The 10 Best Hair Dryers
10. Conair Soft Touch
9. Supersolano Professional
8. John Frieda Full Volume
7. Elchim 3900
6. Panasonic EH-NA65-K
5. Rusk Engineering CTC
4. BabylissPro Nano
3. Rusk Engineering W8less
2. Conair Infiniti Pro
1. Featherweight Luxe 2I
Dryers: Where They've Come From
The hair dryer has a long and storied history. For more than a century, people have been looking for ways to get results in less time and with less fuss.
In the 1890s, a French hair stylist named Alexander Godefroy took the first stab at controlling the speed and efficiency with which to dry hair. His invention was awkward, certainly, consisting of an outsize hood that was attached to a long tube. You’d hook the tube to the heat source of your choice -- typically a gas stove or heater. The heat from the chosen source would --- eventually -- end up drying your hair. The apparatus included a power cord and a hand crank.
Of course, this early design attempt was cumbersome to say the least, and dangerous, to say the most. Between the hose, the heat source and the power source, there were so many avenues to injury, it was hard to count them. Despite the risks, some employed the contraption. But where did this idea come from? The answer may surprise you.
Women were still determined to get their hair to dry faster prior to Alexander's invention. Their method of choice? -- a vacuum cleaner. It’s true. In early vacuums, the hose drew air in from one end and expelled it on the other. Women used the side where air was expelled to dry their coifs, albeit without much heat. Still, a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do.
Fast-forward to the 1920s when a passel of industrious inventors vied to come up with a dryer you could hold in one hand. Some inventors were way ahead of the times. One early design included headphones for a user’s listening pleasure.
Still, these early handheld dryer designs were not much for convenience, and because wattage was as low as 100, drying time probably took half the day, as we like to imagine.
By the 1960s, however, design improvements began to develop at a steady pace. The introduction of plastic housing made the units much lighter, while changes to the motors made them both safer and quieter, and wattage improved to reduce use time.
These days, as you’ll note from our recommendations, dryer technology is ever-advancing. What with faster drying times, reduced damage to hair and enhanced motor efficiency, we’re practically living in a golden age for the trusted tool.
Materials and Technologies: For Beginners
If you've so much as browsed a single shelf of blow dryers -- even in a discount store -- you've witnessed a dizzying array of claims about materials and technologies. There are ceramic, tourmaline, and ceramic-tourmaline elements. Ionic and nano technology are also on the menu. To make sense of it all, you need patience, to start. So grab a soothing drink and a comfy chair, and let us fill you in. You might be surprised to discover there's actual science behind the hype.
Ionic technology simply means negative ions are created to help break up water molecules. When molecules are busted up like this, they'll evaporate more easily. Which translates to faster drying time for you. It also closes the cuticle which reduces frizz.
Far Infrared heat is known to penetrate the shaft of the hair. Some say it "dries hair from the inside out." The upshot is it helps keep moisture in the hair.
Nano technology has to do with super-small particle size. Nano titanium remains stable at extremely high temperatures and emits negative ions. Nano silver aids in keeping a blow dryer free of germs.
Tourmaline is, yup, the gemstone that is ground for industrial use. In hair dryers, it is typically the heating element, or other internal part that is coated with tourmaline. Some higher-end units may include parts of solid tourmaline. When tourmaline is heated, it gives off negative ions. Which explode water molecules, as mentioned above.
Ceramic is a material that's made of clay. It exudes far infrared heat. It may be found in the body of a dryer, in the heating element, or as a coating elsewhere inside the dryer.
So that's the scoop. Now that you're fully informed, you can brave the retail jungle -- and emerge with a tool that's just right for you.
Which Dryer Is Best For You?
The range of hair types is extensive. First, there's texture: Straight, curly, coil-y. Then, there's moisture level: Dry, normal, oily. Of course, damage can turn straight or curly hair frizzy. And over time, strong, thick strands can become thin and weak due to over-stripping, over-processing, over-drying or internal physiological changes.
Choosing a hair dryer means being realistic about your hair type and needs. What's ideal for someone with thin, straight hair might be completely useless for massive waves or curly locks.
Higher heat is for folks whose hair is harder to straighten or harder to dry. If your hair is very thick, highly textured, or both, you'll benefit from higher temps. You'll still have to be careful to keep the dryer moving and not apply too much heat to a single spot. But if you want to buy a 2,000-watt dryer and use it on a high heat setting, you should be OK.
Folks with fragile or thin hair need to take greater care. Stick with lower heat settings, and even lower airflow when necessary. The last thing you want is to damage already-weak strands. After all, there's only so much a good conditioner can do.
If your hair is frizzy, either due to damage or by nature, take advantage of smoothing ionic technology. Far infrared heat can also help by reducing dryer time, and thereby possible further damage.
Both the fine and frizzy-haired should make sure to use the cool shot button once hair is about 80% dry. It will help to close frayed cuticles to create a smoother look and feel.
When it comes to attachments, diffusers help the curly and wavy-haired achieve dryness without tangles. Concentrators lend focus to airflow, the better to straighten effectively.
Finally, whatever the nifty technology, heat is by nature damaging to hair. So use a heat protectant -- serum, spray, or gel -- whenever you dry or heat-style your hair.