Hair Dryer Shopping Guide

Hair dryers come in a very wide range of shapes, sizes, weights, colors, finishes, and prices and offer various features in order to help make the task of drying hair easier. When looking to purchase a new hair drying appliance it’s important to understand some of the basic technology and to weight out the many features that you may or may not need, that way you can determine how much of an investment to make.

Features to Consider

The Motor & Heater

Hair dryers have either an AC or DC motor, both of which offer a variety of wattages. In general, the higher the wattage, the more forceful the dryer blows, however with the efficiency of some of the newest technology, less wattage can be used to achieve the same results. Less wattage also means less power consumption.

In addition to the motor, dryers also use a heater. Originally all dryers utilized a metal coil heater but newer technology has presented several generations of ceramic heaters. Most dryers on the market today use these newer heaters but there is a wide range of qualities that is typically reflected in the price of the dryer. The benefits of dryers with ceramic heaters include faster drying time, the fact that they need less wattage and that they naturally produce negative ions. Using this ionic (or anionic) technology helps close the cuticle of the hair, which seals in moisture and produces smoother, static and frizz-free strands. 

Voltage & Traveling

In the United States 120-volt power outlets are the norm, however, in many other parts of the world, you’ll find that 240 is the standard. Some hair dryers come with dual voltage, which eliminates the need for a power converter should you travel, but for single voltage appliances, you’ll need both the power converter and the plug adaptor. If you travel a lot, the suggestion might be to pack a smaller travel dryer that’s dual voltage or better yet, look into the amenities that hotels offer. In many cases, they have built-in hair dryers.


Pro hair dryers typically have two separate adjustments for airspeed and heat. There’s usually a low, medium and high setting that is either available in a mechanical switch that is usually a little sounder, or a digital one, which is great for those who like the added convenience or desire a higher tech look to their appliances.

Some dryers also offer a cool shot button that allows the user to switch from heated to cool air quickly, which will help set the style. This feature comes in handy for round brush blow-dries or when creating root lift or a swooping effect with long bangs (fringe) or layers.

Size, Weight & Balance

If you’re a salon pro, you’ll want a sturdy but lightweight dryer to keep your arms from getting so tired throughout the day. For home use, lightweight is handy but not as critical. Either way, the size, balance, grip and overall touch of the dryer should feel good in your hands, that way you are not struggling with it while drying.

Nozzle Length

Choosing a length of nozzle comes down to preference. It can be easier to dry short hair with a shorter dryer but when drying longer hair, especially if doing round brush blowouts, the longer nozzle comes in handy. The length of this nozzle will naturally affect the balance and weight of the dryer,

Concentrators & Diffusers

Some dryers (usually pro versions) come with one or two concentrators and a diffuser. The concentrators literally concentrate or collimate the airflow from the dryer so only the section of hair that is targeted receives any airflow. This adds greater control when drying and can be beneficial for certain styles or when dealing with cowlicks and other problem areas. The diffuser is used to diffuse-dry and scrunch-dry wavy or curly hair. It provides a softer and more diffuse area of airflow, which is great to keep hair movement and frizz to a minimum. If you have straight hair or like to wear your hair smooth, you may not have a need for a diffuser. It’s best for people who have natural texture and wear their hair wavy or curly.

The Cord

Consider how much length you might need for the cord and bear in mind whether it swivels or not. A long but sturdy cord will allow use of the appliance from a greater distance from the outlet. In the salon, this feature is important, as is the swivel, but if using a dryer at home, length of the cord and whether or not it swivels may be more of a convenience.


Most pro dryers offer a removable filter at the back or the appliance, which is where the air intake happens. With heavy use, hair dryers do accumulate hair, dust and other particles. If this intake gets clogged, it will likely compromise the dryer’s efficiency and could even cause it to cease up. For pros or people with heavy home use, it would be advised to opt for a model that allows the filter to be easily detached and cleaned. Naturally, you’d want to unplug the dryer first and follow all instructions for proper cleaning.


Most dryers have at least a one-year manufacturer warranty but warranties vary greatly from company to company. You may want to check the warranty process and coverage for any dryers that you are considering and also ask about repairs after the warranty expires. 

Click here and here to check out some of the latest offerings for hair dryers.