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Surprise: A salon blowout at home is much easier when you’re using a salon-grade hair dryer. These high-tech dryers and their attachments could cut your styling time and frizz in half.
T3 Cura Luxe
The chic design is a selling point on its own, but this dryer’s unique functions make self-styling easier than it’s ever been.
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By Leah Stodart2020-07-31 09:00:00 UTC
A good blow dry is the foundation to a good hair day. The fanciest hair straightener or curling wand in the world won’t do you much good if your hair was singed with a crappy blow dryer beforehand. That’s that on that.
It’s common knowledge that pressing hair onto a sizzling hot flat iron or curling iron isn’t great for it. We’re quick to blame those tools for split ends and frizz, but less often, we consider that part of the problem may be the way the hair was dried in the first place. If your lifelong dream has been to give yourself the same glossy blowout that you get at the salon, your skills might not be totally to blame — your stylist’s professional blow dryer is a lot better than your drugstore one.
Are expensive blow dryers worth it?
Do you care about your hair looking great and being healthy? Then yes.
“Does it actually matter? Hot air is hot air, right?” Well, it’s not that black and white. Beauty YouTube is a sucker for comparisons between high-end and budget-friendly dryers, but what’s not being shown in that single demo is the effect of frying your hair with a cheap dryer on a daily basis.
However, that damage will make itself known as your hair becomes increasingly resistant to a silky blowout and when those flyaways refuse to lay flat.
Hair taking forever to blow dry is the number one red flag in the world of hair dryers. Most low-quality ones don’t have adjustable heat settings, and if they do, both are too hot and are literally burning your hair dry. That extreme heat probably doesn’t even speed up the process, as their motors usually aren’t strong enough to create the velocity or targeted airflow necessary for a thorough job.
Speaking of cheap motors, affordable hair dryers don’t really save money in the long run when they need to be replaced so often. Budget-friendly dryers aren’t meant to withstand all-day use like a professional one, but this also means they have a tendency to blow out (no pun intended) after a few months of daily use. They’re also super loud, have short cords that are prone to breaking when tugged (like a non-Apple iPhone charger), and have filters that are hard to clean. It takes guts to drop the cash on a professional model, but it’ll last for years.
WATCH: Here’s how to cut your hair at home
How do you blow dry your own hair professionally?
Pro tip: Dry before you dry.
If you can wring your hair out and see water droplets falling, it’s too wet to blow dry. Moisture causes the keratin in hair to create weak hydrogen bonds that stretch when combed or blown around. The protective cuticles around the keratin stretch, too, and they don’t bounce back to normal after drying. Instead, wet cuticles can crack or lift, making the hair inside more susceptible to damage. It’s the same reason why you shouldn’t go outside with wet hair in winter. Air dry or towel dry as much as possible.
Direction of airflow also matters. We asked stylists on Instagram, read tips from celebrity stylists, and watched review vlogs, and one unanimously-backed technique stood out: Keep that dryer pointed down, honey.
Amy Loveland, a stylist at Platinum Salon in West Chester, PA, finds that clients aren’t getting the smoothness they want at home because they’re blowing in the wrong direction.
“Instead of properly closing the cuticle, they blow the hair so that the cuticle stands up and their hair becomes fluffy rather than that fresh, blown-out look,” she told us. “Blowing hair in the opposite direction while still keeping the airstream pointed down the hair shaft will give you the most volume while keeping smoothness.”
The goal is to create a silky bounce in a single pass (AKA using as little heat as possible). Zooming through your whole head with the dryer pointed all over is just asking for a puffy ‘do — and not in the wind-blown, voluminous way that everyone wants. Blowing downward is also key in making those static-y ends lay flat.
Things to look for when shopping for a new hair dryer:
At least three heat settings: You know how hair dryers in hotel rooms have an on/off switch and that’s it? That’s not what you want here. Precise control of heat lets you customize temperature based on your damage level and the sleekness (or lack thereof) that you’re going for. Some even have a “no heat” option for the days where you’re not drying to style.
A cool shot button: A dryer needs to be able to switch from hot to icy air with the press of a button. The cold seals those cuticles, which is crucial to achieving a blowout that lasts for days. Celebrity stylist Harry Josh (the creator of our pick for the best quiet hair dryer) proves the importance of a cool shot in this video by Goop. Skip to the 3-minute mark to see how a few seconds of cold air can change the way hair holds a curl.
A range of attachments: Sectioning hair and using a nozzle to compress airflow directly onto the brush allows you to concentrate on smoothing one strand at a time. Diffusers are essential (!!!) in styling curly or coarse hair. These use small holes to diffuse air around curls to prevent cuticles from getting rough while preserving the natural shape of the ringlet.
A long cord: Professional hair dryers usually have a 9-foot cord while basic hair dryers have a 6-foot cord. Stylists need the freedom to move around a chair, and people at home will appreciate this if their bathroom has inconvenient outlets.
Don’t forget that heat protectant, y’all. Jonathan Van Ness suggests Oribe’s Foundation Mist.
Here are the best professional hair dryers of 2020:
Extremely fast and quiet • Comfortable to hold for long periods • Multiple *magnetic* attachments included • Hair won’t get stuck in the bladeless design • Heat sensors minimize heat damage
Not the smoothest finish of the bunch
Streamline your drying process with Dyson’s high-speed air jets, temperature scanners, and a slew of attachments.
Prepare to be *blown* away by Dyson’s bladeless dryer that uses high-velocity air jets and keeps damage to a minimum.
Diffuser, concentrator, smoothing nozzle
No one does it like Dyson. (Read our review here.) It’s fun to believe that the $400 price tag isn’t worth the hype, but this is high-precision, high-velocity drying that you won’t find anywhere else. That price also cover’s Dyson’s revolutionary scanner that measures air temperature 20 times per second to keep air below 212 degrees Fahrenheit. For those with brittle hair that needs every break from heat it can get, minimizing damage is pretty priceless.
Instead of relying on heat to dry faster, the Supersonic has sheer speed on its side. The bladeless design works similarly to that of Dyson’s fans, mimicking natural drying with Air Multiplier Technology that focuses air on one area rather than blowing everywhere and creating tangles. The hollow head doesn’t leave much room for a motor anyway, but putting the motor in the handle was a purposeful move to rebalance the weight and shape of the dryer. Instead of your wrist having to overcompensate for one end that’s extra heavy, the Supersonic sports an even weight on each end that feels natural to hold for longer periods.
It’s impressive that Dyson was able to shrink such a complex motor into the size of a quarter: The controlled air jets are powered by a digital V9 motor, which revs up to 110,000 rotations per minute and is so fast that it produces ultrasonic sound waves that are inaudible to the human ear. Dyson claims that its digital V9 motor dries six times faster than motors in competitors.
The process is further streamlined by multiple opportunities for customization. Aside from three speed settings and four heat settings (more than most competing dryers offer), the Supersonic comes with three attachments: a styling concentrator, a smoothing nozzle, and, wait for it, A DIFFUSER. They’re magnetic, so you don’t have to worry about them coming coming loose or being impossible to get off.
Auto pause turns the dryer off when you set it down • Volume boost button turns ions off to give hair more shape • Almost always on sale • Five heat settings for max customization
Auto pause reaction is delayed • Buttons are too easy to bump
Styling your own hair is so easy thanks to five heat settings, auto-pause, and a volume boost button.
T3 Cura Luxe
The chic design is a selling point on its own, but this dryer’s unique functions make self-styling easier than it’s ever been.
Drying concentrator and styling concentrator
If you’re going to spend this much on a hair dryer, it should be on a dryer that works for you. T3 would know — it’s been paving the way for luxury at-home hair tools before Dyson even caught a whiff of the beauty industry. The brand’s most revolutionary brainchild, the T3 Cura Luxe, offers two unique features that make styling on yourself the painless experience you’ve been dreaming of.
The Cura Luxe’s auto pause function is one that no other dryers in this list have, and one that you probably didn’t know you needed — but once you try it, you won’t want to live without it. Infrared sensors in the handle can tell when your hand lets go of the dryer and will turn it off until you pick it up again. Just think about how many times you set your dryer down between sections. Suddenly, at-home blowouts aren’t such a pain.
A range of five heat settings is an obvious plus for stylists who deal with multiple hair types in a day, but is also sweet for people at home who want to experiment. T3’s blog had professional stylists (who use the Cura on the daily) weigh in on the best combos of hair type and speed level: People with thick, coarse hair almost always need level 5, but those with fine, damage-prone hair probably don’t need above a 3.
Perhaps the biggest difference between the Dyson Supersonic and the T3 Cura Luxe is the “shape” of the airflow. T3’s drying is much less aggressive and better for fine hair that gets static-y easily. The volume booster is another bonus for the thin-haired folk: It turns ion production off to give hair every bit of volume in can get.
Cool shot button is *really* cold • Optional ion button makes textures customizable • Dual filtration reduces energy consumption by 70% • Just seven inches long
Heavier than other compact dryers • Cool shot is easy to accidentally press
More compact and more powerful than most of the competition, it’s hard to hate on this celebrity-backed dryer.
Harry Josh Pro Dryer 2000
The tool that Dermstore calls “the most iconic hair dryer of all time” cuts drying time in half with 80 mph airflow.
Narrow and wide nozzle concentrator
A hair dryer doesn’t need to sound like a leaf blower to prove that it’s powerful. The Harry Josh Pro Dryer 2000 is proof of that: It’s the dryer to get if you’re worried about waking someone up by doing your hair, and it still manages to clock airflow speeds over 80 miles per hour.
The signature matte mint green shade is reason enough to love this dryer. But this bad boy isn’t the winner of Allure’s Best of Beauty awards three years in a row for nothing. This customizable dryer was created by stylists for stylists (celebrity stylist Harry Josh, if that wasn’t obvious), spun into a package that’s user-friendly and small enough to take on the go. The arctic cool shot button seals waves so well that you won’t need to pack your arsenal of hair products, either.
Another beloved feature is the ion button. Most hair dryers produce negative ions, which keep hair shafts closed and help to keep hair sleek during heat styling. But not all styles require such a pin-straight texture. Harry Josh made the ions optional, so you can press it when you need to smooth or let it be when going for a more teased, tousled look.
Rubber bumpers for setting down between sections • Sturdy nozzle • Low wattage but dries super quickly • Comfy for right or left-handed folks
Nozzle gets stuck • Gets heavy after a few minutes • Meh range of attachments • Finicky buttons that are hard to get used to
A welcomed addition from everyone’s favorite flat iron brand, the ghd Air is a fast, powerful weapon against frizz.
Anyone who has given up on silky hair will find the ghd Air’s frizz control to be a godsend — and it’ll last for years.
It’s probably not surprising that everyone’s favorite flat iron brand also makes a bomb hair dryer. ghd’s straightener is beloved for its ability to turn the frizziest strands into the silkiest ones in a single pass, and ghd’s hair dryer is beloved for its ability to smooth hair that’s prone to puffing.
Non-believers in ionic technology might just change their mind when they see the frizz control power in this bad boy. An industrial ion generator sits by the nozzle opening to ensure that every single section of air is being smoothed evenly while locking in moisture. The difference is so big that some people say they’re experiencing soft hair for the first time in their life. One Sephora reviewer calls it witchcraft.
This is one professional dryer that genuinely feels professional. That’s good and bad. After years of going through crappy dryers, the ghd’s sturdiness and durability will feel like a godsend — one that you’ll be able to rely on for a really long time. However, the professional motor is so hefty that the dryer weighs noticeably more than competitors of the same size.
The heat and speed buttons are lined up on the back of the handle. This is great from a stylist’s perspective, but awkward and easy to bump when styling on yourself. (Don’t say we didn’t warn you when you accidentally blow all of your hair products off the sink in front of you.) The included nozzle is also very sturdy. Attachments falling off in the middle of a client’s appointment happens far too often in the salon, but some users have pointed out that it’s literally too snug to take off.
Comes with two rotating nozzles for different finishes • Weight of a travel dryer • Airflow as powerful as full-size dryers
May be too small for long hair • Needs a middle speed setting • High heat is REALLY hot
A compact pro dryer that offers powerful airflow and rapid drying without weighing your hand down.
Sam Villa Light Ionic Dryer
Styling shouldn’t feel like a workout, so Sam Villa put the wattage of a full-sized dryer into a body weighing less than a pound.
Ceramic and tourmaline
Blow drying shouldn’t feel like arm day at the gym. But when you’re lifting hands above your head for 20 minutes on end, a heavy hair dryer quickly starts to feel like a dumbbell, and all the hand movements that go into styling really take a toll on those wrists.
Stylists who deal with wrist fatigue stan the Sam Villas Light Ionic Dryer because it manages to deliver serious airflow while weighing — wait for it — less than a pound. For reference, that’s almost a pound lighter than the BaByliss Nano dryer. It’s also the same weight and length as T3’s compact Featherweight dryer but offers nearly 700 more watts of power.
Think of it as the best of both worlds: You’re getting the power of a full-sized professional dryer in the size of an easy-to-pack travel dryer. The dynamic airflow can be attributed to Sam Villa’s patented Evolution-Turbo Compressor, which apparently can create the airflow that a salon-grade dryer needs to style quickly and smoothly with less power drainage and noise.
Titanium doesn’t corrode easily • High wattage and fast drying for the price • Super lightweight
Gets hot on the outside • Not compact • Might be too intense for fine hair
BaByliss offers a reliable mid-range dryer that uses titanium to tackle thick, unruly tresses.
BaByliss Pro Nano Titanium Hair Dryer
If you’re tired of your thick hair not holding a style, this badass titanium build offers the controlled heat that unruly hair needs.
Budget hair dryers prove why they’re a fraction of the price as soon as you hit the “on” button. The air is weak, dangerously hot, and their motors crap out because they simply can’t handle heavy regular use. BaByliss is an exception: Its recognizable line of blue titanium-infused hair tools are probably the only less-than-$100 tools you’ll find in a salon.
The BaByliss Pro Nano Titanium hair dryer has the highest wattage of any dryer on this list, and its power makes itself known when the thickest heads of hair are dried in half the time it took with a different cheap dryer.
Curly hair but not a DevaCurl stan? The BaByliss is a great alternative for curly, coarse, or textured hair. Titanium is a great heat conductor because it warms up almost instantly and stabilizes and transfers that heat quickly, too. It’s the type of constant, controlled heat that unruly tresses respond to, and the titanium-produced ions help to give you the shine that may have felt impossible to achieve at home. Beware: Titanium gets hot on the outside, too, so try to keep your hands off the barrel and give it time to cool down after unplugging.
Titanium is also less prone to corroding and chipping than ceramic, and many reviewers mention that they’re only shopping for a new dryer because their five-year-old BaByliss finally died.
Claw-like diffuser combats curl shrinkage • Reaches roots easily
Reports of it dying quickly • Almost two pounds
The DevaDryer and DevaFuser are an unbeatable combo for natural hair, but DevaCurl’s history is off-putting.
The DevaFuser is the ultimate helping ~hand~ in keeping your curls’ natural shape, but the dryer itself is nothing special.
Drying curls requires an additional amount of care. A good diffuser is needed to mitigate airflow and ensure that your natural curl pattern isn’t disrupted, and the DevaCurl’s hand-shaped DevaDryer is hands-down the best option for keeping those natural curls glossy and bouncy.
Once you get past the initial shock of this diffuser looking like a literal cartoon character, the hand shape starts to make sense. (Don’t ask about the lime green color choice.) The “fingers” provide the same coverage that the hand of your stylist would, getting close to your scalp to dry and volumize those roots. Holding a section of hair in the “palm” of the DevaFuser provides well-rounded airflow to all sides of a curl to promote bounce and prevent shrinkage.
Truth be told, people are more in love with the combo of the diffuser and dryer rather than the dryer itself. There’s nothing special about the DevaDryer’s two speed settings or middle-of-the-road wattage. The DevaFuser is advertised to be able to fit on most hair dryers, but a good portion of reviewers say that it’s not that universal. If you want the DevaFuser, you should probably just buy the DevaDryer, too.
Adding to DevaCurl’s lists of problems is, um, a lawsuit. The brand came under fire in early 2020 from customers after reports of hair products like serums seemingly causing hair loss. If you’d prefer to support a different brand, the hair community won’t blame you. Psst: The Black Orchid diffuser by xtava is cheaper than the DevaFuser and has over 1,000 five-star reviews on Amazon.