You can't always get to a hairdresser for a professional blow dry, so you want a hair dryer that helps you get that salon-like finish at home. Consumers now have access to the formerly secret world of professional hair dryers like Parlux and ghd, but they come with marketing terms – like 'ionic' and 'ceramic' – that make them sound more like science experiments than hair-care tools. So what do you need to know to find the best dryer for you?
A good hair dryer will dry your hair quickly, while providing an effective range of temperature and airflow settings to help you create your desired style. If it's not achieving this as a minimum, it's just blowing hot air.
We asked members what they look for in a hair dryer. You told us that you expect hair dryers to do their main job well – dry hair fast. It's also important that a hair dryer is:
- easy to use
- comfortable to hold
Special features and the type of technology used are ranked low in importance when it comes to what you look for in a hair dryer.
We also found that concentrators are the most commonly used accessory, while the cool-shot function is the most commonly used feature.
Should you blow your cash on a high-end hair dryer, or will the cheap and cheerful one do?
Whether you want to invest in the $599 Dyson, spend a couple of hundred on a professional salon-grade hair dryer or get one for under $100, we recommend a range of models in our latest hair dryer reviews to suit your hair care regime and budget.
Many hair dryers come with technologies that claim to provide a professional result, but what does it all mean and is it all just hot air?
Ionic technology claims to condition hair by using negatively charged ions, which are created by passing air over an electric current. It's said to dry hair faster, retain moisture to keep hair healthy and smooth and create less static to reduce frizz.
Ceramic technology is said to control the heat to provide even heat distribution and add shine while protecting hair from frizz and damage.
This technology generates negative ions with the aim of speeding up drying while reducing static.
We've found no conclusive evidence that these technologies improve hair dryer performance.
Manoeuvrability, size and weight
Have a hold of it in store before you buy. Get a feel for how comfortable the hair dryer is to hold and see if it's well balanced.
Switches should be accessible, easy to operate and well-labelled. Sliding switches are set in the handle and can be hard to use if they're stiff, lack grip or don't stick out enough. Rocker switches require you to push the raised end down. They can be easier to use but can be accidentally activated.
Multiple heat and airflow settings
Separate settings for heat and air speed will give you more control. The highest settings are ideal to remove the moisture from your hair while the lower settings are best for styling.
Provides a burst of cool air which is supposed to be good for setting a style in place.
It's a good idea to hang a dryer on the wall and away from wet bathroom surfaces.
This narrows and concentrates the airflow where you want it. It's designed for spot-drying and controlled styling.
Diffusers with short fingers are designed to dry curly hair by spreading the airflow to prevent frizz. Diffusers with longer fingers – sometimes called volumisers – are designed to add volume to all types of hair by directing heat to the roots.
The turbo shot or boost feature increases airflow through the hair dryer to speed up drying.
Some hair dryers can be your trusty hair-care companion for years, but it's important to know when to give up the fight and trade your hair dryer in for a shiny new model.
Most hair dryers nowadays have an inbuilt safety switch that will automatically cut the power if the hair dryer starts to overheat. Older hair dryers might not have this safety feature.
When your hair dryer is on, it sucks in the dirt and dust floating around in the air. Over time, this filter can become clogged and dirty and unable to suck in enough clean air to run the hair dryer effectively. This can cause the hair dryer to overheat and you may even notice a burning smell – a sign that it's time to replace your hair dryer.
If your hair dryer is blowing extremely hot air, it could be doing more harm than good – another sign it's time for a replacement.
If you've decided it's time to replace your hair dryer for a shiny new model, be sure to consider how you dispose of your old one. Recycling electronic waste (e-waste) keeps toxic metals away from landfill and allows many materials to be reused. Check with your local council – many offer a free e-waste disposal service. Sustainable Salons Australia is another service that collects and recycles salon waste. Partnering salons might extend this service to clients, allowing you to bring your old hair dryer in to be recycled.
Hair dryers are one of the most common household items associated with electric shock, so it's vital that we're using them safely to prevent injury to ourselves and others.
- Make sure your hair dryer is in good working order.
- Don't use it if the power cord is damaged.
- Where possible, avoid using your hair dryer in wet areas.
- If water comes in contact with your hair dryer, turn it off and unplug it immediately.
- When disconnecting your hair dryer, turn it off first at the switch, then pull out the plug.
- Make sure the power cord is not dangling from benches or in your child's reach.
The hair dryers we've tested have ranged in price from $30 to $599.
Stock images: Getty, unless otherwise stated.