On the face of it, all hairdryers are equal and pretty straightforward - a fan inside pushes cool air towards a heating element, then blows hot air out through the nozzle in order to dry your lovely locks.
Simple and yet… do you know what makes some hairdryers more suitable for certain hair types and styling needs than others? Do you know your ionic from your tourmaline from your titanium? And does it matter if you don’t?
Simon Bryer, international style director and co-founder of Hairfix, says, “Whilst I don’t endorse individual brands I do want to bang a drum for quality hairdryers. Why? Because a high quality model that's suited to your hair type can significantly improve the health of your hair. The right dryer will decrease your chances of ending up with brittle, fried and frazzled hair.”
That doesn’t mean that you need to spend a fortune but you do need to have an idea of what different types of dryer bring to the party so that you can choose the one that’s right for you. The key things to focus on are the material used inside, wattage, weight, and extra features that might make blow-drying your hair easier.
I just set my hairdryer to max and aim it at my hair, right?
Wrong! Heat should be varied according to your hair type and how wet it is. If you have thick or coarse hair or want to quickly remove excess moisture from very wet hair, you’ll need high heat BUT you must keep that high heat moving and avoid focusing in one area so that you don’t over-dry or burn your hair.
If, on the other hand, you have thin or fragile hair or you’re drying damp (as opposed to wet) hair, you’ll need to use a lower, cooler setting. And we all need cool air towards the end of blow-drying to seal the hair cuticle, set our style for long-lasting hold and to add shine.
Any old ion, any old ion…
“You should check the spec for your dryer because wet hair needs negative ions," adds Simon. "Wet hair is loaded with positive ions and negative ions ensure that the surface water comes away from the cuticle more easily and the remaining moisture is ‘locked’ into the hair. Your hair will feel drier faster but with lots of lovely moisture within and a shiny surface on the outside.”
All heat is equal, isn't it?
“You’d think so, wouldn’t you? This is where we begin to get a little more technical as some heat is kinder and some is quicker. It's all a question of what material is used to coat the heating element," says Simon.
Look for an ionic or tourmaline dryer if you have thick, frizzy hair or difficult to dry hair. Both types create negative ions that help break up the positively charged water droplets on your hair for faster drying and to combat frizz.
Tourmaline is a semi-precious mineral that provides the most intense ionic action. Tourmaline dryers are more expensive than regular ionic dryers but a good investment if you’re after a faster, shinier, less frizzy finish.
If you have fine or thin hair, ionic dryers aren’t for you as they’re not as good at building volume as other types.
Ceramic or porcelain dryers are good for fine or dry hair that dehydrates easily – and a safe bet for most hair types. They use infrared heat that’s efficient, gentle and evenly distributed. They also use negative ions to prevent frizz and allow you to dry your hair more quickly.
Titanium coating is similar to ceramic (but lighter) and used to distribute heat evenly. This is due to titanium's ability to maintain a high, constant temperature, which also means faster drying and less damage to hair.
What's it with speed, watts and whatnot?
A high-wattage motor means greater wind power and less heat damage. A wattage in the range of 1300 to 1875 should do you well for home use.
You do need to adjust heat levels according to your hair texture, condition and the time you have in which to blow dry it. So, make sure you have a few speed and heat options and preferably a cool shot button to protect you from overheating your hair (start using this or a cool temperature setting when your hair’s about 80% dry), seal the hair cuticles for a smoother, shinier look, and to lock in your style and curl.
Weighing it all up...
Ah, yes! Don’t forget to look at factors such as the weight of a dryer, its ergonomics, how long its cord is, whether the buttons are logically placed before you buy. Product reviews from users are invaluable here – as is the advice of your hairdresser.
The bottom line is that you don’t need to spend a fortune but do take care to buy a safe dryer from a reputable brand,
Simon says, “I’m a fan of tourmaline and ionic dryers. They aren’t always expensive, and checking what the dryer you’re buying is made from and whether it suits your hair type won’t cost you a thing but could save your hair.”