The Definitive Guide to Choosing the Best Hair Dryer

best hair dryerHow to Choose the Best Hair Dryer for Your Hair Type

Whenever we look to buy a new hair dryer, price unfortunately dictates which unit we are more likely to buy.

Why is this a problem?

We generally don’t take the time to consider and understand all of those extra features, specifications and details that are on box.

You will see buzzwords like ceramic, watts, ionic, tourmaline and whatever the heck a cool blast is!

At the end of the day, our goal is to make sure that you purchase the best hair dryer for your needs. So, let’s dive right into our analysis, what is the best hair dryer?

Comprehensive Hair Dryer Buying Guide

The following information is included about the hair dryers that we’ve reviewed:

  • Hair dryer photos
  • Brand name and dryer type/model
  • Overall weight of the hair dryer
  • Combination of features
  • Pricing (by range)
  • Consumer opinion (ratings/reviews, up to 5 stars)

If you can’t find what you’re looking for in the list of hair dryers blow, there are several more hair dryers available on Amazon. Our goal is to present a range of the best hair dryers from each category.

The History of the Hair Dryer

Early Hair Dryer
Hair dryer from the early years

The hair dryer (or blow dryer) is a device that was engineered to move hot air through your damp hair. The hair dryer then speeds up the evaporation process of water particles to dry the hair.

Hair dryers allow users to shape and style their hair, by controlling and speeding up the formation of hydrogen bonds in each strand of hair.

Hydrogen bonds are strong, but are only temporary and will eventually become vulnerable to humidity. These hydrogen bonds disappear after the hair has been washed one time.

The hair dryer can provide room temperature air for styling or heated air for drying and reducing frizz.

The very first hair dryer was created in the 19th century. It was engineered by Alexander F. Godefroy in his salon in France.

It wasn’t until thirty years later in 1920 that the handheld version of that blow dryer was introduced, then utilized in beauty salons and by the average consumer who could afford one. Early hair dryers were very expensive for the average consumer.

Most blow dryers use wire coils that have a very high electric resistance. They heat up rapidly by way of electric current.

The dryer’s fan blows the room temperature air across the hot coils that results in heated air that effectively dries the hair. This heating element is usually a bare, coiled wire wrapped with insulating mica heat boards.

The nichrome wires are utilized because of two distinct properties, it doesn’t oxidize when heated and doesn’t conduct electricity.

Most hair dryers used today use ceramic components because they provide instant heat. They take less time to heat up and dries the hair faster.

Most of the modern hair dryers have a normal button that turns off the heat and provides room temperature air. This is helpful for setting the hair and reducing frizz. Many feature ionic operation, which reduces static electricity that builds in that hair.

The hair dryers available for purchase today come with a variety of attachments, airflow concentrators, diffusers, or comb nozzle attachments.

Airflow Concentrators: The airflow concentrator allows that hair dryer end to be narrow so heated air can work one area of the hair more rapidly.

Hair Dryer Diffusers: Diffusers stop the hair from being blown around while drying.

Comb Nozzle Attachment: The comb attachments are similar to the concentrator, but with comb-like teeth on the end for easy styling and eliminating the need to hold a brush in the other hand while drying.

Before the blow dryer, most people had to use their vacuum cleaner to dry the hair. The original hair dryer designed by Godefroy in 1890 was inspired by the vacuum cleaner of the time.

The first hair dryer was utilized in the salon where women had to sit under it to have the hair dried. The hair hood was a plastic dome that allowed heated air to flow through more evenly.

The hooded hair dryer is still in use in many high-end salons around the world. The first hair dryer was patented in 1911.

Handheld Hair Dryers

It wasn’t until four years after the patent was granted that handheld designs hit the market.

In 1915, National Stamping Electric Works created the design changes that allowed the blow dryer to be handheld. The Hamilton Beach Company continued that year to make more modifications to the design to give it a broader consumer appeal.

Even in 1920, the hair dryer still weighed in at two pounds and was cumbersome to use. There were many instances of electrocution and overheating, and since it only used 100 watts of power, the hair remained wet longer. During this period, there were many deaths due to electrocution.

Dating back to the 1920s, the development of the hair dryer was focused on trying to improve upon the exterior design and the wattage.

Since the inception of the hair dryer over 100 years ago, there have been no major changes other than switching to a more lightweight exterior material.

It was in the 1960s when an improvement to plastics changes the look and weight of the blow dryer. The last significant design change was in 1954 when the motor was moved inside the casing.

Consumer Product Safety Commission

The Consumer Product Safety Commission began to set-up guidelines in the 1970s concerning safety mechanisms that needed to be implemented before the hair dryer could be considered safe for manufacturing.

Going back to 1991, the Consumer Product Safety Commission mandates that all hair dryers in the United States must have a ground circuit protector so that a person can not get electrocuted if the device becomes wet.

In 2000, deaths from hair dryers dropped to a low of only four people per year, an enormous difference from the hundreds who lost their lives from electrocution in the mid-twentieth century. The hair dryer today can also be used as an effective tool for treating head lice.

The noise, size, weight, and the look of the modern hair dryer has completely gone through a transformation since the days of those noisy, heavy, and dangerous contraptions back in the early 1900s.

Several dozen manufacturers are engineering different size, style, and color dryers, but they all still run on the premise that was developed in a salon in France over 100 years ago. The prices have also come down significantly. Hair dryers are now very affordable devices.

Today you can find two different type of hair dryers on the market: rigid hood dryers and bonnet hair dryers.

The rigid hood hair dryer is typically seen in salons, with the large plastic dome with tiny air holes so the heated air can circulate properly. These dryers typically will use a much higher wattage than the bonnet dryer.

1962 Excelsior  Bonnett Hair Dryer
1962 Excelsior Bonnett Hair Dryer

The bonnet dryer was first introduced back in 1951 and worked by connecting a little box to a tube that went inside the bonnet and placed on a person’s head. When the heated air was pumped into the bonnet, it dried all the hair more evenly and quickly.

Advancements in the Hairdryer Marketplace: Innovation or Hyperbole

If you haven’t recently purchased a hairdryer, you will certainly be surprised at what is out there in the market today.

Due to some rapid changes in technology, and some great innovations by the people responsible for coming up with these updates, hairdryers have seen an incredible transformation over the past number of years.

An outdated hair dryer is what can often lead to a styling experience that doesn’t leave that same great look that you get after a visit to a salon.

So you may be thinking, “Well if it’s not the price, how should I know what’s important in my next hairdryer?”

You need to ensure that you purchase a product that is right for your hair, picking one that matches what you want to use it for, and what features you need it to have.

Features of the Latest Hairdryers

High Wattage Hair Dryers

High wattage hair dryers will have a greater amount of power. Also, these units pump out more heat, in turn drying hair quicker.

Keep in mind that damaging your hair with too much heat is a very realistic scenario. You need to ensure that you aren’t frying your hair, and instead, are drying it.

Ensure that the wattage you buy is the right amount needed for you and your hair, without going overboard. You don’t necessarily need a high wattage dryer unless you have coarse or thick hair.

Dryers for Coarse, Thick or Curly Hair

If you have coarse hair, thick strands of hair or curly hair you might want to consider a higher wattage hairdryer, to ensure that your hair dries in a timely fashion.

Hairdryers with higher watts, have more blowing power and produce more heat, which can maneuver around thick or coarse hair strands more easily and ensure they dry thoroughly.

Plus, thick hair tends to be stronger than fine hair and is able to withstand this more intense drying process.

Selecting a Hair Dryer for Fine Hair or Damaged Hair

For ladies with short hair or long fine hair, you might consider purchasing a hairdryer with a lesser wattage.

The thought behind this consideration is that a lower wattage dryer will produce less heat and mitigate the possibility that you’ll receive heat damage.

Short hair or long fine hair generally can’t handle heat the same way that thicker hair or coarse hair can.

As a frame of reference for your purchase, 1,875 watts is generally enough power to dry thicker hair.

The Importance of Temperature Controls

It’s also worth noting that many hair dryers have temperature controls, which is used to regulate the heat.

Buying a hairdryer that has the ability to change the setting for how intense or high the heat gets is a very important consideration. This is why having more than an the on/off switch is important.

It will allow you to tailor how much heat is needed specifically to your hair type.

There is no real “rule” when it comes to wattage for your type of hair, but here are some reference points to consider:

Damaged, Thin or Fine Hair: 1200 to 1500 Wattage

If your hair is already damaged or is somewhat fragile, allow your hair to air dry first, and then change the settings to the lowest level before drying your hair.

Normal/Medium Straight or Wavy Hair: 1300 to 1800 Wattage

Hair types in this category will usually be able to dry quite well within this range of wattage.

Coarse, Thick or Curly Hair: 1600 to 2000 Wattage

As discussed, this hair type is more favorable to allowing high levels of power and heat, and a hair dryer in this range will do the trick for the quickest drying time.

Looking for a Travel Hair Dryer?

If you’re someone who travels quite a bit, you’ll need to consider looking at the voltage of your new hair dryer.

Something to think about is that if your hairdryer doesn’t have an option for dual voltage, it will not work (internationally) outside of Canada and the US or in other countries that do not support 110/120V.

You can buy a standard adapter or converter to use the 220/240V, which allows for you to carry your dryer almost anywhere your travels may take you.

You may also want to look at getting a dryer that is compact with a fold down handle, to ensure your suitcase doesn’t get filled too easily!

Heat Options

Simply put the more heat options, the better.

Every dryer type should have at least an option for low or high settings, to ensure that if it’s too hot, that you are able to reduce the heat.

And at the same time, if it isn’t hot enough, you want to be able to turn that heat level up!

It’s easiest to style your hair when it is already a bit damp and warmed, so remember this if you’re someone who likes to style their hair frequently, as this tip will be more important for you and your hair.

Less heat tends to be better, as too much will in fact lead to damage. Always keep the hair dryer moving, not leaving it to long in any one section. You need to ensure the heat is high enough that it dries your hair, but low enough that it doesn’t cause damage.

Coolshot /Blast

Many people may already have a coolshot button on their hairdryer and may not even know that it actually serves a purpose!

While heat works to dry and create the style, this cool air setting will allow you to set your style in place!

When styling section by section, be sure to give each finished area a blast of cool air to set that area in.

A helpful tip in the event that your hairdryer needs you to hold down the cool button, is to try and use a twist-tie like the ones you use to keep your bread bags, to keep the button held down to give your finger a break!

If you haven’t recently purchased a hairdryer in the past decade, and you frequently use hairdryer to style your hair, it might be time to consider an upgrade!

Especially when you consider the cost compared to the number of times you use it, the investment will be well worth your while.

With some recent changes in technology such as tourmaline, infrared, ionic, ceramic, it’s probably time to look at replacing that old one!

So what does each of these terms mean?

It’s important to understand the terminology so that you can be sure to find something that best matches your hair and its’ needs.

The Ionic Hair Dryer

Ionic hair dryers encourage moisture retention and speeds up the drying time.

The ionic technology used in these dryers will help break down any water molecules in your hair, creating a faster drying period.

And, as you already know, the less time you spend dryer your hair, the less time your hair is exposed to potentially damaging heat.

Not only do ionic dryers reduce your drying time, but they work best at a low heat setting, once again minimizing any heat damage that could potentially happen.

Infrared Technology

Infrared heat technology is commonly found in tourmaline hair dryers. This type of drying system is much gentler on your hair, especially during styling. Infrared hair dryers also allow your hair to endure a higher heat without creating damage to your hair. The goal of this technology is to help your hair dry evenly.

Tourmaline Technology

You may have heard of tourmaline before and know it for being a semi precious gemstone. When tourmaline hair dryers are heated, the tourmaline is able to specifically target sections of hair and break down large drops of water into a smaller droplet, which in turn is able to simply evaporate. Not only does this quickly dry hair, but it also helps to mitigate heat damage.

Ceramic Technology

Ceramic hair dryers deliver an even, gentle heat. Ceramic is a unique material that has heat conducting properties, this means that the heat will radiate evenly across your hair, which mitigates sections from over drying or overheating.

Concentrated Nozzles

Concentrated nozzles are designed to help direct where you want the heat to go. This can be especially helpful if you are styling your hair a particular way.

It is important to blow dry your hair without the concentrated nozzle first, to get out any initial moisture, before you start the styling process.

Diffuser Technology

Diffusers usually work great if you have naturally curly hair! They help keep curls curly, as it slows down the drying process so not to disturb the curls.

This tool is perfect if you don’t have a ton of time to let your hair air dry, or when the weather outside is cooler. Hello Winter Wash & Goes!

Plus, if you have straight hair, a diffuser can help set styles.

Noise Level

If you are looking for a quiet hair dryer, look for a dryer that has an alternate current (AC) motor. This type of motor is usually very quiet. Many louder hairdryers have direct current motors (DC).

Removable Air Filter

Having a removable air filter is a great feature to have on your hair dryer. Remember to clean it on a regular basis. Build up from debris can cause your dryer to over heat and cause damage to your hair.


Hair dryers range in different sizes and weights. Most professionals use extremely light dryers that have AC motors and are often under one pound, to ensure their arms don’t tire throughout the day.

Opting for a lighter weight dryer yourself isn’t a bad idea either, especially when reaching around to the hard to reach spots on the back of your head. The last thing you want to do is give up and begin thinking, why did I do this, because your arms are tired!

Finding the Right Hair Dryer for Your Hair Type

You can certainly benefit from a high quality or professional hair dryer based on your hair type. Here are several features to consider depending on hair type:

All Hair Types

  • Ceramic hair dryer distribute heat evenly.
  • Ionic technology creates negative ions, which smooths the hair while locking in your hair’s moisture, decreasing drying time.

Thick or Coarse Hair

  • High air flow dries thick and coarse hair more quickly.
  • Multiple heat settings: lower settings for styling and higher ones for powerful drying.

Curly Hair

  • Using a diffuser will encourage your curls to keep their definition and make them frizz-free.

Thin or Fine Hair

  • Having multiple heat and speed settings are preferred; use the lower heat settings for fine hair.
  • Having an on/off for the the ion generator allows you to create more volume.
  • If you have fine hair, make sure you choose a hair dryer that has an ion switch. This will allow you to control turning the ionic generator on and off as you please, controlling the volume you create while styling your hair.

Straight Hair Types

  • It is important to look for a hair dryer with a combination of an ionic generator, tourmaline, and ceramic, as well as one that delivers infrared heat. This will ensure that your end result will be both smooth and frizz free, yet full of moisture. A dryer with a concentrated nozzle would be a bonus for this hair type, as it will let you direct that air flow in certain areas only.

Well, there you have it! The ultimate guide to choosing the right hair dryer for your individual hair type. We hope you found it helpful, happy shopping!


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