By Fiona McKim
If you want to know what the best hair dryer is, you’re not alone. Regardless of where you sit on the low-to-high-maintenance scale, this is one beauty tool that just about everyone uses.
In fact, a recent Philips Global Beauty Index survey found that 76% of women used a hair dryer at home, making hair dryers the most popular beauty tool among 12,000 women surveyed. Just like with the best hair straighteners, there are countless models available, ranging from simple lightweight dryers to super-covetable high-tech models like the Dyson Supersonic, so it makes sense to seek guidance when looking for the best hair dryer to create salon-worthy styles at home.
How we selected and tested the best hair dryers
Beauty editor Fiona McKim tested the hair dryers repeatedly over several weeks. She weighed up every aspect of the dryers, from the way they feel in the hand, weight, ease of controls and cleaning, as well as a rundown of special technical features. With this in mind, there were a few variants that didn't make the final cut, namely cordless hair dryers and bonnet hair dryers, which, after research, did not live up to their promises in terms of performance, so we sadly couldn't include any model of this type in our best hair dryer edit.
In this guide, as well a review of what each dryer is genuinely like to use, you will find technical information, including the weight, power and warranty for each hair dryer, because we believe these details are just as important when it comes to making a purchasing decision.
We'll also provide information on the different types of hair dryers, from ionic to salon professional, as well as the answers to all your hair dryer questions, like “Do I need a cold shot or a diffuser?” and “How powerful does a hair dryer need to be?” You'll find these details towards the bottom of this guide.
The best hair dryer as reviewed by our experts
Overall best hair dryers
Best powerful hair dryer
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
Let’s get the obvious out of the way first: Not everyone has hundreds of pounds to budget for beauty, and you certainly don’t need to spend that much to buy a quality hair dryer (there are plenty of excellent budget-friendly choices on this list). But, if you are planning to make a sizeable investment, it’s easy to see why the Dyson Supersonic has such a devoted fan base, and why we had to write up a Dyson hair dryer review in our best hair dryer guide.
As you’d expect from the brain who managed to turn vacuum cleaners into a bonafide status symbol, the spec is impressive. The main USP is power, generated from a 13-blade digital motor, positioned not in the head of the dryer, as is the industry norm, but in the handle. Said motor sends 13 liters of air per second up to the head, which is then multiplied to 41 liters and checked 20 times per second to maintain a precise temperature. The aim is fast, controlled drying and styling without the damage of extreme heat. The dryer runs at a relatively low 1600W, proving bigger isn’t always better when it comes to power.
So, what’s it actually like to use? In a word, impressive. Considering how much technology the Dyson packs in, the experience is pleasingly pared back, with three speed controls and four heat, plus a cold-shot button. Tap the power button and it whooshes right to full speed, not a second wasted warming up, plus it’s noticeably quiet and a dream to control, thanks to that handle-based motor (why didn't anyone think of that before?).
When tested with the styling concentrator and smoothing nozzles, it left a lovely shine on my fine hair without flattening it down and there’s a third diffuser attachment for curls, too. A rough dry without any of the nozzles did leave my hair a bit fluffy, so I’d recommend using one of the three. They attach magnetically, which is handy when you snap them on, less so when they on occasion click back off of their own accord. I also managed to loosen the little vent at the base of the handle after a couple of months of continuous use, but needless to say these are minor gripes in this Dyson hair dryer review.
I’m nitpicking because, overall, the Dyson Supersonic experience is pretty peerless – as to whether you have the funds to spend, I’ll leave that up to you.
See our full Dyson Supersonic hair dryer review
Best ionic hair dryer
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
When GHD launches a product, we pay attention. This brand is known for innovation and an ability to know what consumers want even before we do (case in point: GHD launches the original styler; suddenly we all want poker-straight hair). The GHD Helios Professional Hair Dryer is their latest tool and comes with a plethora of shiny new claims, namely that it is the brand's lightest, fastest professional dryer. It offers ultra-powerful drying performance and salon results, with 30% more shine when tested on 101 women compared with their usual dryer.
What’s not to love? Firstly, it looks gorgeous. It’s sleeker than previous GHD models and you can pick from five colors – classic black, ink blue, powder pink, white and my personal favorite, classy plum with gold accents. The casing is matte with a velvety texture that feels very sophisticated. And while, at 780g, it isn’t the lightest of the bunch, it feels nimble and easy to maneuver, thanks to its ergonomic design with the weight balanced fairly equally between handle and head.
Of course, a dryer can’t survive on good looks alone, but the GHD Helios more than measures up when it comes to performance. It’s got a light, brushless motor that boasts airflow of 120kph and you can certainly feel that power when you flick it on to full heat and speed – it whooshes into action, albeit in a reasonably quiet way.
It’s got powerful ionic technology, meaning the dryer releases negative ions to smooth as you dry (for more information on ions, see our cheat sheet at the bottom of this article) – and smooth it certainly does. In fact, w&h beauty director Sarah Cooper-White, who helped vote this dryer as our top hair tool in the 2020 W&H Hair Awards, says it gives her the sleekest, fastest blow dry she’s ever managed at home.
That smoothing effect is likely down to a combination of the powerful ions, plus highly concentrated airflow, thanks to an ultra-slimline nozzle, meaning you can really control where you're aiming all that power. Settings-wise, GHD has adopted an “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” approach and the Helios has user-friendly two speed, two heat and one cool shot buttons – and fair enough, for the average dryer anything more is superfluous.
Overall, the GHD Helios is a brilliant all-rounder, with incremental improvements on prior technology, but nothing that will alienate or annoy those who love older GHD models. It is a powerful tool and feels that way when you're using it in terms of heat and “blast”, which makes for a satisfying and ultra-speedy – if not 100% silent – drying experience.
See our full GHD Helios hair dryer review
Best salon hair dryer
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
If you ask a room full of hairdressers to name their top dryer, expect Parlux to win the majority vote. This Italian brand has been a cult favourite for those in the know for years; many top salons will use nothing else and, after trying the latest model, the Parlux Alyon, it’s not hard to see why.
On a superficial note, this dryer’s appearance could reasonably be described as sexy. It comes in 10 colours, from inky matte black to bright corals and yellows (I tried peacock-like jade) and, thanks to its prism exterior, throws out an array of lovely shades depending on the light.
It’s small, sleek and incredibly light, coming in at just a shade heavier than the GHD Flight, a travel dryer, but boasts a muscular 2250W of power. The heat and speed options are good, two of each adjusted with a unique flick switch on the side of the handle. This proved surprisingly handy for mid-dry temperature adjustments, which I could do intuitively using my thumb instead of having to pull the dryer away to see which button I was pressing.
Looks and feel aside, the Parlux Alyon packs in a fair number of useful features, which makes it truly worthy of inclusion in this best hair dryer guide. It’s ionic, so helps prevent frizz and damage, while the K-Advance Plus motor promises a robust lifespan of at least 3,000 hours and powerful airflow, both signatures of the Parlux brand, hence their popularity with pros.
You’ll notice the power right away, especially considering how little the hair dryer weighs, making it a dream to dry even thick hair – no achy arms. The nice touches continue with two smoothing nozzles in the box, as well as a tactile cool button that has a satisfying click.
There is also a patent-pending HFS “Hair Free System” – essentially a little corkscrew within the back vent that catches hair to stop it getting trapped in the dryer. This looked tricky, with its 10-step instruction booklet, but was actually quite simple, although I wasn't convinced it deserved such fanfare compared with an ordinary twist-off vent.
See our full Parlux Alyon review
4. Remington Thermacare Pro 2400
Best cheap hair dryer
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
Call it the tech takeover of beauty, call it pink tax – whatever’s happened, it’s fair to say the cost of a decent hair dryer has been on a steep incline for a few years now. But that doesn’t mean you can’t find something great at a price that doesn’t require a sharp intake of breath before you hit “add to basket”. Enter the Remington Thermacare Pro 2400.
After testing many hair dryers with hefty price tags, it’s tricky to approach a sub-affordable model without making assumptions about it’s comparative performance, but the Thermacare Pro 2400 blew those misconceptions away (ahem).
It looks the part, with nice creamy white and muted gold casing that did feel a smidge plasticky, but pleasant enough to hold. The technical spec matches up to its pricier counterparts in many ways; it’s got ionic technology and a ceramic grille for evenly spread heat. The motor sends out 90km of air per hour and boasts double the lifespan and lower noise than the brand’s previous models.
As well as three heat and two speed controls, there’s a cool shot and a booster button that ramps up the airflow, rough drying roots in double time. This feature did make the dryer noisier, but nothing intolerable. It comes with two styling nozzles and one diffuser, more than the usual offering at this price and gave me a nice everyday blow dry in as much time as I would expect from any dryer.
A minor gripe: It would be nice if the nozzles were white, not black, as they looked a little incongruous stuck on the end, but aesthetics are secondary to performance and this performs very well indeed. If you want something nice-looking, powerful and reliable to give your hair a day-to-day blast without requiring you to sell your firstborn, this could be the best hair dryer for you.
5. T3 Cura Luxe
Best quiet hair dryer
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
Of every model tested for this best hair dryer feature, I came to the T3 Cura Luxe with some of the highest expectations, not least because it gives the Dyson Supersonic a run for its money on price. Within the beauty industry, T3 has a reputation for innovation and, incidentally, makes my favorite curling wand (the customizable Whirl Trio). So, how did their latest luxury hair dryer measure up?
From the minute you slip it out of its box, the Cura Luxe makes a good impression, all sleek glossy and black with copper detail; there’s a white version, too, if that’s your thing. It looks a tad large compared with some of the others I tried (it’s about 25cm long, compared with 21cm for the Remington and Parlux), but doesn’t feel clunky in hand. The display is digital, which feels very swish – click one button to flit up and down five heat settings or two speeds, and the cool-shot button is lockable, too, making life easier if you need to set a head of thick hair – no sore thumb from holding it down.
As I said, this is a brand known for pushing technology forward and there’s plenty of that going on in the Cura Luxe. The most unique feature is the auto pause – take your fingers off the handle and put the dryer down, and it automatically stops airflow, resuming only when you pick it back up again. You can imagine how useful this proved when attempting a big bouncy blow dry with various round brushes. It does take a couple of seconds to notice it’s been dropped and self-pause, but in several weeks of testing, it never failed to kick in.
The power-to-noise ratio is impressive – even on full heat and speed, it’s noticeably quieter than the other high-end models. There’s also ionic technology, plus a volume-boost switch, which temporarily stops the smoothing ions – T3 recommends you use that while rough drying roots. All the little mod cons you would want from a high-end dryer are present: Two smoothing attachments, a nice long cable with handy little Velcro tidier and an easy click-off vent at the back.
This was one the dryers I continued using long after testing was over, and while I want to avoid using the D word, it must be said that the T3 Cura Luxe is the closest thing I tested to the Supersonic in terms of features and performance. It’s a little more traditional in looks and spec, but has plenty of its own unique selling points and rings in at a cheaper price than its rival, even less at some online retailers. As I said of the dryer than shall not be named, this is an exceptional bit of kit, but whether you have the cash to spend is between you and your credit card.
6. Dyson Smooth + Control Airwrap styler
Best dryer and styler in one
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
The Dyson Airwrap isn’t going to be for everyone. There is the obvious expense to begin with, and if you are someone who wants to blast your hair dry in the most fuss-free manner possible and doesn’t like to play around with your style much, then it’s not going to suit you, either. Having said that, if you do like to experiment with different styles, for example drying then tonging in waves, adding volume with rollers or smoothing with a hot brush, you will very likely try the Dyson Airwrap and wonder where it has been all of your life.
Using the Airwrap is so enjoyable you might actually start looking forward to styling your hair in the morning. If you go for the Airwrap Complete, you will get a total of six attachments that cover everything you can imagine doing with your 'do: A dryer attachment that essentially turns it into the Supersonic Dryer (minus the styling nozzles); 30mm and 40mm barrels to create waves of varying degrees of tightness; a round volumizing brush; plus firm and soft smoothing brushes. Each one is neatly clicked and locked into the top of the styler and the world is your hair-shaping oyster!
It is worth pointing out that in order for the Airwrap Coanda-effect technology to work (more on that below), the curling barrels do need to be switched between left and right sides, which is a minor inconvenience but one that is more than justified by the rest of the slick user experience.
The technology hinges on something called the Coanda effect, a hugely powerful spinning impeller within the tool that creates a pressurized flow of air to attract hair towards the attachment, wrapping it around the barrel or holding it against the brush. Air is then pushed over the strands, combined with highly controlled heat, to dry and style hair without ever subjecting it to the searing temperatures of hot styling tools. You can set the hair using a cool-shot button or just flick it back off and out drops a shiny curl, bouncy wave or perfectly smoothed section of hair. It really is very satisfying and positively mouse-like in volume compared with your average hair dryer.
Most of the attachments are novice-friendly, but there’s definitely a knack to using the waving barrels, which you probably won't master first time. But I found the sleek sexiness of the device more than enough motivation to keep trying and, by the third go, I had cracked it, after which my usual curling tong was starting to look outdated and more than a little damaging in my eyes.
This would also be a lifesaver for travelling with, as it’s essentially every styler plus your hair dryer in one ultra-slim and lightweight package. As I said, the Dyson Airwrap isn’t for everyone, but if you can invest and are a heavy user of a variety of drying and styling tools, this could replace them all in spectacular style.
7. GHD Flight
Best travel hair dyer
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
The GHD Flight aims to solve a universal holiday-hair dilemma: Do you use valuable baggage allowance on your powerful but clunky dryer, or take something smaller but accept a substandard drying experience? The answer, says GHD, is neither.
The Flight weighs in at 422g, around half the weight of the GHD Air (a dryer raved about by w&h beauty editor Annie Vischer, incidentally), yet packs in 70% of the power of the larger model. Handily, you can adjust the voltage between 120 for the US and Canada, and 240 for Europe, by sticking a coin in a little groove and flicking it around.
The controls are fairly simple – two hot settings, one cool and that’s your lot. The hottest it’ll ever get is 65ºC, which is plenty if you’re holidaying somewhere balmy, and although the cool setting could be a little colder, it still has a decent de-frazzling effect if you use it to finish your blow dry.
Probably the best thing about the Flight is its physical form – it’s made of a lightweight plastic but still looks the part. The handle folds inwards to make it less awkward to pack, and the quoted 422g is including the nozzle and cord, so it feels incredibly light.
Of course, no travel dryer will ever quite match the power of a full-sized model, but this comes pretty darn close. My hair is of the classic “fine but you’ve got lots of it” variety and I didn’t notice too much difference in drying time or styling effect from my usual dryer.
If you’ve got extremely thick or curly hair, it might be a different story, although anecdotally I’d suggest that you probably wouldn’t want to go near very curly hair with a dryer at the best of times, let alone in hot and humid conditions. You’ll find it easy to store the GHD Flight away, thanks to its sleek black carry case, although I didn’t bother using it on holiday as it’s far chunkier than the dryer itself and I never have space to spare. If you’re not the sort of person who has to sit on even the best suitcase to get it closed, then you might find it a useful extra layer of protection.
Best caring hair dryer
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
As technology companies go, Panasonic is one of the big boys and the Panasonic Nanoe & Double Mineral dryer certainly comes with some big technological claims, namely that instead of over-drying strands and causing damage, it maintains 1,000 times more moisture in the hair, while still drying it. Confused? I was until I did a deep dive into the patented Nanoe technology. Essentially, this dryer takes micro droplets of water from the air, splits them into even tinier particles and sends them out into your hair along with an ionic charge. These ions and tiny particles then penetrate the hair cuticle to hydrate it from within, as well as moisturizing your scalp.
Nanoe tech aside, this dryer has plenty of other features to recommend it, particularly for those worried about heat-styling damage or looking for a light model that won’t result in arm ache.
The ionic technology here is a selling point, particularly because this device releases ions from not one but two mineral electrodes. It also offers an impressive variety of styling modes. As well as classic hot and cold, this also includes Scalp mode, which maintains a temperature of 50ºC for drying your scalp and roots without frazzling them. Another option is Nanoe mode, an intelligent heat control that detects the temperature of your environment and self-adjusts accordingly. This is very handy for hot summer days and holidays, particularly if you're someone who tends to go for the highest heat settings by default and could use a bit of saving from yourself in that regard.
The final mode is skin, which, if selected and aimed at the face for one minute, promises to deliver moisturizing Nanoe molecules into the skin. Personally, I found it a little bit odd and would rather just use skincare products, but if you have dry skin and are someone who loves a bit of kit, then why not?
Cosmetically speaking, this is not the sexiest-looking dryer of the bunch – it’s fairly chunky and squat with harsh lines, rather than curves, although the rose-gold accents do soften up the overall look. Despite a slightly clunky appearance, it weighs in at just 500g – less than the Dyson – and ticks those little practicality boxes that count with the devices we use every day, with a long anti-tangle cord and foldaway handle, handy for easy storage and travel.
See our full Panasonic Nanoe & Double Mineral hair dryer review
Best hair dryers for different hair types
Best hair dryer for frizzy hair
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
Another relatively pricey option, but I make no apologies for including it in this best hair dryer list, as the Babyliss 3Q offers plenty of bang to justify that considerable buck.
Even at first glance, it’s easy to see why the BaByliss 3Q is popular with professionals – it’s clearly designed with salon-standard blow dries in mind. The motor is digital and “brushless”, meaning the airflow is ultra fast, which cuts drying time as well as the amount of time your hair’s being blasted with heat.
Generally speaking, brushless motors also generate less friction and vibrations for a quieter drying experience and can last far longer than the average motor (this one comes with a 10-year guarantee). This is also an ionic dryer, meaning it sends out negatively charged ions that interact with frizz-causing positive charges in your hair and break down water molecules, so you can expect a smoother, sleeker blow dry overall.
The settings are about as customizable as you could wish for: Three heat and two speed, as well as a cold-shot switch, rather than the usual hold-down button – a handy little touch. The salon-friendly gizmos extend to a 3m cord and hanging loop, both of which I found very useful at home, while the filter is easily and smoothly clicked off for cleaning out hairs and other flotsam and jetsam.
“Smooth” is a word I’d use to describe the overall experience of using this dryer, from the velvety matte casing to the muscular airflow that shifts to precise temperatures in a millisecond and the ultra-skinny nozzle that creates a super-smooth blow dry using the cooler settings. The hottest temperature is pretty hot and erred on uncomfortable when I blow dried my whole head on full heat, but that sort of behavior isn’t advised. The instructions booklet contains a handy table with suggested heat and speed combinations depending on your hair type, as well as styling tips for various looks.
While this is at the top end of the price spectrum for BaByliss, you can see where that money goes. If you only use a dryer occasionally and really just like to point and blast, some of the features might be a little lost on you. If you’re looking for a high-performance, supremely reliable dryer in order to create specific styles, and smooth and care for your hair in the process, step right this way.
See our full Babyliss 3Q hair dryer review
2. Revlon Salon 360 Surround Hair Dryer
Best hair dryer for thick hair
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
Most hair dryers are essentially a combination of the same sorts of things: Heat, speed, airflow and a long nozzle from which they blow, but the Revlon Salon 360 Surround is something a bit different. The nozzle has two modes: Classic, which is just as it sounds, then 360 Surround, whereby you slide the outer casing around to open out a central vent. By placing sections of hair within the gap and running the dryer up and down as you go, hair is blasted with air from both sides, rather than just the top, resulting in a sleeker, smoother look and a promise to cut drying time by 60%.
Leaving the nozzle aside for a moment, the other features are bang on for a dryer of this price, with three heat and two speed settings, plus a cool-shot button for that all-important final style. The filter at the back clicks off easily for cleaning and the cord is a decent 2.5m, so you won’t have any issues stretching from plug to mirror.
Of course, what you really want to know about is that innovative 360 mode, but it would be impossible to start without mentioning that this dryer is definitely on the heavier side and a little noisier than some of the others I tested. I assume that’s down to all the technology crammed into the nozzle. Regardless of its weight, the dryer is easy to control in Classic mode, which the instructions suggest you use to rough dry before switching for the last bit of the process. I was concerned that the nozzle would get untouchably hot but needn’t have been; it stays cool and comfortable to click around after ten minutes’ drying at full heat.
Feeding large sections of hair through the gap is easy around the front, where they dried speedily and smoothly. Around the back is a different story, where it’s tricky to see exactly what’s going on and also to angle the gap correctly. I’m sure it’s something you’d get the knack of after a few goes, and after seeing the difference in smoothness the front of my hair to the back (which I gave up and dried in classic mode), for some it would be worth persevering.
Its fair to say this isn’t the dryer for everyone, but could be an attractive option if you are looking for the best hair dryer for long, thick, straight hair that takes an age to dry the traditional way, or needs a thorough going over with straighteners to depuff after blow drying.
3. Hershesons Ionic Professional Hair Dryer
Best hair dryer for fine hair
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
Hershesons is a big name in the professional world and renowned among us beauty hacks for “cool girl’ cuts and high-concept salon spaces. Their styling tools like the Hershesons Ionic Professional Dryer fly a little further under the radar than some of the big mass brands on this list, but definitely have a strong following with those in the know.
Starting with aesthetics (because if you’re spending £100+, that’s important), this is as slick as they come, all glossy white casing and chic grey attachments. It certainly has the feel of a professional bit of kit, with its long 3m cord, large hanging hook, designer travel bag and full complement of speed and heat settings – two apiece plus a properly cold cool-shot button.
This was technically one of the heaviest models tested, although you really wouldn’t know it when drying your hair; the design feels ergonomic, comfy in the hand and easy to control. This weight probably makes it one of the best hair dryers for fine hair or short styles rather than thick or very long locks.
It’s not super quiet, but not loud either, and comes with two smoothing nozzles of varying widths, the narrower of which was particularly good at adding volume to the roots of my fine hair when drying upside down. You do need to use a bit of elbow grease to get the nozzles on and off at first, but I’d rather a sturdy fit than flimsy and flying off mid-dry.
The best thing about this dryer is how it makes hair look and feel, which is noticeably soft and frizz-free. There’s no immediately obvious reason for this, so I’ll go with some very effective ionic technology, which sends out negative ions to smooth positively charged frizz and break down water in the hair to cut down damaging drying time.
The heat settings likely play their part, too; even at their highest, they don’t feel outrageously hot and damaging but still a offer a rapid blow dry. Whatever the reason, this is a results-driven yet kind dryer that has plenty of style to boot. As a side note, the Hershesons Tourmaline Professional Curling Tong is also worthy of very high praise indeed, but that’s a different review for a different guide.
4. Cloud Nine Airshot
Best hair dryer for curly hair or textured hair
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
Cloud Nine is better known for straighteners than hair dryers. Still, if you're only going to make two dryers, as these guys have thus far, it’s not a bad plan to make them like the Cloud Nine Airshot, which ticks just about every box in my research criteria and then some.
This has a similar look and controls to a few other professional dryers in the pack – namely Parlux and Hershesons – but inside is a step-up in some respects. The main draw is the heating element that combines ceramic and vitamin-infused tourmaline, so not only do you get even heat distribution but a major ionic boost and infra-red heat (scroll to the end of this article for a quick guide to ceramic, tourmaline and ionic dryers). The combination of these features gives hair noticeable shine even after one use, meaning it would work wonders on thick, curly, or frizzy hair types, which is why we've declared it one of the best hairdryers for curly hair.
Smoothing powers aside, the Airshot is easy on the eye, matte black and compact, with satisfyingly robust switches between three heat and two speed levels, and two nozzles included. A diffuser can be bought separately for £15 and it is a step above the usual flimsy numbers included in dryer boxes, with smooth uniquely shaped contoured styling “fingers’ that lift and separate curls without causing frizz. It’s clearly a quality attachment, but, given the cost of the dryer, it would be nice if it could be included without the extra expense, however minimal.
This was far from the heaviest dryer I tried, but for some reason it did feel slightly more unwieldy than, say, the Nanoe, but was still easy enough to control and sounded good, thanks to a low-pitched motor noise. The cool button is properly cold and gets down to temperature instantaneously, and there is also an LED indicator on the back of the handle, which lights up, although if you’re drying your own hair I can’t imagine why you’d use that feature often. These small gripes are just that however – small – and overall this is an excellent dryer that's very pleasant to use and pays more attention to hair health than others within its price category
Phew, that concludes our best hair dryer reviews! If you need more information before you chose the best hair dryer for you, then read on for our answers to frequently asked questions about hair dryers...
Frequently asked questions about hair dryers
Which is the best hair dryer for me?
The three most important considerations you need to make when picking the best hair dryer for you are your hair type, styling behaviour and, of course, budget.
If you have low-maintenance hair and use a hair dryer every now and then, you can easily rub along with a basic, lightweight model, whereas if you have thick, unmanageable hair and spend hours creating a professional blow dry most mornings, it’s worth investing in something with a few more bells and whistles, as well as a higher price tag.
Noise levels are best considered if you use your dryer on others, perhaps in a professional hairdressing environment or on children, where the weight of a dryer becomes more important the longer your hair takes to dry. If you have curly or textured hair, avoiding arm ache is essential, so heaviness needs to be factored in when selecting the best hair dryer.
Finally, think about the condition of your hair – if damage is an issue, look for even heat distribution and a number of heat and speed settings; if your hair’s in good nick, lots of power, an effective cool button and plenty of attachments for styling may be more of a priority.
What are the types of hair dryer?
There are three main types of hair dryer. The best hair dryer type for your hair will depend on the condition of your locks and how long it takes to dry them.
- Ionic hair dryers: One of the most popular features in modern dryers and with good reason. Our hair has a natural positive charge, which causes frizz and static. Ionic hair dryers release a stream of negative ions, which grab on to the positive ones and neutralise them for a smoothing effect. Ions can also help reduce drying time as they break down positive ions in the water that’s in your hair, dispersing it so you can dry for less time on a lower heat, thus reducing damage.
- Ceramic hair dryers: Essentially, hair dryers work by pushing concentrated air over something hot, then said heated air blasts your wet hair dry. The material of the “something hot” affects the efficiency of this process and, to many, ceramic is the gold-standard material. The reason for this is ceramic heats up extremely quickly and evenly, so every iota of air emitted from your dryer retains a consistent temperature and no one section of your hair is frazzling while a surrounding area is out in the cold.
- Tourmaline hair dryers: Another material used for “the hot bit”, tourmaline is a gemstone that’s crushed into a powder then reformed to be used in dryers and other hot tools. The reason it’s so popular is that, when heated up, it generates infrared heat and an ionic charge, both of which help dry hair quickly, with less damage and smoothing properties, too.
How powerful does a hair dryer need to be?
In simple terms, the more powerful a dryer is, the hotter the element will get and the faster it can blow dry your hair. However, this doesn't take into account technology, such as airflow concentrators and brushless motors, plus extreme heat causes damage, so bigger isn’t necessarily better when it comes to power. As a general guide, the best hair dryers have more than 1500W of power.
Do I need a diffuser on my hair dryer?
If you have curly hair, yes, although some would argue that very curly hair types shouldn't go anywhere near a dryer, but waiting to air dry is neither practical nor enjoyable a lot of the time. A diffuser attachment will simply cradle hair as it gently dries, rather than forcing the cuticle this way and that, and destroying lovely natural movement.
Do I need a cold-shot button on my hair dryer?
For anyone who likes to dry their hair into a particular style, such as using tension to straighten it or a round brush to add in flicks or add root lift, a cold-shot button is essential. This is because the cooler air will set in place whatever style you have just used heat to create. If you only use your blow dryer to give your hair a general blast and rough dry, a cool-shot button is probably negligible.
What hair dryers do professionals use?
That really depends on the professional. Well-known salons often work with specific brands preferred by their big-name stylists, as well as the ones said stylists have relationships with – Dyson and GHD are brands we see a lot in a professional capacity.
Then there are the hair dryer brands that are widely used in salons and by session stylists on photoshoots but aren't widely available in the places that you and I would look for beauty tools. These are brands like Elchim and Parlux, whose Alyon model won our best salon dryer award for 2020.
Ask a professional what they look for in a hair dryer and three themes will emerge: Power, reliability and ergonomics. That last factor might sound strange, but even if your hair is seriously thick and takes what feels like an age to dry, the average hair stylist still spends ten times longer than you with a hair dryer in their hand on any given day, so comfort of holding and movement is crucial.
This is why we often see more compact models, such as the Dyson and Parlux, in the hands of the pros, over powerful but heavier options here.
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