How To Choose The Best Hairdryer For Your Hair Type, According To A Pro

Illustrated by Olivia Santner
Dear Daniela,
My hairdryer has started making strange sounds and I think it’s going to stop working altogether soon. It does get my hair dry but I’ve never been particularly pleased with my at-home blow-dries. Should I splurge on a replacement or is it not worth getting an expensive one? Does it need to be ionic or have tourmaline? I keep seeing those words crop up when I’ve been researching but I’m completely confused!

Emma, 29
I’m writing this mid-lockdown, when the idea of a salon blow-dry is like someone telling me about a medieval banquet or being able to buy a house in the 1960s with only a four-digit deposit: sounds great, can’t relate. Lockdown has made me realise how unskilled I am at doing my own hair in any other fashion than "okay, it’s dry" and just how important a good hairdryer is. So I’m really glad you asked! I completely understand why some people might think all hairdryers are created equal, and if your only goal is to get your hair dry, any one will do. However if you’re looking to style your hair as you dry it, things become more complicated.
Let’s break this down a bit more. "When you get your hair blow-dried in the salon, there’s a lot you don’t necessarily see," confirmed Adam Reed, stylist supremo and editorial ambassador for L'Oréal Professionnel. "Professional blow-drying isn’t just someone else doing it for you, it’s the angle you hold the dryer at, the nozzle you use, how quickly you move, the heat you use and where you place the direction of the airflow. A good hairdryer can help you 'cheat' some of that technique by doing some of that for you."
In your salon they might use a hairdryer that’s trade-only (though I’ve seen plenty of Dyson, T3 and ghd salons) and a bit more rudimental, simply because they know how to wield it and blow-drying someone else’s hair is more forgiving than blow-drying your own. You might have to pony up a bit more for a good at-home dryer to help you bridge that gap. 
"What you’re looking for is a good weight, heat settings that don’t cause damage and controlled airflow," explained Reed. He helped design the ghd Helios Dryer, which is his top choice in salon and at home: "It’s light but not too light. You need a certain heft to help you maintain control and not fling it all over the place. Likewise, you need a very precise airflow, a tight nozzle attachment and a cool shot option." The nozzle is actually more important than you might think, according to Reed, kind of like how the mascara wand is almost more important than the formula. "If the nozzle is too big, you’re just blowing the hair around, rather than blowing it dry, so it’ll take longer." Essentially, a good dryer is one that does some of the pro stuff on autopilot.

You don't really need to choose the hairdryer itself based on your hair type, but you might need to switch the attachments.

Reed said that you don’t really need to choose the hairdryer itself based on your hair type, but you might need to switch the attachments. "One size fits all if it’s a good quality dryer but if you have curly hair you might want a diffuser, and it’s good to have a couple of heat settings for finer hair, too."
In terms of the ionic and tourmaline stuff? Ionic airflow works by transferring negative ions to the hair, which makes it dry faster as water is positively charged. It can also help minimise frizz by cancelling out static, so most mid-range and high-end hairdryers will use some form of this technology. As for tourmaline? Using tourmaline coating or tourmaline elements is one way that hairdryers can filter the air to make it ionic.
I don’t know what your budget is but I have to say that for me, the Dyson Airwrap has been well worth it. I mistakenly thought it was a tong for a really long time and so didn’t bother with it, but the Complete set has a dryer attachment, curling barrels, smoothing brushes and a round brush. I’ve tried a lot of hairdryers, hot rollers, hot brushes and tongs in my time but Airwrap gives me the most salon-worthy results consistently. When I’m blow-drying, I often miss spots at the back of my hair near my roots, or fail to get the correct tension, meaning my hair drops and goes frizzy quickly. Airwrap has been a game-changer for me but I appreciate that not everyone can justify the price tag. Whenever I get a blow-dry the stylist tends to use velcro rollers on me, and this is still a great way to add bounce to your hair. TRESemmé Salon Professional Volume Rollers do the trick if you have the patience. Otherwise, the BaByliss Big Hair Spinning Brush has legions of loyal fans.
Reed also said that if you’ve been disappointed with your results at home for a long time, you need to consider products, too. "Lots of my clients complain that they can’t get their hair to look the way they want at home and then when I ask them if they use any products, they say, 'Well, sometimes,' which always makes me chuckle," said Reed. "A really big part of blow-drying is the prep products you use. I always start with L’Oréal Professionnel Mythic Oil, which smooths the cuticle and has a bit of alcohol in it to stop you getting any build-up on the hair. It really gives the hair the slip you need to style it easily. It moisturises and gives some heat protection. And then Tecni.ART Pli Shaper – there’s not a head I touch that I don’t use Pli on. It’s thermoactive and whatever you’re doing with heat, you can use it. It’s a primer and a styler, and it’s got a cumulative hold, so the more you add, the more hold you get. It never goes crispy or crunchy." (I am sure Pli has been used on me during roughly 95% of the salon blow-dries I’ve had, and I’m adding some to my basket as I type this.)
Emma, I hope this helps. It’s a lot to take in, I know, but hopefully you can make an informed decision now based on which features matter the most to you with what you’re trying to achieve. One final tip? If you get a lot of tangles as you blow-dry, Reed advised: "Get the hairdryer really cold and then blast the knots, it’ll take them out without any damage!"

Good luck,
Got a question for our resident beauty columnist Daniela Morosini? No problem, qualm or dilemma is too big, small or niche. Email, including your name and age for a chance to have your question answered. All letters to 'Dear Daniela' become the property of Refinery29 and will be edited for length, clarity, and grammatical correctness.

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