How to Choose a Hair Dryer
The top performers in our review are Centrix Q-Zone Lightweight, the Gold Award winner; Elchim 3900, the Silver Award winner; and Panasonic Nanoe, the Bronze Award winner. Here’s more on choosing a hair dryer to meet your needs, along with detail on how we arrived at our ranking of 11 products.
When it comes to hair care products, you certainly get what you pay for. Hair dryers are no exception. Professional blow dryers are designed to quickly dry your hair, increase your hair’s volume and give it style in a matter of minutes. However, blow dryers come with many different settings and styles, which can impact how the device affects your hair.
There are several different heating technologies you can choose from; tourmaline, ceramic and ionic are the most popular. Each one is a healthy option and has its own unique way to dry hair. Since they are all beneficial for various reasons, companies will often combine more than one heating technology together to get all of the positive aspects into one device.
Tourmaline heating technology can dry hair up to 40 percent faster than other heating technologies. It works especially well with fine and curly hair types as it reduces the amount of time hair needs to spend in the heat and smooths out frizz. Ionic dryers are especially good for thick, frizzy or damaged hair. The negative ions created by the heating technology help dry hair with less heat. It also reduces frizz and works more gently than other dryers, making it an ideal choice for damaged hair. Ceramic hair dryers emit infrared heat and negative ions that dry hair follicles from the inside out. It protects hair from heat damage, making this a good choice for thick, thin or curly hair that gets damaged easily. Nanoe technology is something that the Panasonic hair dryer offers. It works well with fine, curly and thick hair types as it helps minimize frizz and infuses more moisture into hair than a typical ionic hair dryer.
Professional blow dryers feature different types of technology. This technology affects the speed, moisture and heat while drying your hair. Our top three products, Centrix Q-Zone Lightweight, Elchim 3900 Healthy Ionic and Panasonic Nanoe, use a variety of these types of technology. For more information, check out our articles on hair dryers and other beauty topics.
Hair Dryers: How We Tested, What We Found
In order to truly understand the effectiveness of each hair dryer, we tested each one on a range of hair types, from thick hair to fine hair, and of course, straight hair to curly hair. We gathered a group of people with these hair types, got their hair wet and then had them test out the various hair dryers. Once a tester’s hair had dried with one dryer, we wetted their hair again and the process continued. We had them rate the weight, loudness and overall effectiveness of each of the dryers, and allowed for additional comments.
Best for Fine Hair Types
For fine hair, you will want to look for low temperatures, around 85 degrees and lower, since higher temperatures can easily burn fine hair. Low air speeds around 15 mph will help keep your hair from getting blown about too much and becoming frizzy. Keep in mind that wattage for fine hair typically should be around 1875 or lower since hair dryers with low wattage usually have low air speeds and temperature levels that are perfect for fine hair.
Concentrator attachments are good for fine hair because they focus on particular sections of hair to keep them smooth and frizz-free. Ionic, tourmaline or nanoe heating technologies are all good options for preventing burn-damage and keeping fine hair healthy. Ceramic technology offers less protection than these other heating methods, which means that fine hair is more likely to get burned with it. If you do have fine hair and are considering a ceramic hair dryer, make sure it is mixed with another type of heating technology.
Best for Thick Hair Types
Thick hair dries best with higher temperatures around 150 degrees. It also works better with mid to high air speeds around 20 mph since this will provide enough power to get rid of water but won't create much frizz. High-watt dryers, around 1875 and higher, are preferred for thick hair types because they dry hair faster and reduce the amount of time your hair is under the heat. These reduced drying sessions will also make your dryer last longer. As an added perk, a high-watt blow dryer will likely last longer than low-watt hair dryers.
Concentrator attachments will help keep thick hair from getting frizzy as it focuses on a specific area to help keep it smooth. Thick hair works well with all kinds of heating technologies since it is stronger than some other hair types. Ceramic, ionic, tourmaline and nanoe heating technologies are all good choices for keeping thick hair healthy.
Best for Curly Hair Types
Curly hair dries best with low temperatures around 85 degrees since this helps maintain healthy curls. You will also want to use lower air speeds, around 15 mph, to keep your beautiful curls from getting separated and poofy. A hair dryer with mid-range wattage, around 1875 watts, typically supplies mid to low air speeds and temperatures, which are perfect for curly hair.
Concentrators can help you focus on a section of hair to reduce frizz and speed up the drying process. However, a diffuser will help you maintain better curls. Diffusers are especially good for naturally curly hair types as they take a hair dryer's strong blasts of air and spread it out to evenly distribute lower air flow over a wide surface area. This makes your hair blow around less, which equals less frizz and more styling control. Ionic, tourmaline and nanoe heating technology all work well with curly hair. Keep in mind that while ceramic hair dryers are typically good, they do not supply as much protection for curly hair as other heating technologies, so it is better to avoid them or to get a hair dryer that has other heating technologies mixed in with the ceramic technology.
One of the most important things to consider is the hair dryer’s power and strength. The higher the wattage, the more heat that is emitted. Many of the best blow dryers feature a cool air button to use when hair is almost dry. The cool air helps set a hair style and prevents over-drying and extensive damage to the hair.
While the temperature tolerance of hair types has been figured out for hair straighteners, there are currently no set measurements for hair dryers. Obviously, you'll want your hair dryer to be able to reach warm temperatures, but you should avoid overly hot temperature levels. We rated the hair type effectiveness of various hair dryers by looking at the temperature ranges that best fit different hair types.
In our testing, we rated each hair dryer's highest and lowest air speed to see how it would work with various hair types. Typically, in order to reduce frizz and unwanted poof, you should lower the temperature and air speed of your dryer once your hair is 80 percent dry. We gave hair dryers higher scores if they had air speeds that worked well with all three hair types.
Each heating technology is beneficial for different reasons. Tourmaline, ionic and nanoe are the best heating technology types because they protect your hair more than ceramic does. For this reason, we marked down hair dryers that use only ceramic heating technology.
In our testing, we found that weight wasn't enough to determine whether a hair dryer felt heavy or not. A hair dryer's weight also has to be well-balanced between the nozzle and the handle – both with and without the attachments – so that there would be less resistance on the wrist and hand. Hair dryers with lower weight and better balance scored higher on our review.
While decibels are a good indicator of how loud a hair dryer can get, we decided we needed to take into account the whininess or the cacophonous, high-pitched whir that spewed from some nozzles when we scored them for sound. We rated any high-pitched hair dryers lower than hair dryers that produced a decent hum. Cord length is also worth noticing since a longer cord lets you move around when you dry your hair. For maximum flexibility we recommend at cord that is at least 9 feet long.
Most professional hair dryers offer several accessories to help you get the hair style you desire. Many accessories can also enhance shine and prevent frizz. Concentrators and diffusers are the most common attachments. There are other hair drying attachments such as power boosters and straightening picks, but these are less common.
Concentrators force the air into a specific area, drying your hair faster and with more control. When used with low heat and low air speeds, concentrators will keep fine and curly hair from blowing about too much and will keep your hair frizz-free.
Diffusers are especially good for naturally curly hair types as they distribute strong air flow from a hair dryer's nozzle through smaller openings over a wide surface area. This makes your hair blow around less and helps limit frizz.
Warranty & Support
When looking for a hair dryer, you will want a dryer that offers an adequate warranty. Many individuals use their hair dryer every day, which can quickly wear the machine down. A long warranty proves the manufacturer is confident in its product. A good warranty for a blow dryer is at least two years, while the best is a lifetime warranty.
Our Verdict and Recommendations
When looking for the best hair dryer, you need to consider your particular hair type. You also need to think about where you will frequently dry your hair, as well as the types of accessories you need when drying. You want a low-noise hair dryer with decent cord length, decent temperature range and little weight, which is why we have ranked the Centrix Q-Zone Lightweight, Elchim 3900 Healthy Ionic and Panasonic Nanoe as our top hair dryers in this review. The Centrix Q-Zone Lightweight is good for all hair types and especially good for fine and curly hair. The Elchim 3900 Healthy Ionic works especially well for thick hair and fine hair but lacks some features that would make it good for curly hair. The Panasonic Nanoe also works well for all hair types but works particularly well with fine and curly hair. These three blow dryers performed well in our hands-on testing and impressed us with their various features and attachments.