A few years ago, buying a hair dryer was fairly easy. There were just a few brands available in stores and they mostly had the same features.
It’s a different story today. Not only are there a zillion more brands to choose from, they have all kinds of bells and whistles.
Prices are also all over the map from cheap basic models to pricey ones equipped with new high-tech features.
This 10-minute buying guide will help you choose the best hair dryer for your styling needs and budget. We’ll also recommend the five best hair dryers for different types of hair.
What to consider when choosing a hair dryer
Generally, a good hair dryer should be lightweight, have multiple temperature settings and spot an ergonomic design that’s comfortable to hold especially during long blow drying sessions.
Here are more factors to consider when comparing among different hair dryers.
a. Ionic or not?
One of the new features you’ll find in modern hair dryers is ionic hair drying. Ionic hair dryers emit negative ions alongside the warm air.
The negative ions break up water droplets in your hair. This causes your hair to dry faster while also preventing frizz.
Ionic hair dryers are especially beneficial if you have frizzy hair.
But it may not work so well if you have flat or oily hair. You won’t get that nice lift you are looking for. Use a non-ionic hair dryer instead.
b. Heating material (Plastic vs. Ceramic/Porcelain vs. Titanium)
Basic hair dryers use plastic or metal heating elements. The problem with these is that they produce a lot of heat even when on a low setting.
The heat is also not evenly distributed. So some pocket of air coming out of the hair dryer may be hotter than others. This will create uneven styling on your hair.
I highly recommend a ceramic or porcelain hair dryer especially if you have fine or damaged hair. The heat will be gentler and evenly distributed.
If you have thick hair, you may benefit more from a titanium hair dryer. They produce more heat, which allows thick hair to dry faster and more evenly.
c. Temperature control
This is one of the most important features that any hair dryer should have. There should be at least 2-3 heat settings: low, medium and high.
This lets you choose the best setting depending on your hair type and styling needs.
I also recommend getting a hair dryer with a cool shot setting where the hair dryer emits cold air to seal the hair cuticle. This helps your hair retain the styled look for longer.
Get a lightweight hair dryer especially if you have long and thick hair that takes longer to blow dry. It will be more comfortable to hold and easier to use.
With hair dryers having so many features today, it’s hard to find a super lightweight one. Most weigh around 1kg with some going as high as 1.5kg.
If weight is important to you, look for a dryer that weighs less than 1kg.
A higher-wattage hair dryer will blow more air at a higher speed, which dries your hair faster. It’s especially beneficial if you have thick hair.
Look for a hair dryer that has a motor of at least 1500W. For those with thick hair, an 1800-2400W hair dryer is better.
If you opt for a powerful 1800W+ motor, make sure it has at least 2 speed settings. This will let you choose the most comfortable blow drying experience.
f. Extra accessories
Some of the extra accessories to look for include a concentrator nozzle for targeted blow drying, a diffuser which is great for curly or wavy hair and an attached comb or pik for styling curly or ethnic hair.
Best Hair Dryer reviews
1. Best hair dryer for thick hair: ghd Air Hair Dryer
ghd is the gold standard when it comes to hair dryers and this one is one of their best. It’s powerful, easy to use and leaves your hair looking great. The price is not too bad either.
At 2100 watts, it’s a great choice for those with thick hair. Air is able to penetrate deep into the roots for quick and even drying.
The ergonomic design ensures you have an easy time using it whether you are left or right handed. With a 3m cable, you can twist and turn the hair dryer as much as you want without any problem.
The ghd Air has ionic technology which speeds up drying and prevents your hair from getting frizzy.
You can also select from multiple heat settings and there’s even a cool shot button to keep your hair looking good all day long.
It comes with just one wide universal nozzle that works well for all types of hair.
What we like about it:
- Extra power for faster drying especially for thick hair.
- Ionic technology to reduce frizz and make hair smoother and softer.
- Cool shot setting for longer lasting results.
- Easy to use thanks to the ergonomic design, lightweight nature and extra-long power cable.
2. Best hair dryer for curly hair: Parlux 3200 Compact Hair Dryer Silver
Curly hair is easier to dry when you use a wide or diffuser nozzle that spreads the hot air over a larger area.
The Parlux 3200 comes with an extra wide nozzle that’s great for curly and wavy hair. There is also a slimmer nozzle for those times you want concentrated airflow.
This is the smallest and lightest hair dryer on this list. It weighs just 490g and measures 20cm.
So if you are looking for a lightweight hair dryer that is comfortable to use and easy to travel with, I highly recommend it.
Despite the compact size, it has an impressively powerful motor (1900 watts). This means it’s still able to produce enough air to quickly dry your hair.
You get 4 temperature options to choose from depending on your hair type plus a cool shot button to set your hair after blow drying. There are also 2 speed settings.
What we like about it:
- Light and compact – easy to use and travel with.
- Small but powerful even for thick curly hair.
- Two nozzles.
- 4 temperature and 2 speed settings – provides versatility to meet different styling needs and hair types.
3. Best hair dryer for fine hair: Remington AC9140 Proluxe Hair Dryer
Fine hair is especially prone to frizz. The Remington Proluxe hair dryer can help.
It emits more negative ions than most other hair dryers, ensuring your hair stays smooth and soft all day long.
The hair dryer also comes with variable heat settings (cold, warm and hot). So you can choose the most comfortable setting that won’t cause heat damage.
There are also two speed settings which are powered by a 2400W motor.
To deliver the best styling, the Proluxe hair dryer uses a feature called Optiheat which directs heat exactly where it’s needed to create more lift and a longer-lasting style.
This is especially handy for fine hair which can sometimes look flat and dead. With Optiheat, you’ll look like you’ve just had a professional blow drying.
You can use the included concentrator nozzle to focus the airflow on specific sections for a smoother and straighter style.
What we like about it:
- Powerful motor that dries hair fast and evenly.
- Speed and temperature settings – you can choose the best combination of heat and speed for your hair.
- Ionic technology with 90% more ions for frizz-free drying.
- Extra concentrator nozzle included.
4. Best hair dryer for afro hair: Wahl Powerpik 3000 Afro Hair Dryer
Afro/Caribbean hair can be difficult to style with a normal hair dryer. Its curly nature makes it a challenge to get hot air deep inside and straighten out the tangles.
This hair dryer makes it easier to style your hair.
It’s designed specifically for Afro hair and includes a pik attachment to comb out the tangles as you blow dry and to deliver heat down to the roots.
There are three heat settings which allow you to choose the best temperature for your hair type. You can also choose from two speed options depending on how thick your hair is and what you find most comfortable.
In addition to the pik, there are two concentrator nozzles that provide a smooth professional finish.
What we like about it:
- Perfect for Afro/Caribbean hair.
- Powerful 1800W motor.
- Multiple speed and heat settings.
- Easy to use – includes 3m cable, storage loop and removable air filter.
5. Best hair dryer for short hair: BaByliss 5541CU Pro Speed Professional Ceramic Ionic Hair Dryer
When blow drying shot hair, you want the warm air to spread widely to create lift and provide even styling.
That’s why I recommend the BaByliss Pro Speed for those with short hair. It comes with a diffuser nozzle that provides wider coverage than traditional slim nozzles.
You’ll also benefit from the ceramic heating technology which produces less-harsh heat that is gentle on your hair and scalp.
The variable heat and speed settings let you customize the experience depending on your hair type and styling needs.
There’s also a cool shot option that seals your hair in place and keeps it looking great for longer.
What we like about it:
- Ionic technology to reduce frizz and provide a smoother and softer professional finish.
- Heat and speed settings for added versatility.
- Includes a diffuser and concentrator nozzle.
Frequently asked questions
Q: How does a hair dryer work?
A hair dryer is powered by electricity (though you can also find small, battery powered versions). A motor inside the dryer drives a fan – this is what makes the warm air that we all know so well (as well as the characteristic sound of a hair dryer).
The fan pulls in air from the surroundings, and this room temperature air is passed over a heating element, which is what creates the warmth of a hair dryer. They usually have different settings, so you can choose to have it hotter and faster, or more slowly and cooler.
Q: How to dry your hair without a hair dryer?
If you don’t have time, or you don’t have one, or simply don’t like hair dryers, drying your hair can still be simple and easy.
Adding a little more conditioner than you normally would can help your hair dry quicker as the moisture leaves the hairs faster.
After washing towel dry your hair first, making sure that you don’t rub too hard, especially at the ends of the hair which are more prone to splitting. You can then wrap a dry towel around your head and wait, then style as soon as it is nearly dry (the towel hat can lead to some interesting styles if you don’t plan to style it afterwards!)
A microfibre towel is the best thing for drying hair. Comb it through with a wide toothed comb after washing, and finger comb it afterwards.
Sitting in a warm place, or in front of a heater is another good idea – your car heater will work wonders for this!
You can, of course, hang your head out of the car window – but this will result in some very strange hair styles that may get you a few funny looks. If you are not using a hair dryer, the best way to dry your hair is just to wait.
Q: How hot does a hair dryer get?
A hair dryer can reach temperatures of between 40 and 50 degrees (though as we all know it can feel much hotter than this if you accidentally hold it too close to your head!)
The temperature of the room will also affect the heat of the air that comes out of the dryer; a -5 degree room will make the dryer feel much cooler than if you are using it in a normal temperature room.
If you have an older device it may feel as though it is hotter or colder than modern models, as a decade or so ago technology wasn’t as advanced. You can cool your blow dryer with a diffuser, or simply by holding it further away from your head.