At heart, all hair dryers function more or less the same way, but a great dryer means the difference between a 30-minute styling session and a 10-minute one, between a lot of frizz and almost none, between damaged hair and hair that will stay healthy with less work.
Before we get too deep, you’ll want to take a moment and assess your hair type — is it straight, wavy, curly, or kinky? Is it fine, or coarse? Thin, or thick? Finer and thinner hair needs a dryer that hits a low — but not cold — temperature to dry without crisping. Coarser hair needs a higher heat to dry, otherwise it’ll take forever to get these fatter strands dry. And while everyone benefits from a speedy dryer, it’s especially useful for thick hair.
The Dyson Supersonic Hair Dryer is our top pick for straighter styles. It packs the most power, its temperatures can reach higher highs and lower lows, and it blew us away with the highest wind speed of any dryer we tested. On top of that, the $400 Dyson is high-tech with light-up settings and magnetic attachments — it’s the Macbook Pro of hair dryers. Best of all? It performs. It gave all of our testers smooth, shining hair. But if you prefer a curly style, or if you’re starting with thick curly hair and looking for a straighter style, you’ll want to check out our next pick. The Dyson’s diffuser has some serious short-comings, and its heat isn’t quite hot enough to power through a blow-out.
For curly, highly textured hair, or for wavy and curly styles, Devacurls’s DevaDryer and Devafuser have the heat and wind speed to get the job done fast, giving you glossier hair without the frizz in a fraction of the usual dry time. Though the Dyson blows faster, the Devacurl gets a full 60 degrees hotter and at $160, does it for about half the price of the Dyson.
If you don’t want to spend triple digits on a hair dryer, go with the Xtava Allure. It’s not quite as powerful as our two top picks, but it’s one of the best dryers under $100. The Xtava has pretty impressive wind speed and a decent heat range — great for all but the coarsest or thickest hair. Compared to other budget dryers, we saw an overall reduction in frizz, and better shine. The Xtava even beat out some of its pricier competition.
We also have two runners-up, selected by our testers for creating some of the smoothest, shiniest hair they’d seen. These dryers lacked some of the power that elevates our top picks — the Drybar Buttercup runs a little bit slower, and the Harry Josh has a narrow heat range that makes it less suitable for certain hair types — but for the right person, these dryers have the right features to pull off a salon-worthy look.