If you’ve ever walked down the styling tools aisle of your local beauty store, you know how complicated hair dryers have become. Some are equipped with technology that promises to straighten waves, de-frizz curls, or dry hair in minutes. Others come with oddly shaped attachments or are small enough to fit in a purse. If you haven’t purchased a blow dryer in a while, the options can seem overwhelming. With a little research, however, anyone can decode the language of blow dryers—and more importantly, select the blow dryer that suits their hair type.
Hair Dryer Features
Wattage refers to the strength of the blow dryer’s motor. When a dryer is equipped with a high wattage motor, the force of the wind dries the hair quickly—without requiring too much heat. When dryers are equipped with low wattage motors, on the other hand, they tend to rely on heat rather than air power to dry the hair. Shoppers with easily damaged hair should opt for a dryer with a wattage of 1800 or more. In fact, a high wattage model is a must-have for anyone who wants their new dryer to last. Low wattage dryers are more likely to burn out, as too much stress is placed on the motor’s performance.
Materials And Build Quality
Many modern hair dryers are equipped with high-tech materials that have revolutionized the hair drying process. For the uninitiated, however, the many heating material options—from tourmaline to titanium—can seem inscrutable. Keep reading to learn what terms like “ionic,” “ceramic,” and “tourmaline” really mean.
What is an ionic hair dryer?
The ions in water have a positive charge. To combat this charge, ionic blow dryers shoot negative ions. This means that they send the positively charged ions scattering, effectively speeding up the blow dry process. When you use an ionic dryer, these scientifically designed devices help to remove excess moisture, close the hair cuticle, and mitigate unwanted frizz. That makes these dryers good options for individuals with thick, frizzy hair who want to achieve a sleek blowout.
For people with thin or flat hair, however, ionic dryers aren’t always ideal. While they cut down drying time for people with naturally voluminous hair, they can over-dry the hair of people with thin hair, leaving their tresses looking dull, flat, and lackluster.
Standard ionic hair dryers use negative ions to dry the hair quickly. Tourmaline dryers operate via the same technology, but they take it one step further. The internal parts of tourmaline dryers are made of or coated in tourmaline, a semi-precious metal that adds more negative ions to the air.
Ceramic and Porcelain
When dryers are labeled “ceramic” or “porcelain,” it means that their internal heating parts are coated in these materials. When a dryer’s heating components are covered in a ceramic or porcelain coating, it makes the heat consistent and relatively gentle. Like ionic dryers, these options speed up the drying process. Ceramic and porcelain dryers are ideal for delicate hair that has been damaged by harsh dryers in the past.
Titanium dryers optimize drying time, heat distribution, and temperature consistency. As a material, titanium has the added benefit of being lightweight, which means that titanium dryers are usually small and easy to handle. When titanium is added to the internal elements of dryers, however, it raises the temperature of the airflow. While people with thick, strong hair may appreciate the added heat, people with brittle hair may want to avoid titanium dryers.
Hair dryers shouldn’t be uncomfortable to use. When shopping, look for one that has ergonomic features, like an easy-to-hold handle and a lightweight design. People with specific dryer needs may want to take a look at potential dryers in person before purchasing.
Shoppers should also take a look at button placement and other convenience features. The buttons should be easy to reach, but not so reactive that you can accidentally power off the device mid-dry. Retractable cords are also helpful, as they make dryers easy to store and travel-friendly.
When buying a new dryer, people with lots of hair need to consider weight. Long, thick hair can take 20 or more minutes to blow-dry; if a dryer weighs too much, the arm will get tired five minutes into the blowout. During the shopping process, look for a dryer that weighs about a pound.
When a dryer comes with a cool shot feature, a press of this button will send a stream of cool air at the newly blown out hair. This seals the hair cuticle, which helps to keep the hair looking shiny all day long.
For women with fine, thin hair, a heat adjustment feature is essential. On mornings when hair needs to be dry ASAP, the higher temperature settings cut down on drying times. When time isn’t of the essence, using the lower heat settings can prevent damage and keep the hair healthy.
While shopping for a new dryer, you’ll encounter several detachable accessories. Diffusers are one of the most common types of attachments; they disperse the dryer’s airflow, which keeps the pattern of curls intact. They also help to cut down on frizz.
At the opposite end of the accessory spectrum is the concentrator nozzle. This attachment actively narrows and directs the flow of the air, giving users greater control over their finished look. The concentrator attachment is most commonly used to achieve sleek, polished styles.
Before buying a dryer, check out the warranty. If the dryer is pricey, the warranty should cover at least one or two years of use. You should also check for any “fine print” that could effectively render the warranty useless. Some warranties, for example, don’t cover the cost of shipping, which makes the return process prohibitively expensive.
When it comes to hair dryers, money really does buy quality. While a high price tag isn’t a guarantee of excellent performance, the high-end dryers tend to work better, faster, and longer.
If you impulse buy a $25 dryer, it will probably get the job done—eventually. But it’s likely to have low wattage and few extra features, which means that it will depend on high temperatures to dry your hair. With continued use, this can cause damage, leaving your tresses brittle and dry. The cheapest dryers don’t usually last as long as high-end models, either. While you may get one to two years to use out of a $25 dryer, a model that costs over a hundred dollars may last a decade.
High-end dryers start at $100 and go from there; the blow dryers used by professionals, for example, can cost as much as $400. While these pricey dryers are great for salon pros, most people don’t need a state-of-the-art Dyson Supersonic for their DIY hair care regimen. This high-quality model may prevent heat damage, weigh next to nothing, and be admirably quiet, but it’s not necessary for the non-pro.
When shopping for hair dryers, always do a little research before you hit the Buy button. Even if you have a limited budget, you can find good models as long as you shop for your specific hair type.
What Is Your Hair Type?
One of the major considerations when choosing a hair dryer is your hair type. Below we have broken down the important things to look for each hair type.
For Thin Hair
Most people with thin hair want their blow dryer to add volume. Thin hair can be fragile, however; ideally, the blow dryer should enhance volume without damaging the thin follicles.
For extra volumizing power, thin haired individuals should steer clear of ionic technology. While negative ions add shine, they also sap bounce and volume from already-flat hair. Instead of choosing an ionic dryer, look for one that uses ceramic or porcelain technology to produce gentle, non-damaging heat. Because these dryers distribute heat more evenly than standard models, they boost shine and bounce without damaging thin tresses. High wattage is also key, as high-powered motors produce the airflow needed for high-volume styles.
People with thin hair should also consider diffuser attachments. While diffusers are traditionally used by people with curly hair, they can also add volume to thin hair with a natural wave. They aren’t the best way to achieve the perfect blowout, but they can add enviable texture to hair in need of oomph.
For people who do want to achieve the ideal blowout on a regular basis, consider investing in a concentrator nozzle and a bristle brush. The former focuses the airflow, making it easier to style the hair, and the latter helps to create volume at the roots.
For Fine Hair
Fine hair is easily damaged by high temperatures and high speeds. When selecting a dryer for fine hair, look for models designed to cause minimal damage.
Tourmaline dryers are often the best choice for people with fine hair. When heat is generated using tourmaline technology, it is gentle, consistent, and non-damaging. It prevents unnecessary thermal damage to the hair cuticle, preserving the moisture that fine hair needs to look its best.
Tourmaline dryers do generate negative ions, which can flatten the hair. Fine hair often lacks volume, so opting for a dryer that reduces bounce and swing may sound like a bad idea. Tourmaline dryers don’t generate negative ions electronically, however; this semi-precious metal generates negative ions naturally. This can reduce the flattening effect while preserving the added shine and polish.
If people with fine hair want to avoid ions altogether, they should opt for dryers equipped with ceramic, porcelain, and/or infrared technology. These dryers produce minimally damaging heat, without reducing volume via ionic technology. Also a plus for fine hair? Adjustable heat settings. Fine hair is easier to dry than thick, coarse hair, and low heat settings are often adequate for everyday styles. When people have multiple heat settings to choose from, they can customize their dryer usage and minimize heat-related damage.
For Thick Hair
Drying thick hair can be a long, laborious process. For people with extra-thick hair, the average blow dry session can take up to an hour. For thick haired individuals, fast drying time is the most important criterion. There are several ways to speed up the drying process, but titanium dryers are often the best choice for people with super-thick tresses.
Titanium dryers provide an intense drying experience, so they’re not ideal for hair that’s easily damaged. For thick, healthy hair, however, titanium technology helps to get the job done with minimal fuss. Titanium dryers are similar to ceramic models, in that they create even, consistent heat. While this heat boasts a consistent temperature, however, that temperature is hot. That’s why titanium dryers aren’t recommended for fine, delicate, or damage-prone hair. For thick hair that can withstand high temperatures, however, you can’t ask for a more efficient blow dry.
Titanium doesn’t weigh much either, which means that dryers made of this material are some of the lightest on the market. While a few ounces of difference may not sound like much, lightweight models are essential for people with thick hair. Even the lightest dryer starts to feel heavy after a lengthy blow-dry session, which makes lightweight titanium models a must-have device.
To further streamline the drying experience, look for dryers that pair titanium construction with ionic technology and high wattage. This will cut down on drying times and enhance the shine and luster of the hair.
For Natural Hair
When selecting a blow dryer for natural hair, shoppers should look for models that combine speedy drying with non-damaging technology. Tight curls and coils are very susceptible to heat damage. This hair type also takes a long time to dry, which means that the curls are exposed to the hot airflow for longer than is advisable.
To prevent the moisture-loss and breakage caused by heat damage, women with natural hair should choose dryers with ceramic or porcelain technology, as this provides a gentle, non-damaging heat. To hasten the drying process, they should select a dryer with ionic technology, which helps to smooth and detangle coiled locks.
Depending on the look they want to achieve, women with natural hair may also need dryer attachments. To boost natural curls, a diffuser attachment is essential. To achieve sleek, straight styles, a comb attachment can help.
Because natural hair is prone to heat damage, shoppers should look for dryers that have multiple heat settings. For most natural hair blow-dry treatments, using the hottest temperature setting is unnecessary. People with natural hair should choose a moderate heat setting when they’re straightening their hair, and a low setting when they’re diffusing. While lower heat settings can prolong the drying process, the addition of quick-dry features, like ionic and ceramic technology, helps to compensate.
For Frizzy Hair
There are many reasons why hair becomes frizzy. Sometimes, frizz is the result of humidity. It can also be caused by too-hot showers, too-frequent washing, and damage caused by heating tools. In every situation, however, the hair is lacking moisture. When the hair’s natural equilibrium is compromised, it can’t hold on to adequate moisture. This forces the hair to search for any available sources of moisture, like the water found in humid air. Before people with frizzy hair select a hair dryer, they should try to identify the source of their frizz. For some people, it’s natural; curly hair, for example, is naturally more frizzy than straight hair. If the frizz has been caused by heat damage, too-frequent shampooing, or other modifiable factors, look for a dryer that helps to compensate for the problem.
For people with frizz-prone hair, dryers with multiple temperature settings are a must. High temperatures can exacerbate frizz—especially frizz caused by heat damage. Whenever possible, people who want to reduce their frizz levels should use the coolest temperature setting. This might increase the drying time, but it will help to cut down on frizz.
Other features that help to beat frizz include negative ions, infrared heat, and high wattage motors. All of these features help to reduce frizz, leaving hair shiny, smooth, and free of flyaways. While frizz is most common among the curly haired, however, this problem also plagues people with thin, fine hair. If hair is already lacking volume, too much ionic technology can deflate it entirely.
For people who want to boost shine without compromising on volume, consider buying a dryer with adjustable ionic function. Dryers equipped with this technology let users choose their own ion level. While finding the right setting takes some trial and error, eventually, even people with low-volume/high-frizz hair will find the perfect level. A few years ago, only the $300+ models came with these adjustability settings; nowadays, however, many high-quality $100 dryers allow users to adjust ion output.
For Curly Hair
When curly hair comes into contact with a traditional blow dryer, frizz is the most likely result. That’s because most dryers—which shoot focused blasts of hot air at the hair—disrupt the curl pattern. When the curl pattern is broken, the hair becomes frizzy and unmanageable. To mitigate this problem, the diffuser was born. These attachments often deliver 360-degree airflow, which gently enhances natural curls, rather than separating them.
While curls may look their best after gentle diffusing, curly haired individuals don’t want to spend an hour drying their thick, textured hair. That’s why many dryers designed for curly hair combine diffuser attachments with fast-drying features, like ionic technology. While ionic dryers aren’t always the best option for people with thin, flat hair, they usually just add extra shine to thick, voluminous curls. Cool shot buttons are also ideal for people with curly hair, as they seal in the shine, thus staving off frizz for the rest of the day.
Even with fast-drying technology, however, people with curly hair should expect their daily drying time to be 10+ minutes. Because of this, they should look for lightweight models—especially since diffuser attachments tend to be oddly shaped and cumbersome. Ergonomic design features can keep the hands from cramping during a lengthy blow-dry session.
Best For Damaged Hair
When you have damaged hair, you need a dryer that won’t exacerbate the existing damage. As heat is the primary way that dryers damage hair, shoppers with damaged locks should shop for dryers with multiple heat settings. When hair is feeling particularly brittle, drying it on the lowest heat setting can give it a much-needed break. It’s also important to look for high wattage dryers. When a dryer can create high-power wind, high temperatures are less important to the drying process.
To give damaged hair the best care possible, shoppers should also consider dryers with professional-grade features, like infrared technology. Basic dryers contain a heated coil, which raises the temperature of the air. When the heat is produced via infrared light, however, it’s much less damaging to the hair. That’s because infrared technology uses a longer energy wavelength than the traditional methods. These wavelengths dry the hair from the inside out, which results in smoother, sleeker hair.
Many high-quality dryers combine infrared technology with ceramic coating and ionic technology. While ceramic features are a plus for people with damaged hair, ionic technology can over-dry hair that is fine or brittle. When paired with ceramic and infrared technology, ionic may be fine—but it shouldn’t be a priority for shoppers looking to improve the condition of damaged hair.
In today’s world of state-of-the-art technology, choosing a hair dryer is a surprisingly complicated decision. There are so many factors involved, ranging from wattage to technology to price. So when it’s time to buy a new dryer, what should you do?
Start by setting a budget range. Low-end dryers cost between $20 and $40, mid-range dryers go for between $50 and $100, and anything over $100 is high-end. Professional dryers generally cost $250 to $400. Once you’ve determined what you’re willing to pay, make a list of your must-have dryer features.
If you’re planning on spending $150, you should be able to find a dryer that meets all of your specifications. If you’re looking for a $50 model, on the other hand, you may have to make a few compromises. When choosing between features that boost style and features that prevent damage, always go for the preventative features. While it’s tempting to go for style overheat protection, damaged hair is much harder to style than healthy hair. You can’t achieve the perfect blowout unless you have strong, moisturized tresses.
Once you’ve compiled your dryer wish-list, take a look at the models available in your price range. Take a closer look at the ones with your desired features. If you have curly hair, you might want to check out dryers that come with diffuser attachments. For thick, impossible-to-dry hair, titanium dryers may be ideal.
Regardless of budget, the best thing you can do for your hair is select a dryer that suits your hair type. Don’t get distracted by the latest tech; after all, ionic technology can flatten thin, fine hair. Instead, find the technology that works best for your hair, and choose the dryer that fulfills your personal needs. When you choose the right model, the perfect blowout is easy.