We can’t always get to a hairdresser for that professional blow dry, so it’s important that our hair dryer gives us that salon-like finish at home. And while consumers now have access to the formerly secret world of professional hair dryers like Parlux and GHD, you'll also find marketing terms that make dryers sound more like a science experiment than a beauty tool – ionic' this and 'ceramic' that. 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. If it’s not achieving this as a minimum it’s just blowing hot air. 

Looking for the best hair dryer?

See our expert product reviews.

Hair dryer reviews

What's important when buying a hair dryer?

We asked members about what they look for in a hair dryer. You told us that you expect hair dryers to do their main job well: that is, to dry hair fast. It's also important that a hair dryer is:

  • easy to use
  • comfortable to hold
  • light weight.

Special features and the type of technology used were ranked low in importance when it comes to what you look for in a hair dryer.

We also found out that concentrators are the most commonly used accessory while the cool-shot function is the most commonly used feature.

Are expensive hair dryers worth it?

Should you blow your cash on a high-end hair dryer, or will the cheap and cheerful hair dryer 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. 

Ionic, ceramic, tourmaline – what does it all mean?

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

Ionic technology claims to condition hair by using negatively charged ions, which are created by passing air oven 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

Ceramic technology is said to control the heat to provide even heat distribution and add shine while protecting hair from frizz and damage.

Tourmaline

This technology generates negative ions with the aim to speed up drying while reducing static.

We've found no conclusive evidence to say that these technologies improve hair dryer performance.

What are the features to look for in a hair dryer?

Manoeuvrability, size and weight

Have a hold of it in store before you buy to get a feel of how comfortable the hair dryer is to hold and to see if it's well balanced.

Switches

Switches should be accessible, easy to operate and labelled well. 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 air flow settings

Separate settings for heat and air speed will give you more control. The highest setting is ideal to remove the moisture from your hair while the lower setting is best used for styling.

Cool shot setting

Provides a burst of cool air which is supposed to be good for setting a style in place.

Hook

It's a good idea to hang a dryer on the wall and away from wet bathroom surfaces.

Concentrator

This narrows and concentrates the airflow to where you want it. It's designed for spot-drying and controlled styling.

Diffuser/volumiser

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.

Turbo

The turbo shot or boost feature increases airflow through the hair dryer to speed up drying.

Is it time to replace my hair dryer?

Some hair dryers will stay 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 you're 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 whereby you can bring in your old hair dryer to be recycled.

Are there any safety tips to using my hair dryer?

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.

Cost

In our latest review we tested hair dryers priced from $30 to $599.