The Best Hair Dryer
The best hair dryer will help you achieve frizz-free locks in record time. That means a high wind speed and generous temperature range. To find the best, we consulted three stylists, then measured and tested the 14 most popular dryers ourselves. In the end, we found three top picks that achieve the best results on the most hair types.
This high-tech gadget amazed us with its ultra-fast wind speeds, four heat settings, and the ability to produce smooth and shiny results on more hair than any other dryer. But all that new technology comes with a $400 price tag.
Our hottest pick cuts dry times for curly and natural hair by 60 percent. It lacks some of the Dyson’s high-tech features, but for $160 we’re still impressed.
XTava Allure Pro 2200W Dryer
This dryer might need a little more hands-on attention when it comes to smoothing frizz, but delivers all of the heat and speed of pricier dryers for only $40.
The Best Hair Dryer
At heart, all hair dryers function more or less the same way, but a great dryer means the difference between a 30-minute styling session and a 10-minute one, between a lot of frizz and almost none, between damaged hair and hair that will stay healthy with less work.
Before we get too deep, you’ll want to take a moment and assess your hair type — is it straight, wavy, curly, or kinky? Is it fine, or coarse? Thin, or thick? Finer and thinner hair needs a dryer that hits a low — but not cold — temperature to dry without crisping. Coarser hair needs a higher heat to dry, otherwise it’ll take forever to get these larger strands dry. And while everyone benefits from a speedy dryer, it’s especially useful for thick hair.
The Dyson Supersonic Hair Dryer is our top pick for straighter styles. It packs the most power, its temperatures can reach higher highs and lower lows, and it blew us away with the highest wind speed of any dryer we tested. On top of that, the $400 Dyson is high-tech with light-up settings and magnetic attachments — it’s the Macbook Pro of hair dryers. Best of all? It performs. It gave all of our testers smooth, shining hair. But if you prefer a curly style, or if you’re starting with thick curly hair and looking for a straighter style, you’ll want to check out our next pick. The Dyson’s isn’t quite hot enough to transform thick, curly hair into a straight blow-out.
For curly, highly textured hair, or for wavy and curly styles, Devacurls’s DevaDryer and Devafuser have the heat and wind speed to get the job done fast, giving you glossier hair without the frizz in a fraction of the usual dry time. Though the Dyson blows faster, the Devacurl gets a full 60 degrees hotter and at $160, does it for about half the price of the Dyson.
We also have two runners-up, selected by our testers for creating some of the smoothest, shiniest hair they’d seen. These dryers lacked some of the power that elevates our top picks — the Drybar Buttercup runs a little bit slower, and the Harry Josh has a narrow heat range that makes it less suitable for certain hair types — but for the right person, these dryers have the right features to pull off a salon-worthy look.
If you don’t want to spend triple digits on a hair dryer, go with the Xtava Allure. It’s not quite as powerful as our two top picks, but it’s one of the best dryers under $100. The Xtava has pretty impressive wind speed and a decent heat range — great for all but the coarsest or thickest hair. Compared to other budget dryers, and even some of its pricer competition, we saw an overall reduction in frizz, and better shine.
How We Found the Best Hair Dryer
All hair dryers do exactly that: dry your hair. The right hair dryer will be your assistant on your hair styling journey — not something you have to fight against to achieve the right look.
“A hair dryer is a tool, not the be-all and end-all. A good dryer with enough power and the right technology helps to resolve the question of, ‘How hard do I have to work to achieve this style?’”
We started off by tracking down the most popular full size dryers featured in online reviews, on beauty websites like Elle, Vogue, Glamour, as well as on sites like XOJane and Good Housekeeping. We skipped any travel dryers and those that didn’t have enough wattage to power through a full blow out (anything less than 1350 watts won’t cut it).
Once we found the most popular options, we purchased them and put them to the test. We wanted to learn how each dryer stacked up in terms of wind speed, temperature, and noise. Then we had 12 testers use multiple dryers to style their hair normally.
First we measured temperature — too hot will fry, too cool won’t dry.
Real talk: Using a hair dryer is always going to be more stressful on your hair than letting your hair air dry. But the coarser your hair, the hotter you can go.
If your hair is strong enough to take the heat without being damaged (and needs the heat to get it dry in a reasonable amount of time), make sure your dryer reaches at least 150 degrees, and preferably hotter. Fine, thin, dyed, or damaged? Stay under 150 degrees. If your hair fits multiple of those criteria, stay under 100 degrees — keeping it hot will be more likely to damage your hair in the long run.
|Ideal Temperature Setting|
|At least two of the following: fine, thin, dyed, or damaged hair||<100 degrees|
|Only one of the following: fine, thin, dyed, or damaged hair||100-140 degrees|
|Medium texture and thin or dyed hair||140 - 150 degrees|
|Thick or coarse hair||150 - 200 degrees|
|Thick and coarse hair||200+ degrees|
Surprisingly, manufacturers don’t list their dryers’ temperature ranges, but they do vary quite a bit. Jaggars explained that one dryer’s high setting can feel like another’s medium.
To find out which dryers’ temperature ranges would work for all hair types, we measured each on its lowest and highest settings by holding a giant kitchen thermometer in the direct flow of the dryer’s air for thirty seconds.
Most of our hair dryers’ lowest settings reached temperatures that were downright refreshing in the summer heat — 70 degrees in most cases. There were only a few surprises here, dryers like the Babyliss Ceramix Xtreme, and the Revlon Perfect Heat didn’t strike those low temperatures. The coolest setting available only brought us down to 125 and 120 degrees, respectively. We don’t recommend using your hair dryer as an air conditioning unit, but if you hair is more than one of these things — fine, thin, dyed, or damaged — you’ll want those cooler temps.
“If you have fine, damaged, or colored hair, you’ll want to use a lower temperature and speed to avoid damaging your hair. If you have coarse, thick hair, use high heat with high speed.”
The hot setting meant really hot on most of our hair dryers. Our thermometer rapidly climbed close to 200 degrees; the DevaDryer and the Remington T/Studio Silk even hit 230 degrees. Those high temps are ideal if you have lots of hair, or your hair is particularly coarse.
We looked at speed next — the faster the better.
We took our handy dandy anemometer, a less fancy tool than the name suggests, set our hair dryers to maximum speed, and watched to see if our dryers could break any land-speed records. The more wind a dryer generates, the faster our hair dries and the less time it spend under the heat. That means there’s a smaller window for it to get overcooked.
It was clear that most manufacturers aim at 45 miles per hour. Our dryers all clocked in between 37 and 54 mph, with three notable exceptions.
The Panasonic Nanoe was the tortoise of our race, lagging behind with a wind speed of only 25 mph. The Babyliss Ceramix Xtreme had similarly poor results — 29 mph on the low heat setting, though it crawled up to 40 mph on high heat. Our testers noticed the lack of power; one even asked how a dryer larger than her old stand-by felt weak by comparison.
The runaway lead in our race was the Dyson Supersonic, with a wind speed of 65 mph. And it was clear that speed has a huge impact on dry time. Our testers all reported the Dyson was much faster, and for one, it cut her dry time in half — from 20 minutes to 10.
Then we did our hair.
It doesn’t matter how hot or how fast a dryer is if it’s a pain to use. We wanted to know what it would be like to use each dryer every day. So, we enlisted the help of 13 testers with a variety of hair types, lengths, and textures.
Time to Dry: We wanted to find dryers that would get us on our way with the look we want as quickly as possible. So we asked testers to time their dry from start to finish, and looked for not just the speediest dryers, but the ones that reduced each tester’s time the most dramatically.
General Quality: Most of our dryers were at least $100; we wanted to see which ones were truly worth it. We looked to see whether the diffusers and concentrators attach and remove, as well as looking into whether this was a dryer we felt would stick with us for years to come.
Usability: We asked our testers to see if their dryers felt too heavy, or too loud, and note how easy the attachments and buttons were to use. The cool shot started to be a dividing factor — some were easy to press, but we had to work to hold others down for the recommended one to two minutes. And while some concentrators and diffusers popped on and off without bending a nail, others, like the GHD Air Professional, almost needed a crow-bar.
Results: Finally, we asked our testers to evaluate the final product: their hair styles. The best dryers will shoulder most of the work in getting our hair into a beautiful, frizz-free, shiny smooth style that was ready to meet the day.
Our Picks for the Best Hair Dryer
Best Results for Straight Hair
The Dyson Supersonic Hair Dryer is truly in a class above the rest; celebrity stylist Adel Chabbi introduced the machine by declaring “Everything else is antique.” Of all the hair dryers we tested, this one stood out to us first and foremost because it doesn’t look like a typical dryer, and when we put it to the test, we quickly found that the Dyson doesn’t act like a typical dryer, either.
Not sure when your hair is dry? Use the cool shot button. Jaggars says if your hair feels cold under the cool shot, you still have some moisture left. Dry your hair under heat until it feels warm, not cold, and then put the finishing touches on your style.
The reason? The Dyson has a top-of-the-line motor which produces its chart-topping 65 mph while being quiet enough to hold a conversation. It has one of the widest temperature ranges of all tested dryers, and contains a microchip specifically to self-regulate its heat levels, going above and beyond to protect your hair from damage. That combination of speed and heat saw rapidly reduced dry times: one tester cut her time in half. It’s also our lightest pick, easy to hold and comfortable to use, even running at full strength.
Most importantly of all, the Dyson excelled in the one test that separates a great hair dryer from the best: Results. If you have straight hair, or if you’re looking for a dryer that can reach those ultra cool temperatures for damaged and color-treated hair, the Dyson can give you smooth, shiny, frizz-free locks.
The Dyson’s concentrator and diffuser attach magnetically.
Testers quickly took note of smaller details, right out of the box, and loved the light-up display. It has the most heat settings of our dryers, giving you 12 different combinations of heat and speed to customize to your hair needs. And since the Dyson automatically turns on to the last used setting, you don’t have to worry about which heat and which speed you liked, no matter how long between styling sessions.
The Dyson’s only flaw is a big one. Our tester with thick curly hair saw worse results with the concentrator than with the diffuser — and we know why: the Dyson caps out at 170 degrees, which isn’t hot enough to straighten a lot of curls into an epic blow-out.
Our one request for the next generation of Dyson? Give us a little more heat. We know it’s possible; a few of our other dryers hit 200 degrees and higher. People with coarse hair, or a lot of hair, will still see shorter dry times because of the Dyson’s super-fast wind speeds, and if you have thin, fine curls, the Dyson can help you achieve a straighter blow-out, though it might not be as fast as our next pick, the DevaDryer.
We can’t ignore that $400 price tag either. While we do think its functionality and features of the Dyson merit its price, it’s still twice the price of its closest competitors.
Best Results for Curly Hair
Our testers adored the DevaDryer and its patented diffuser, the Devafuser. It has the widest temperature range of all our tested hair dryers — no matter your hair type, it has your back. It came in second only to the Dyson in wind speed, hitting 54 mph — still plenty fast to get your hair dried quickly, and was #1 in terms of heat, reaching 230 degrees at its hottest. And it impressed us where it matters most with consistently beautiful hair, free of frizz, and shiny.
Stats aside, if you want a curly style, the Devafuser alone pushes this dryer over the top. Call it a hand, call it a leaf, call it a human-palm-tree-hybrid, in the beginning we were skeptical about how it worked, but the Devafuser takes this hair dryer from greatness into true stardom.
A regular diffuser blows air into your hair from one direction. The finger-fronds of the Devafuser not only feature holes on all sides, giving you hot air from 360 degrees, they get that air deep into the curls and close to your scalp. The result? A more evenly produced heat to dry your hair faster. One of our testers with thick, voluminous hair brought her styling time down from 30 minutes to eight.
We also loved how compact it felt, despite being a full-sized dryer. It does weigh a bit more than the Dyson, but all our testers finished drying before their arms got tired. It ranks right in the middle for volume, but in all honesty, we couldn’t hear a difference between the DevaDryer and our lower-decibel dryers. And a bonus for us organizers – the DevaDryer comes with a velcro cord-keeper to help corral this already smaller dryer into a tidy package.
And it’s one usability issue is tiny. Like most of our dryers, the switches are on the front of the handle, so you’ll have to be careful where you place your fingers and how hard you grip it. It’s easy to switch back to your preferred setting, but it was still annoying to have to pause mid-styling because we accidentally moved the switch.
The DevaDryer has all of the functionality of a fantastic hair dryer, and is more user-friendly than others in its class. While it lacks the cutting-edge technology and design of the Dyson, it’s still the best standard dryer available — and costs a fraction of the price.
Best Budget Dryer
If you’re looking for a quality hair dryer without spending a small fortune, go with the Xtava Allure. It meets the same standards for functionality and user-friendliness as our other top picks — no small feat for a budget dryer.
Ranging from 70 degrees all the way up to 175, the Xtava handles all but the coarsest and thickest hair with ease. This is nearly the same range as the Dyson, but its highest speed setting is 15 mph slower — and that lack of power made a noticeable difference. People with thick, and medium or coarse hair will spend a couple extra minutes under the heat.
Easy Does It The longer your hair spends under the dryer, the more likely it is to get damaged. To keep your hair safe, use a heat protectant and dry your hair in sections.
Still, our testers found that the Xtava dried their hair faster than our similarly-priced Revlon and Conair dryers. While they reported more shine and less frizz than usual, they still needed to work their hair to calm down all the little fly-aways after drying. If you have a lot of curls, know that the Xtava only comes with a concentrator by default. We did test several of our universal diffusers — they all fit well — but if you want a guaranteed tight fit, the Xtava diffuser costs an extra $17.
Out of the box, the Xtava only comes with a concentrator, so those with curly hair may need to accessorize.
Other Hair Dryers to Consider
We had two other fan-favorites that didn’t quite compare to our top three in terms of their overall specs, but still earned high praise from our testers.
The Drybar Buttercup Blow Dryer produces gorgeous results and offers some nice design touches. It scored well both in temperature (with a great range of 70–200 degrees) and performance. Our testers found that after using the Buttercup, their hair felt fuller and had less frizz. There were mixed results on whether it improved shine, but their hair did feel much softer.
We loved the Buttercup’s two unique concentrators. They come with the standard flat edge on one side, as well as a scalloped edge that our testers found useful in making sure the heat was dispersed evenly across the hair. The diffuser, called “The Bouncer,” costs extra, but we found it easy to attach, with a bowl wide enough to handle large curls without swallowing up shorter or thinner hair.
The Buttercup’s biggest flaw is wind speed: it only reaches a measly 38 mph, definitely on the slower side — not great for very thick or coarse hair. Even though our testers loved their results, they weren’t impressed by the lower speed.
The T3 Luxe 2i had similar specs to the Buttercup for heat and speed, but it couldn’t hold that temperature steady. We liked the brush and diffuser it comes with, but couldn’t recommend an inconsistent dryer that — when it works correctly — is just as good as the Buttercup for $50 more.
The Harry Josh Pro Tools Dryer is tiny, but it packs a punch. Our testers reported seeing the smoother, shinier results compared to the other standard dryers they tested, and despite its relatively average wind speed, it cut down the time it took testers to dry their hair compared to their regular hair dryer.
It’s also easy to use — the buttons are tucked out of the way on the back of the handle, where your palm sits, so it’s almost impossible to accidentally switch a setting the wrong way. It’s compact, and with the minty green color, it’s honestly pretty cute.
When we first saw this dryer up close, we were a little hesitant about whether it was more cute than useful. Its power falls squarely in the middle, with a just-average wind speed. But it’s biggest flaw is its narrow temperature range: 110 degrees at its lowest and 150 degrees at its hottest.
This dryer works best for people aiming for a straighter hair style, with either medium hair thickness or medium hair density. If your hair type falls on either side of those spectrums — very fine or quite coarse, extra thin or tons of hair — approach this dryer with greater caution. It wasn’t designed with curly styles in mind, either. The diffuser isn’t included, and for $30, we’d like it better if it didn’t look and feel like a cheap piece of plastic.
|Dyson Supersonic Hair Dryer||Devacurl DevaDryer and Devafuser||Xtava Allure Pro 2200W Dryer||Drybar Buttercup Blow Dryer||Harry Josh Pro Tools Dryer 2000|
|Wind Speed||65 mph||54 mph||50 mph||38 mph||47 mph|
|Weight||16.5 oz||19.5 oz||20.5 oz||17.4 oz||19.7 oz|
|Average Decibels||87.5 dB||91.5 dB||89.5 dB||91 dB||93 dB|
Did You Know?
An ionic dryer cuts down on frizz.
Ions help break water droplets apart into smaller water droplets, so the heat is still evenly distributed through the water on your hair, and reduces your overall drying time.
Ions also cut down on hair frizz and improve hair shine by encouraging your hair cuticle to close. The cuticle opens in heat and humidity — a good thing for conditioning your hair in the shower! But when left open, each hair strand stays rough, and as they rub against each other they start to break — leading to frizz and some hair loss. The cuticle needs to be closed to keep your hair healthy and shining.
Ionic technology does come with one reservation: it does its job a bit too well for straight and fine hair. Our experts agreed that ions were amazing for people with more curly, or damaged hair, but were mixed when it came to whether they would advise it for the straight and fine hair types. Instead, product and technique become more important to get volume.
But there are other ways to keep frizz under control, too.
Every hair strand is made of three parts, and the outer part is called the cuticle. It’s made up of tiny overlapping scales. Celebrity Hairstylist StacyK, founder of JustUS®, told us that curly or chemically-treated strands of hair are naturally more open than with other hair types. Each strand is coarse, and rubs against the other hairs around it, creating frizz.
To reduce that friction, regularly moisturize your hair with conditioner. Then, when drying, aim the dryer away from your head, to force the cuticle closed. When your hair is dry, finish up with the cool shot. This helps seal the cuticle and make it lie flat, setting your style.
Do I really need a concentrator or a diffuser? The short answer is no.
While it’s possible to use your dryer without, you might be adding more work to your morning routine than you need to. Which one you use depends on your hair type, and the hairstyle you want to achieve. For straight hair, Jaggars explained that pairing a concentrator with a flat brush results in a smoother, straighter, and less frizzy appearance.
Be Patient Adel recommends getting your hair about 80 percent dry before using a brush. It might be tempting to start early, but this only puts extra strain on your hair.
For wavy and curlier styles, or simply a little more relaxed look, a diffuser will be your best friend. By adding more air, it helps increase volume, and gets down into the hair strands to disperse heat into curls. For this attachment, skip the brush entirely. Instead, Adel recommends loosely using your fingers to section your hair and apply product.
Don’t forget to clean your filter.
It’s a good idea to clean the filter at least once a month. A dirty filter will slow down the amount of air drawn into the hair dryer, dragging down your wind speed and reducing the lifespan of your hair dryer. Most dryers have a removable filter which gets rinsed with clean, cool water. Just make sure it’s completely dry before reattaching it to your hair dryer.
If you have a non-removable filter, use a soft, dry brush or a small vacuum to remove the dust bunnies. Keep an eye on your fingers though, because some filters have sharp edges.