The Shark FlexStyle – or to give its full name, the Shark FlexStyle Air Styling & Hair Drying System – is the US appliance giant’s take on the Dyson Airwrap. At its heart, the FlexStyle is a hair dryer, and a highly effective one at that; but with a flick of the wrist, it also transforms into a versatile multi-styler.
To access the standard hair dryer feature, you rotate the top-third of the barrel so that it sits at right angles to the handle. There are then six accessories, including two 1.25-inch curlers, an oval brush, a paddle brush, a diffuser and a styling concentrator that can each be attached to the tip of this barrel. Between them, the dryer and its attachments can curl, straighten, volumize, smooth and define curls, using the diffuser. A wide-tooth comb attachment for curly and coily hair types will be available later this year.
The FlexStyle isn’t Shark’s first foray into beauty. The brand, which is probably best known for its vacuum cleaners, released the HyperAir iQ hair dryer (or the Style iQ hair dryer, outside of the US) at the end of last year. This was followed by two attachments for the dryer to help smooth the hair, or create waves. The FlexStyle builds on the technology of this dryer, bringing greater versatility to the Shark haircare collection.
To coincide with the FlexStyle’s release, Shark is launching its “For All Hairkind” campaign, which aims to “shine a spotlight on the variety and beauty of all hair types.” We mention this because it demonstrates how hard Shark is pushing the fact that the FlexStyle is for everyone. However, our experience doesn’t quite match this expectation.
On test, the styler was great for smoothing and defining the natural curls of our thin, shoulder length hair. However, it wasn’t as successful for curling hair using the Auto-Wrap curlers. The volume we achieved was admirable, but it fell short of other hot dryer brushes we’ve reviewed, most notably the Revlon 2-in-1. Interestingly, these shortcomings are identical to those we hear about the FlexStyle’s closest rival, the Dyson Airwrap.
The versatility of the FlexStyle suggests it will be suited to most people and most hair types, but in our opinion, people with longer, thicker hair and naturally wavy or curly hair are likely to find that this is the more of the best hair dryer and styler for them.
Shark FlexStyle price and availability
- List price: $249.99/£299.99
In the US, it’s available in three bundles. The cheapest, at $249.99, is the “build your own styler” bundle. This includes the dryer, in a silver design, and your choice of three attachments.
For $269.99, you can buy the dryer with the two Auto-Wrap curlers, the oval brush, the styling concentrator and diffuser; or buy the dryer with the two curlers, oval brush, paddle brush and styling concentrator. The former is marketed as being the best combination for curly hair types, while the latter will better suit straight and smooth styles. You can’t currently buy attachments separately.
In the UK, there is a single £299.99 option which comes with the five attachments as well as storage case. This model is available in black.
In the wider multi-styler market, the FlexStyle’s price is at the higher end of the spectrum. It’s twice the price of the $129 Revamp Progloss Airstyle 6-in-1, and the $110 Remington Pro Hot Air Multi-Styler. However, it’s more than half the price of the $600 Dyson. In Dyson’s defense, the Airwrap comes with nine accessories as standard and a carry case for storage in all regions.
The key difference, and the reason for the higher prices of Shark and Dyson multi-stylers, is that both appliances use the Coanda Effect. This uses swirling airflow, blown out of slits in both styler’s detachable barrels, to attract and make the hair “cling” to the surface of the curler. It’s designed to make curling easier and faster – once you get the hang of it, that is – and it’s this convenience that goes some way towards justifying the expense.
Price and availability: 3 / 5
Shark FlexStyle design
- Easy-to-reach and use controls
- Well-balanced and lightweight barrel
- Large, cheap-looking attachments detract from the styler’s overall finish
While it’s true the Shark FlexStyle can replace a number of your existing hair tools, don’t expect it to save you a lot of space in the process. The main barrel is slim, but it’s long at 11.5 inches, and this is before you add any attachments. The longest attachment is the 6-inch Auto-Wrap curler, which, in use, takes the total length of the styler to a somewhat cumbersome 17.5 inches. Conversely, when using the standard hair dryer with the barrel rotated, the length reduces to 8.5 inches – which feels far more manageable.
The 8ft cable is thick and has a large power pack about a third of the way down, which makes it difficult to wrap or coil neatly. Both the oval and paddle brushes are on the large side, much larger than the size of a regular hairbrush. As is the diffuser. Even the styling concentrator is chunkier than expected.
As a result, the FlexStyle is a pain to store in a drawer, and there are too many individual parts to keep out on your side/dressing table at any one time. The UK version ships with a storage case, which will mitigate this somewhat, but this case isn’t currently available in the US. As a side note in favour of these attachments, their large dimensions are also what makes the styler better suited to longer, thicker hair.
On the plus side, the rotating barrel design of the FlexStyle reduces the need for a separate hair dryer attachment. The barrel itself fits comfortably in the palm of your hand – with a 5.5-inch circumference – and remains well balanced, no matter which attachment you use. This is no mean feat given its length, and when coupled with its lightweight at just 1.5lbs, makes even the most complex and long-winded styles comfortable to complete. Our only complaint is that, once again, the power pack on the cable adds what feels like an unnecessary amount of bulk when lifting the styler above and around your head.
Arrow indicators on the barrel help guide setup and use – both in terms of how to rotate the barrel, and how to add and remove attachments. You then use the button at the base of the barrel to cycle between the three heat and three airflow speed settings. A separate cold shot button can be found above the main button.
The FlexStyle on review here has a silver-coloured base with off-white plastic attachments. While the dryer itself feels and looks premium, it’s the attachments that make it look cheaper than its price would indicate. Plus, they become dirty relatively easily. The model our Homes Editor tested at IFA in Berlin was black with gold accents, looking higher-end and classy.
Design: 3 / 5
Shark FlexStyle performance
- Intuitive controls
- Fast overall drying speeds
- Performance and finish vary widely depending on the attachment being used
Despite the number of attachments and styling options on offer with the FlexStyle, it’s an easy appliance with which to get started. To rotate the barrel, pull and hold down the rotating switch on the barrel’s handle (depicted with a curved arrow above it), and use your other hand to twist the top of the barrel towards you (if you’re holding it in your right hand), or away from you (if you’re holding it in your left). To add attachments, turn and lock them into place and then use the unlock switch on the barrel, depicted with a lock icon, to remove them with ease.
The use of an unlock switch may seem like an unnecessary step, but it prevents the attachments from twisting and moving mid-style – a common complaint of other hair dryers and cheaper multi-stylers we’ve used in the past.
The settings button is well placed at the bottom of the barrel to allow you to make changes mid-style, should you need to. It takes a slight force to use this button, the benefit being that it’s difficult to switch between settings accidentally. However, the settings button does sit alongside the air vents for the motor, and this can block airflow at times when you’re switching between modes.
The 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 dried in this way, but no more or less than when drying with other hairdryers.
Using either the oval or paddle brush extended this 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. All three styling options – the standard dryer, oval and paddle brush – are relatively intuitive in use.
To get real volume using the oval brush, you’ll need to spend time working on the roots. Ultimately, this takes some time and involves holding your hair straight up (or at right angles to your head), placing the brush on the underside of your hair at the base and running it up and through each strand multiple times. You can also hold the brush at the base while it sets the volume, before smoothing the rest of the hair, or rotating it as you move it through to create flicks or large curls and waves.
Although this method gave our fine hair decent volume to begin, the style didn’t hold; it fell flat within half an hour. To improve the volume and get it to hold longer, we resorted to using the Color Wow Volumizer. By comparison, the Revlon 2-in-1 delivers almost too much volume at first, without having to use any additional products – and even when the hair does drop, it’s far less noticeable.
The paddle brush on the FlexStyle is much simpler. Run it 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 the paddle brush up and under your roots for a few seconds before each pass through the hair. The finish is smooth, and we were pleasantly surprised by how little frizz was generated. We usually resort to straighteners to get such a sleek, straight style, so the FlexStyle proved highly impressive. The drying time for this attachment was 3 minutes and 2 seconds.
For curly hair styles, we used the standard dryer to knock out about 50% of the water from our hair. We then manually scrunched curls with our hands before holding these curls in place inside the diffuser. Holding the diffuser 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.
What we feel is the biggest selling point of the FlexStyle is the promise of effortless, almost hands-free curling using the Auto-Wrap curlers. To get the most out of these attachments, you should start by drying hair until it’s around 80% dry. We used the FlexStyle’s basic hair dryer function to do this.
Achieving the optimum level of moisture in the hair can be difficult. As a guide, we’ve found the Auto-Wrap Curlers work best when hair appears dry from a distance, but feels cold to the touch; it suggests a small amount of moisture remains. You’ll soon discover if you haven’t gauged it correctly, though, because if the hair’s too dry, the curl won’t hold. However, if it’s too wet, the hair won’t easily wrap around the barrel. As you can probably guess, this takes a fair amount of trial and error.
To use the Coanda technology, we recommend holding a strand of hair about half way up the shaft, at right angles to your head. This will result in the end of the strand pointing down. Turn on the styler and hold it close to this hanging end; the Coanda technology will generate airflow that pulls your hair towards the barrel and wraps it around, creating a curl that’s then set by the hot air. We saw the most success when we held it in place for around 10 seconds, but this will depend on your hair’s thickness. To create even longer-lasting curls, switch the dryer off and catch the curl as you pull out the dryer. Hold it up towards your head until it feels cool to the touch.
To say this whole process is time-consuming and overly complex would be an understatement. There’s a lot of turning the dryer on and off, multiple wrapping attempts, waiting, holding curls and separating sections. The reason there are two curlers of the same size is because they each direct the airflow in different directions. This means that if you want to change the direction of your curls, making the style look more natural and bouncy, you have to swap between these two attachments repeatedly.
To add to this, the airflow has 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. Hardly the quick, easy and convenient styling the brand promises, it took us more than 20 minutes to style hair on the first time of using the Auto-Wrap curlers. What’s more, if you get the curls to set effectively, they don’t hold for long. Or they certainly didn’t in our hair – even with products and lots of hairspray.
We should add that this is uncannily similar to the performance of the Dyson Airwrap, which suggests a flaw in the technology, rather than an issue that’s specific to the Shark styler.
Performance: 3 / 5
Shark FlexStyle score card
|Price and availability||The Shark FlexStyle is an expensive appliance that will be out of reach for a lot of budgets. However, it can effectively save you money on buying separate dryers, curling wands, and hot brushes. And considering it’s the first real competitor to the Dyson Airwrap, it will be an attractive option for those in the market for a versatile multi-styler.||3 / 5|
|Design||What the FlexStyle lacks in attractiveness and compactness, it makes up for with its well-balanced, lightweight design.||3 / 5|
|Performance||For all the versatility the FlexStyle offers, its performance varies significantly, depending on the style you’re after.||3 / 5|