Rain, wind, snow or humidity may not stop the post office, but without a quality hair dryer they might make the time you spent styling your hair all for naught. Hair dryer manufacturers know this, and they’re using innovations like ceramic heaters, negatively charged ions and ground tourmaline to deliver sleek, superfunctional hair dryers. If this sounds too science-fiction for you, read on. Pronto’s Hair Dryer Buying Guide lays out all the things you need to know before choosing a new hair dryer.
Wattage is your hair dryer’s power. If you have fine or damaged hair, look for 1500 watts or less. Otherwise, look for a minimum of 1750 watts, unless you have long, thick hair, which may benefit from more power.
Ionic hair dryers and hair dryers with ceramic heating coils or tourmaline (or any combination of these) shorten heating time and improve overall sheen and softness. Tourmaline hair dryers can be expensive ($100+) and best suited for professionals. Stick with ionic hair dryers and ceramic hair dryers for affordable results.
Unless you choose a ceramic hair dryer, look for four to six heat and speed settings and an automatic shutoff feature in case the hair dryer overheats. If you have long hair, very thick hair or want to straighten curls, additional settings will give you more control over your hairstyle.
The primary hair dryer attachments are a nozzle for straightening and a diffuser for frizz-free curls. Depending on your drying needs, you’ll want to be sure the dryer you purchase has or will accommodate the necessary attachments.
Make sure your hair dryer’s cord length works in your room. Retractable cords add a measure of safety if you’ll be drying hair near water. Removable lint screens/filters make cleaning easy and reduce the risk of your hair dryer being a fire hazard. Make sure a hair dryer includes automatic shutoff in case it overheats.
A heating unit within some hair dryers that promotes more even distribution of heat, increasing shine and softness while minimizing damage.
An attachment that spreads heat and airflow so that it doesn’t hit your hair in a powerfully concentrated blast. A diffuser’s purpose is to style and dry curly hair without causing frizz.
All hair dryers use ions to dry your hair, but negatively charged ions help seal moisture into your hair, promoting speedy drying with minimal damage.
An attachment that concentrates heat in smaller areas of your head, used for straightening waves or curls.
Literally a precious stone, tourmaline produces infrared and ionic heat that dries the hair with the least potential for damage. Tourmaline is found in many professional-quality hair dryers.
A measurement of the electricity used by a hair dryer. Higher wattage delivers more heat and more powerful airflow.
Wattage measures the power that fuels your hair dryer. The higher a hair dyer’s wattage, the more powerful both the heat and flow of air are. Experts recommend hair dryers with at least 1750 watts, but if you have fine or damaged hair, you’ll want to stick with hair dryers that have 1500 watts or less. Those with particularly long or thick hair should choose a hair dryer with 1800-2000 watts.
The exception to the rule is if you’re shopping for a travel hair dryer. Most have lower wattages due to their compact size, but some manufacturers, like Conair, make travel hair dyers with 1800 watts or more, though they’re slightly larger in size than less powerful travel hair dryers.
Most hair dryers generate positively charged ions, which are often blamed for damaging hair (usually by makers of ionic or negative-ion hair dryers). While positive-ion hair dryers take the air in the room and heat it, negative-ion or ionic hair dryers dry by shrinking the water droplets in hair. Ionic hair dryers may minimize overall drying time, thus reducing the potential for heat damage to your hair.
Hair dryers traditionally contained metal heating coils. Most still do, but ceramic coils are showing up more and more (usually in ionic hair dryers) and they’re gaining popularity for their self-regulating heating properties. Unlike metal, ceramic heats evenly and distributes heat uniformly to your hair, reducing the risk of over drying. Ceramic also adjusts to temperature automatically and never gets “too hot.”
The most recent hair dryer innovation is ground tourmaline (yes, the gemstone). Tourmaline is believed to increase negative ion production in ionic hair dryers and cut overall drying time by more than 50% over hair dryers without it. The faster the drying time, the less exposure hair has to heat and the shinier it is once it’s dry. What’s the catch? Hair dryers featuring tourmaline technology start at about $100, and most models are geared toward professionals rather than consumers.
When you use a hair dryer to dry your hair, the hot air opens the hair cuticle, making it more pliable and easier to style. It’s possible to over-dry and damage your hair, resulting in flyaway or frizzy hair or dullness. Generally speaking, you should use the coolest possible setting and the least amount of force for the shortest amount of time to keep hair healthy.
No matter what type of hair dryer you choose, you’ll want it to feature several heat and speed settings. Most hair dryers offer between four and six settings for heat and speed. If your hair is short to medium-length or fine, these four to six settings are adequate. For longer, thicker hair or curly hair that needs to be straightened, more settings may offer you more control over your style and reduce drying and styling time. Some hair dryers also feature a “cool shot” that delivers a four- to five-second burst of cool air that helps seal the cuticle and set your style.
Finally, don’t overlook safety. Choose a hair dryer that shuts off automatically when it overheats.
Hair dryer attachments can seem like overkill, but if, like most of us, you always look better leaving the salon that you do at home, they’re worth purchasing. If you have straight hair or want to straighten curls, look for a hair dryer that comes with a nozzle attachment that concentrates air flow to make straight hair even straighter. If you love your curls but not the frizz that can come with them, choose a hair dryer with a quality diffuser that reduces the flow of air, so hair dries without the agitation that can make curls unruly.
Cord length is a consideration if your outlets are far from where you style your hair. Retractable cords add a measure of safety if you’ll be using your hair dryer near the sink, tub or shower. Your hair dryer should also have lint screens or filters that are removable for easy cleaning (clogged filters can be a fire hazard).
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