Hair Dryers
Photo by Adam Winger on Unsplash

HAIR IS A fun and annoying thing. You can cut it, dye it, straighten it, curl it, or let it sit in a knot for days on end. When you want to get a polished look or just need to dry your hair quickly, you may consider a blow-dryer.

Even if you don’t use it every day, it’s good to have one on hand for certain situations—like when you’re rushing to work straight out of the shower, your finicky curls need to be tamed, or you crave smooth, glossy locks. Whatever the reason, there’s an infinite number of hair dryers out there in every price range and from a dizzying array of brands. If you have easy-to-manage hair that just needs to dry faster, you can probably go with any cheap dryer you find at your local CVS. But some of us have more temperamental hair that needs specific care. We’ve tried standard blow-dryers, blow-dry brushes, and diffusers to find the best. These are our favorites.

Be sure to check out our guides on the Best Hair Straighteners and the Best Creams and Tools for Removing Hair, and reviews of other fun beauty gadgets like the Therabody TheraFace Pro.

Updated December 2022: We’ve added the Volo Go Cordless Dryer, Shark’s FlexStyle, the newest version of the RevAir, Panasonic’s Nanoe travel version, and a few other upgrades and honorable mentions.

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Best for Most People

Hairitage Comin’ In Hot Dryer

You don’t have to spend a lot to get a great hair dryer. Hairitage’s Comin’ In Hot Hair Dryer is compact, light, and less than $40. For most people who need a basic dryer, this will be fine, and the gray and rose-gold design is pretty, with an almost velvety-soft coating. The brand now also has its own diffuser, something we noted it was lacking previously. There’s also a comb attachment for stretching hair as you dry.

The Hairitage Comin’ In Hot Dryer has two speeds, three heat settings, a cold shot button, and it uses ions.

The Mother of All Dryers

RevAir Reverse-Air Dryer (2022)

The RevAir is the only thing to dramatically cut down on styling time—and damage—when I want to wear my curls straight. I’ve been obsessed with the RevAir since trying it in 2021, and the 2022 updated version is smaller and lighter than the original, but it’s more expensive and still a large device you’ll need to store.

After sectioning your wet or damp hair, you feed each section into the wand, like a vacuum, and the device dries and straightens in one step. Tiny openings at the tip of the wand direct air out to dry your scalp, while the rest of your hair is dried with air going down, so you don’t get frizzy. Crazy, I know, but it works. Wet curls went in and dry straight hair came out in around 30 seconds. I still had to use a flat iron to smooth my hair, because its natural state is a puff, but I used the RevAir on a friend whose curls are soft, fine, and down to her hips. She didn’t have to use a flat iron at all.

The RevAir has seven speeds/tensions and two temperature settings, plus a cold setting.

A Surprisingly Nice Cordless Dryer

Volo Go Cordless Dryer

I was far more impressed by this dryer than I thought I would be. On the surface, it doesn’t seem like it would work for most people: It has just one speed setting, and its heat settings are Cold, Full Heat (172 degrees Fahrenheit), or Smart, which automatically adjusts the heat as your hair dries. It also doesn’t have a diffuser and it’s very expensive. But alas, it became one of my favorites.

I’ve never been able to dry my hair in its natural state without a diffuser, unless I’m planning on going through it with a flat iron later. I thought the Volo would destroy my curls, but it didn’t. The speed was just enough to dry the hair, but it doesn’t blow it all over the place, so curls are left intact—some diffusers do more harm than this did. Likewise, it’s hot enough to dry the hair, but doesn’t burn your flesh as it flashes across your face. Being cordless is nice, but it weighs around 2.8 pounds, and that starts to feel heavy quickly. The battery lasts roughly 25 minutes or so, which is usually not enough time for my hair to be completely dry. On a normal day, I only dry it halfway and plop my curls before or after (occasionally using Volo’s own air towel), but that could be a dealbreaker for some.

The Volo Go Cordless Dryer has one speed, and two heat settings, plus cold.

$450 AT VOLO

Most Unique Attachments

Shark HyperAir Blow Dryer
The vacuum brand Shark swept into hair care with this dryer, and I’m impressed. The powerful HyperAir comes with a brush attachment to turn it into a blow-dry brush. You rotate the attachment with a button on top for better positioning, which is a lot easier than trying to blow your hair out with a separate brush and dryer. The nozzle of the air concentrator can expand or shrink depending on how you’re styling—a lot of dryers come with two, so it’s nice that this is a two-in-one. You can also shorten or lengthen the diffuser prongs, depending on your hair length and whether you want to dry the roots.
If you want all the attachments you’ll have to spend an additional $20. Otherwise, you’ll get the concentrator and brush, or concentrator and diffuser. The Premium bundle also includes an AirWave that I didn’t try, which helps you make beach waves. If you buy one and realize later you need an attachment it didn’t come with, you can get them separately.
The Shark HyperAir Dryer has three speeds, three heat settings plus a cold shot button, and uses ions.

For Blowouts or Travel

Paul Mitchell Neuro Grip Hair Dryer
It feels incredibly wrong to hold a hair dryer with no handle, but I got used to it. About halfway through drying my hair, I realized the Neuro Grip would be perfect for anyone who does blowouts the old-school way with a round brush and a separate dryer. Blowouts aren’t my forte, but it’s a lot more comfortable to hold the Neuro Grip at the necessary angles than a handled dryer. It’s also great for traveling, because it takes up significantly less space and comes with a collapsible diffuser. Paul Mitchell flat irons have been a favorite of mine since I first used one in 2012.

The Paul Mitchell Neuro Grip has three speeds and three heat settings, plus a cold setting.

★ Alternative: Panasonic’s full-size Nanoe dryer is in our honorable mentions, and recently the brand released a compact version ($100) that’s great if you travel or have minimal space in your bathroom. When you’re not using it, the handle folds in. It has the same oscillating quick-dry nozzle that moves back and forth in the same motion you might do with your hand while drying.

$145 AT AMAZON

If You Prefer Less Heat

Zuvi Halo Hair Dryer
The Zuvi Halo Hair Dryer is expensive, but it works really well, drying hair quickly with way less heat than you’d expect. It does this by using infrared heat rather than convective heat, meaning it can dry your hair without making the entire room burn up to oven-like conditions. Zuvi says it heats just the outside of your hair instead of frying it deep to its core, which is difficult to test. That said, this dried my hair quicker and with lower heat than other models.
The Halo comes with a standard air concentrator and diffuser attachment, but it includes a unique gentle air attachment that helps output even softer and cooler air.
The Zuvi Halo Dryer has four settings that combine heat and speed, plus a cold shot by holding down the mode button.

For Voluminous Curls

DevaDryer with DevaFuser
As the brand name suggests, DevaCurl focuses only on curl products. The company settled a class-action suit after its shampoos and conditioners caused hair to fall out, so it can be disconcerting to trust the brand, but I’ve tried and like its hair dryer and diffuser. (These were also recommended to me by many curly Sues.)

The dryer is light and easy to maneuver, but the star of the show is its diffuser. Most diffusers are designed the same way: circular, with little nubs to help lift your curls. But the DevaFuser looks like a big green hand. It mimics the effects of hand scrunching, carefully cradles the ends of your curls, and can get right into the roots to create volume and definition. Any diffuser will work, but if you haven’t liked the outcome of traditional ones in the past, you may want to give this one a go.

Also Read  42 Editor-Approved Items You Need From Target

 Alternate Option: If you have a dryer you like or want to save some money, DevaCurl sells a universal version of its diffuser ($55), which should fit most standard dryer barrels. You should check your hair dryer’s measurements against DevaCurl’s website, but if it doesn’t fit, the company offers returns within 60 days.

The DevaDryer has two speeds, three heat settings plus a cold shot button, and uses ions.

A Complete Hairstyling Tool

Shark FlexStyle Drying & Styling System
If you’re intrigued by Shark’s hair dryer, but also want a curling iron and a blow dry brush, go with the brand’s FlexStyle. It’s a direct dupe of the Dyson Airwrap for significantly less cash. I think it even outshines Dyson because it’s actually a full-fledged hair dryer with attachments, plus curling barrels and hot brushes. With the Airwrap, the dryer attachment is almost an afterthought—it’s for people who don’t have curls that are always fighting frizz.

Like Shark’s standalone dryer, there are bundles for straight or curly hair, plus a build-your-own option for $250.

★ Alternative: Absolutely set on going with the Airwrap (8/10, WIRED Recommends)? It was updated this year with slightly redesigned attachments. The primary attraction is the curling wands, but there are three different types of hot brushes for blowouts too.

If You’re a Dyson Loyalist

Dyson Supersonic
Dyson has made a thriving business by turning ordinary household products into premium consumer goods, including the compact Supersonic Dryer (8/10, WIRED Recommends). It uses the same technology as the company’s bladeless fans. The speed and heat settings are on the back of the barrel, so you won’t accidentally hit them when you’re styling. Plus, there’s one more speed setting than with most of the above options. The Supersonic has what the company calls intelligent heat control that measures the temperature 40 times a second to prevent extreme damage. (This technology is also in its straightener at 100 times a second.)

It has a nice diffuser and two air concentrators that attach to the barrel magnetically. But like all Dyson products, it comes at a high price. It’s not much more than the RevAir though, and the one perk it has over it is its size—the Supersonic takes up a lot less space.

The Dyson Supersonic has three speeds, three heat settings plus a cold shot button, and uses ions.

★ Alternative: If you love the design of the Supersonic, but just don’t want to spend that much money, the Laifen Swift Hair Dryer ($200) is similarly shaped. It’s simply not as nice, but I did enjoy using it.

The Lightest, Thinnest Dryers We Tried

Upgrades Worth Considering
From the time the first hair dryer was introduced for home use in the 1920s, every one looked nearly identical until Dyson debuted its Supersonic dryer in 2016, which matched the design of its bladeless fans. Now, several companies are adapting their drying tech into the lightest, thinnest package possible, looking more like a heat gun than a hair dryer (I guess these are a type of heat gun, technically).

I’ve used these three. They’re each less than a pound, relatively quiet, and have self-cleaning functions—you take the filter cover off the back and activate cleaning mode; the dryers shoot air in reverse to push dust and debris out. While each one stands out on its own, I wish I could combine all three for one perfect dryer.

Chi Lava Pro for $337: This one is slightly lighter than the other two. It has an LED screen indicating the exact temperature, which is a nice but rare feature, and there are four heat settings from cool to 250 degrees Fahrenheit. The big flaw, however, is that far too much air comes through the diffuser, blowing hair around more than should happen with that attachment.

Gama IQ2 Perfetto for $430: The Gama dryer is sleek and includes a safety feature to automatically turn off should it overheat (it did not do this in testing, thankfully). There’s a setting lock so you can dry your hair without accidentally changing the speed or heat. Plus, it comes with a silicone mat that puts the dryer into standby mode automatically when you place it down, turning back on when you pick it up. This is really helpful if you’re sectioning off hair for a blowout, and frequently have to put the dryer down. But it’s expensive and the magnetic filter cover constantly falls off.

Bio Ionic Smart-X High-Efficiency Dryer for $329: This Bio Ionic also has a settings lock, which I now believe should be on every styling tool. I prefer the look of this one the best, however, it doesn’t come with a diffuser, which I think should be standard at this price point.

More Great Blow-Dryers 

Honorable Mentions
There are simply too many hair dryers out there. Here are a few more we’ve tried and like.

T3 Aireluxe for $200: Oh how I love this dryer. It’s constructed out of plastic, but that makes it so light and effortless to use. There are five heat and three speed settings. I just wish it came with a diffuser.

Kosa The Triple Threat Blow Dryer for $159: This hair dryer is basic, but it’s the one I reached for often when I needed my hair to go from soaking wet to completely dry. It’s light and compact, similar to the Hairitage, which made those longer sessions easier to handle. The diffuser is nice and big too, and it comes with two air concentrators. (I also really like the pink color.) I just think it’s expensive for what it is. Kosa’s hair straightener is similarly good but pricey.

Bed Head Curls in Check Diffuser Hair Dryer for $25: Everything about the Bed Head brand screams ’90s in the best way, including the design of this hair dryer. It’s cheap and works nicely to dry curls without disrupting their pattern. It’s super light and thin, and at 4 inches wide, the mouth of the dryer is larger than any I’ve seen. However, I wish there was a medium speed setting, because the low setting is too low, and high can cause frizz in some hair, even with the diffuser.

Also Read  Shop the 10 Best Hair Tools on Amazon

Panasonic Nanoe Hair Dryer for $160: This dryer comes with a few attachments, including an oscillating quick-dry nozzle that rapidly moves side to side as you dry, mimicking the back and forth motion you might make with your hand. The low setting was too low for me, and the high was too much for my hair. But if you don’t use the diffuser, I like the oscillating nozzle a lot. Panasonic also claims the dryer uses electrostatic shock to disperse water molecules into tinier nano-sized particles, which might reduce damage.

InfinitiPro by Conair Hair Dryer for $40: This is a great budget option if you don’t use a dryer every day. Its low setting is higher than the two mentioned above, so it will work faster on frizz-prone curls.

If You Need a Quick Blow-Out

Honorable Mentions
We love the Shark FlexStyle mentioned above, which includes hot brushes for blowouts, but you can spend less and still get a solid machine.

T3 Airebrush Duo for $190: T3 hair products work well (I love its flat iron) and are typically pretty lightweight, making them easy to use. This set comes with round and paddle-brush attachments to get whatever look you’re trying to achieve. It’s more expensive than the Hot Tools option below that can also be interchanged, but it does have more heat (five versus one) and speed (three versus two) settings.

Drybar Double Shot Blow Dryer Brush for $155: WIRED editor Adrienne So says the Drybar Double Shot is nicer than the Revlon One-Step, because it made her hair smoother and straighter. However, it’s nearly $100 more and took more time to dry, because the air-flow openings are smaller. She says you can get a good-enough hairstyle in 10 minutes with the Revlon, or get a really nice one in 30 minutes with the Drybar. It also comes in a smaller version ($155).

Hot Tools Signature Series One Step Blowout for $70: This blow-dry brush has a detachable head for swapping out brushes if you use multiple (sold separately), or for easy storing or traveling. WIRED editor Adrienne So says it did a pretty good job in 10 minutes, but not as good as the Revlon or Drybar, so it requires a little more time and finesse.

What About Revlon?

Revlon One-Step Volumizer Hair Dryer

The Revlon One-Step is immensely popular for being an affordable and capable blow-dry brush, and we previously recommended it. In testing, WIRED associate reviews editor Adrienne So used this on her thick, wavy hair and was able to get it dry and smooth in just 10 minutes. “I really didn’t think the Revlon could blow-dry it in 10 minutes, and it could,” she says. “I see why people think it’s a miracle.”

But unfortunately, this cult favorite has been reportedly overheating, sparking, and in some cases, catching fire. A WIRED UK employee said her barely-used One-Step started smoking before completely dying. There was a UK recall in 2020 stating that the “resistance of the mains cable is too high. Consequently the power cord might overheat during use.”  One US-based staffer says hers sometimes smells like it’s burning. We reached out to the brand, but as of this writing have not heard anything. For now, we think it’s best to go with one of our other suggestions.

The Best Dryer Accessories

To Pair With Your Hot Tools
A good hair dryer can’t always stand alone. You might need a few other accessories.

Get a diffuser if your dryer doesn’t come with one. The Rizos Curls Travel Diffuser ($20) is affordable and compact, and does the job. It folds into itself, so you can easily store it or pack it in a bag. It also fits most dryers, because it can be attached in two ways: Slip it over a standard, long and thin barrel as is, or fold the attachment part inward to create an opening to grip onto wider barrels, like on the Hairitage dryer. It won’t fit super-wide dryers like the Dyson or the Tineco, but those come with their own.

Get a quality hair towel to avoid frizz and breakage. A plain old cotton T-shirt works too, but you probably want something nicer. I’ve been rotating two in my routine: The Aquis Microfiber Hair Towel ($25) is extra large to fit even the longest hair and has held up for several years. I also love TO112’s Bamboo Wrap ($39). It’s super soft and has a button and loop to keep it secure. Bamboo is also better for the environment than microfiber, which is made from plastic.

Use a heat protectant. You can use sprays before you start drying to keep your hair safe. Chi’s 44 Iron Guard Thermal Protection ($12) comes highly recommended. Moroccanoil also makes solid products, but they cost a bit more.

A Glossary of Hair Dryer Terms

Before You Buy

Air Concentrator: Most dryers come with diffusers and concentrators. The latter directs air only to where you’re pointing it, so your hair doesn’t blow all over the place if you’re using a brush. This also works well for drying bangs. If you have curly hair, opt for a diffuser instead.

Diffuser: Diffusers disperse the air around your curls so it doesn’t disrupt the natural curl patterns and cause frizz. If you’ve ever used a blow-dryer on curly or wavy hair without one, you know the mess it causes. A diffuser is best for curls, but if you have frizz-prone hair of any type, it might make a difference in your styling.

Cool Shot Button: Blasting cold air after you heat dry can help set a style in place and reduce frizz. Most hair dryers have either a cool setting and/or a cool shot button that’s even colder. The stand-alone button is for ending each section with cold air without having to change the settings back once you move on to another section.

Speed and Heat Settings: These settings control the rate at which air is blown out of the dryer and the temperature of the air, in addition to the separate cold button. We prefer hair dryers with more options.

Do You Need an Ionizing Dryer?

Do They Really Work?
When looking into hot hair tools, you’ll see a lot of mentions of negative ions. As we explain in our hair straightener guide, it’s not just advertising mumbo jumbo. Negative ions help reduce frizz and increase shine.

Abra McField, founder of Abra Kadabra Hair and Healing, explains that ionic dryers reduce the water’s surface tension and help break up water droplets. This reduces tangles, helps close the cuticle on the outside layer of your hair strand, and makes drying quicker and easier. “This requires less heat, less time, and less effort,” McField says. Less heat equals less damage.

McField said those with finer hair who want to up the volume might not like ionic dryers and should look for one with a switch that can turn the ions on or off. Most of the models we tried use ions, but none have the option to turn them off. If you are looking to achieve maximum volume, try one of the blow-dry brushes instead.

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