The Shark FlexStyle is better than the Dyson Airwrap

Another vacuum company has entered the hair care scene, and has done so (almost) flawlessly.
By Bethany Allard  on 
All products featured here are independently selected by our editors and writers. If you buy something through links on our site, Mashable may earn an affiliate commission.
shark flexstyle on a white blanket surrounded by attachments
The Shark FlexStyle has six different drying and styling attachments available. Credit: Bethany Allard / Mashable
Shark FlexStyle
The Bottom Line
You can get the Dyson Airwrap experience for a fraction of the price in the Shark FlexStyle.
Buying Options
Mashable Score 4.5
Wow Factor 4
User Friendliness 5
Performance 4.8
Bang for the Buck 4
The Good
  • Way more affordable and worth it than the Dyson Airwrap
  • Super travel friendly
  • Diffuser option for wavy and curly-haired people
  • Twisting base mechanism adds something new and actually useful to the Airwrap design
The Bad
  • Loud
  • No carrying case for at-home storage

Mashable Choice
Mashable Choice is a badge of honor, reserved for the absolute best stuff you can see, use, or do. If it's Choice, it's worth your time.

Revlon One-Step, your reign is over. There's a new Dyson Airwrap dupe in town, and it's the best we've ever seen — the Shark FlexStyle.

You've likely seen the FlexStyle on your For You page, and noticed that unlike pretty much every other dupe out there, it actually looks like the Airwrap. It has a wand base and several interchangeable styling heads, including Coanda tech-powered curling barrels — you know, the ones that magically wrap your hair around the barrel without a hitch.

The resemblances aren't just in its appearance. I've throughly tested both products, and at the end of the day, the performance is nearly indistinguishable. If anything, the Shark offers a few new features that make me reach for it more.

Factoring in its $270 price point, the Shark goes beyond being a gold-standard dupe. It's an excellent copy for less than half the price and it also outperforms the original.

What comes in the box

The internet loves a good tear down of anything popular, so I get you're probably itching to see me hate on the Airwrap. But before we get into any major comparisons, let's go over what you're actually getting with the Shark.

Really, it depends on what configuration you pick up. Here's what's available:

  • The cheapest two options set you back $269.99 if you shop at Amazon and Best Buy. The first option includes two 1.25-inch curling attachments, the oval brush, the paddle brush, and the styling concentrator. For people with straight or slightly wavy hair, this is a great pick. If you have wavier or curlier hair, the second option includes all of the above, but swaps the paddle brush for a diffuser. (These options are also both available on Shark's website, but for $300, so we recommend going for a third-party retailer.)

  • On Shark's website only, you can spend $279.99 to customize your experience and choose any three attachments out of the six available options (the two curling barrels count as one attachment).

all of the shark attachments plus the wand
I received the wavy hair system, plus the paddle brush to test out. Credit: Bethany Allard / Mashable

Shark sent me the wavy hair system to test, but also included the paddle brush on the side. The only attachment I didn't receive was the newly-released wide-tooth comb, but I don't have the hair texture to properly test it anyway. Bought separately, each of the individual attachments will run you $29.95.

Shark also sends along a little booklet of how to use each attachment, with recommendations for the heat and air settings.

Unlike the Airwrap, you can also use the FlexStyle attachment-free, thanks to the base's ability to swivel and basically replicate the experience of a standard hair dryer. I packed the base by itself for a wedding I was in, and it was way less bulky in my bag than any travel hair dryer has ever been.

The value of the Shark FlexStyle versus the Dyson Airwrap

Now that the comparisons to the Dyson have begun in earnest, let's get down to what really matters — the price.

As a refresher, the Airwrap will run you $600 for six attachments, including two different sized curling barrels, a smoothing dryer attachment, two smoothing brushes, and a round volumizing brush. Any additional attachments will cost you $40 each, but Dyson does have more options overall.

Breaking it down solely by the number of attachments, that's roughly $100 per attachment, and I can't say each one justifies its spot (looking at you, firm smoothing brush and soft smoothing brush).

The FlexStyle, on the other hand, comes with four attachments, but as I mentioned above, can function as a dryer sans attachment. Therefore, you have five styling options for $270, which breaks down to about $54 per attachment. Even without the built-in drying, you're still paying about $67.50 per attachment, putting you way below the Dyson.

all of the shark flexstyle attachments next to the dyson airwrap attachments
Minus a few differences, the attachments offered are nearly a one-to-one. Credit: Bethany Allard / Mashable

The discrepancy in cost doesn't translate to a discrepancy in quality, either. The attachments performed almost identically, down to the curling attachment using Coanda air tech to pick up your hair for you. Both stylers have three heat settings, three fan speeds, and a cool shot button or switch.

The only other edge the Dyson has is its fancy carrying case, which I do prefer for storage over the box the Shark comes in. I just don't prefer it for $330 more.

shark flexstyle box next to dark blue dyson airwrap case
The Dyson case feels more polished, but not $330 more polished. Credit: Bethany Allard / Mashable

Attachments breakdown

When I was initially sent my sample of the FlexStyle, I tested it for a few weeks and used each attachment at least once, if not a few times.

I say initially because after I was done testing and in the process of writing this review, Shark informed me that they wanted to send me a newer sample with an updated ALCI plug that was meant to increase the lifespan and durability of the FlexStyle. The one I had been sent was a pre-release version sent to a limited number of consumers, and a Shark spokesperson reassured me that anyone with the "old" model was sent the updated version.

I say this for the sake of transparency, not because I noticed a difference at all in the FlexStyle's performance. I retested each attachment with the new sample, again at least once if not multiple times for the same timespan. None of the attachments or the base as a standalone dryer performed differently, and all of the attachments clicked in to the base and stayed locked in without a hitch.

With all of that said, here's how I found the experience of using each attachment that was sent to me. As I noted earlier in this review, I did not receive the new wide-tooth comb meant for coily and curly hair, nor could I have accurately tested it.

Auto-wrap curlers

When I reviewed the newest version of the Dyson Airwrap, I went on and on about how grateful I was to test the curling attachment that did not require switching barrels and was pretty dramatic about how detrimental that would've been to my minimal hair-styling patience.

Then, the FlexStyle arrived and I saw that Shark's curlers are exactly like of the Airwrap's first generation, which require you to switch barrels to switch directions of the curls. And you know that? This is one of those moments where I get to exhibit my maturity and admit that I was wrong. It was really not that big of a deal to switch out the curling wands mid-styling.

Don't get me wrong, it meant that I pretty much stuck to the look of curls going one direction — away from my face — on either side of my head. However, what I realized with these curlers, and with hot air styled curls in general, is that on my hair, they look the best and frustrate me the least when I lean in to a more very loosely curled blown-out look. The more structured curl look that I can easily achieve with a curling wand simply does not last when using a hot air styler. (Allegedly, there are ways to get hot air styled curls to last, but they've never worked for me, and are frankly far too time consuming to be worth it.)

woman in green dress with curled hair
The curls looked decent right after styling. Credit: Bethany Allard
woman with slightly curled hair
But embracing more blown-out voluminous curls made me much happier with the results. Credit: Bethany Allard

All this to say, I don't think switch the direction of the curls makes that big a difference when you're going for the loose curl look to add just a bit of dimension and volume. Plus, my loose curl method took less time and let me style on dry hair, which made me way more likely to reach for these attachments.

OK, last thing on the curlers and then we can move on — they don't have a longer barrel version meant for longer hair, like those I tested with the Airwrap. Considering the ends of my hair are closer to the bottom of my back than my shoulders, I anticipated it might pose a problem, but once again, Shark proved me wrong. Sure, the hair wrapped around itself more, but I really didn't find myself having to adjust section sizes. The wand was just at successful at grabbing my hair, and the style lasted for the same amount of time.

Styling concentrator

While I can't say using the concentrator gave a vastly difference experience from the sans-attachment dry, it did get a lot of moisture out of my hair in under 15 minutes. I still had some frizz, but I rough dried my hair, so that was to be expected. While it's probably the most redundant attachment since you don't need it to rough dry your hair, I could see a more directed air flow having a time and place, especially if you pair it with a brush. It does score points for being super tiny and easy to store or pack.

shark flexstyle bent with concentrator attachment
It lowkey looks like a vacuum attachment, but the styling concentrator gets the job done. Credit: Bethany Allard / Mashable

Oval brush

My official tier ranking of hot air oval brushes I've tried is as follows: the Revlon One-Step, the second generation Airwrap, and then the Shark FlexStyle. It's not that the FlexStyler's brush was bad — I actually really liked the way my hair came out, and I'm usually not a huge fan of my hair without some defined waves or curls in it. I also liked that the barrel was larger than that of the Airwrap, as it felt like I could get more volume and movement in my hair.

woman with long loose curl styled hair
My favorite part of my job is taking pictures of myself (but seriously, my hair looks good). Credit: Bethany Allard / Mashable

What got me was the way it felt using this attachment with the swivel part of the base. Working with a round brush to style your hair requires a decent bit of tension, and I could see and feel the base on the Shark moving ever so slightly. It was never enough to cause concern, but it was noticeable. Still, I really can't complain that much. Working in sections from 80 percent dry hair, it only took me about 25 minutes to fully style my hair, and I loved the results.

Paddle brush

This was my personal least favorite attachment, mostly because again, not so much a fan of my hair straight. If you're not really looking for a ton of volume, and want smooth sleek hair more than anything else, the paddle brush will be your best friend.

It was super easy to use, and didn't yank or tug, which especially impressed me because I have perpetually knotty hair. I started from about 80 percent dry hair, though some sections were more damp than others, and was able to get perfectly straight and dry hair in 10 minutes.

Curl defining diffuser

My wavy hair and I were stoked to be sent a diffuser, and the Shark one did a great job.

Typically, I'll use a diffuser to give an overall dry to my hair, then pixie diffuse — a technique where you let small sections of hair fall into the bowl of the diffuser, scrunch upward, and hold it into place for 15 to 30 seconds.

Though Dyson does offer a comb attachment for curly hair, there's no diffuser for the Airwrap. This gave the Shark a huge edge, and was one of the biggest factors in determining that it outperformed the product it was made to dupe.

I'm not super precise, and I usually only go for whatever percent dry hides that fact that I washed my hair just before I went out in public in the middle of the afternoon. Though my process can lean on the haphazard side, I loved how much control this diffuser gave me in styling my hair. I could adjust the prongs to be long (Shark recommends this for roots/longer hair) or short (for shorter hair or ends). The long prongs make grabbing sections and actually holding it for pixie diffusing so simple.

shark flexstyle with diffuser and a blue blow dryer with a black diffuser
The Shark FlexStyle versus my standard diffusing system. Credit: Bethany Allard / Mashable

Having that control not only made the process of styling more pleasant, but I think it actually gave me better results. For a fun, very un-scientific experiment, on one test I dried half my hair with the FlexStyle and the other half with my standard blow dryer and diffuser combo (a BabylissPro Nano Titanium and its matching diffuser). When I used the Shark, I had less trouble keeping sections in the bowl of the diffuser, which led to more defined waves. I noticed the longer prongs when getting into my root to dry with some lift. Most of all, I liked I could do the overall dry in dryer mode and then switch to wand mode for pixie diffusing.

shark flexstyle in wand mode next to a blue babylisspro hair dryer
No wand mode for the BabylissPro. Credit: Bethany Allard

The timing was about the same, and again the results weren't that different, but it made me, a devout air dryee, actually want to pull out a blow dryer more. Though Dyson does offer a comb attachment for curly hair, there's no diffuser for the Airwrap. This gave the Shark a huge edge, and was one of the biggest factors in determining that it outperformed the product it was made to dupe.

woman with wavy long hair
Though I still needed to go in with a hair oil to calm the frizz, the left side (styled by the FlexStyle) had noticeably more defined waves than the right (styled by my usual dryer). Credit: Bethany Allard / Mashable

More praise for the overall design

The Shark's base is a bit bigger than the Dyson's, but honestly both are kind of surprisingly big when you first pull them out of the box. Considering you can twist the Shark, the extra inch and a half or so made sense.

Weight-wise, the Dyson is ever so slightly lighter, with only 24 ounces on Shark's 24.64 ounces. I could tell a difference when I held both wands in either hand, but when I was styling, I didn't think twice about it.

One smaller change that Shark made that I especially appreciated was flattening the barrel of the base where the power switch, air, and temperature buttons were located. It made it super easy to hit the cold shot button without looking, or change the air speed when I was diffusing my hair.

shark flex style wand
The flat side of the wand makes it easy to locate the buttons without looking. Credit: Bethany Allard / Mashable

Is the Shark FlexStyle worth it?

Much like the Airwrap, the FlexStyle is not an absolute essential hair styling tool, especially if you already own a blow dryer and some hot tools.

However, if you're looking to switch to hot air styling to help your hair out for regular styling, the FlexStyle is 100 percent worth it. Admittedly, I am someone who would much rather put more effort into their makeup than hair, but I found myself wanting to style my hair more often with the FlexStyle.

Though it has some minor flaws, at $270, those are much easier to look past than those of the Airwrap. Between the FlexStyle and the Airwrap, it's hard for me to imagine a reason why you'd opt for the latter unless you're into big purchases for the sake of big purchases, or if you're especially loyal to Dyson. But if neither of those apply to you, then there's a better vacuum company making hair tech to throw a significantly smaller amount of your money behind.

How we tested

You may know Shark for their vacuums and not their hair products, but clearly it isn't impossible for a brand to successfully make that pivot. If another brand is going to forge down Dyson's path, we're going to follow and see what they're doing — especially if they're offering such a clear Airwrap alternative.

I tested the FlexStyle for several weeks, so I could use each attachment at least once. After those several weeks, Shark requested to send me a new sample, as the test sample they had sent me prior to launch didn't come with an improved ALCI plug that was meant to increase the lifespan and durability of the FlexStyle.

I retested each attachment on the newer sample, and noticed no difference in day-to-day performance. I also never experienced any issues with the original sample, and a Shark spokesperson reassured me that the limited number of customers that did receive the older version of the product had their units replaced.

Finally, a quick profile of my hair, which endured all the testing: My hair is long, fine, with waves that sit between a 2A and 2B pattern. It's prone to dryness at the ends, and usually can hold curled styles for about a day and straight styles for one to two days, provided that no water or humidity touches my hair.

  • Styling time: It doesn't matter if it's a cool concept, if curling your hair with hot air instead of hot wands takes significantly longer, we're going to guess it won't take long before you opt for the less healthy and more convenient method. Depending on the attachment, the FlexStyle took anywhere from 10 to 45 minutes to style hair, keeping it in line with other hot air stylers, timing-wise.

  • Heat settings: Everyone's hair is different, meaning they can withstand different temperatures. With that said, no one should be blasting their hair with 400 degree plus temps on the reg, unless they expect to take on some damage. The FlexStyle measures and regulates temperature 1,000 times per second to make sure the air temp is consistent and not overly damaging to the hair. Only at its hottest setting did it start to feel actually hot, but even then, not nearly as hot as any traditional curling wand or straightener. The middle heat setting was often more than enough to lock in styles.

  • Variety of attachments: A versatile hair tool is only as good as its attachments. Though the Coanda air curling barrels are what draw many to this type of hot air styler, Shark actually has a solid range of styling tools, from the classic round brush, concentrated dryer, the diffuser, and the paddle brush. It'd be nice to see some wider and narrower curling attachments in the future, but for their first iteration, one size isn't a bad place to start.

  • Storage: An all-in-one hair tool loses out on its ease factor if it becomes a pain to store. Like the Dyson Airwrap, the Flex Styler is bound to take up a decent amount of space. Unlike the Airwrap, it doesn't come with a dedicated carrying case, which makes the whole storage process a lot less organized.

Mashable Image
Bethany Allard

Bethany Allard is a shopping reporter at Mashable covering beauty tech, dating, and sex and relationships. She graduated from New York University with a B.A. in Journalism and English Literature. You can follow her on Twitter @betallard and reach her by email at [email protected]

Recommended For You
Shark expanded its hair tool lineup and it looks like we may have more dupes on our hands

AdultFriendFinder is essentially a porn hookup site with some big issues

Official refurbished Dyson Corrales and Supersonics are up for grabs for $199.99

How to get gum out of pubic hair

Trending on Mashable

Wordle today: Here's the answer and hints for August 22

Twitter's 'X' name change has led to a huge decrease in App Store downloads

NASA films rare footage of its Mars helicopter flying and landing
The biggest stories of the day delivered to your inbox.
This newsletter may contain advertising, deals, or affiliate links. Subscribing to a newsletter indicates your consent to our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. You may unsubscribe from the newsletters at any time.
Thanks for signing up. See you at your inbox!