Types of Hair Dryers
Salon Hair Dryers
Salon hair dryers are the tools the professionals use. This means they have all the features needed to deliver salon-quality results: high wattage, multiple heat and speed settings, ceramic and tourmaline heating units, and ionic technology. Not every home user needs that many bells and whistles, but salon hair dryers have other pluses as well. They're often lighter and quieter than cheaper hair dryers, and they typically have better warranties and service. The downside of these models, of course, is their high price—anywhere from $75 to $400 or more. But when you compare that to the cost of a weekly trip to the salon, it starts to look a lot more reasonable.
Cheap Hair Dryers
Budget-priced hair dryers don't offer the same variety of settings and special features found on salon dryers, but they provide the basics: adjustable heat and airflow, ceramic and ionic technology, and a cold shot button to set a style. They're not as fast or as versatile as salon dryers, but they get the job done. Expect to pay $75 or less.
Travel Hair Dryers
When you're traveling, every inch of suitcase space and every ounce of weight matters. The ideal hair dryer to take with you is as small and light as possible—preferably with a fold-up handle to fit into an even smaller space. However, there are tradeoffs to consider, as hair dryers this small are liable to be underpowered and somewhat flimsy. Most are relatively inexpensive, however -- our Best Reviewed selection costs less than $25.
Sorting out the hype on hair dryers
Hair stylists are only as good as their tools, and a blow
dryer is an essential tool for nearly any hairstyle. Today's hair dryers offer
a bounty of options, all promising soft, shiny, healthy hair. In fact, it's
hard to find a hair dryer that doesn't tout its ceramic, ionic or tourmaline technology.
But what do these features actually do, and do you need them? Here's a quick
crash course on the lingo:
- Ceramic is
a composite material usually made of clay, just like the tiles on a
bathroom floor. It can be used on the body of a hair dryer, the heating
element, or other internal parts. This material heats up quickly and
radiates it evenly across its surface. Dermatologists interviewed by TheSweethome.com
say this more even heat is better for your hair, but engineers interviewed
in the same article doubt it really makes a difference. They point out
that hair dryers don't transfer heat by radiation; they do it with blowing
air, so radiant heat shouldn't matter. In any case, nearly all hair dryers
these days have ceramic-coated coils, so the word "ceramic" on
the package doesn't mean you're getting anything extra.
- Ionic technology produces negatively charged ions – that is, atoms with an
extra electron or two. These, in theory, help break up positively charged
water droplets into smaller droplets. Stylists claim negative ions speed
up drying and can also help tame frizz, as the tinier water droplets are
less likely to soak into the hair shaft. However, they say this can
actually be a downside if your hair lacks volume. The engineers at TheSweethome.com
are skeptical about ionic technology, arguing that the only way it can
really control frizz is by reducing static, which you an also do with a
smoothing cream. Testers at TheSweethome.com ran the same hair dryer with
its ionic feature switched on and off, and they found no difference in
- Tourmaline is
a naturally occurring, semi-precious mineral that produces negative ions
when heated. Crushing tourmaline into a powder and coating the dryer's
components with it boosts its ionic output – but it also boosts the
price, since tourmaline is a rare and pricey stone. And, as TheSweethome.com
points out, a hair dryer that says "tourmaline" on the box may
not contain very much of the gemstone, so there's no guarantee you're
getting what you pay for.
So, if ceramic, ionic, and tourmaline technology don't
matter very much, what does? Well, for a start, a hair dryer has to produce
enough heat and airflow to dry your tresses quickly. However, you don't need
tremendous wattage to get good airflow. According to most experts, any hair
dryer with at least 1,800 watts of power can get the job done.
Just because a hair dryer is capable of running hot and
fast, however, doesn't mean it always should. Hairstylist Josue Perez says in a Huffington Post interview that high heat is best for thick or coarse
hair, while fine or delicate hair needs low heat to avoid damage. It's also
important to use low heat when the hair is only slightly damp to avoid
over-drying, which can fry your locks. Most hair dryers have at least two heat
settings, but not all have separate controls for speed and heat, which are important
if you want to be able to create a variety of styles. Experts also recommend a
cool-shot button for setting a style and preserving shine.
With the exception of cheap travel dryers, nearly all hair
dryers have all these key features. Where they differ is in ease of use. A hair
dryer needs to be light enough and comfortable enough to hold up for several
minutes at a time while styling, and not so loud that it deafens you. It's also
helpful to have buttons that are conveniently placed, so you can find them
easily but avoid hitting them accidentally. And little touches like a longer
cord and a removable filter add convenience.
Finding The Best Hair Dryers
"The Best Hair Dryer"
"The Best Hair Dryers to Invest in, According to the Pros"
"The 12 Best Blow-Dryers Money Can Buy"
To choose the best hair dryers, we focused mainly on how quickly each
dryer works and how good it leaves hair looking when it's done. We also
considered ease of use, weight, noise level, and durability. We looked at how
hair dryers performed in professional comparison tests at TheSweethome.com and
Good Housekeeping, recommendations from professional stylists in fashion
magazines like Vogue and Allure, and reviews from ordinary users on sites like
Amazon.com, Ulta.com, and TotalBeauty.com.
Salon hair dryers that professionals and users
love – and some less pricey alternatives
In September 2016, Dyson
– known for its top-of-the top-end vacuum cleaners and fans –
released its first-ever hair dryer. Although the Dyson Supersonic (Est. $400) has been on the
market for less than a year, it's already "making waves" in the world
of fashion and beauty. Pretty much every style publication to release a list of
the best hair dryers – including Allure, Vogue, and Harper's Bazaar
– includes the Dyson at or near the top, with rave reviews for its innovative
design and powerful airflow.
Supersonic doesn't look like any other hair dryer. Where most dryers have the
motor built into the head of the dryer, Dyson puts it in the handle, which is
thicker and heavier as a result. Its 13 fast-spinning blades pull air through a
fine mesh grid on the lower end of the handle, then directs it out through a
ring-shaped aperture at the upper end. Reviewers say this design delivers
powerful airflow with less noise. In tests at Good Housekeeping, the Dyson
moved more air than any other hair dryer, and Shannon Palus of TheSweethome.com, which
ran the most thorough test of hair dryers we've seen, says it "maxed out our
weather meter" at 60 mph.
The Dyson boasts
some other unique features as well. A thermal sensor built into the ring
measures the temperature of the exiting air 20 times per second, constantly
adjusting it so it won't fry your hair. It has four heat settings, including "constant
cold," and three speed settings – fast, regular, and gentle. And the
concentrator and diffuser attachments, rather than screwing on to the nozzle,
are attached with magnets, making them easier to rotate or remove in the
middle of a styling session.
Yet despite all
these benefits, making the Dyson Supersonic our Best Reviewed pick among
salon-grade dryers was a tough call. That's because its performance in
professional comparison tests, and the reviews it gets from users, aren't as
uniformly positive as we'd expect for a hair dryer at this price point. Good Housekeeping
awards it 4.5 stars out of 5, saying it dries hair in record time and has an "elegant
and original" design. However, Palus is much less impressed. She notes
that while the body of the Dyson dryer weighs only 1.1 pounds, its heavy and
bulky cord makes it tiring to use, and its super-fast airflow tangles hair
easily. She also finds the thicker handle harder to hold and the controls on
the back of the dryer's head awkward to reach. And to cap it all off, she
doesn't think the Dyson makes her hair looks any different from any other blow
What tips the balance is that we found hundreds of reviews
for the Dyson Supersonic from users on BestBuy.com, Ulta.com and elsewhere, and
the majority of them love this dryer – passionately. It earns a 4.7 star
rating at BestBuy.com based on nearly 550 reviews, and a 4.8 star rating at
Ulta.com based on nearly 900 reviews. Most rave that the Dyson is powerful and
lightweight, cuts down their drying time significantly, and leaves their hair
smooth, silky, and shiny. We did see worse feedback at Amazon.com, however, but
it's worth noting that the hair dryer is only sold by third party sellers there
and is pricier than if bought elsewhere. In addition, it appears that some
people received "gray market" products -- items produced for other
countries and not intended for sale in the U.S.
If you're looking for high-quality alternative to the
Dyson, the Harry Josh Pro Tools 2000 Pro Dryer (Est. $250),
our Best Reviewed pick from last year, is still worth considering. Though
still pretty pricey in its own right, this 1,875-watt dryer is less expensive
than the Dyson yet is packed with distinctive features. It includes an
extra-wide nozzle; a patented curved handle for extra comfort; a motor that's
guaranteed to last 2,000 hours; a dual-filtration system that cuts energy use
by as much as 70 percent; and a choice of eight heat, speed, and ion settings.
One feature that particularly impresses the editors at Allure magazine is its
ability to toggle between ionic drying for sleeker styles and non-ionic drying
for more volume. And its cheery mint-green color gives it a unique look that
The Harry Josh Pro Tools 2000 is an editors' pick at
Allure magazine, Harper's Bazaar, and Vogue, and it gets a big thumbs-up from a
staffer at Refinery29.com, who says it was "seriously magic" on her
long, thick tresses. However, this hair dryer has its detractors as well. Palus
says the Harry Josh is a "genuinely nice" dryer with a compact shape
and convenient button placement, but "not the superior hair experience
that it claims to be." When she tested it at home, she found her hair
dried no faster and looked no better than with any other hair dryer. And at 1.2
pounds, it was a bit heavier than other hair dryers in this comparison.
Similarly, Good Housekeeping awards the Harry Josh a good but not great rating
of 4 stars out of 5, saying it's fast and powerful, but also heavy and loud.
Also, some of its testers complain that even its lowest setting feels "scalding
Owner reviews for the Harry Josh Pro Tools 2000 are mostly
positive, but not uniformly so. At Dermstore.com, where it's primarily sold, it
earns an overall rating of 4 stars out of 5 from nearly 300 users, many of whom
say this dryer has turned styling their hair from a chore into a treat.
Reviewers at TotalBeauty.com give it 8.8 stars out of 10, making it the third
most popular dryer on the site.
Most owners say this dryer is seriously powerful –
many go so far as to claim that it literally cut their drying time in half.
Many also say it leaves hair looking amazingly smooth, soft, shiny, and
healthy, allowing them to cut way down on the use of flatirons and other post-styling
aids. They also say its compact size makes it a good choice for travel. However,
we also saw a few complaints that the dryer isn't nearly as durable as you
would expect for the price. Problems include flaking finish, damaged handles,
and failed motors. Although the hair dryer is covered by a 2-year warranty, the
user is responsible for shipping costs, plus a $10 handling fee. And if the
back cover or screen breaks after the warranty is up, there's no way to replace
it; you have to shell out another $250 to replace the whole unit.
While the $250 Harry Josh dryer looks like a bargain next
to the super-pricey Dyson, it's still awfully expensive by most people's
standards. If you're looking for a hair dryer with salon-quality features at a
more reasonable price, your best choice is the (Est. $100). It weighs less than 1 pound, yet its
2,000-watt motor produces powerful airflow and heat. There are three heat
settings and two speed settings to choose from, which is a good thing since the
top settings could be too strong for many users. A staffer at Refinery29.com
found that she had to turn the dial down from "hot" to "warm"
for comfort, and the drying speed was almost too fast to give her enough time
for styling her bangs.
This Rusk hair dryer has received more than 1,900 reviews
at Amazon.com and Ulta.com, with ratings of around 4.3 stars out of 5 across
the two sites. Users describe the dryer as incredibly powerful and lightweight,
and they love its multiple settings. Most owners claim it leaves their hair
smooth, shiny, and frizz-free. Some users find the placement of the controls
awkward, but others say it's standard for a salon dryer and easy to adjust to.
We also saw a smattering of durability complaints. The Rusk dryer comes with a
2-year warranty, but it requires the user to return the dryer to a service
center and cover return shipping costs (plus a $3 handling fee).