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Find a hair dryer to blow you away with this essential buyer's guide!

Published 20th December 2022
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Finding the right hair dryer can be a tricky task. With so many different models, features, and styles available on the market, it’s hard to know which one is best for you. To make things easier, we’ve put together this comprehensive buyer’s guide to help you find the perfect hair dryer for your needs. Here we cover all of the important factors that go into selecting a hair dryer: type, wattage, attachments and more! Keep reading to learn everything there is to know about shopping for hair dryers.

Types of hair dryer

Let's start by covering the different types available on the market today. There are three main types of hair dryers – professional salon hair dryers (also known as bonnet or hooded hair dryers), standard hand-held hair dryers and travel-sized mini hand dryers.

Professional salon hair dryers

These large units are huge, made up of an adjustable stand with a hood over your head. The hood dries your locks from all angles without needing direct contact with your skin or scalp. They're designed for professional hairdressers who need to dry their customers' hair quickly. That means they're more expensive than other kinds of hair dryers and very bulky.

Handheld hair dryers

Handheld hair dryers are the ones you'll be most familiar with. They're called handheld because you usually need only one hand to use them. This type can come with multiple settings such as high velocity airflow (for faster drying), low velocity airflow (for gentler styling) and temperature control. Use these settings to adjust the intensity of the dryer's power depending on your hair type.

Travel hair dryers

Portable travel hair dryers are perfect for those who want something lightweight. They share the same shape as a handheld dryer but are small enough to comfortably fit inside a suitcase, often thanks to the help of a folding handle.

That strength is also a weakness, since their smaller motors means they're not as powerful as standard hair dryers. That means they'll take longer than average to dry your hair, and won't have as long a life as a standard hair dryer if you use it constantly. (Read our blog post on how to care for your hairdryer for tips on how to make it last longer). They usually have fewer features than regular hair dryers as well.

Wattage & heat settings

Another important factor in choosing a good quality hairdryer will be understanding wattage vs heat settings. Most people will want a dryer that runs between 1300W and 1800W. If you have very thick, curly hair you may need something more powerful; if your hair is fragile or is recovering from damage you should use the lowest heat settings for finishing and rely on a bath towels for most of your drying.

Ceramic & ionic hair dryer

Two features that you'll often see when browsing for hair dryers are so-called ionic hair dryers and ceramic hair dryers, but what do these two phrases mean, exactly?

Simply put, both ceramic hair dryers and ionic hair dryers are two names to describe the same thing. These hair dryers have ceramic plates built into their bodies. When hot air from the heating element passes over them, the plates heat up and start to release negative ions.

These negative ions are the opposite of the positive ions in your wet hair's water droplets, which get energy from the drying process, building up a static charge and leading to frizziness. When the negative ions released by the ceramic plates come into contact with the positive ions they cancel one another out and stop the static electricity.

Some ionic hair dryers have a layer of tourmaline added to the plates. This material releases even more negative ions than ceramic plates, so if frizz reduction is a priority for you, look for tourmaline hair dryers.

However, ionic hair dryers might not be the best choice for you. If you like to add more definition and volume to your hair, avoid hair dryers with this feature (or look for hair dryers where the ionic plates are in the attachments and can be removed), as the anti-static properties will make it harder to add volume to your hair. 

Attachments & accessories

You'll also need to understand how to use the different types of hair dryer attachments. These accessories let you tailor your hair drying to help you achieve your desired hair style, from sleek straightened strands to tousled waves. There are two that you need to know by heart.

Concentrator nozzle

The concentrator nozzle has a flattened end that's wider than the end of the normal hair dryer nozzle. This shape concentrates the hot air into a more targeted airer. The concentrator nozzle is designed to dry specific sections at a time with the help of a hairbrush. It can help you dry your fringe straight or add volume to the root of your hair.

Diffuser nozzle

The diffuser nozzle does the exact opposite of the concentrator nozzle. Its large, flared tip diffuses air around the plastic tips at the nozzle's edge. This allows people with curly hair to blow-dry without worrying about annoying frizzy ends, since the shape of the curl is left intact as the dryer works. A diffuser nozzle is also much gentler on hair generally, making it a good choice if your hair is fragile.

Top hair dryer brands

Since you'll be using your hair dryer almost every day for years, it's important to buy yours from a brand you can trust. Here are some of the best reviewed hair care and electronic brands that make hair dryers:

If you want more information about these brands, we've created a whole blog on the subject, with pros and cons for each brand.

That's everything you should need to know to pick a brilliant new hair dryer. Remember – base your decision both on where you'll use your dryer as well as your hair type. Follow these tips and you're sure to make the best purchase for you!

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