The Best Hair Dryers
How We Found the Best Hair Dryers
3 stylists interviewed
14 dryers tested
4 top picks
The Best Hair Dryers
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 four top picks that achieve the best results on the most hair types.
How We Chose the Best Hair Dryers
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. 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.
|Hair types||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|
We used an anemometer (a small device that measure wind speed), set our hair dryers to maximum speed, and watched to see if our contenders 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The 4 Best Hair Dryers
Why we chose it
Impressive heat range
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.
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.
Points to consider
Minor usability issue
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.
Why we chose it
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.
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.
Numerous heat settings
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.
Points to consider
Not enough heat to straighten thick, coarse curls
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. One 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.
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 the DevaDryer.
We can’t ignore the Dyson's $400 price tag. While we do think its functionality and features of the Dyson merit its price, it’s still twice the price of its closest competitors.
Why we chose it
Decent performance and results
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.
Points to consider
Low wind speed
The Buttercup’s biggest flaw is wind speed: it only reaches 38 mph. That's faster than all of our budget dryers, but still 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.
Why we chose it
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.
Easy to use
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.
Points to consider
Appeals to fewer hair types
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.
Diffuser sold separately
When we first saw this dryer up close, we were a little hesitant about whether it was more cute than useful. As it stands, the dryer functions well enough but 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.
How to Find the Right Hair Dryer for You
Determine your hair type
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. Knowing what your hair can handle will help you determine just how powerful (heating and speed) you need your dryer to be.
“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?’”
Consider ionic technology
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.
Don’t forget about upkeep
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.
Hair Dryer FAQ
How else can I deal with frizz?
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?
“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.”
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.
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.
What about travel dryers?
The convenience of a travel dryer’s size is offset by the diminished power it has in comparison to the ones we’ve tested. 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).
Unless you’re traveling, you should stick to normal-sized dryers if you want you want to efficiently dry your hair. Even then, if you have room to pack a normal-sized dryer, we still recommend that over a travel dryer.
The Best Hair Dryers: Summed Up