To dupe or not to dupe? This is the question one must ask themselves when looking at the $600 Dyson Airwrap, a hair tool with plenty of hype and a hefty price tag to match. Though there are plenty of Airwrap dupes out there, none have come so close to recreating the Dyson experience as the Shark FlexStyle, which starts at a much more manageable $279.99. images-8.fill_.size_2000x1196.v1682022408 They look basically identical, but the similarities don’t just stop there. The Shark FlexStyle performs just as well, and in some cases even outperforms the Airwrap — but Dyson still has somewhat of an edge. We’ve been testing both products for months, and have done a deep dive in comparing them in order to determine once and for all a winner in this battle of the hot air tools. (And if you’re into deep dives, don’t forget check out our full reviews of the Airwrap and FlexStyle).
How is the Shark FlexStyle the same as the Dyson Airwrap?
The FlexStyle bares a striking number of similarities to the Airwrap, probably due to the fact that the original Airwrap dropped in 2018, and the more recent generation in June 2022, only building on the product’s popularity. In pure dupe timing, Shark’s iteration came out in September 2022. The big draw of the FlexStyle was that it uses the same Coanda air technology that Dyson seemed to have on lock for so many years (and from its website seems to believe it still has sole claim over). With that tech and the curling barrels, gone are the days when people had to convince themselves they could get Airwrap curls with their Revlon One-Steps. images-5.fill_.size_2000x1253.v1682015301 In terms with what comes with each multi-styler out of the box, Dyson does offer slightly more tools. However, Shark charges a lower price ($279.99) for fewer tools — but tools that you can pick out. Or, for $299.99, you can choose between the set for straight and wavy hair or curly and coily hair. Both stylers have attachments available for additional purchase, which we’ll touch on more below. What attachments are included with the Dyson Airwrap:
Coanda smoothing dryer
1.2-inch Airwrap long barrel
1.6-inch Airwrap long barrel
Firm smoothing brush
Soft smoothing brush
Round volumizing brush
Note: I have long hair, so Dyson sent me the “long” version of the Airwrap (which basically just applies to the curling barrels), but it’s the exact same price.What attachments are included with the Shark FlexStyle:
Two 1.25-inch auto-wrap curlers (for outward and inward curl directions)
Paddle brush (straight and wavy) or diffuser
Clearly, Dyson offers some variety in the curl sizes and Shark comes in hot for textured hair with a diffuser (which even in the array of additional options, Dyson does not have). If you have curly hair, Dyson does offer a curly/coily version of the Airwrap that swaps one of the smoothing brushes for a wide tooth comb. images-9.fill_.size_2000x1500.v1682022408 The FlexStyle also has a twisting mechanism in its base, which allows you to use to tool more like a traditional hair dryer. It does allow you to use the attachments and multi-styler in a way that you simply can’t with the Dyson, which helps make up for the fact that it comes with fewer attachments overall. images-17.fill_.size_2000x1535.v1682027857 For the attachments that are basically the same between the two tools, I hardly noticed a difference between their performance when reviewing the FlexStyle (which I reviewed after the Airwrap). To confirm their similarity, I used the most similar attachments again to style one half of my hair each, to get a true side by side comparison. Here’s what I found:
The curling barrel attachments
As I mentioned, the Dyson curling barrels are a little longer, where Shark is still a one size only operation. When actually styling my hair, however, I didn’t really notice the Shark feeling more difficult to work with or more limiting in the sizes of sections I could pick up. images-18.fill_.size_2000x1500.v1682027857 The bigger difference comes from the fact that the Shark barrels are more akin to gen-one Airwrap barrels — for switching the direction of the curl, you need to switch the barrels. As I noted in my FlexStyle review, this was actually way less of a hassle than I anticipated, but I did notice the difference more when styling my hair side by side. I like a slightly more undone look, and curls going toward and away the face help achieve that — the Airwrap made that switch super easy. Still, on its own, it’s not enough of an inconvenience to spring the extra $300. At the end of the day, curling my hair took roughly the same amount of time (with the Airwrap being a few minutes faster) and produced the same look.Both wands also produced styles that held for the same amount of time, which is to say not all that long — in both of my prior reviews, I noted how even with prepping the hair and using hair spray, hot air curls just don’t hold the same way those from a curling wand or iron do. For me, these attachments aren’t the reason to get either of these multi-stylers, but some people seem to really love them. Either way, between the two tools, the performance is nearly identical.images-6.fill_.size_563x750.v1682016862
Styling concentrator and smoothing dryer attachments
For drying down my wet hair to the 85 percent dry range for most of these styles, I used each multi-styler’s dryer attachments (revolutionary). Here is where the Dyson’s grasp on the Coanda tech really shined. The smoothing dryer provides an all-over rough dry, and then can be switched to a smoothing side, which uses the Coanda air flow to grab your hair, drying it and taming frizz at the same time. It’s super simple to use, and while it might not completely rid you of frizz (or do as good a job as the dedicated smoothing brush), it does elevate the rough dry process.images-15.fill_.size_2000x1360.v1682026838 The Shark, on the other hand, has a leg up in that it can be used to dry hair sans any attachments. The air flow is not at all concentrated, but it gets the job done, and definitely adds to its travel-friendly factor. The styling concentrator itself works fine, is nothing all that special, and kind of looks like a vacuum attachment. images-13.fill_.size_2000x1500.v1682026838 In terms of dry time, Dyson once again has a slight edge, proving to be a couple minutes faster.
Oval and round brush attachments
You might be surprised (by which we mean not at all) again to learn that for the most part, it was hard to discern a real difference between the round brushes of the Shark and the Dyson. Most obviously, they produce slightly different results because they come in different sizes. Technically, the FlexStyle is an oval brush, which has a larger, oblong diameter. The Airwrap is a pure round brush, with a 2.21-inch diameter. The smaller size makes for getting a slight curl or flip at the end of your hair easier, as you can see below, where I styled the right side of my hair with the Dyson. images-7.fill_.size_563x750.v1682018632 Shark has recently released a true round brush that looks like an even more one-to-one replica of the Dyson brush. For what I tested though, both were fairly easy to move through my hair. The Shark has the classic combo of nylon and boar bristles while the Dyson uses only tinier nylon bristles, and overall seemed to have more venting, which did slightly speed up the drying process.images-12.fill_.size_2000x1500.v1682026838 The only other difference here is that the Shark brush can hold a bit more tension, which is especially noticeable in the twisting mechanism in the base. It never felt like it was going to break, but it did make the overall Dyson experience feel better.
Smoothing brush attachments
In my original review of the Dyson, the smoothing brushes were my personal favorite of the attachments, as they proved great for taming frizz (a godsend on my wavy, dry hair) and achieving a straight sleek look, all with just the effort it takes to basically brush my hair.The FlexStyle paddle brush offers a similar look, but has more rounded edges if you want to achieve more flip on the ends of your hair. Where the Dyson offers two brushes, each with a singular smooth and firm bristle type respectively, the FlexStyle brush uses boar and nylon bristles, just like its round brush.images-11.fill_.size_2000x1500.v1682026420 Honestly, these differences weren’t that noticeable in the actual performance of the brushes. True to form, the Dyson dried my hair a tiny bit faster — though both stylers were using the middle heat and full fan speed — taking a little over five minutes where the FlexStyle took closer to 10. The Dyson was maybe a bit lighter, which felt more noticeable as I slowly moved the brush down my hair. When it was all said and done, my hair looked and felt exactly the same — straight, shiny, and soft — and held the style all day (though this isn’t unusual for my hair to do when straightened). images-1.fit_lim.size_376x-1images-3.fit_lim.size_376x
Additional attachments offered
The other major attachment that comes included in Shark’s curly hair set is the diffuser, which gives Shark a big advantage over the Airwrap. Wavy- and curly-haired folks regularly use diffusers, so it seems like quite the oversight for the Airwrap not to have one. images-10.fill_.size_2000x1500.v1682026420 This is where Shark’s twisting mechanism really comes into play, because it allows you to use a diffuser in a way that’s more natural, and that Dyson simply can’t replicate. We’ll keep our fingers crossed for the future, but for the time being, if you want a Dyson diffuser, you’ll have to go with its Supersonic hair dryer. Shark additional attachments for purchase:
Wide tooth comb
0.95-inch auto-wrap curlers
Factoring in these additional attachments, Shark offers a grand total of eight different attachments, priced individually at $29.95 each. Dyson additional attachments for purchase:
0.8-inch Airwrap barrel
Small soft smoothing brush
Small firm smoothing brush
Small round volumizing brush
Dyson’s individual attachments cost a bit more per piece at $39.99. Overall, the Airwrap has 10 compatible attachments, not accounting for the doubles between the “long” and normal versions of the barrels (since you would likely get one or the other). Neither brand offers anything that different with the additional attachments, but Shark offers more variety in general with the intended purpose of the tools — offering a diffuser and a wide comb, for instance, feels better than Dyson’s four different smoothing brushes. If you’re into micro-customization though, the Airwrap will you have you covered.
Differences in heat damage
One of the huge benefits of using hot air tools is that they don’t expose your hair to as high, direct heat as traditional hot tools like flat irons or curling wands.Dyson’s heat control system measures the Airwrap’s temp over 40 times per second to make sure the hair will never be hit with air hotter than 302 degrees Fahrenheit. A Shark representative told Mashable that the FlexStyle tops out at 203 degrees and measures the device’s temperature up to 1,000 times per second. Obviously, this is a much higher number, and not possible to measure while using it. What I will say is that I don’t notice a huge difference between the top heat on the Dyson and the Shark, and certainly not a 100 degree one. Though individual damage is also nearly impossible to measure, I don’t find my hair initially feels more fried using one tool over the other. I will say that the FlexStyle has more heat options, offering a warm, medium, and hot heat in addition to the cool shot button. The Airwrap, on the other hand, has a cold, warm, and hot air flow, as well as a cool shot switch, though there isn’t a discernible temperature difference between the cool setting and cool shot switch. Both tools have three air speeds.images-21.fill_.size_2000x1177.v1682028122 As a quick aside, though the controls are slightly different, neither felt better than the other, though I did slightly prefer the cool shot switch mechanism of the Dyson to the button of the Shark. However, I don’t think that’s a make or break feature.Overall, both feel better for hair health than traditional hot tools (and felt far better than cheaper hot air tools like the One-Step). As with any heat styling, you should always be using a heat protectant when using either.
The biggest perks of splurging on an Airwrap
So why would anyone spend double the price? As with any expensive luxury product, Dyson does surpass Shark when it comes down to the details. For instance, Airwraps have always come with a carrying case. It’s a little bulky, but its velvet interior and smooth exterior feel nice, and far beat storing your multi-styler in its original box, as I have with the FlexStyle. It is worth noting however, that Shark has recently come out with its own storage case.images-19.fit_lim.size_376ximages-20.fit_lim.size_376x Still, Dyson has the leg up, also offering a display stand and a travel case for taking your Airwrap on the go. Beyond storage, as noted above, the Dyson does dry a tiny bit faster. Personally, I’m more a fan of its colors than the beige Shark. Finally, the Dyson is a tad quieter, but not so much so that it would make any functional difference in say, waking up a roommate over the Shark — mainly, it’s just slightly more pleasant to listen to as you do your hair.
Which is a better value?
If you’re shopping in terms of pure value, the answer is pretty obvious: Go for the FlexStyle. Again, it is at least half the price of the Dyson, and largely performs the same. Yes, there are some minor areas where the Dyson will be a bit better — and maybe if it were $50 or $100 more I’d say go for the Dyson. But you could buy two FlexStyles for the cost of one Dyson. You can buy more attachments for cheaper. Again, I’ve had both for months, and neither feels like it’s performing any worse than the day I got it. If you’re willing to let go of just a bit of that luxury feel, and instead just want a tool that will style your hair and do it well, the FlexStyle is the way to go.
Is it easier to find the FlexStyle in stock?
Both the Airwrap and the FlexStyle are available at multiple retailers, including:
Best Buy: Airwrap and FlexStyle
Sephora: Airwrap and FlexStyle
Though stock can still be a hit or miss with both tools, the Airwrap is not nearly as elusive as it once was. At the time of writing, it’s in stock on Dyson’s website, at Sephora in its special edition color, and at Best Buy. The FlexStyle is also widely available.
The final verdict: Shark FlexStyle vs. Dyson Airwrap
This likely comes as no surprise based on everything above, but if you’re not someone who wants luxury for the sake of luxury, this is a clear go for the dupe — the FlexStyle offers nearly everything the Airwrap does, and then some extras that the Airwrap doesn’t, for half the price. Based on the FlexStyle’s additions so far, from the storage case to the expanded range of attachments, it seems that whatever Dyson does next with its multi-styler, Shark is likely to follow. So why not go for innovation at a much more reasonable price?