obsessive tester

The 13 Best Hair Dryers

Let’s be real: blow-drying your hair is a chore. And come summer, it’s that much more of a sweaty struggle. While it might be easy to invest in a salon package for regular blowouts, for some, a DIY option is more realistic, and reasonable. So which blow-dryer can make the process feel less like grunt work?

Over the past few months, I steered clear of the salon and put several dryers to the test. I tracked everything from the sleekness of the outer packaging and positioning of the switches, to the time it took me to dry my frizz-prone hair from start to finish. What I found was, if you want to make the process quick with (almost) professional results, it might pay to pay up. Read on for my results and the best hair dryers for all price points.

The Wallet-Friendly One

Conair 1875 Watt Ionic Ceramic Hair Dryer

This is one of the most budget-friendly options out there. It’s almost the most frequently reviewed one on Amazon (over 2,000 reviews) that are largely positive too. As the Strategist mentioned, it does have more power wattage than the Dyson and doesn’t weigh too much — about 1.7 pounds so still less than a barre class weight.

The Basic One

Hot Tools Tourmaline Tools 2400

This ionic dryer is lightweight, but in a flimsy sort of way. It’s also the noisiest of the bunch. If you’re willing to make a few sacrifices though, it’s the bargain option here. It comes with your standard features: three heat settings (high, medium, low), three speeds (high, medium, and low), a cool shot button, and a concentrator, finger diffuser, and styling pik. While it does boast frizz-fighting ion technology, I’d recommend it for those who want to diffuse their curls or dry naturally straight hair.

The Lightest One

InStyler BLU Turbo Ionic Dryer

Weighing in at 13.5 ounces, this option from InStyler felt the lightest of the bunch. I found it worked quickly, but if you want to go in and really perfect your blow-dry, your arm isn’t going to get tired. The packaging is super sleek, with a high-gloss white facets and a glowing blue light. Other features include a cool shot button, two heat settings, and an ionic switch. Perhaps the coolest one though is the airflow dial which allows you to control the amount you’re using by scrolling up or down with your finger.

The One You Can Use for a Lifetime

Elchim Classic 2001 Dryer

It’s not the lightest option (2.6 pounds), but the mom of Rio Viera-Newton, Strategist’s beauty writer, likes this one because it gets the job done and it has a lifetime warranty.

The Italian One

Parlux Parlux Eco Friendly 3800 Dryer

It’s not super popular stateside, but I see Parlux very often backstage during Fashion Week. Although the Dyson and Harry Josh dryers are both loved, this is a slightly cheaper alternative that’s super-light, compact, and durable. Plus since it’s made in Italy, it will work across countries and won’t short out (you just need the right converter). The Strategist reported the same, with hairstylist Rubi Jones praising it for these qualities: it has “2,100 watts for speedier blowouts; a nozzle that is small and narrow, so it’s easier to direct the air, helps dry hair faster, smooths hair more easily, and reduces frizz; and multiple heat and airflow settings, including a cool shot setting for helping ‘set’ a style.”

Parlux 3200 Ceramic Ionic Hair Dryer

Another version from Parlux, Strategist reported that this one is loved by one of Paris’s most famous hairstylist, David Mallett for being virtually indestructible, light, and able to give smooth blowouts or French girl hair.

The One That Weirdly Works

Paul Mitchell Neuro Grip Ergonomic Hair Dryer

To hold this one-pound, handle-less dryer you actually grip the barrel itself. Don’t worry though, a protective rubber coating keeps it from getting too hot to touch. It does take some getting used to, but once you adjust, the control you achieve is a godsend for taming unruly roots. After going to bed with wet hair (including four inches of root regrowth from my last keratin treatment), I woke up with a curly, frizzy crown that would normally require the attention of a flat iron.

This compact dryer, however, allowed me to direct the heat (there are three temperature and three airflow settings) directly on my damp scalp for instant smoothing that didn’t call for any further hot tool use. Also, this one has an accessible on/off switch, which may sound trivial, but should not be taken for granted. Others I tested were awkwardly placed and not intuitive to click back and forth between sections.

The Travel-Friendly One

DRYBAR Baby Buttercup Travel Blow-Dryer

Sephora and Ulta reviewers love this dryer because it’s foldable, making it perfect for travel. Even though it’s small and lacks a temperature setting, it doesn’t get super hot, won’t dry your hair, and isn’t very loud. It’s also bright yellow, if you like that sort of thing.

The Fairly Priced One

GHD Air Professional Performance Hairdryer

This one is light, but well-constructed with a high-powered motor, two nozzles, and an adapter to attach a diffuser. I wouldn’t call it quiet, but it’s definitely less noisy than blow-dryers of the past. I found my hair was smooth and straight, eliminating frizz but not forfeiting volume. For the quality and results, I’d say it’s a fair price tag.

The Underdog One

BIO IONIC Online Only 10X Pro Ultralight Speed Dryer

Perhaps it doesn’t get as much press as the Dyson or Harry Josh, but this one also weighs less than a pound, and gives you a frizz-less, easy blowout very quickly. Senior editor Ashley Weatherford swears by this one over the others (it’s slightly cheaper as well).

The Gisele-Loved One

Harry Josh® Pro Tools Ultra Light Pro Dryer

Celebrity hairstylist Harry Josh’s line of mint-green pro tools has a cult-following as big as Harry Josh himself (think Gisele and Karlie Kloss). The newest version of his dryer has been upgraded to work faster (drying hair up to 94 miles per hour), feel lighter (it weighs less than a pound), and be quieter (you’ll be able to hear your playlist if you wish). With 12 heat levels and speeds to choose from, along with what they call “double ion technology,” this dryer works efficiently on all hair types. The ionic feature is meant to smooth away frizz, however, if you’re battling fine flat hair, you can click it off if for more volume. On the downside, mine gave off a smoky, fire-like smell the first few times I tried it.

The Upgraded One

T3 Micro Cura Luxe Hair Dryer

I’ve been a long-time fan of T3, and the Cura provided a chic upgrade to an older T3 dryer I’ve been using for many years. It comes equipped with a diffuser, two nozzle options, five heat settings, and two speed settings. When I used it on both wet and dry hair on the hottest heat and strongest air flow, it took about 20 minutes to dry my hair and about ten minutes to create a bouncy, frizz-free dry style. My only issue: all switch buttons (the power, heat, and speed) are located on the front of the dryer so I found it awkward to click back and forth between drying sections of my hair.

The Investment One

Photo: Courtesy of the vendors
DYSON Supersonic Hair Dryer

Yes, this dryer is expensive, but here’s why it’s worth it, if you want to spend that much. First, if you’re not one to frequent blow-dry bars and prefer a DIY style at-home, this tool will completely dry your head three times as fast. If you are a regular salon goer, this machine will pay for itself after ten blowouts. With my usual dryer, it takes me 30 minutes to dry my hair from start to finish, with the Dyson, I’m done in ten — and it looked good, too. My hair appeared glossy and smooth, and my frizz-prone roots looked as if they had been run over with a flat iron.

The dryer is powerful yet quiet, and remains cool to the touch courtesy of what the company calls, “heat shield technology.” Even on the hottest power setting, I never burned my scalp. I found myself reaching for this one again and again throughout the testing process. It also has magnetic attachments and sleek carrying case for travel. Dyson has successfully turned a dreadful chore into a task I don’t mind doing.

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The 13 Best Hair Dryers