The Best Hair Dryers For Quick And Easy Styling, Based On Rigorous Testing
The best hair dryers work quickly without damaging hair, and leave it smoother, shinier and more voluminous than air drying ever could. They’re so quiet you can switch them on and still hear your favorite podcast, and they’re light enough that they don’t tire out your arm during use. After testing for these factors as well as temperature, speed settings and ease of use, I found the T3 AireLuxe to be the best overall for its higher-than-average number of settings and its simple but effective design. The BaBylissPro Nano Titanium Hair Dryer is my top value pick because of its excellent performance and quality at a solid price point. (Read my in-depth reviews of the T3 and BaBylissPro models here.)
To find the winners, I tried 10 best-selling models and interviewed professional stylists. All of these picks are built to stand up to everyday wear and tear—like getting tossed in the bathroom cabinet, packed in a suitcase or accidentally dropped. The best blow dryer is worth the investment to avoid damaging your hair (especially when paired with a heat protectant), while a poorly designed one blasts hot, dry air.
Think back to the last hotel hair dryer you used; you wouldn’t want to rely on it for everyday. By comparison, a high-quality model has at least three heat settings so that you can opt for the coolest effective one, plus technology that helps lock in moisture. Thankfully, you don’t have to buy one of the most expensive blow dryers to get great results—not by a long (cold) shot. The best value option is budget-friendly, yet has all the essential features to deliver smooth, shiny, healthy hair.
These are the top hair dryers according to my testing:
I’m a veteran lifestyle journalist who’s been covering hair tools, among other topics, for over a decade for outlets like Elle, O, The Oprah Magazine and Martha Stewart Living. I’ve had my hair every color and length, and I’ve gotten spiral perms twice (including once when I had baby bangs).
To report this story, I interviewed beauty pros who pay serious attention to hair tools and the technology that goes into them. I spoke to self-professed “gear head” Tatum Neill, creative director of Aveda Arts & Sciences Institutes, where many of the nation’s top hairstylists train; Becca Raziuddin, director of artist education for Blo Blow Dry Bar (aka the person in charge of choosing the one blow dryer used by the chain’s thousands of stylists); and Quia Querisma, a texture specialist who can be booked on Swivel Beauty, a platform specializing in finding Black hairstylists. I also consulted my family’s expert hairstylist, Lola Doward of The Lola Look, who regularly works for TV and film actors including Kristen Wiig and Kristin Chenoweth. Doward tested out my favorites in her salon on real clients (more on that below) and provided feedback on the winners.
I also read dozens of reviews across major beauty retailers to get real shoppers’ feedback on the models that celebrity hairstylists and lifestyle magazines regularly recommend.
How I Tested The Best Hair Dryers
I evaluated hair dryers based on several criteria. I used each dryer two to three times on my own hair, testing all of the settings and many of the attachments. The first time around, I let my hair air dry by about 80%, then I finished it with the blow dryer (this is how I usually style it). For the second round, I used the hair dryer to rough dry my fresh-from-the-shower hair and smooth it out. I clocked each session to gauge the model’s efficiency, then assessed my hair’s shine, smoothness and volume, noting any significant benefits or shortcomings. (My fine, straight lobbed hair wouldn’t tell you much about a diffuser’s effectiveness; however, read on for how Doward tested these dryers and their attachments on different hair types.)
In addition to checking on my hair, I wanted to test for some objective features. A great one should have multiple temperature settings so that you can choose the lowest effective one for your hair, and be powerful enough to dry your hair reasonably quickly, although of course that depends on your length and texture. I noted each model’s wattage and number of temperature and speed options as well as the locations of the controls. (Pro stylists prefer having all the buttons on the side of the handle, where you’re less likely to press them accidentally; few actually have this design, though. I found the next best thing to be having them all on the back.)
I tried out special features like volume-boosting modes. I checked sound levels using the Decibel X app on my iPhone, holding each dryer the same distance away from my phone while turned on. I also weighed dryers and noted if they made my hand feel tired during use; I had just had a baby and was experiencing serious carpal tunnel symptoms, so I was extra sensitive to this factor. For a durability test, I also dropped each hair dryer on my porcelain sink to check how it held up to potential wear and tear.
Finally, I shared my four top contenders with Doward, to test on my family as well as clients in her New York City salon to see how the dryers worked on different hair types. Doward started making housecalls during the pandemic to cut the entire family’s hair: We run the gamut from thick and curly to fine and color-processed to unadulterated toddler hair. At her salon, Doward sees clients of varied hair types regularly, and she specializes in adding and styling extensions.
Best Hair Dryer Overall
A Salon-Quality Dryer That’s Super Easy To Use On All Hair Types
Lightweight, quiet, durable and attractive enough to leave out on display, the T3 Airluxe is our pick for the best hair dryer overall. It has features that rival those of models costing significantly ($100-plus) more, and it bests them for functionality. This blow dryer has the highest number of temperature settings—five versus the typical three so that you can fine-tune it to your hair’s texture—and its two included concentrator nozzles come with the clearest how-to instructions I’ve ever seen. (A diffuser and styling comb can be purchased separately.) All of this makes achieving smooth, shiny hair the easiest to do with this model.
Plus, it has the technology that truly counts, according to the pros: negative ions for smoothness and a ceramic coating to spread heat evenly across hair. According to Raziuddin, this T3 model is “a professional hairdryer for half the cost.” I found that assessment to be true in my experience.
After using this model, my hair looked as if I’d just gotten it cut. Tellingly, I didn’t feel a need to add a wave to my hair with a curling iron or smooth it more with a straightener the way I sometimes do after I dry it myself. It looked finished and polished thanks to the nice bend I was able to get at the ends using the concentrator. (When I’m home, I use a Dyson Airwrap; the last time I used a regular blow dryer before this assignment was at a hotel.) So many of us add extra heat to style our hair by using a curler or flat iron afterward; do it every day, and the damage can add up. This dryer might be the only tool you need.
Doward also notes that it’s lightweight (at 17.01 ounces, it’s just over a pound—not the lightest we tested, but lighter than the majority, which ranges from 1.5 pounds to just over 2 pounds) and leaves hair smooth, saying its slimmer nozzle than most gives the user great control. I found the volume boost and cool shot to be effective and ergonomic to use, and I liked the handy Velcro cord keeper for neatly bundling the dryer in my cabinet. Other practical benefits include great durability (it passed my drop test without losing its filter cover or getting scratched) and up to three years of warranty coverage.
The matte black and chrome or white and rose gold finishes also made it feel like a luxury to use. That’s not necessary, of course, but I do like for my beauty products to look beautiful.
The only drawback? I wish the concentrator nozzles snapped on and off a little more easily. I prefer when attachments slide over the nozzle of the hair dryer rather than fastening into it; it can be difficult to remove or exchange them when they’re hot. The Dyson, with its magnetic attachments, definitely has an advantage here, but in my book it’s not worth spending an extra $200 for that, especially if you don’t blow dry your hair every single day.
I’ve had this hair dryer on hand for nearly six months now, and it’s still the model I reach for first. I love how lightweight and fast it is. As a new mom, I’ve got tired wrists and very little time. When I style my hair, this blow dryer makes it quick and painless, and gives me results that can keep up for three or so days, even with my fine, slightly oily hair. It’s also so quiet that it doesn’t wake anybody up, which I appreciate now more than ever before.
There are a few pros I didn’t fully appreciate before: The shorter than average nozzle makes it easy to dry the back of my head, and there’s something about the angled handle that helps, too. It also still looks brand new despite being knocked about in our cabinet this whole time; there’s not a scratch or worn area on it. And I actually love the size of the plug. It’s smaller than any other model I tested, and it allows me to easily have two things plugged into the same outlet at one time.
Only one potential con has surfaced: I find that my index finger tends to creep up on the handle and accidentally hit the cool shot button. I notice the temperature change and see that the cool shot button is lit up, then I need to press the button again to turn it off and wait for the temperature to warm back up. This takes mere seconds, but it’s a design detail that isn’t quite perfect.
Best Value Hair Dryer
An Under-$100 Blow Dryer Equipped With Everything You Need
You can’t buy a better hair dryer for under $100 than this BaBylissPro. It has a higher wattage—2,000 compared with 1,875—than many of its peers, even ones that cost much more, which translates to more power. All the settings you really need are included: three temperature and two speed settings to tailor your blowout to your hair type and style. It gives you sleek results: It emits negative ions to smooth hair, and it comes with a super simple concentrator to focus the airflow and iron out even further. The toggle switch controls are easy to use and change with a sturdy, satisfying click—you won’t accidentally wind up on Lo power when you want Hi—and it stood up to my drop test without a crack or scratch. It was one of the lightest and quietest models I tried out, to boot.
About that concentrator: I love how it fits over the nozzle. That makes it much easier to put on or take off with one hand—and without burning your fingers—while styling your hair. The only feature I didn’t like was the cool shot, which you have to hold down continuously to get that blast of cold air to “freeze” any shape or volume you’ve just created. But I consider that a minor flaw, not a dealbreaker.
Doward told me that BaBylissPro is her go-to at the salon, and she ranked this one as her top pick. “It’s great for all hair types,” she says. “It’s very powerful and cuts the blow dry [time] in half.” The three temperature options also let you choose the lowest one for your hair, so you can avoid damage from frequent styling. She noted that its extra-long nozzle makes it great for people who have short hair; it makes it easier to reach around the back.
The only thing she would change? The location of the cool shot. But that’s not a problem unique to the BaBylissPro: “That seems to be the problem with all of them,” she said.
Six months later, this BaBylissPro dryer continues to give me sleek, shiny hair fast. I still love its concentrator that slides over the nozzle rather than snapping onto it, and how quiet and lightweight it is. Its toggle switches are very user-friendly; I don’t find myself sliding into cool shot mode by accident with this hair dryer. The only complaint I have is that the blue finish has started to chip off in some areas. I’ve kept it in a wire basket in my bathroom, so this isn’t a surprise, but it hasn’t affected the pricier options on our list. If aesthetics matters to you, you might want to invest in one with a more durable coating, like our top pick, the T3 AirLuxe, or our best luxury hair dryer, the Dyson Supersonic.
Best Luxury Hair Dryer
A Worth-It Upgrade For Frequent Home Hair Styling
Let’s get this out of the way: Dyson’s hair dryer, like all of its home and beauty tools, is much more expensive than the competition. You don’t need to spend this much to get a good blow dry at home or to keep your hair healthy. All of the dryers I tested did the job in around 10 minutes and left my hair looking pretty smooth, with only a few exceptions (see below).
However, it is a joy to use and a pleasure to look at. The air comes out much more forcefully than it does from other hair dryers, which gives you more styling power, and it’s noticeably cooler too, which is healthier for your hair. Dyson’s unique magnetic attachments are genius because they are truly effortless to attach; they also just feel really satisfying to click into place. It’s very lightweight (weighing around 1 pound—not the absolute lightest in our testing but a solid runner-up), and the unusual design with the short barrel puts less strain on your arm. It dried my fine but plentiful hair slightly faster than the competition. It also comes in a beautiful leather train case that anybody would be happy to keep on their countertop.
The weight and speediness might merit the price tag for you. I originally purchased one of these for my mom a few years ago after she had a mini-stroke. She has super thick hair (looking at our hair and not our eyes, you’d never know we’re related), and I thought it might make it easier for her to style her hair while she was recovering. She’d tell you that it did. She did, however, go out and buy an Airwrap to make styling even easier for herself.
The only things that detract from its performance are the cord—it’s thicker and heavier than competitors’ so it can be bulky to store—and the heat output. While it applies a lower temp to your hair, the dryer itself does get hot to the touch at the top. Lola and I both noticed this in testing.
After testing the Dyson Supersonic for nearly six months, I still feel that its superior design and technology make it worth the upgrade. I get similar results with our best overall hair dryer, the T3 AireLuxe, and our best value hair dryer, the BaBylissPro Nano Titanium, but I love the experience of using the Dyson. The force of the air simply feels luxurious. You’ve had a similar experience anytime you use a Dyson hand dryer and compare it with any other hand dryer. If for some reason you haven’t, it’s like the difference between showering with an excellent, very forceful shower head and one with just so-so water pressure. It just feels great on your scalp.
I also continue to get a kick out of the way the attachments click on magnetically. It’s so much more effortless and satisfying than forcefully snapping a diffuser or concentrator onto the nozzle. If you’re someone who uses these attachments regularly, the Dyson is especially worth the investment. I only wish that the hair dryer and its cord were a bit lighter and less bulky. That’s honestly what keeps me from pulling it out more regularly.
Other Hair Dryers I Tested
I tested 10 products total, and 7 didn’t make the cut–although some could be a good option for certain users. Here are the rest of the models I tested.
Bio Ionic 10X Ultra Light Speed Dryer: As a fine-haired person who usually uses a cooler setting, I didn’t like that this dryer has only one setting. The concentrator also fell off halfway through use for me. It is very lightweight though–truly under 1 pound.
Drybar Reserve Ultralight Anti-Frizz Blow-Dryer: This one felt plastic-y to me. And though Lola really liked it for use in her salon, she thought it might get too hot for home use. I noticed that it did dry my hair a little faster than some others. On a positive note, it is lightweight and quiet, and it has a unique light-up display.
GHD Helios 1875W Advanced Professional Hair Dryer: I love GHD hair tools in general—I’ve had the same curling iron for 10-plus years now—but I didn’t love this dryer. It was heavy and loud compared with the others I tested.
Shark HyperAir: The attachments that come with this dryer actually feel like they belong on a vacuum. They’re not intuitive to use on your hair, and the device is heavy—the heaviest I tested, at 2 pounds without any attachments—and loud. It’s trying to be a more affordable Dyson dupe, but it’s not quite there yet.
Kristen Ess Iconic Style Professional Blow Dryer: I loved the Instagram-worthy white-and-rose-gold finish of this one for the price; it looks much more expensive than it is. The dealbreakers? It was one of the heaviest and loudest dryers I tested.
Conair Infinitypro SmoothWrap Hair Dryer: For me, this dryer yielded noticeably frizzy results, perhaps because it felt hotter. I would’ve needed to use another tool to finish styling my hair. Its coating also scratched easily in my testing, and I couldn’t find any information about a warranty. It was, however, among the quietest I tested, and it includes a diffuser and a concentrator
Remington Hair Dryer with Damage Protection Styler: This one gave off a noticeable chemical plastic burning smell when I used it the first time (yuck). When I did my drop test, the filter popped off immediately. It was very lightweight and quiet. I liked that it came with a concentrator and diffuser and had a hanging loop.
There were a few brands that I considered testing, but ultimately they weren’t a good fit. The Harry Josh Pro Dryer 2000 didn’t have enough distinguishing factors, aside from its gorgeous color, to recommend it. We decided that the Parlux Alyon, while recommended by all of our experts, is better suited to salon use rather than at home. It is, however, the only hair dryer we heard of that has a silencer attachment for completely noiseless styling.
How To Pick The Best Hair Dryer
Ultimately, the best hair dryer for you depends on several factors: how it’s built, the technology it contains, the way it feels in your hand—all of these matter. After all, you’re investing in a tool you’ll probably be using every day. It needs to perform well and hold up to wear and tear.
Wattage & Fan Speed
Wattage refers to electrical power and heat. As for how forceful the air is, it’s referred to using several different terms: wind velocity, air speed and fan speed. You’ll see the wattage listed on the package, but fan speed—which pros say matters more—is a bit more elusive. “Higher wattage means a hair dryer is a more powerful dryer,” says Querisma. You want power, but higher wattage and temperature isn’t necessarily better.
“If you have coarse or curly hair [which tends to be thicker], high wattage will help you get it dry faster,” says Raziuddin. That’s great because most of us want to dry our hair as quickly as possible and get on with our day (without damaging it, of course). “If you have finer or chemically treated hair, be sure to turn down the heat,” she says. Most hair dryers range between 1,800 and 2,000 watts; 1,875 is most common, but anywhere in that range is fine.
Fan speed, however, is more elusive, and it’s what “is going to make or break your drying time,” says Querisma. Most models aside from Dyson’s or Laifen’s (a pro brand like Parlux), which clock in at 110,000 rpms (rotations per minute) don’t tell you the fan speed, but you can feel how forcefully they propel the air. That helps literally blow moisture off the surface of your hair instead of heating and evaporating it.
Ionic & Ceramic
These buzzwords appear on practically every hair dryer package. Do they make a difference? Pros say yes: “Ionic is best for combating frizz and flyaways,” says Raziuddin. “It means that the blow dryer neutralizes positive ions that create frizz. A ceramic coating helps to distribute heat evenly for faster and healthier drying.”
I went looking for independent research explaining the benefits of negative ions for hairstyling and came up empty-handed. I even happened upon an online physics forum where scientists were trying to hash it out to no avail. Unfortunately, there’s not a solid basis for the benefits.
The basic idea, as I’ve come to understand it, is that negative ions neutralize the positive ions from static in your hair, making it look smoother. Smooth hair sheds water faster and looks healthier too.
Ceramic coatings spread out heat. This works the same way on hair dryers as it does on pots, pans and grill grates. Uncoated metal gets hot where you apply the heat, making hot spots (and burns or heat damage) more likely. A ceramic coating spreads heat out so it’s less concentrated in any one spot. That makes it more diffuse and gentler, and less likely to cause damage.
As for what to buy when it comes to ionic and ceramic features, “I think it’s best to have both,” says Raziuddin. She adds that many hair dryers tout technologies like “volcanic” or “infrared” capabilities that are really just different types of ionic technology.
Temperature & Speed Settings
Three levels for temperature and speed are optimal. This gives you options for styling your hair when it’s fully wet or air-dried, or when you want to achieve different textures.
“For speed, look for high, medium and low,” says Querisma, adding that a low setting is important when diffusing curly hair. For temperature, there should be high, medium and low, plus a cold shot.
You may not use the cold shot, but it is actually important. “You manipulate the hair with heat, but you actually set it with the cold shot. It is critical when creating volume in a blowout,” Querisma says. It’s also great for diffusing hair, according to Niell. Most devices have one, but the best hair dryers don’t require you to hold it down continuously to keep the air cold.
The attachments you may want will depend on your hair type. If you have straight hair, you’ve probably used a concentrator—it’s the narrow piece that fits over the end, concentrating the airflow. A diffuser is a wide, flat cone for drying curly hair to result in less frizz. A comb attachment lets you untangle and smooth curly or textured hair.
“Nearly all dryers come with concentrators, but because I work with a variety of texture types, I need my dryers to either include a diffuser and comb attachment or be compatible with universal models,” says Querisma. You can usually buy compatible attachments separately even for budget hair dryers, in case you lose yours.
The location and type of controls and the hair dryer’s weight determine whether it is comfortable in the hand and in use. After all, if you have really thick or long hair, you might be using and holding this tool for quite a while. For location of controls, our pros all agree that having them on the side of the handle is most convenient. “I prefer this so I don’t accidentally change them with my fingers when I’m working,” says Querisma.
“Switches are my personal favorite for ease and speed when changing settings,” she says. They’re easier to navigate with your fingers than buttons are, so you don’t have to stop and look to see which one you’re pressing, which can slow you down.
The quieter, the better, when it comes to hair dryers. But this factor might not be a dealbreaker for you. Chances are you’ll be using your dryer when other members of your household are awake. Still, less noise can make one of these tools more pleasant to use. I tested these 10 hair dryers using the Decibel X app on my iPhone. Most of the models hovered around the mid 70 decibels on their most powerful and loudest settings. That’s similar to a vacuum cleaner.
The loudest models I tested—the Kristen Ess and Shark models—topped 80 decibels, which veers into heavy traffic territory. Prolonged exposure to noise levels over 85 decibels can actually damage your hearing, according to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. Of course you won’t be using your hair dryer continuously for hours on end—but still, that’s loud. If you like to listen to music while you get ready, it would be drowned out.
A Solid Warranty & Return Policy
A two-year warranty seems to be pretty standard among the dryers I tested. Take note if it’s significantly shorter, especially for an expensive dryer. Also look to see if you get any extra warranty by registering your product. With our top pick, for example, registering gets you a full extra year of coverage.
Still, only manufacturing glitches are covered by a warranty. What if you just don’t like the one you buy or decide you want something else? You’re even more likely to take advantage of the return policy. Amazon has a very generous policy as does Sephora (both offer a full refund within 30 days for any reason, even if the packaging has been opened and the item gently used).
What Type Of Hair Dryer Is Least Damaging To Hair?
A hair dryer with ceramic coating on the grill inside the nozzle helps to disperse heat evenly so that damage is less likely. It’s also ideal to comb a heat protectant product through your hair while it’s still damp, and air dry or rough dry 80% before you add an attachment and start styling your hair.
Do Expensive Hair Dryers Make A Difference?
You don’t have to buy the most expensive model to get great results, but you don’t want to buy a cheap one, either. “A hair dryer that is at least $100 is often considered professional quality and will have a longer lifespan and better warranty,” says Querisma.
Raziuddin says, “Expect to spend $150 to $180 on a decent blow dryer that’s user-friendly, with good quality materials and high wattage. Anything much less than that might not be great for your hair–and could do more damage than dry it.” They are more likely to have higher, less modulated heat.
How Do I Get Smooth Results With A Hair Dryer?
That’s what the concentrator attachment is for. Niell says most people throw them away, and at least in my case he’s right. But the concentrator is what gives you smooth, sleek hair. First, rough dry your hair until it’s 80% dry. (Translation: Use your hands to rake through your hair and separate it while blowing air at it until it’s barely damp.) Then put on the concentrator and use a round brush (for volume) or paddle brush (for sleekness) to finish the job.