Your Ultimate Guide to Buying the Best Hair Dryer

amika hairdryers

Amika’s Power Cloud Repair + Smooth Dryer ($200, Loveamika.com) creates sleek strands or voluminous hair depending on the ion setting.
Photo: Courtesy of Amika

We usually purchase a hairdryer based on price or availability, never taking into account what all those descriptors on the box really mean — watts, ceramic, tourmaline. But to ensure the best drying experience — i.e. little heat damage and short styling time — we’ve enlisted the help of Joel Calfee, lead stylist for Bio Ionic, to guide us to the perfect dryer.

What do the watt numbers mean?
“The more watts a hair dryer has, the more power and heat it can provide,” says Calfee. “For thick dense hair, you want a dryer with more wattage. There really isn’t a [wattage] that is specific for each hair type, but if you tend to let your hair air dry often you do not need a high wattage dryer.” Often, lower wattages can be quieter, while higher watt dryers can dry hair faster.

What is the difference between tourmaline, ionic and ceramic?
“To keep hair looking and feeling its healthiest, it’s best to find a dryer that is a combination of each of these types. In this instance, more is better.”

Ionic
“An ionic dryer helps to break down water molecules which allow hair to dry faster, but also allows moisture to penetrate deeper so that you dry your hair but still maintain the moisture on the inside,” says Calfee. “Ions also help to neutralize positive charged ions in your hair, therefore restoring shine and helping hair to feel very conditioned.”

Tourmaline
This type of dryer has a gemstone coating that contains minerals that naturally emit negative ions and make hair shinier.

Ceramic
“A ceramic dryer contains technology that helps to dry the hair on the inside and the outside as well.” This heat is very mild so it doesn’t damage hair.

When should you use the attachments?

Concentrated nozzles
“[These] are designed to help direct where you want hair to go,” says Calfee. “I suggest pre-drying hair without a concentrated nozzle to get out the initial wetness, but once you start styling, bring in the nozzle to control hair and style as you like.”  For shine, direct the nozzle from the roots to the ends. For complete control, use a low speed and high temperature to keep hair from blowing around too much.

Diffusers
“Every person with curly hair needs a good diffuser. It slows down the drying process so that curls don’t have a lot of frizz. You should use a diffuser when you don’t have a lot of time to let hair dry naturally, or when it’s colder outside because curls will need a little heat to get them kick started. For those with straight hair, a diffuser will help put loose curls into hair.” He recommends the Bio Ionic Universal Diffuser (bioionic.com for salons) that is compatible with every Bio Ionic Dryer and most non-Bio Ionic dryers on the market.

Picks
Pick attachments help to add volume to hair at the root. For short hair, use a short pick and for longer locks, use a longer version.

Are more expensive hair dryers better?
“The short answer is, yes. Higher prices do equal better quality, and better warranty when it comes to hair dryers. The higher end dryers will give you better results. I always say that your hair can only look as good as your tools allow. You can only work as fast as your hair dryer allows so finding a high-quality, fast working dryer is key.”

Read more: The 5 Rules of Heat Styling Your Hair 

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