A Comprehensive Home Hair Dryer Buying Guide

Have you found yourself disappointed by most of the hair dryers you’ve owned over the years?

There’s actually a lot one needs to know in order to get a hair dryer that performs well and lasts a long time, while also allowing the owner to get their look put together just right.

You need to consider your hair dryer as a tool. It’s a tool you’ll use every day that has the power to make your hair look sexy full-bodied and lustrous; or flat, dull and plain broken.

If you’ve ever wondered why some models seem to work leaps and bounds better above others, there are several important reasons to consider. Keep reading to learn everything you ever wanted to know about choosing the perfect hair dryer to use at home.

What to Consider Before You Start Looking

Do You Travel?

Most seasoned travelers will already know this, but it’s worth mentioning nonetheless. There are a couple of things a traveler needs to consider with their hair dryer: 1) Luggage space and 2) Voltage requirements.

• Luggage space: You might be tempted to try to save space by purchasing a travel-specific hair dryer that folds up nice and compact. Go this route if you have to, but keep in mind they often don’t last very long and are usually way under-powered compared to a same-priced full size model.

• Voltage requirements: If you travel to Europe or Asia very often, it’s tempting to buy a dual-voltage hair dryer. The problem here is that there are a lot of complaints from people who’ve purchased dual-voltage appliances only to find out they didn’t come with the right adapter. Best to save the extra cost you’d pay for a dual voltage and just buy a reputable U.S. to European voltage adapter separately.

Weight

A lightweight hair dryer can range from 1 – 1.5 lbs. Some will weigh well over 2 lbs. The weight of the hair dryer generally has no impact on quality.

However, if you have thick hair, or you’re a stylist who works out of your home or travels to client’s houses, you’ll be holding the hair dryer up for even longer periods. A heavy hair dryer might not be the best option in this case.

Noise

Noise is a consideration too. There’s a huge disparity between the price you pay, the power of the hair dryer and whether you choose a home-use or salon-type hair dryer.

Cheaper hair dryers are typically the noisiest. Worse, the more powerful a motor they have, the noisier they’ll get. There’s no way around this problem as cheaper parts are used to make the price point more attractive to all consumers.

Premium and/or salon-rated models costing $50 or more have tons of available wattage, which would lead most to believe they’d be louder. Not so. In fact, premium-quality hair dryers have better quality parts and more levels of adjustment available to help zero in on every hair type. This not only makes them really quiet on the highest settings, but also whisper quiet on the lowest settings too.

Attachments

Some hair dryers come with no attachments at all. This is very rare though. Most will at least come with a concentrator attachment. However, most people – women in particular – prefer to buy their own attachments separately.

Frequency of Use

Most people who go to the trouble of researching and purchasing the right hair dryer generally intend to use it daily or at least a few times per week.

If you’re the type to use a hair dryer every day, you’ll probably want to buy something that operates with minimal noise and which comes with a decent warranty.

On the other hand, if you’re a once-in-a-blue-moon user, a cheap and noisy $15 model may end up lasting you for years to come.

Heating Methods

The heating technology used in hair dryers is what determines how fast your hair gets dry and how shiny, frizzy or broken down it is when you’re done.

Here are the three main technologies currently used with modern hair dryers:

1. Ionic: Ionic technology creates millions of negative-charged ions which break down water molecules very quickly. Ionic technology is by far the fastest way to dry your hair, especially when combined with tourmaline technology – and a powerful fan motor!

2. Ceramic: Ceramic dryers emit infrared light which dries the hair without overheating it. Few hair dryers will offer only ceramic drying technology, as it dries the hair very slowly. Great for the tail end of a drying session, but not suitable as a standalone dryer.

3. Tourmaline: Tourmaline dryers combine the best of both worlds via a gemstone coated element that creates negative ions like the ionic dryers and also emits infrared light like the ceramic dryers do. Because of the ultimate control offered, tourmaline dryers are perfect for all hair types and help hair to retain more moisture during the drying process.

*Protip: Look for “Tourmaline-Ionic-Ceramic Technology” on the box or product description to ensure you’re getting the best of all three drying methods.

 

Recommended Hair Dryers

BaBylissPRO Nano Titanium DryerBaByliss PRO Nano RUSK Engineering W8lessRUSK W8less Professional InStyler BLUInStyler BLU Turbo Ionic BaBylissPRO 2800 BaBylissPRO 2800 Elchim Classic 2001 DryerElchim 2001 Professional  Solano Supersolano 3500 Lite Professional Hair Dryer Solano 3500 Professional GHD Air Professional Performance Hair DryerGHD Air Professional
Overall rating 9.1 / 10 9.0 / 10 9.0 / 10 8.7 / 10 8.8 /10 9.2 / 10 9.3 / 10
Performance 95% 94% 93% 89% 90% 94% 95%
Design A A A B A- A A+
Fine Hair A+ A A A A+ A+ A+
Thick Hair A+ B B A- A A A+
Curly Hair A A A B C A A+
Heating Technology Ionic Tourmaline Ceramic Tourmaline Ceramic Ionic Ceramic Ionic Tourmaline Ionic Ceramic Ionic
Heat Settings 3 3  – 3 5 5 3
Speed Settings 2 2  2 2 2 2 2
Power 2000 2000  2000  2000  1875  1800  2100
Noise A A  B B B A A
Attachments Concentrator Nozzle Concentrator Nozzle Concentrator and Diffuser Concentrator Nozzle Concentrator Nozzle  2 Concentrators 2 Concentrators
Cool Shoot Yes Yes  Yes Yes  No Yes Yes
Warranty 3 years 2 years  3 years  3 years  Lifetime 2 years 1 year

Other Things to Look for on the Box

Wattage (Power)

Wattage is super important for getting the most performance out of your hair dryer. Hairstylist to the stars, Ryan Richmond, recommends home users settle somewhere in the 1300 – 1900 watt range when choosing a hair dryer. This is great advice, but there’s nothing wrong with upping the wattage and turning down the fan speed either.

It’s important to keep in mind that a cheap hairdryer running at 1875 watts will burn out twice as fast as a higher-quality unit running at 1300 watts. Price, as has been mentioned frequently, makes a huge difference in longevity.

Number of Heat Settings

Most hair dryers out there will come with at least two heat settings to choose from, along with a cool shot feature. However, just because a hair dryer has heat settings doesn’t mean they’re useful. When using a low-quality hair dryer the difference between low and high might equate to “warm” and “warmer” or “hot” and “too hot.”

By contrast, a high-quality unit will have three or more heat settings ranging from “really warm” to “really hot.” The more settings, the more control you have both now, and in the future when you change hairstyles.

*Protip: A hair dryer with separate heat and fan speed control settings (ie., “variable settings”) will give you the most versatility over the long haul. Consider the endless hairstyling situations that might present themselves to you over the years:

• You need to set in some curls using ultra low heat and medium airflow.

• Your hair is just slightly damp which requires a medium blast of heat on a low fan setting.

• Perhaps you have really thick hair in need of some serious volume that will only surrender to super high heat and lots of airflow to get the look you want.

More settings, more control, and fewer hairstyle experiments gone wrong!

Number of Fan Speed Settings

Add a number of different heat settings to a hair dryer that already has great built-in control of the heat output and you’re all set. Multiple fan speed settings will help you dial in your style without over drying and damaging your hair.

Multiple speed settings of three or more also gives you the option to turn the noise down on days when you have to get up early and do your hair while the family’s still sleeping soundly in bed.

Cool Shot Feature

A cool shot feature is something everyone should use. When you get to the tail end of your drying session and your hair is still damp yet blistering hot from the heat, it’s time to turn down the heat and let some cool air finish the job to seal in more moisture.

Cord Length

Thankfully, you won’t find too many hair dryers in any price range with a cord that’s shorter than 1.8 meters long. Still, check the product description before you buy to make sure. A short cord usually equals neck, shoulder, and wrist strain.

Warranty (And Read it Carefully!)

Don’t be fooled by any warranty that has the word “conditional” or similar language written anywhere in the guarantee.

When you see “unconditional,” “no hassle,” or “no questions asked” then you know the company stands by their product.

Even then, you have to cut to the truth and extract the fine print details by scouring reviews and monitoring social media:

Conair, a trusted hair dryer manufacturer, recently created a social media storm when a warranty loophole on one of their defective lines severely hurt their reputation. While the budget-friendly hairdryer was covered for 3 years against failure; their warranty’s fine print stated customers were responsible for the return shipping costs. To several customer’s dismay, it turned out the cost of shipping outweighed the cost of a new replacement from the store.

Hair Dryer Attachments

A list of the three main attachments that are commonly used with a hair dryer are listed below. If the model of hair dryer you’re considering doesn’t come with the attachment you want, you’ll need to know the nozzle size of the dryer before purchasing an attachment for it.

This information is often found on the box with the specs, otherwise you can place a ruler in the middle of the nozzle opening and measure the distance that way.

1. Concentrators: Concentrator attachments come in all shapes and sizes. Their main use is to concentrate the airflow coming from the hair dryer to one spot on your hair. People with straight hairstyles generally use them most, but they’re also useful for flipping up your bangs and for creating a “messy” look on people with short hair.

Most, but not all hair dryers come with at least this attachment. It’s the most popular of the three main types. They can also be bought separately.

2. Diffusers: Diffusers do exactly what their name would indicate. They take the concentrated heat coming out of the end of the hair dryer and distribute that stream of heat to a larger area. They’re an absolute must-have for people with curly hair, yet are also considered essential for people of all hair types who use their dryer to create more volume.

You can also buy this attachment separately, if you have your heart set on a certain model that doesn’t come with one. However, most hair dryers in all price ranges generally come with a set of attachments that include a diffuser.

3. Picks: Picks are a very personalized attachment and not as popular as diffusers and concentrators. They’re also used to create volume, but the pick or “comb” that’s part of the attachment helps to lift the hair from the root upward and create even more volume. Shorter hairstyles will benefit from a shorter comb, whereas longer hair and in particular – long thick hair – will require a pick with a longer comb.

Picks are rarely included with most hair dryers, but can be bought separately from any online or offline retailer.

Can You Really Trust Reviews?

There’s no easy answer to this question. The types of reviews you’ll find in magazines from styling pros claiming the kind of hair dryer they use is the absolute best of the bunch can be either true or false. There’s just no way to tell unless you pay a visit to their salon and see for yourself.

In reality, most professional reviews need to be taken with a grain of salt since companies send boxes of their products out free to professional hairstylists in exchange for reviews. Professionally-reviewed products often come with professional prices too. Meaning most who read them might not be able to afford to spend hundreds on a single hair care item.

It’s also best to avoid reading reviews on auction sites like Ebay, as they don’t verify reviewer’s identities. This can lead to a lot of fake claims about the hair dryers you’re considering. There are also a lot of knock-off items sold on auction websites, meaning you can’t even trust the negative product reviews most times.

Real reviews from real people is the key to finding out if a hair dryer will meet your needs and expectations. Amazon product reviews are always a good source to use, provided there are several to read through. You can always find honest reviews, both good and bad, from real people who’ve bought and used products here.

Scour several trusted sources. Ask your friends, family and coworkers. Hone in on the main negatives about certain products that are being shared by most people. If there are a lot of failure-type claims related to any one brand or type of hair dryer, then avoid and move on. Even the big names create bad products once in a while.

Warning About Leaving Hair Dryers Plugged in While Not in Use

While you wouldn’t unplug your television, home stereo, or microwave just because you’re not using them; a hair dryer can be very dangerous if left plugged in when you’re done with them. This is a common cause of house fires, shorted electrical outlets and fuses, and will also void your warranty if you’re foolish enough to divulge this fact to a warranty representative.

This same warning applies to curling and straightening irons, and is a common owner’s manual warning that gets ignored.

Summary

Now that you’ve learned everything you need to know about reading product descriptions, what extras to look for in the box and how to find the most accurate product reviews, it’s time to decide which hair dryer is best for your needs and budget.

Inexpensive Hair Dryers?

For most people, a $30 unit from a reputable manufacturer that meets the requirements mentioned in the paragraphs above will work just fine.

They won’t work forever and they may not have important features like variable heat and fan settings. These low priced hair dryers may also not be the quietest, despite things like “ultra quiet” or “whisper quiet” written on the box. Most will have a one-year warranty included with purchase, which is all anyone can expect when spending less than $50.

Premium Home Use Hair Dryers?

If you’re looking for the ultimate in high power, multiple drying technologies, several variable heat and fan settings, and truly whisper quiet operation, you’ll have to set your budget a little higher.

How high?

There are several quality home-use hair dryers set in the $50 – $100 range which offer all the features you’ll want and oftentimes come with at least a three-year warranty too. Hair dryers in this price range are a great choice for those looking to have lots of options and a hair dryer that will last.

Salon Quality Hair Dryers?

The sky’s the limit when it comes to salon-quality hair dryers starting at $100 and going as high as $300 or more.

Many of which you’ll see recommended in trendy hair and fashion magazines, along with popular blogs of the same subject matter. Buying a hair dryer in this category will definitely get you a really great long-lasting hair dryer, with several settings and attachments to choose from.

They’re also built with commercial use in mind, meaning a higher quality fan motor that’s both powerful enough to accommodate all hairstyles, yet quiet enough for stylists to chat with their clients while doing their hair.

The choice is yours. Feel free to leave a comment and tell us what kind of hair dryer you prefer the most.

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