It can be downright confusing to pick one because there’s a ton of choices when it comes to blow dryers.
Plus decent hair dryers aren’t cheap!
And it’s only worse when you shell out the small fortune required (read $50, $100 or more) only to be let down by the results you get. And how does that make you feel?
So you’re smart to do a little leg work to learn what you can before sticking your credit card in the card reader or clicking on the Buy Now button.
You’re smart to do what you can to insure the one you get is a workhorse styling tool that stacks up against the competition and gives you your money’s worth. Because not hair dryers are created equal.
You’re also smart because maybe you’ve heard certain hair dryers features are important but don’t know WHY. (Like a Xtava diffuser if you’re a curly girl.) Good time to find out.
To help we’re going to broadly cover two things here:
We’ll get more into the details with each.
Types of Hair Dryers
When asking what kind of hair dryer should I get seems to me you’re basically wanting to know which type is best, right? And just about everyone wants to know that.
Now as part of the answer to that question you need to know the different types of blow dryers. As you may already know they typically fall into three categories.
Which is best depends on what you want it to do for you. So let’s see if we can’t cut through all the buzzwords just a little to help you decide.
Ionic: What is an ionic hair dryer?
If you’re looking for a dryer that can make your mane a shiny stand out ionic is your best bet.
Okay but just what specifically are the benefits of an ionic blow dryer?
The negative ions generated by the dryer break up water molecules into smaller particles making for faster drying according to the manufacturers. That’s what makes a hair dryer ionic.
So this technology works because wet hair is coated with positive ions. When the negative and positive ions meet, BAM, a reaction occurs. The water molecules split and scatter so you get dryer hair faster and WITHOUT opening up your hair’s cuticle which can cause frizz.
That also means you may well get by using a lower temperature to get the same results. Lower temperatures also mean less hair damage.
But ionic dryers do you one better. They give you SHINE. So you get a frizz free, sleek finish along with less static, fewer flyaways and more SHINE. All in less time.
Self magazine reveals more of the science behind ionic dryers if that’s something you’re curious about.
Of course that’s not to say ionic dryers are perfect. If you’ve got fine, thin hair you may find all that ionic action leaves you with hair best described as limpish.
Should I get a hair dryer with ionic technology?
Those fighting frizz all the time or who prefer sleek styles will find ionic dryers more to their liking.
Does that mean ionic hair dryers are better? Dunno. They can be.
But if it’s volume you’re going after, and frizz and static aren’t a problem, maybe something non-ionic would be best.
For more on just how well ionic dryers work check out this video:
The side by side comparison of drying with or without ions shows the difference they make. What do you think?
Ceramic: What is a ceramic blow dryer?
Unlike traditional dryers that depend on a metallic coil to heat the air, these dryers have a ceramic (i.e. a composite made up of clay) coating on the heating element. With some the entire insides are coated.
That gives you three reasons why is a ceramic dryer is better.
First, ceramic dryers tend to heat up quickly.
Then such a coating holds heat better and results in more evenly distributed heated air being sent to dry to your hair without a major variance in the temp.
Finally holding heat better makes it a milder dryer which means less damaged strands.
So if you’ve ever wondered what are the benefits of a ceramic hair dryer there you go!
But did you know anymore there are affordable options that offer both ceramic and ionic technology in one package?
Tourmaline: What Is Tourmaline Hair Dryer?
Some feel tourmaline dryers are on the cutting edge of hair dryer technology.
Just so you know, tourmaline is a semi-precious metal. Typically it’s ground into a powder and fused into the innards of your hairdryer.
So much like ceramic such dryers these throw off an even heat.
Even better this gemstone has both ionic and infrared technology which it comes by naturally. For you that means superior dry times and more shine.
It also allows you to turn down the heat without sacrificing speed to dry.
Basically any dryer should get bonus points for having infrared technology. As you know that just means it dries hair from the inside out by using longer energy wavelengths. It also saves your scalp from being scalded by too much heat exposure.
So are tourmaline hair dryers better?
Some think so. But that higher performance comes at a price as generally the more tourmaline found in the appliance the higher the price tag.
Now the thing to look for is it just a coating or is it made with the stuff.
Remember coatings can flake off over time. Meaning that bargain tourmaline dryer may not be such a hot choice long term.
So that covers the three major types of dryers. Bringing us to …
What Makes a Hair Dryer Good?
For those in a hurry in a nutshell here’s what to look for to get a good hair dryer. Look at the wattage, number of speed and temperature settings and if you can easily lose the built up lint by popping off the end cap to clean things up.
For the rest of the story here’s 9 things to think about when looking for a new dryer.
Quick Section Navigation
- What’s the Wattage?
- AC vs DC Motor?
- Why Multiple Heat Settings?
- How Many Air Flow Settings Do You Need?
- Convenient Switch Location?
- Cool Shot?
- How Long’s the Cord?
- Blow Dry Attachments – Who Cares?
- Lint Filter That’s Easily Cleaned
So when it comes to how to choose a hair dryer there are features that are must have while others are nice to have. Which is which is up to you.
Oh and while we’re at it, it helps if you remember this is an investment. And not exactly a cheap one. So you should want to do all you can to make sure it’s relatively bullet proof so it lasts.
Given that, what check boxes should any dryer tick off in order to insure it makes your short list of styling appliances? The best answer is the more of these nine features it has the better for the most part.
What’s the Wattage?
Wattage – This is what makes a hair dryer powerful.
What it means to you: The higher the number of watts means the more power is in your hands and the more air flow that should be spewed out the business end. 1875 watts is a good number for home use. With at least that much you’ll have enough power to dry your mane quickly.
Just remember the amount of wind power you need is hair type dependent. Fine hair needs less. Thick hair more.
So now you know a higher wattage motor packs more punch.
More punch gives you the ability to blast your strands with more air which should cut down dry time. Without that, you’re not blow drying so much as heat drying which is harder on your hair.
Then too higher rated motors tend to last longer than their less powerful cousins since they don’t have to work as hard to produce the desired result.
Must Have If: If it takes ages for your hair to dry otherwise.
Staying with the motor …
AC vs DC Motor?
Most dryers designed for home use are going come equipped with an DC motor because they’re smaller, lighter and quieter.
What It Means To You: Basically a DC motor means two things:
- Lighter makes them easier to hold over your head longer for everyday styling – good to know unless you’re counting on that as your daily workout.
- Quieter keeps your hair routine from disturbing others in the house who may not get up as early as you.
But the trade off is they will not last quite as long and are a bit less powerful than the ones your stylist uses.
This isn’t to say they won’t hold up or aren’t powerful enough to do the job.
But like most things commercial grade is simply better. That’s because time is money in a salon so a more powerful AC motor will dry hair faster which allow the stylist to work with more paying customers.
Not a lot more to say about AC vs DC. But if you simply must know more this site shows a side by side comparison of the pros and cons of AC vs DC motors from a stylist’s perspective.
Which brings us to settings – one for the fan and one for the heat.
First the heat. You want a tool with multiple heat settings different settings gives you better control over the amount of heat or air velocity.
Why Multiple Heat Settings
What It Means To You: Having one tool with different heat settings maximizes its versatility. That way one styling tool can handle different tasks.
- Higher heat and stronger air are best for fast drying or more volume.
- Lower heat and weaker air flow are best for styling.
You definitely want to be able to harness all the heat and power so you’re using the right amount for the job. That’s typically done with multiple heat settings.
How many options you need is up to you. But there is probably such a thing of too many. And more than five or six heat settings I’d say is veering into the too many to use wisely territory.
How Many Air Flow Settings Do You Need?
If the amount of air coming out on the high setting is anything like a tornado that’s a good thing.
So for most of us anything more than two heat settings is likely overkill.
I mean can you think of any reason to use the medium setting cause I can’t. Which seems to me makes it kinda worthless.
Convenient Switch Location?
Do you care if the buttons are on the front or side of the dryer handle?
Obviously which is best is a personal preference thing.
What It Means To You: The best ones don’t get in the way and don’t accidentally change on you when you’re in the middle of drying.
Of course there are always those dryers with digital controls which may help you avoid accidentally bumping the settings as you work with the tool.
With most dryers this cold air blaster is a pulse setting which requires keeping the cool shot button depressed continuously with your finger. Not as convenient as those keepers with a button you hit and the air blast stays cool without having to hold the button down.
What It Means To You: Softer, more supple strands with shine to spare because the cold air shuts down the cuticle.
Must Have If: Only if you want the ability to set your style for long lasting results with a blast of cold hair when you’re done styling. Because that’s ideally when you should use the cool setting on any hair dryer. And if it’s not convenient or missing entirely you won’t be able to do so.
How Long’s the Cord?
This is something easy to overlook unless you’ve overlooked it before and had to break out an extension cord to get enough length to use your dryer.
What It Means To You: Ease of use plain and simple.
I’ll bet like most of us you aim the dryer down from above our head. A short cord can make that hard to do.
Must Have If: Your bathroom outlet is lower on the wall or you don’t have one near your styling space.
Typically you’ll find 6 to 8 feet is the standard length although there are some models with an extra long cord.
Blow Dry Attachments – Who Cares?
What it means to you: If you want to do more than just blow hot air most can benefit from either the concentrator nozzle and diffuser.
Not going to go in-depth on these but what was inside your box besides the dryer itself?
Was there a direction or concentrator nozzle to use for styling?
Must Have If: You want to concentrate the air flow to make styling easier.
Rather than blowing your hair all crazy if you want to concentrate the air flow onto a specific section of hair you’ll need this. It works because focusing the air will give you more control. It also makes it easier to like add volume at the roots or to dry those sideswept bang straight.
What about a diffuser? If you have curls you should be quite familiar. (Not familiar? then read what we wrote about them here.)
Must Have If: You want to bath your curls in warmth not blow them away so you end up looking like Medusa on a bad hair day.
The fingers are used to lift the curls and gently dry them leaving your curl pattern intact while minimizing frizz..
Remember diffuser attachments are NOT a one size fits all type of thing. So don’t assume the one you’ve been using on your old dryer will fit nice and snug on your new one. Odds are it won’t.
Yeah it’s a pain. But also reality.
Lint Filter That’s Easily Cleaned
Nobody’s gonna rave about a lint filter that’s easy to clean out. But that doesn’t make it any less important.
So yeah, This. Is. A. Biggie.
You see any decent blow dryer should last you a good long time as long as you keep the lint filter, or back air intake, clean and debris free.
What It Means To You: The reason you want to be diligent about this is simple. If the filter gets clogged with lint and hair the motor has to work that much harder to create what airflow it can. That strain can reduce the life of the motor leading to premature dryer death.
Oh yeah and reduced air flow also means longer dry times.
So lint clean out should be easy to do.
Must Have If: You love your dryer and don’t want to be buying a replacement every time you turn around.
So that covers the nine points as promised.
Now if you wish to hear more about why you may want a specific feature in a hair dryer this video does a nice job of explaining the benefits behind some of the more common items.
It’s included more as a review of what was just covered rather than revealing anything new.
There you have it. Almost everything you need to know about hair dryers. Hopefully this serves as a guide that helps you decide if you’re on the way to getting the right dryer for you or looking at one that’s just blowing so much hot air.
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