So you're in the market to buy a hair dryer. Do you want a traditional hair dryer, or an ionic one? Or maybe a ceramic hair dryer would be more your speed?
If you are confused, then perhaps it would be helpful to define some terms. Savannah Fincher, an Austin-based hairstylist and a corporate educator for the renowned Blo Blow Dry Bar, is well qualified to explain Hair Dryer 101.
"There’s an array of options when it comes to blow dryers," she says. "There's traditional hair dryers, ionic, ceramic, and a combination of ionic and ceramic hair dryers at the forefront. Each dryer promotes different benefits, making it important to find a dryer that will meet your specific needs and expectations. A good dryer should allow you to dry your hair quickly, while preserving the health and integrity of your hair. It should also have more than one heat and power setting, come with a concentrator attachment and a cooling temperature."
• Traditional hair dryers "are great for those who just need a great tool to get the job done," says Fincher. "However, the airflow and temperature in these dryers can be inconsistent, which can promote damage in chemically treated, fragile, or finer hair textures."
• Ceramic dryers, she says, "are a great universal option for almost all hair textures, especially fine, fragile, or chemically treated hair. Ceramic dryers work to continuously sense the temperature of the room and will automatically adjust to ensure the appropriate temperature is maintained at all times. The ceramic coating inside of the dryer regulates the heat distribution."
• Ionic hair dryers are "a perfect choice for those who struggle with frizz, flyaways or want to use their dryer to diffuse and rough-dry their naturally wavy and curly hair," Fincher says. "Ionic hair dryers allow you to use a lower heat setting and still achieve a silky finish while reducing drying time. Ionic dryers use negatively charged ions to break down the positively charged ions found in water, while keeping the cuticle closed. Heat typically opens the hairs’ cuticle and anytime the cuticle is opened, it exposes the hair to damage and frizz."
You'll have to decide which kind of hair dryer sounds the best for you. "Your hair type and hair struggles are the most important factors you should consider when selecting your next hair dryer," Fincher says.
Fortunately, there plenty of good options. We asked Fincher and other hairstylists what hair dryers they like best as part of our ongoing series of product recommendations from experts.
Best Hair Dryers
Laura Polko is a Los Angeles-based hairstylist, whose clients include Gigi Hadid, Bella Hadid, Chrissy Teigen, Hailee Steinfeld and Adriana Lima. And she has strong feelings about ions. “As a stylist, I would most definitely recommend the T3 Cura Luxe Dryer," she says. "The ions in the dryer keep the hair super smooth and sleek and there is an auto-pause sensor that stops airflow as soon as you put the dryer down.”
If you've cut the hair of a literal princess, you probably know a thing or two about hair dryers. Michael Sparks is the co-founder of Tabb & Sparks Salon in Santa Monica, and has worked with famous follicles ranging from Meghan Markle to Monica Lewinsky to Anna Kendrick.
He likes the Parlux 3200 Compact Hair Dryer "due to its fast drying time and the intense power offered by the professional motor. This blow dryer includes two styling concentrators to achieve different looks and serve varying purposes," he says.
"One concentrator has a lip that shoots the airflow down towards the hair shaft and up toward your brush in a way that makes a significant difference in the hairs result. There are conveniently four different heat settings along with a cooling option and two-speed settings that will allow you to achieve any look to perfection."
Maybe you're all in on an ionic hair dryer? If so, Fincher says, "this adorable ionic dryer, although hefty in price, is worth every penny! It comes with a two-year warranty, and it’s dual filtration system reduces energy consumption," she says. "It provides a notably faster drying time, while providing a beautiful shine to the hair thanks to its ionic technology. It weighs less than a pound, has a long extended cord and its whisper technology makes this dryer one of the quietest dryers you’ll find in the market. This is an excellent option for both professional and home use."
Davide Marinelli is the founder of New York’s Davide Hair Studio, and his work has been featured on the runways of New York Fashion Week, and there are a few must-haves to look for in a hair dryer, in his opinion. “Qualities in a good hair dryer are that it is lightweight and works on high voltage," he says. "I typically like to look for dryers that have long cords, for easy use – and if the cords are travel-friendly, this is always a great bonus."
He calls the Cricket Pro Centrix 5000 Professional Hair Dryer one of his favorites. "It has a superior airflow that reaches up to 50 mph and is equipped with a powerful 1800 watt A/C motor. The dryer also has a long cord for easy use, and it is really lightweight and not super loud, like old school dryers are.”
You might not think about the weight of your hair dryer, but professional stylists sure do, and the lighter it is, the easier it is to handle. Darrius Peace of the Birmingham, Alabama salon Hayah Beauty works "behind the chair" on TV and movie sets and is the author of My Hair Ain't Nappy: A Black Man's Introspection on Natural Hair.
He says the FHI Heat Platform blow dryer "is an excellent tool for those stylists who need a more ergonomic solution for straightening, diffusing, or styling hair. This handheld dryer is lightweight and free of a bulky handle; making it a must-have for those who experience arthritic issues." Peace adds, "I also like that it offers a sexy and chic to my salon aesthetic."
Roy Teeluck is a celebrity stylist and the owner of the New York-based Roy Teeluck Salon. With clients all over the world, he appreciates a dryer that can get the job done well, and quickly. "My favorite blow dryers can vary depending on the day, but as of right now, I love the Elchim Blow Dryer, it has the power to do it all," he says, adding that "it’s important not to toss the nozzle attachment that comes with it, too, because that definitely helps achieve gorgeous blow-outs with all my clients in record time. This particular dryer from the brand clocks in at $142, but it’s definitely worth the price if you want top-notch style."
It's perfectly fine to have fine hair. But you've got to make the extra effort to take care of it. Tabitha Fredrichs is a fine hair expert in Plymouth, Minnesota, and she likes the GHD air hair dryer because "fine hair needs more love than thicker hair and the GHD has three heat settings. Most of the time fine hair can be dried on cool as to not cause damage to the fine cuticle that we have," she says. "It also has ion technology that dries the hair faster and helps with frizz control.
"These will run around $150 to $200 but understand that this is a professional dryer that will last up to 7 years if you clean and take care of it," she says. "I always tell my clients that if they do not want to spend that much on a dryer, just make sure it has three heat settings and it will work fine."
Does a combination of ceramic and ionic sound good to you? Then Fincher recommends the Parlux Advance Light Ceramic and Ionic model. "This lightweight Italian dryer guarantees 2,500 hours operation and reduces thermal damage thanks to its ceramic and ionic technology," she says. "It is temperature-controlled and considered an eco-friendly dryer that will reduce energy consumption while remaining high power. It falls on the quiet end of the noise spectrum. However, you can buy the Parlux Melody Silencer ($34.99), which will further reduce the blow dryer noise."
Stevie Gavin works at DC's famed Ian McCabe Studio, and she calls the Sedu Revolution "my go-to blowdryer to use on myself and my clients. Not only is it lightweight, powerful, and surprisingly quiet, it also offers 60% more power as compared to other hair dryers on the market."
Sparks admits the Parlux Advance Light is on the pricey side, but he insists it's a worthwhile investment. "When committing to a hair dryer, I find that it’s better to spend a little more to guarantee an item that will last you a lifetime. Additionally, you can spend hundreds of dollars at the salon to get your hair done, so it’s worth it to buy a hair dryer that will keep the integrity of your cut and color," he says. The Parlux Advance Light is similar to Parlux 3200, "but a lot lighter to handle, making it more manageable if you have a lot of hair. This model has ceramic and ionic technology that dramatically aids in static-free hair."
Best Budget Hair Dryer
Trying to look fabulous on a budget? Gavin has your back. "My favorite holy-grail budget blowdryer is the Conair Infinity Pro 1875 Watt Salon Performance Dryer. For around $40, it allows you to blow-dry your hair with the dexterity of a professional stylist right at home."
Best Travel Hair Dryer
Are you planning on a vacation? Do you want to look fabulous but don't want to have to check too many suitcases? Then Polko has a recommendation for you. "If I have to travel anywhere, I always bring my T3 Featherweight Compact Folding Dryer," she says. "It has the power of a full-sized dryer, and it is dual voltage so it works internationally. It folds up small and is super easy to pack in my suitcase and in my kit.”