battle between the Shark FlexStyle and Dyson Airwrap there sadly isn’t a stand out winner. They both have their flaws and, interestingly, many of these flaws are the same across the two stylers. We’re still to be convinced about the Coanda effect – we’ve seen countless videos of people who have achieved fantastic results but we’ve not yet managed it. The convenience of having multiple attachments can also wear off when you realize how much space a multistyler needs. Even when in a storage case.
The FlexStyle’s innovative rotating barrel is enough to set it apart from many other hair tools on its own. When you throw in the fact you get a host of other styling options for a relatively cheaper price, it makes the FlexStyle a worthwhile investment. Especially if you have curly hair and having a diffuser is important to you.
That said, Dyson’s Airwrap does take the edge. Even though it costs significantly more, it performed better across the board in terms of design, attachment range, styling and finish. If you can afford the Dyson, we recommend it. However, if you can’t or don’t want to, then the FlexStyle is a worthy alternative. The most worthy alternative we’ve found thus far.
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Victoria Woollaston is a freelance science and technology journalist with more than a decade’s experience writing for Wired UK, Alphr, Expert Reviews, TechRadar, Shortlist and the Sunday Times. She has a keen interest in next-generation technology and its potential to revolutionise how we live and work.