Hair dryers have come a long way from being the basic tools that feature a couple of settings to get your hair dried quicker. These days, they’re more efficient, powerful, and feature-packed than ever before, ensuring your strands are sleek, smooth, and frizz-free. But that makes finding an option ideal for your hair, lifestyle, and budget a bit more complicated. Luckily, we’re here to help you determine how to find the best hair dryer, ensuring your hair is on point day after day.
Are you just looking for a quick and easy blow-dry, or do you want to use it as a full-on styling tool? Some hair dryers offer unique heat and airflow technologies, along with boosted power for a fast blowout, while others deliver different attachments and elements to keep hair looking great for a night on the town or a day at the office. Some are more compact and less powerful, making for a great travel companion. Clearly, there are seemingly endless possibilities in an overly saturated market.
How to choose
This is part of a regular series of articles designed to guide you through the process of buying a particular device or type of product. Read them all here.
Our guide is here to help you on the hunt. We discuss the best time to buy a hair dryer and the prices you can expect to pay for budget to high-end options—and it’s a surprisingly wide range. Do a deep dive into the specs to look for, as there’s a lot more to it than some speed and heat settings, and even include some of our favorite hair dryers for your consideration.
When money is no object, it’s hard not to fall for the Dyson Supersonic. It offers innovative features, like placing the motor in the handle to help create a more lightweight, compact build and a thermometer that ensures heat is consistent and safe for less damage. All while managing to dry strands efficiently with consistently stunning results.
A more budget-friendly and basic hair dryer that can still hold its own against more premium models is the Hot Tools Pro Signature Salon Ionic. Though you sacrifice looks, power cord length, and a removable filter, you get ionic technology to ensure hair remains frizz-free, along with multiple heat and airflow settings for quick dry times or styling using the included concentrator nozzle or diffuser.
The T3 AirLuxe is our favorite hair dryer, as it delivers the same shiny, smooth results as the Dyson Supersonic for a lower price. Sure, the build isn’t as compact, but this option is still comfortable in hand, dries strands quickly, and offers various heat and airflow settings to find the best combination for your hair type.
No matter if you choose one of our favorite hair dryers or go out on your own to find a suitable option, be sure to check out our tips on how to buy a hair dryer.
What to look for
Before you purchase a hair dryer, you need to determine your budget, what you’ll be using it for, and how often you’ll use it. Hair Dryers offer an extremely wide price range, so it’s possible to find budget options from $20 to salon-quality hot tools for well over $400.
There’s no reason to spend hundreds on a high-end hair dryer if you’ll just occasionally use it to rough dry your damp hair. You’ll get by fine with any cheap hair dryer, and since it’ll be used sparingly, damaging your hair will be less of a concern—one of the biggest issues you run into with affordable picks. Brands like Revlon, Conair, Hot Tools, and Remington offer solid options from $20 to $50. One perk of many cheaper hair dryers is they’re also lighter due to a less powerful motor, making them ideal for travel.
If you’re drying your strands multiple times per week and also want to use it as a styling tool, that’s when you should be willing to spend more. Higher-end options feature technology that helps prevent damage, adds shine, and dries hair more efficiently. They’ll also offer multiple heat and airflow settings along with attachments like a diffuser or concentrator nozzle, helping with styling and creating a smoother, sleeker look. You can find some higher-end hair dryers for about $75 and up from brands like BaBylissPro, T3, and GHD, while Shark and Dyson are known for creating some of the most innovative devices.
What features do you need?
There are a few specs to consider when purchasing a hair dryer. The heating element used to blow hot air out of the barrel may be the most important, and the main ways hair dryers create heat are metal, ceramic, and tourmaline, and you’ll sometimes see a combination of these elements in different blow dryers.
Metal, usually titanium, is often used in cheaper hot tools and causes more damage to hair due to the high temperatures and uneven heating. Ceramic hair dryers consist of a ceramic material to create an infrared heating element that more evenly distributes heat and is gentler on strands, helping to prevent damage to your hair. But it dries your strands slower, making it ideal for thin or damaged hair.
Tourmaline hair dryers often dry your hair quicker than ceramic options and are less damaging than metal, so those with thick or long hair will see the biggest benefit. Using a crushed gem called tourmaline, the hair dryer releases infrared heat along with negative ions to break down the positively charged water molecules, helping dry your hair quickly and prevent flyaways while locking moisture in for sleeker and smoother results. The “ionic technology” seen in many higher-end hair dryers often features tourmaline elements.
Wattage plays a bigger factor in your hair dryer's performance than you may realize, as it gives you insight into how fast the motor works. For the most part, higher wattage options use an AC (alternating current) motor, providing more airflow so you can dry your hair quicker. But you will sacrifice weight and price for that boosted performance. Lower-wattage hair dryers often run on DC (direct current) motors, which are usually lighter and cheaper, taking longer to dry your hair, so you’ll generally want to pick up those for travel. It’s a good idea to find an option that’s 1,600 watts or more when purchasing a hair dryer for your home.
Brushless motors are also a newer technology found in hair dryers that use magnets and electronics to drive the motor rather than a carbon bush. Though brushless motor hair dryers are more expensive, they are longer-lasting, lighter-weight, more efficient, and quieter. That may make them worth the splurge over traditional AC and DC motors.
Hair dryers should also offer a range of heat and speed settings. The lowest heat will be the best to prevent damage to your hair, while higher heat is ideal to dry strands faster. A cool shot button, which sends a quick, frosty breeze to your locks can be handy for setting styles. Of course, different speed settings are integral to how quickly your hair dries. High speeds work great for a rough dry, while lower speeds help deliver better control over styling.
Beyond that, many hair dryers come with different attachments that easily pop onto the nozzle of the dryer for more efficient styling. If you have curly hair, one of the most integral attachments is a diffuser for a more bouncy and defined curl. A concentrator nozzle is perfect for smoothing and straightening your hair while still adding volume. Finally, a pick or comb adds volume to your strands and also stretches out a curl pattern.
Those are just some of the main attachments you’ll probably want in a hair dryer, but there are plenty more to look out for, including bore bristle brushes to help with shine and even wands that help curl your hair. Brush hair dryers, like the Revlon Pro Collection One Step Dryer & Volumiser, have also become increasingly popular, but be careful as they are prone to damaging your hair and also limit your styling options.
Speaking of damaging your hair, no matter the hair dryer you use, they all still cause damage to your strands, and using a heat protectant is essential to help mitigate some of that damage. You may also want to check out our other guides on how to correctly blow dry your hair and which hair dryer settings you should use to keep your strands healthy and looking their best.
Should you wait for deals?
Hair dryers are one of the many items discounted during big online sale periods, like Amazon Prime Day, Black Friday, and leading up to the holidays. Whether or not you wait for a deal depends on how soon you need the product and if you think a potential sale is worth the wait.
You’ll often find prices for more budget-minded brands like Hot Tools, Conair, Remington, and Revlon slightly lower during these periods. It’s a hit or miss whether the hair dryer you’re looking for will be on sale—or in stock, as the deeply discounted items will go fast. But if you’re on top of deals and okay to wait it out till a sale, you’ll likely save a couple of bucks.
However, with bigger ticket hair dryers from Shark, Dyson, and GHD, it’s better to wait for a sale, as you’ll experience some deep discounts on the pricey hot tools. Dyson is known for having excellent deals on the Supersonic throughout the year, while retailers often lower the price of Shark, T3, GHD, and other top-tier hair dryers for Black Friday.
The best part of hair dryers is that, unlike computers or TVs, major hair dryer launches and innovations are few and far between. So, you don’t need to worry about buying one only to have a significantly better option come out months later. But that also means there won’t often be huge price cuts on older models to make room for the newer products.
Our top picks
Wattage: 1875W | Weight: 1.1 lb / 485g | Cord length: 9 feet / 2.7 meters | Airflow settings: 3 | Heat settings: 5 plus a cold shot button
Comfortable to hold, ergonomic design
Range of heat and airflow settings
Leaves strands shiny and frizz-free
Need to purchase the diffuser and comb separately
By no means is the T3 AireLuxe a budget hair dryer, but it costs significantly less than the Dyson Supersonic, Shark FlexStyle, and GHD Helios while still packing premium features. This pick has an ion generator that uses negative ions to help reduce frizz and increase shine, along with a fan that propels a 128% wider airflow for an even, quick dry, leaving strands sleek and soft. In testing, both of these features worked flawlessly.
Versatility is on offer thanks to the variety of controls, including five heat settings and three airflow settings that are all easy to reach and adjust during a blow dry. A lock-in cool shot button is ideal for setting styles, while a volume boost switch successfully adds a bit more bounce to hair.
Though the T3 AireLuxe isn’t the lightest or best travel option available—grab the T3 Fit if that’s what you’re seeking—its barrel and handle are well-balanced, making it comfortable to hold without experiencing arm ache. The sleek white design with rose gold accents adds to its high-end feel, while you get two easy-to-attach concentrator nozzles for styling. Unfortunately, you’ll need to spend a little extra to get a diffuser and pick attachments.
Read our full T3 AireLuxe review
Wattage: 1875W / 2000W | Weight: 1.3lb / 565g | Cord length: 6 feet / 1.8 meters | Airflow settings: 2 | Heat settings: 3 plus a cold shot button
More affordable than many in this list
Simple to use
Fast drying times
Filter isn’t removable
Lacks a premium feel
Just because it’s affordable doesn’t mean the Hot Tools Pro Signature Salon Ionic can’t keep up with some higher-end options. Given the name, this hair dryer uses ionic technology to help reduce frizz and flyaways, which it succeeded in doing during our testing. However, our hair didn’t get as sleek and shiny as more premium models.
The Hot Tools Pro Signature Salon Ionic is simple to use and takes damp strands to dry quickly using the two hotter heat settings. But at the lowest temperature setting, we found it took significantly longer for hair to dry. Of course, you also get a cool shot button that works great for finishing styles. There are only two speed settings available. High is ideal for rough drying hair, while low is great for styling using the two included attachments: a concentrator nozzle for smoother, sleeker looks and a diffuser to deliver bouncy, frizz-free curls.
Powering the hair dryer is a beefy AC motor that makes the device weightier than its DC counterparts. It’s still balanced and comfortable to hold, though the design lacks the look and feel of more premium hot tools. A shorter-than-average power cord and a nonremovable filter are a few other compromises you make with this budget option.
Read our full Hot Tools Pro Signature Salon Ionic AC motor review
Wattage: 1600W | Weight: 1.5 lb / 697g | Cord length: 1.5 lb / 697g | Airflow settings: 3 | Heat settings: 3 plus a cold shot button
Fast drying times
Array of heat and speed settings
Most expensive model on the market
Controls can be fiddly to use
The Dyson Supersonic went viral for a reason, and though the steep price tag is hard to digest, it’s one of the best hair dryers you can buy. Dyson put a good deal of research and money into creating this high-tech hot tool, delivering a lightweight and compact hair dryer that still packs a powerful punch to dry strands efficiently with sleek results.
Unlike traditional hair dryers with a long barrel and a motor at the end, Dyson has put a super tiny motor and filter in the bottom of the handle. That helps contribute to the smaller and lighter body, though the filter may get blocked by your hands. If you’re concerned about too much vibration with the motor in the handle, there’s a rubber mount, making it comfortable to hold for the duration of a blow dry. A thermometer even checks the temperature, ensuring consistent heat at a safer temperature for your locks.
When it comes to performance, the Dyson Supersonic doesn’t disappoint. You get multiple heat and airflow settings, along with a cool shot button. Each delivered shiny, smooth results quickly during testing. Depending on where you purchase the hair dryer, it may also come with attachments that easily connect to the barrel using magnets and are helpful when styling your hair. You can always purchase these accessories separately, but given the astronomical price, you may want to wait for a deal.
Read our full Dyson Supersonic hair dryer