Second to that telltale U.S. accent, nothing says "I'm an American traveling abroad" like having to throw your favorite flat iron away after nearly starting a fire in your hotel bathroom.
Every time I travel, it's pretty much a given that I'll have to sacrifice at least one of my hair tools to the international voltage gods. Sure, air-drying your hair is always preferable if, like me, you're incredibly lazy and the weather allows it, but with whatever happens on contact with my converter usually proving hazardous for the flat irons and curling wands I bring along for the ride, I was often left having to enlist the method in 50-degree weather. Not the worst look I've ever gone for, of course—the eyebrows (or lack thereof) I had back in my formative years can proudly claim that title—but my thick, wavy hair was just easier to manage after my hair tools have worked their magic. And if you're traveling to a place with a colder climate, air-drying certainly isn't the most comfortable option.
For my recent trip to Greenland and Iceland, I knew the air-drying opportunities would be few and far between, and my hair is too high maintenance to rely solely on a hotel hair dryer. Seriously, some of them don't even have cords long enough to reach the back of my head, and don't even get me started on the models that require you to hold down a button the entire time to keep the wind going. That's why I looked into a variety of dual-voltage hair tools on the market, and took them all along for the ride to see which ones burned up, and which ones actually worked.
If there was ever a point during the trip someone needed to find me, following the trail of busted hair tools left behind would probably lead you in the right direction.
VIDEO: Why You Should Think Twice Before Using a Hotel Hair Dryer
Bio Ionic GoldPro Styling Wand
Clipless wands like Bio Ionic's are my favorite. On my wavy texture, they can easily be used on air-dried hair to create extra movement that doesn't look too stiff. This was the case when I tried the GoldPro wand out at home, so I had pretty high hopes.
As a rule of thumb before going on any vacation, I wash my hair and do a full blowout the night before I leave so that I won't feel gross on the plane, and so that I can stretch the same style for as long as humanly possible. By day four, dry shampoo could only do so much, so I caved and washed my hair, then allowed it to air dry as per usual. I plugged in the Bio Ionic wand, set it to 325 degrees—always aim for the lower temperature when using a converter, friends—and waited for it to heat up. The curling rod had just barely heated when it suddenly shut off. I unplugged it, plugged it back in, and repeated the motions. The tool heated up one last time, made a popping noise from within the barrel, and I was unable to even turn it on after that. Damn.
Bio Ionic | $90
Revlon Salon One Step XL Straightening Heated Hair Brush
Heated brushes speak to the lazy girl in me. You're basically brushing through your hair and styling it at the same time, and though most looks are limited to a sleek finish, it doesn't take very long for me to have my entire head covered. Revlon's has a slight curve to its shape, which I loved for faking that blowout look at my roots and ends when I tried it at home.
I probably should have waited more than five minutes after destroying the Bio Ionic curling wand to potentially melt another hair tool, but I panicked. Why I needed to do my hair before going on a freaking hike will always remain a mystery to me. Similar to the wand that came before it, Revlon's heated up, then the screen went completely dark. It was a silent death—no scary popping sounds this time—but since it wouldn't even turn on a second time, the heated brush joined the curling wand in the garbage can below the sink, and I resorted to just using the hotel hair dryer before completely burning through my supply.
Revlon | $50
T3 SinglePass Compact Iron
This tool just broke my heart—I absolutely love T3 tools and have an entire arsenal of them crammed into a drawer in my bathroom. The Whirl Styling Wand gets regular play in my routine, I have no less than three of those interchangeable barrels, and the full-sized SinglePass Flat Iron is one of my favorites. Everyone always sings the praises of these tools in particular being able to stand up to international voltages, but I was always too scared to pack mine along for fear of burning them out.
That unfortunately ended up being the case with the SinglePass Compact. The iron worked for a few minutes and I was able to straighten roughly half of my front left portion of hair, but I noticed the handle gradually kept getting hotter and hotter. I should have quit while I was ahead—especially since I was never able to completely wipe the memory of my CHI Flat Iron melting and actually singeing off a piece of my hair in a similar situation over a decade ago—but nevertheless, I persisted. And then, there was a loud pop. R.I.P. SinglePass Compact. Perhaps this could have been avoided if I had lowered the heat?
T3 | $89
Drybar Baby Buttercup Blow Dryer
You know when you've been disappointed so many times, you automatically expect whatever comes next to follow suit? It's like, whatever, let's just see how much worse this can get. Let's just see if I can burn down the hotel bathroom completely. I went into my experience with the Baby Buttercup to leave the air with the same burnt plastic and hair smell as the tools that came before it, only to be pleasantly surprised at how well it worked.
I plugged the dryer into my converter, and both the wind speed and heat were no different from how they were back at home, and that's always such a hard thing to achieve—in my previous experience, even blow dryers that claim to be dual voltage leave a lot to be desired, and are often way slower on an international voltage. I finished my hair in less time than it typically took at home with Drybar's tool, and was able to use the cool shot function to seal in my work.
Bless you, Drybar. The Baby Buttercup will forever be my travel companion.
Drybar | $135
Amika Movos Wireless Styler
Because chargers are designed to work across a wide range of voltages, rechargeable hair tools like Amika's Movos Flat Iron will save you when the rest of your standards melt on contact with your converter. When my hair was much longer, I had trouble covering my entire head before the battery died on me, but the recipe for success ended up being pretty obvious after a few failed attempts—dry your hair smooth beforehand, then use this tiny guy to seal in your work.
Now that my hair is shorter, one charge can finish all my layers, and I knew that even if all my other tools burned up, Amika's flat iron would be fine by the end of the trip.
Amika | $150
BaByliss Pro Ceramic Tools 1.5 Inch Curling Iron
This curling iron and I have some history—one of my friends let me use hers when I was going out of the country last year, and I swore to replace it if I accidentally ended up completely wrecking hers. Luckily, I didn't, and her dual-voltage curling iron worked so well, I eventually got one of my own.
As expected, it worked just as well this time around. Don't freak out over the weird noise it makes. I'm pretty sure that's normal—or anyway, it hasn't been an issue with me when I've used it—and make sure to set the temperature a few degrees lower than you normally would, as hair tools tend to get much hotter when paired with an international voltage.
BaBylissPRO | $30