Why you should trust us
We interviewed two dermatologists to learn how heat styling affects hair:, who specializes in hair disorders at the Cleveland Clinic, and, an assistant professor of dermatology at Johns Hopkins. We also spoke to, Aveda’s global director of hair styling;, a cosmetic chemist; and Jim Shapiro, an electrical engineer. (We also spoke to a second engineer at a large research university just long enough to get his informed opinion that there’s no obvious mechanism for a lot of the claims that hair dryers make.) In addition, we consulted magazine listicles (before mostly throwing them out) and patents.
I have a ton of hair. I spent much of my teen years and then some being let down by big promises on want affordable holiday hair accessories 2018 shampoo bottles and appliances. Case in point: In the tenth grade, I used 0 or so of my babysitting money on a red Chi hair dryer—a brand with a cult following at my high school—to match my similarly spendy red Chi straightener.
They worked, in my memory, just a bit better than my best drugstore appliance finds. But I still needed a lengthy morning routine to get the pin-straight hair I so coveted.
Ultimately, I gave the spendy dryer away to a friend and started using my roommate’s perfectly functional Revlon dryer instead. I care about what tools, solutions, and stylists touch my hair; I will happily spend money on beauty appliances and give them space in my teeny apartment, but only if they really work.
Who should get thisWriter Shannon Palus with our previous top picks, the Xtava Peony (left) and the Rusk CTC Lite (right). Photo: Michael Hession
Despite what magazine lists will have you believe, hair dryers are kind of one-size-fits-all-hair-types.
If you can’t leave the house with wet hair for aesthetic reasons or because it’s below freezing outside and you don’t want your head to be covered in icicles, you need a hair dryer. You also need one if you plan on using other hot tools on your hair: Make sure you’re really getting your hair dry if you are going to take a flat iron to it. (Smushing hair between two hot pieces of metal is really bad for it if it’s still wet, according to our dermatologist sources.) But even if you normally let your hair air-dry, blow-drying it.
Despite what magazine lists will have you believe (hair dryers for coarse hair! hair dryers for thin hair! hair dryers for dry hair!), hair dryers are kind of one-size-fits-all-hair-types. No dryer will make your hair more marvelously voluminous and glossy than another. Despite the advertising, what your hair looks like comes down to technique, products, and, in large part, its natural characteristics.
How we pickedAn armful of the dryers we considered. Photo: Michael Hession
Hair dryer boxes are adorned with a ton of buzzwords and specs. Most of them are useless at best and pseudoscience at worst. There are no clinical studies examining whether one type of hair dryer is better for your hair than another—at least, none that we, nor the dermatologists we interviewed, could find.
For all the words and phrases associated with hair dryers (like “tourmaline,” “ionic,” “ceramic,” and “conditioning nanobeads,” which ), hairstylist Allen Ruiz told us he looked for two qualities in the appliance: “hot and fast.”
The hotness and fastness of a hair dryer are connected to the wattage, but they’re not perfectly correlated: A very high-wattage dryer can produce more heat than a lower-wattage one, but that doesn’t mean that it will. Most hair dryers are about 1,875 watts anyway, and according to engineer Jim Shapiro, “essentially all of the energy used by each dryer will be converted into heat, so don’t expect or look for much difference among the dryers here.” This is where we arrived at a central truth about hair dryers: They don’t differ much based on advertised specs.
Hairstylist Allen Ruiz told us he looked for two qualities in the appliance: “hot and fast.”
Even so, a few features that don’t have anything to do with speed or heat helped us narrow down a very, very large field before we could test dryers: multiple heat settings, a cool-shot button, a nozzle that’s compatible with attachments, and an intake filter that’s removable so that you can clean out debris. Most dryers have all those things, so it was easy to chuck the ones that didn’t.A good hair dryer has a cool-shot button and multiple heat and speed settings. Luckily, most do. Photo: Michael Hession
With multiple heat settings, you don’t have to keep blasting your hair on high—and incurring more damage—once it’s mostly dry. And once it’s totally dry, a cool-shot button, according to countless expert opinions we read, will help seal your hair cuticle. (I personally have never noticed a huge difference, but the cool air feels nice if your head is hot, and the button is such a common feature that your dryer might as well have one.)
An often-overlooked feature for any dryer is a cord that reaches from the outlet you want to plug it into to the spot where you want to stand to dry your hair, around 6 to 9 feet. Many bathrooms have an outlet near enough to the mirror that a short cord won’t matter. But if your mirror is more than three steps from an outlet, there’s no way around a longer cord; it’s unsafe to add an extension cord to a device that draws as large a wattage as a hair dryer. You should avoid the whole issue by going with a longer cord in the first place.Left: The scale we used to weigh the dryers. Right: Cord length measurement. Photos: Michael Hession
The best dryer for the most people is compatible with a diffuser to help dry curly, wavy, or textured hair (and preferably comes with a diffuser in the box). If you have straight hair or are trying to straighten your hair with a dryer, you won’t need a diffuser. See the section for more info on how a diffuser can help minimize damage to your hair.
A hair dryer with a filter you can just pop off the back is much easier to clean. Without a removable filter, this process is kind of a pain, because you have to.
Objective features aside, the main thing that separated the dryers we loved from the ones we never used was a bit harder to quantify: how they felt in our hands. The lighter the dryer, the easier it will be to hold for a longer period of time. A curved handle is easier to hold, too, and buttons that are placed either entirely on the front of the dryer or entirely on the back so they don’t poke your hand and are hard to hit accidentally are great. Finally, a dryer’s sound shouldn’t be annoying; most dryers operate at the same decibel level, but some dryers can make whiny noises.
Ultimately, because we found so many dryers that fit our criteria, we picked 12 to test that had great reviews from other sources, such as Good Housekeeping (which, unlike most mainstream magazines, has a testing strategy for its recommended dryers), Amazon, Sephora, and drugstore websites.
A common feature that hair dryers tout is the ability to make your hair shinier. When I asked hairstylist Allen Ruiz the best way to get shiny hair, he said to “use a product that leaves the hair shiny and smooth.” Which is to say, shiny hair doesn’t really have to do with the dryer. Cosmetic chemist Perry Romanowski told us that the only things a blow dryer could do that hair products couldn’t were to “dry the hair more uniformly and keep hair straight.” Straight hair can be shinier hair: The cuticle lies flatter, reflecting light. But even if your goal is to have shiny straight hair, the only dryer qualities that will help you do that more effectively are good old “hot and fast.”
You’ll see plenty of features—ceramic coils, an ion generator, “tourmaline”—touted by sources quoted in marketing materials and pretty much every other dryer buying guide. Those are also features of nearly all dryers. One thing that you should definitely avoid are retail employees who tell you that a 0 dryer is special “because it has ions.”
Ions are technically able to reduce frizz—but only frizz from static. Wet hair cannot hold a charge.
Mainstream magazines and hair dryer boxes commonly promote ions as a feature that makes hair less frizzy and more shiny. I visited the hair dryer section of Sephora twice while writing this guide and failed to extract any logical reason from the salespeople as to why their curated selection of designer dryers were better than others.
Hair dryers do produce ions, which are just particles (of air, in this case) that are charged (negatively, in this case). We found a report in which a high school physics teacher put an ionic dryer in front of a device that measures ions, and lo, (PDF).
But because almost all hair dryers are “ionic,” it’s hardly a thing worth debating, except for academic clarity. Our tests (below) didn’t show any meaningful difference with ionic settings on or off.
Our engineer expert’s official opinion: “Ions? Please.”
Ions are technically able to reduce frizz—but only frizz from static. If you brush your hair while blow-drying it—or you just exist, in the winter months, depending on your hair—positive charge can build up, causing strands to repel away from your head and stick out. But wet hair cannot hold a charge. on dry hair would bring it back to a neutral charge, but if you have a huge static issue, you can also just (which is easier to fit in a bag, anyway) or a tiny bit of water.
Another claim regarding ions is that they can break up water molecules and speed up drying time. We couldn’t find any reason why this would be the case, and neither could the engineers we spoke to. Doctor and prominent skeptic Ben Goldacre has questioned the ions-make-water-droplets-smaller phenomenon, too,. Still, for good measure, we planned to test an ion-button-equipped dryer with and without ions in effect, just to see for ourselves if we were missing something.The ion button on the Harry Josh dryer, far right. Push for science. Photo: Michael Hession
Finally, sometimes makers of hair dryers with an on/off ion button will claim that the feature is there so that you can use the dryer with the ion button set to “off” for fine hair to make it more voluminous. This could possibly work only if you were going for the kind of volume produced by static electricity.
Our interviewed dermatologists recommended ceramic-coated coils. They provide “a more even heat” than other metals, according to Dr. Melissa Piliang. All hair dryers work by heating up an element, such as a metal coil, and then blowing air over it, which carries the heat to your head. Ceramic does heat up faster and radiate heat more evenly than iron or nickel. (Incidentally, many space heaters,, also employ ceramic.) But the engineers we spoke to were skeptical that this component made much of a difference in drying hair. Radiant heat isn’t really helpful “unless you expect to direct the heat far from the dryer,” said engineer Jim Shapiro, such as if you were trying to use a dryer to heat a room for some reason. Any metal heating element in a dryer will get the heat to your head via the blowing air. And though ceramic does heat evenly, we couldn’t feel a difference in the heat coming from the dryers we tested, and you should move your dryer around as you do your hair regardless. The bottom line is that most hair dryers have ceramic-coated elements anyway; don’t let a box’s claims fool you into thinking you’re getting something special.
Another material commonly found inside hair dryers is the mineral tourmaline. Even a piddly little wall-mounted hair dryer in a hotel I stayed at in the course of writing this guide claimed to have it., but as our expert engineer said: “Tourmaline? Please, squared.” It’s impossible to see the tourmaline because it’s ground up and in the barrel of the dryer, and it doesn’t have to be present in very large amounts to be advertised on the box: Patents for “gemstone dryers” that we read involved a slew of different minerals that manufacturers used to coat the inside of the dryer. Dr. Rebecca Kazin told us that she looked for tourmaline in a hair dryer, but that there were no clinical studies on its being better for hair. Her exact words were: “I believe in tourmaline.” We read——that heated tourmaline can emit electromagnetic radiation that can alter the structure of your hair. The man who holds that patent also has one for a device that diagnoses “body deficiencies” (the patent is not specific, but it does say you treat them with drugs) by measuring a patient’s electromagnetic field. Now is a good time to say that patents can give you a great idea of how something is supposed to work but are not necessarily fact-checked for scientific accuracy.
You definitely can ignore claims about “conditioning nanobeads” or “silk proteins” that are, supposedly, infused in the heating elements and barrels of some dryers. “That is just marketing hype,” said Perry Romanowski.
How we testedOur weather meter, which measured wind speed and temperature. Photo: Michael Hession
I took basic stats on our group of 12 dryers, using a weather meter to test the speed and heat, an iPhone app to test the volume in decibels, and a postage scale to weigh them. I found that on the top setting, most dryers blew air at about 40 miles per hour—measured a couple of inches away from the nozzle—that was around 120 degrees Fahrenheit and had a loudness of about 95 decibels.
All of the dryers took more or less the same amount of time to dry hair.
For the initial iteration of this guide, I timed the models drying a swatch of hair wetted with 5 grams of water, with the dryers on their highest setting. I tested the dryer that had an on/off switch for ions, the Harry Josh, in both positions. If there were big differences in the quality of the air a dryer gave off, it would show in these tests.
Two things were clear after our first round of swatch time tests: All of the dryers took more or less the same amount of time to dry hair. Little things, like how close we held the dryer or how the hair moved around, were what really made hair dry faster or slower. In this round, I also found that half the dryers had designs that made them annoying to use. (See for more details.)
With a few dryers eliminated, I put my four favorites to a few more time tests with the hair swatch and then took them home for a couple of weeks and used them in my daily routine, timing how long they took to dry my hair and feeling for any general differences in the quality of the resulting blowout. I found basically none. Many of the dryers we looked at claimed that they were some percentage faster than the competition and that they would leave hair looking better than the competition, promises often corroborated by Amazon reviews. There could well be a collection of slow dryers out there that make your hair look like crap that everyone else is comparing these models with, but we didn’t seek them out.Writer Shannon Palus using our runner-up pick, the Rusk CTC Lite. Photo: Michael Hession
Why do people think their hair looks nicer with this or that more expensive dryer? The placebo effect is strong, perhaps. And while we’re on the topic of bias, we should mention that our methods weren’t double-blind or rigorous enough for submitting to an academic journal. But nothing we’ve learned from engineers, chemists, or stylists has suggested that there should—or can—be some glaring difference between dryers that have the same temperature and wind speed. Instead, we found that a number of other features, like button placement and size, cord length, and weight, are rarely discussed but very important to the overall experience of using a hair dryer.
Our pick: Rusk W8lessThe Rusk W8less lives up to its name, weighing less than a pound. Photo: Michael Hession
The has all the features you need in a hair dryer while costing a fraction of the price of a luxury model. It’s a less-expensive version of our previous top pick, the Rusk CTC Lite (which is now our runner-up).
In our testing, the W8less tied in producing the fastest and hottest air of all the dryers we tried (60 mph and 130 °F, respectively). Those are the only features that matter for drying your hair efficiently.Prime button placement. Photo: Michael Hession
The buttons are all nicely placed—easy to push, but hard to press accidentally—and the cord is long enough (8 feet) to reach distant outlets. Unlike on other dryers, the cool-shot button is wide, so holding it down for several seconds isn’t uncomfortable.
The housing is nice: It’s glossy, and the logo is understated. The sound of the air is smooth. The dryer comes with a concentrator, too.
Most important, the Rusk W8less should take about the same amount of time to blow-dry hair as dryers that cost hundreds of dollars (and faster than some less-expensive competitors). It will make your hair look just as nice.
The Rusk W8less comes with a two-year warranty.
Flaws but not dealbreakers
The Rusk W8less doesn’t come with a diffuser. If you have curly hair and prefer using a diffuser to dry it, you’ll have to buy one separately. We’ve seen the price of this dryer fluctuate a lot on Amazon, which can be frustrating if you’re taking your time to consider a purchase (on the other hand, you could score a surprise deal). While researching this guide, my editor saw the price go up in the course of a discussion with me to decide which dryers to test.
Runner-up: Rusk CTC LiteWe’ve loved the Rusk CTC Lite for a few years now. It’s nearly identical to our top pick, just pricier. Photo: Michael Hession
The, our former top pick, is nearly identical to the Rusk W8less with a few drawbacks, making it a solid choice to consider if our top pick is sold out or you strongly prefer a black glossy finish over a white glossy finish. This model has one major upside if you have curly hair: It comes with a diffuser, while our top pick, the W8less, does not. The nozzle is also slightly shorter.
Compared with our top pick, this model is equally light, and in our tests it produced airflow that was just as fast and nearly as hot. The buttons are well-placed. And the CTC Lite’s cord is a little longer (8.5 feet) than that of the W8less.Our runner-up, the Rusk CTC Lite, comes with both a concentrator and a diffuser. Photo: Michael Hession
The handle is easy to hold, though it lacks the grip-enhancing groove that makes the W8less feel especially nice in our hands. This model also tends to be pricier than our current top pick.
Budget pick: Conair Tourmaline CeramicThe Conair Tourmaline Ceramic dryer, our budget pick. Photo: Michael Hession
If you don’t dry your hair often and you have an outlet near your mirror, the dryer does a good job and doesn’t have any hugely annoying design features. What makes this dryer less desirable than our other picks is its clunky and cheap casing.
First, an upside over our other top picks: At 0.91 pound, this model was lighter than most of the dryers we tested by about a tenth of a pound—a difference that I could feel. Though I didn’t mind the weight of our top pick or runner-up at all, this is the model to buy if having a very light dryer is a priority for you.
But this dryer has two big downsides. First, the handle is thicker and straighter than those of the other dryers we tested—something I’ve found to be true of many drugstore hair dryers in my research—making it a little more annoying to hold. Second, the cord is shorter, at just 5 feet. If your outlet is more than three steps from where you intend to dry your hair, you need to choose a different dryer; don’t try hooking it up to an extension cord, as.
Instead of buttons that you push, this model has a pair of controls that slide between the different heat and speed settings. This wasn’t my favorite arrangement—it was a little harder to switch to a middle setting, and too easy to slide off of that to a high setting—but if you are okay with the feel of the cheaper casing overall, this probably isn’t a big deal.
To provide access to the filter, this dryer features a hatch instead of a twist-off cap. It’s slightly clunkier to use, but it also means you have no way to lose the back of the dryer.
A review on Amazon claims that the letters next to the settings slider wore off after a few months. Figuring out the settings without them shouldn’t be rocket science, but if you use your dryer a lot, you’d probably prefer one where that doesn’t happen. Another review notes that the plastic coating on the handle started peeling after a while.
This dryer comes with a two-year warranty, the same length as those of most dryers we looked at.
Also great: Conair Infiniti ProThe Conair Infiniti Pro is a great hair dryer for the price, but it’s heavier than our other picks. Photo: Michael Hession
In our tests, the airflow from the was nearly as fast and hot as that of our top pick, at 58 mph and 108 °F. It’s considerably less expensive, too.
The main reason it’s not our top pick is its weight. At 1.2 pounds, it’s noticeably heavier to hold, especially after several minutes of drying.
It has a cord that’s 6 feet long—not quite as long as on our top pick, but longer than the cords on other models you’ll find at a drugstore.
The Infiniti Pro comes with a concentrator and a diffuser. These pieces snap onto the nozzle (they look as though they might screw on, which was confusing to us at first).
Conair covers the Infiniti Pro with a one-year warranty.
How to dry your hair
To our surprise, we found that blow-drying might be better for hair than air-drying, for a couple of reasons. Extended contact with water causes the stuff in between a hair’s cuticles, called the cell membrane complex, to swell and bulge, weakening the hair slightly. As a result, putting your hair up in a ponytail when it’s wet can cause breakage, as dermatologist Dr. Rebecca Kazin pointed out, because the strands are weighed down with water. found that blow-drying while holding the dryer 6 inches away from your head actually causes less overall damage than air-drying. Using a hair dryer will still cause more surface damage in both cases, but if breakage is a problem, gently blow-drying your hair could be helpful.
Dermatologist Dr. Melissa Piliang advised that “it’s best to embrace your natural texture” and not fight it when you are choosing how to dry your hair, because that can make it frizzier in the long term. Ads for hair products and mainstream magazines like to equate healthy hair with smooth and shiny hair. But shininess isn’t the same as health—I checked with dermatologists.
One small study found that blow-drying while holding the dryer 6 inches away from your head actually causes less overall damage than air-drying.
All hair dryers cause some damage. Hair cuticles are “kind of like shingles on a roof,” Piliang explained. Heat causes them to dry out and peel up, which can let in moisture and increase frizz. Some hair is just naturally drier to begin with, which means it starts out more prone to frizz. Also worth noting: You don’t really run the risk of actually burning your hair or scalp with a hair dryer the way that you might with a straightener or a curling iron.
To minimize damage, Piliang told us she advised decreasing the overall time you have to spend pointing hot air at your hair by towel-drying it first. Then, blow-dry it in sections. Clip some of your hair up in a half ponytail, dry what’s underneath, then undo the ponytail, so you’re not just subjecting the same dry strands to direct heat. While you’re drying, hold the blow dryer so it shoots air downward with the grain of the hair cuticle, rather than against it.Clipping your hair out of the way. Photos: Michael Hession
If you have curly hair, don’t brush it as you are drying it, as that will just ruffle the cuticle.
And don’t keep blasting your hair with the highest heat setting, said Piliang. When your hair is almost dry, turn the dryer to a lower setting. (Personally, I’m too impatient for this.) Also, don’t use a metal round brush to style your hair, she told us. It just transfers heat directly to your hair, which is bad for its cuticles. Use a plastic brush and “keep things moving,” she said, so you’re not blasting any one spot with heat for too long.
If you have curly hair, don’t brush it as you are drying it, as that will just ruffle the cuticle (unless you are trying to straighten it). A diffuser will help you work with your natural hair shape, which is less damaging to your hair than trying to make it do something that it doesn’t naturally do. Most, but not all, blow dryers are at least compatible with a diffuser, and you can buy one easily if it doesn’t come with the dryer. “I prefer a diffuser with ‘fingers’ in it for creating really defined curl,” hairstylist Allen Ruiz told us. “You want to work section by section and make sure to tilt and lean your head as you go, gently [putting each] section of curls into the diffuser.” (Here’s that shows what he means.)A diffuser swirls the air coming out of a dryer so it can dry curly hair more gently without requiring a brush. Photo: Michael Hession
A quick aside about heat-protecting styling products, such as serums and sprays: Ruiz suggested that they are a good shield against damage. I’ve heard this from other stylists before, too—once, a hairdresser told me that I could straighten my hair every day if I used a heat protector. In contrast, cosmetic chemist Perry Romanowski said that they are not very effective, and my own anecdotal experience of ending up with super-dry hair seemed to support that.
Our previous top pick, the, has been discontinued, so we have removed it from contention. At just under a pound, it was lighter than most dryers we tested. It also had the most comfortable handle we tried, as well as a glossy finish. The 7½-foot cord meant you didn’t have to worry about having an outlet close to your mirror. This dryer was also far more affordable than other models, and in our testing we found that it dried hair just as well as luxury dryers.
The produced a wind speed of 45 mph (measured directly in front of the nozzle). It’s also just over a pound in weight, with a cord measuring 5½ feet, and it comes with a concentrator and a diffuser. But the mediocre specs, along with the gimmicky red lights that flash while you’re blow-drying, kept this dryer from being a pick, even though it was the least expensive model we considered.
The was the lightest dryer we tested, at 0.6 pound. However, the measured air speed was only 45 mph, and the handle was thick and awkward for us to hold. It comes with a concentrator, but that piece has holes in it, sort of defeating the purpose.
I’m going to break down why I believe the costs as much as it does, because I think it’s representative of many other hair dryers that cost hundreds of dollars.
The Harry Josh PR team seems successful: The dryer appears three times in of items that beauty editors “swear by.” The team has also done a great job of placing targeted ads all over my Facebook pages—definitely before I started on this research project, and I think before I had ever even clicked on the dryer’s name. The infomercial the ads link to features Harry Josh himself discussing women whose hair he has styled for magazines. Covers flash on the screen: Amanda Seyfried, Katy Perry, Tina Fey. The Instagram tag #HarryJosh reveals owner shots of the dryer messily nestled among expensive makeup, styled PR shots of Josh products, and supermodel Karlie Kloss kissing Josh on the cheek.
“I want women to invest in a quality blow dryer,” says Josh in the video. “This should be the most expensive item in a woman’s bathroom.”
The real issue with the Harry Josh dryer is that it’s just not the superior hair experience that it claims to be.
Then there are the things about this dryer that are genuinely nice. It has a short nozzle, which would make it slightly easier to fit in a suitcase for travel, though our top pick and runner-up aren’t so much bigger that either one would be an issue in your average weekend bag. The matte-finish seafoam green color is really pretty. I truly think that—in addition to the proximity to celebrity hair—this is what you’re paying for. In my tests, the cool-shot button was easy to push, and all the buttons were placed nicely on the back of the dryer—no poking, no accidental pushing.
Ignoring the price, this model had only one major drawback: On our scale, the Harry Josh dryer, at 1.21 pounds, was on the heavier side of what we tested, not accounting for the cord. (The cord is 9 feet, which sort of undoes some of the travel-friendliness of the dryer’s small size.)
But the real issue with the Harry Josh dryer is that it’s just not the superior hair experience that it claims to be. In addition to promoting the usual erroneous facts about ions that get stamped on hair dryers, Josh says that this model blows air at 81 mph. We’re not sure how he got that number, because our weather meter said 40 mph. I also didn’t see where his claims about drying hair faster than other dryers were coming from. It’s possible that the Harry Josh dryer will last longer than other dryers, though the warranty covers only two years, the same as our top picks.
When I used this model, my hair looked the same as it did with the other dryers and took about the same amount of time to dry. So if you want to use the same thing that stylists use on the heads of models (maybe, sometimes) and are willing to pay for that, this dryer is for you. But it’s not going to give you their hair.
In the months since we did our initial testing, a new luxury dryer hit the scene: the. Because it had several unique features and other outlets were enthusiastic about it—Gizmodo said —I spent two months testing it at home.
There’s a lot we like about this hair dryer. It dried hair a little faster than our top pick, and the unusual design of the attachments made styling with a diffuser or a concentrator and a round brush easier. That said, we don’t think the features it offers are worth 0 to most people.
The Supersonic’s stream of air was wider than the competition’s, and it maxed out our weather meter, which measures up to 60 mph, making it faster than our pick (though we’re not certain by how much). This air speed shaved a couple of minutes off our drying time compared with the Rusk CTC Lite, our runner-up pick. (The Verge got.) However, the air speed also tangled my hair more, and Good Housekeeping found even the lower speed settings.
The concentrator and diffuser attachments connect to the nozzle magnetically, a nifty feature we haven’t seen on any other dryer. They don’t get burning hot, so you can rotate or remove them midsession, unlike on other dryers where you must handle them carefully or angle the dryer awkwardly.
Although the Dyson dryer’s speed and attachments are improvements over our picks’, we also found features we didn’t like, and a few promoted as improvements that we’re neutral on.
The position of the speed and heat buttons on the back of the dryer’s head makes them hard to reach, and the cool-shot button is in an awkward spot, at the very top of the handle. The cord also has a small power bar near the plug, which itself is bulky; both components make the device more clunky in a suitcase.
The motor sits in the handle of the dryer, rather than in the head, a design that makes the dryer straight and thicker than our top pick and runner-up. Dyson says the motor placement makes the weight of the dryer more balanced, since it’s not top-heavy. I didn’t notice a meaningful difference. However, if you have trouble gripping a typical dryer, the weight distribution might make gripping this one easier, a reader.
The handle-motor sucks air through a fine mesh from the bottom of the handle, rather than through a grill at the back of the dryer, and the company claims it’s difficult for long hair to get stuck in the filter as a result. (Much of Dyson’s for the dryer went to the motor, which is a smaller version of the motor found in Dyson’s handheld vacuum cleaners.)
At 1.1 pounds, the Supersonic is heavier than our top pick and runner-up. I found that the heavier cord made my arm tired when I was drying the top of my head. The motor inside is supposed to be quieter than other motors. It is, but the sound it does emit is a high-pitched whine. And the dryer itself is still noisy: The sound of whooshing air is physically impossible to eliminate.
The Supersonic measures the air coming out 20 times a second to make sure it doesn’t get too hot—therefore, supposedly, the dryer does less damage to your hair. This feature was impossible for us to test in an empirical way. The stream of air certainly always felt hot, enough that when I used the device to style my sister’s hair, she complained that it was burning her scalp. If you’re worried about using too much heat on your hair, try using your dryer on a lower setting, or blow-drying less frequently.
One thing that we imagine is driving of the Dyson: It’s attractive and unique. Despite its flaws (and the fact that it didn’t make my hair look any different than other dryers did), I found myself reaching for it consistently over the Rusk CTC Lite.
The nicely designed attachments and strong airstream make for an experience that’s more satisfying than using a less expensive dryer, if not a radically different one. If you decide that it might be worth 0, we recommend, which has a generous return policy.
Next, the dryers I tested that I wouldn’t buy:
The Amazon reviews of the were pretty good at the time of my research, and the compact design was nice. But the buttons on this model were on the side and made the dryer hard for me to hold without getting poked in the hand.
The handle on the vibrated unpleasantly when it was on its highest speed setting. Pass.
The had a slight whining sound. Another pass.
On dryers with straightening attachments
When I was in high school, I owned a, which had a long row of grills instead of a circular nozzle and a brush attachment. I’d use that to get my frizzy curlyish hair into some kind of straightish formation before taking a flat iron to it.
We left this dryer out of our testing because people use dryers for more than straightening their hair, which this dryer didn’t even accomplish on its own for me. It also gives you no way to attach a diffuser, which means you’re stuck with a single-purpose dryer. Besides, guides on blowouts,, recommend using a concentrator attachment and a round brush to get straight hair.
On travel dryers
We left these dryers off our list for a few reasons. Based on what we know about the non-magic of ions and tourmaline and how an inexpensive Conair dryer performed in our tests, we figured that any hotel dryer that’s over 1,800 watts should give you the same results as a spendier one that you bring from home.
If you are buying only one hair dryer, you probably don’t want to have to use a travel dryer while you’re at home. Travel dryers sacrifice comfort (their handles are clunky) and have additional components that can break. Some of the truly compact ones, such as the, are smaller at the expense of solid wattage, the ability to attach a diffuser, and a cool-shot button.
When we selected hair dryers to test, we looked for a few that had shorter nozzles and were especially lightweight. If you’re set on packing your dryer, it’s not too much harder to fit our top picks in a weekend bag anyway.
Wrapping it up
All of the hair dryers we tested were basically effective at accomplishing the job at hand. There could be some secret lab someplace where hair-dryer engineers are using antimatter to annihilate water molecules or finding other particles that will shoot out of handheld motors and transform your hair into the ’do of your dreams. We can’t prove that all the things the sides of hair dryer boxes say are not true. (The high school girl in me who just wants her hair to look nice certainly wants them to be true.) Absent more evidence, the right things to focus on when you’re selecting a dryer are how it feels in your hands, how easy it is to use, and how it sounds to your ear. The Rusk W8less feels and sounds great.
Yoonhee Lee MD, et al.,, Annals of Dermatology, November 1, 2011
Jason English,, The Physics Teacher, September 1, 2007
Perry Romanowski,, email interview, October 22, 2015
Jim Shapiro, engineer, email interview, September 1, 2015
Dr. Melissa Piliang,, phone interview, September 29, 2015
Dr. Rebecca Kazin,, phone interview, October 2, 2015
Allen Ruiz,, email interview, October 8, 2015
Stephanie Saltzman,, Allure, March 20, 2013
Devri Velázquez,, NaturallyCurly, March 4, 2016
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