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What Is the Best Hair Dryer?


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This article originally appeared on BestReviews.

Shopping Guide for Hair Dryers

Do you control your hair, or does your hair control you?

The right hair dryer can tremendously impact your appearance and confidence.

Whether your hair is thick or fine, curly or straight, there's a hair dryer out there that's perfect for you.

The problem, though, is finding it. Today's market boasts a wide range of drying tools with a realm of various technologies. Tourmaline, ceramic, ionic — which should you choose?

Furthermore, how much should you pay for this technology? We help you parse the details in this review.

Considerations

A hair dryer is an extremely personal appliance. No two people will experience the same dryer the same way. Nevertheless, certain characteristics will prompt a dryer to stand out from the pack.

Features

The market's best hair dryers offer user-friendly features that enhance the drying experience. A lightweight, ergonomically sound appliance is easier to hold and operate than a clunky dryer with poor engineering. A long cord is helpful, but if it's too long, it becomes a nuisance. Some dryers come with attachments, such as a diffuser and/or concentrator nozzle. However, if the attachments don't adhere properly to the barrel, they become an irritation and a safety hazard.

Consumer Opinion

Beauty is subjective, and so is the reputation of any hair dryer out there—at least to an extent. For this reason, we carefully weighed the opinions of hundreds of consumers, as well as our own lab testers, when evaluating these products.

Price

You could pay a small fortune for a hair dryer if you wanted to. Conversely, you could nab a fairly decent appliance for little more than chump change. We examined all factors — ease of use, user opinion, visual results, our own lab test results (see below) — to determine the validity of each product's price.

Lab Tests

To consistently test the quality of our hair dryers, we built a mechanism to replicate the drying process in a repeatable fashion.

A wig of human hair was mounted on a mannequin head, which was in turn installed on a motor-driven turntable. The turntable assembly was placed on a precision scale.

Testing the heat output for each hair dryer

The motor was controlled by a computer so it rotated left and right. Each dryer under test, meanwhile, was mounted on a slide arm that moved it up and down while pointing at the wig at a distance of six inches. Together, the rotational motion of the mannequin head and the up-and-down motion of the appliance simulated a person using a hair dryer—but with more repeatability.

Water Weight

We tested hair dryer performance using this rig by spraying the wig with 15 ounces of water, turning the turntable and the slide arm on, and running the hair dryers on their highest setting (high heat and high speed). After two minutes, we recorded the weight of water removed from the wig.

All products proved similarly effective in this test, with two slight exceptions: the Xtava Allure, also the most powerful dryer in terms of wattage used, did the best job of drying. The Revlon, for reasons we could not determine but that might have been related to its nozzle shape, dried less well than the other products.

Wattage Test

We measured each hair dryer's power consumption, in watts, at all possible combinations of heat and fan speed. Most of the products we tested were advertised to draw a maximum of 1875 or 2000 watts. Interestingly, our tests showed power draws that ranged only from about 1200 to 1600 watts.

Results

Naturally, good visual results are key to a hair dryer's success. The internal components of a dryer, otherwise known as its “technology,” play a large role in the outcome of any styling session.

Before we go any further, let's review two important buzz words in the hair dryer world: tourmaline and ceramic.

Note: The fact that a dryer incorporates tourmaline or ceramic doesn't necessarily make it a good product. The quality of the materials and the way they're engineered determine the aesthetic outcome of your styling session.

Tourmaline

Many of our dryers boast a “tourmaline/ionic" component. Tourmaline is a naturally occurring, semi-precious mineral that emits negative ions when heated. Negative ions close the hair cuticle to create a smooth look. You can find hair dryers with tourmaline at all price ranges, but the cheaper ones tend to contain smaller amounts of the mineral and are, therefore, less effective.

Ceramic

Some hair dryers feature a “ceramic” component. This material isn't as pricey as tourmaline. When heated, ceramic creates a type of infrared heat that naturally preserves the hair's moisture content while simultaneously drying it. Considering that most people prefer not to bake or fry their hair, ceramic is a good thing.

Products we considered
BaByliss Pro 2000 Watt Ionic Nano Titanium

The Good: Lightweight and easy to hold. Impressive water removal. Six speed/heat settings and a cool shot button.

The Bad: Buttons inadvertently turn off. Directional nozzle flies off.

The Bottom Line: An excellent mid-range hair dryer with a few known flaws.

The BaByliss Pro hails from the company's “Nano Titanium” line of products. According to the manufacturer, hair dries quickly due to the dryer's heat-conductive titanium material. The dryer breaks down water molecules quickly by emitting millions upon millions of negative ions into its air stream.

Indeed, this dryer works fast. In our lab, the BaByliss removed 14.3 ounces of water from a wig of human hair after just two minutes of use. (Notably, all contenders were able to remove between 10 and 15 ounces of water during our two-minute test.)

It is recommended to use only that high a heat setting on your hair dryer as feels comfortable on the skin at the back of your neck.

The manufacturer claims that the BaByliss runs at 2000 watts, but we were unable to replicate this in our lab. At its highest speed and heat settings, the largest wattage reading we obtained was 1587. Although this negates what it says on the box, it's not necessarily a big deal. In fact, celebrity stylist Ryan Richman advises that a wattage between 1300 and 1875 is “ideal” for home users.

Wattage impacts heat dispersal more than it does air flow, but some owners have commented that the BaByliss' fastest speed is too much for them. Fortunately, the dryer offers six speed/heat settings and a cool shot button. A directional nozzle is also included.

One of the dryer's best qualities, according to consumers and our lab testers, is its ergonomic appeal. At 1.4 pounds, it's extremely easy to hold and maneuver. In the hand, some owners say it feels just like a travel hair dryer. Don't let its manageable weight fool you, however; the BaByliss is a powerful contender that would fit in at a swanky salon just as easily as it would on your bathroom counter.

Speaking of the bathroom counter, the BaByliss is unique in that it can rest solidly on its “back” when not in use. You'll never worry about it “dancing away” when you set it down. Owners appreciate this feature, as well as the fact that the dryer's Ryton® housing stays cool during use.

At a cost of $84, this is a mid-level, professional-grade dryer from a reputable manufacturer. Its main competitor on our list is the similarly priced Rusk W8less. A case could definitely be made for this dryer's ergonomically sound design and user-friendly features.

A flaw we noted during testing is the fact that the buttons, though clearly marked, are easy to accidentally turn off.

In addition, the directional nozzle has a tendency to wiggle loose and fly off the barrel, especially when the fastest air speed is selected.

Both of these flaws are common among some of the BaByliss' competitors, too, but they're bothersome nonetheless.

Rusk Weightless Professional 2000 Watt

The Good: Light and maneuverable. Tourmaline and ceramic yield good results for those with frizzy hair. Seven heat settings.

The Bad: Some users have had problems inadvertently pressing buttons on the handle.

The Bottom Line: A mid-priced hair dryer with few complaints and numerous satisfied customers.

Happy owners confirm that the Rusk W8less, with its tourmaline and ceramic grill technology, is a friend to those with curly and frizzy hair. The appliance is purported to operate at 2000 watts, but in our lab, we were able to elicit a maximum of 1402 watts at the highest speed. This disparity does not seem to impact owner impressions of the dryer, however. People love the Rusk W8less.

The Rusk removed 14.1 ounces of water from our human hair wig within two minutes in our lab. The dryer's performance will vary for each user depending on hair type, of course, but its effectiveness is bolstered by the fact that it offers a choice of seven heat settings. Stylist Josue Perez recommends that people with thick, coarse hair use higher heat settings, while people with thin or fine hair should stick to lower heat settings.

Because the buttons are located on the inside of the handle (where fingers go), some users may find themselves inadvertently turning different settings on and off. This is a common problem among hair dryers. Interestingly, however, one of our testers favored this dryer in particular because the buttons are “sunken below the surface” and therefore less likely to inadvertently turn on and off.

The optimal distance of a hair dryer to your air is 8 inches. This ensures great airflow without any chances of tangling the hair.

The long cord (eight feet) is a nice feature, and the included concentrator nozzle helps you fine-tune your style as you use the dryer. We note that although some people have complained about the nozzle flying off, the Rusk receives fewer complaints of this type than other hair dryers.

At just 1.2 pounds, the Rusk is light and maneuverable. (It ties with the Conair in terms of weight.) According to one tester, the Rusk is “not too heavy, not too big, not too small, but just right.” As such, it would be a good choice for users who suffer from muscle weakness due to stroke or other physical problems.

We note that this dryer, at a cost of $52 is comparable in price to the BaByliss. Interestingly, both products are manufactured by the parent company Conair. Given the choice between the Rusk and the BaByliss, we would choose the Rusk. It receives fewer durability complaints than the BaByliss, and using it typically results in smooth, shiny hair. Furthermore, it's got great ergonomics, a long cord, and a generous menu of seven heat settings.

Solano Supersolano Professional

The Good: Combines tourmaline and ceramic technology for outstanding visual results. Long cord.

The Bad: Uncomfortably heavy. Concentrator nozzles become quite hot.

The Bottom Line: A pricey dryer that yields salon-like results, if you can stand to hold it long enough to style your hair. (It's heavy.)

The Supersolano combines tourmaline and ceramic technology to speed the drying process and protect hair from moisture loss. Many owners agree that this combination allows them to achieve a shiny, smooth look that they're not able to get with other types of hair dryers.

We ran our two-minute drying test on the Supersolano three times to see how much water it actually removed. During our first two-minute trial, the unit removed 15.6 ounces of water from our human hair wig. This was the largest amount of water removed by any of our contenders.

However, the Supersolano removed significantly less during the second and third trials (13.5 and 12.2 ounces, respectively.) Because of this, we must conclude the Supersolano is not the fastest-drying tool on our list.

Nevertheless, it's a whopper of a tool at 1.9 pounds. We say this with tongue in cheek because the weight is not exactly a good thing. If you've ever wielded a two-pound can of beans above your head for an extended period, you'll understand what we mean. Prolonged use of this dryer could get uncomfortable.

Too high a wind setting on your hair dryer can actually tussle up your hair and entangle it, instead of gently drying it.

The manufacturer refers to the product as “perfectly balanced” and “lightweight,” but we beg to differ. Using this dryer would be particularly difficult for frail, handicapped, or elderly people who lack muscle tone in their arms.

In terms of features, users can take advantage of three temperature settings, two heat settings, a cold shot button, and an extra-long cord of 11.25 feet. The dryer also comes with two concentrator nozzles which — buyer beware — may become hot to the touch.

Some owners say that the Supersolano runs at a pleasant decibel level, but others have complained about an ugly screeching noise during use. We tested the decibel levels of all hair dryers on our shortlist, and all of them fell within the same decibel range. (The Supersolano emitted 80 db during testing. The only dryers quieter than that were the BaByliss and Rusk W8less at 79 decibels apiece.) We suspect that the customers who complained about the screeching noise may have received a faulty product.

The Supersolano Professional Hair Dryer is expensive at $190, and the number of complaints we've encountered about its weight and occasional malfunction concerns us. However, plenty of customers argue that the salon-like results are worth the price and the extra bicep/tricep workout. If you're looking for a way to enhance your shine—as well as your biceps — this could be the perfect dryer for you.