Figuring out how to choose the best hair dryer presents a substantial challenge for women these days—with new technologies promising to practically rip the power from the atom and bend it to your will, infusing hair follicles with seemingly magical powers, it can be hard to know what to believe.
Well, it’s safe to say these hair dryer companies do “layer” it on a bit thick sometimes, so let’s figure out what’s really going on so you can pick the best hair dryer for your specific needs.
1. First Off, How Much Should You Spend?
There are a wide range of hair dryers out there to suit just about any budget, from $20 plastic “wonders” from overseas to high-quality professional dryers that cost $300 or much more.
Looking for a diamond-studded hair dryer for that extra “wow?” These days you can probably find it…
Just keep in mind that those $20 plastic wonders aren’t really wonders for good reason, and exceptionally expensive products are typically targeting the “glamour buyers.” As usual, somewhere in the middle is best.
I recommend a professional-quality dryer for somewhere between $100-$200 as a sensible purchase. If that still seems a little rich for your blood, keep in mind that professional-quality dryers leave your hair healthier, with less damage, and so in the end actually save you money on expensive hair treatments at the salon.
And that’s just smart shopping.
2. How Much Wattage Do You Need?
The amount of wattage directly affects drying time but also can directly affect hair health if you have sensitive hair. If your hair is quite thin and fine or has taken some recent abuse, don’t use more than 1400 watts. If you have straight or slightly wavy hair, hit it a little harder—1400 to 1600 watts will typically do the trick.
Head full of luxurious curls? Whether showing them off or maintaining them, it’s time to really up the volts. Go for1800 to 2000 watts.
No matter what wattage you decide to go with, the real key to minimizing damage to your hair is always keep your hand moving rather than directing the heat at one spot for long periods of time.
Electricity Voltage Note: keep in mind that if you plan to do some traveling, different countries use different voltages. Consider a dual voltage travel dryer that can switch from 110/120V to 220/240V as needed.
3. What Type of Heating Technology Do You Need?
If you want to really know how to choose the best hair dryer, you’ve got to understand how heating works. Older hair dryers (and even some of today’s cheaper ones) used plastic or metal heating elements that fried your hair and basically cooked the water out.
Manufacturers finally realized this might not be the best way to treat hair, which can be quite fragile. Too much blow-drying of this type left hair nearly ruined.
So, after experimenting with different technologies, most high-quality dryers now use ceramic heaters because of the natural ability ceramics have to conduct heat— ceramics produce a radiant heat that gets inside your hair follicles and heats them from the inside out rather than cooking them dry.
Interestingly enough, the same technology is often used in confined-area indoor heating because there is less risk of fire.
4. So What About Ionic Drying Technology?
Well, heating often creates positive ions that counterbalance your hair’s neutral structure, especially when using cheap heat sources. This creates an extremely frizzy look or leaves your hair looking bland and lifeless.
Ceramics go a short way towards helping because they produce negative ions, which counteract the effect, allowing your hair to retain some moisture and thus retain its body.
An ionic hair dryer takes this a step further by creating even more negative ions, and the difference can be drastic. The water molecules in your hair are broken down rather than cooked, static electricity is kept to a minimum, and your hair dries faster, leaving you with a smooth, sleek finish.
5. And Tourmaline—Is This Some Kind of Joke?
Many advanced hair dryers now incorporate a crushed semi-precious stone called tourmaline to enhance the ionic effect even further. Are they just capitalizing on the glamour effect of gemstone? Not exactly.
Tourmaline is a rare mineral that naturally produces infrared heat and negatively charged ions, going even further to protect your hair as it dries and ensuring that glossy, healthy look you want.
6. What About Size and Weight?
You might think something as small as a hair dyer can never be too heavy, but when maneuvering for particularly complicated styles or ensuring hair is evenly dried across the whole of your head, the weight of your machine can make a big difference (especially over time).
You want dry hair—not a workout.
For maximum maneuverability and flexibility, go for something lighter than a pound—some of the dryers made for stylists come as light as 12 ounces.
7. Which Special Settings and Accessories Should You Consider?
There are plenty of different settings and accessories available on today’s hair dryers as well. Diffusers, for instance, allow you to lift hair and dry underneath, so you can add character to your hair. Other attachments are used to focus the heat in one specific spot, which is great for straightening.
You might also consider a dryer with an adjustable heat output; when your hair is only slightly wet, there’s no need to abuse it.
Or, check out cool shot buttons, a feature that dries quickly with a few seconds of cool air, setting a sprayed style in place. Unlike hot hair, hair dried with cool air holds its shape well.
So, now you know a little bit more about how to choose the best hair dryer and can make a somewhat educated purchasing decision. Take some time to check out our honest, detailed hair dryer reviews to see fantastic models that incorporate all your favorite features, creating the perfect hair dryer for you.