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Elchim Professional VIP Hair Dryer
Elchim Professional VIP Hair Dryer

How to Buy a Hair Dryer

By Lisa Cohen LeeSHOP.COM Beauty Editor

Transforming soaking wet hair into a swingy, sexy style takes more than an arsenal of good hair products: You need a super speedy hair dryer that can absorb the water lickety-split. Thankfully, the latest technology in hair dryers has made damaging dryers a relic of the past. Now, you can go from wet to dry in warp speed and in the process, get healthy, silky smooth locks. Read on to see what's the best buy for getting dry:

The Basics

Step 1Wattage: The measurement of the blow dryer speed. Most dryers have wattages between 600 to 2000 watts. Thinner hair requires a lower wattage than thicker, more textured strands.
Step 2Weight: The weight of hair dryers can vary; some weigh in at only half a pound, others go up to three. If you've got long locks, you'll probably want a hair dryer that's on the lighter side, to keep you arm from getting tired.
Step 3Settings: Dryers have at least two speeds: low and high. Hi-tech dryers have even more speed/heat settings, a cool button to "cool off" and set a finished style, and a turbo feature that increases heat and airflow instantly.
Step 4Technology: Ionic, tourmaline and ceramic are the latest technologies being touted; most cut drying time in half, and keep hair healthy.
Step 5Attachment: A part that fits onto a nozzle of a hair dryer; different attachments yield different results, i.e. a smooth style or a curly one.

The Lingo

Nozzle: The long, circular opening at the end of the hair dryer. Majority of dryers are of the nozzle style, but non-nozzle hair dryers (those that have a rectangular air-flow opening) are available.
Ionic: Negative charge technology that breaks down water molecules to make the cuticle lie flat, trap in moisture and leave your hair looking shiny, silky and frizz-free.
Tourmaline: A type of gemstone that emits negative ions and infrared technology. Hair dryers that claim tourmaline technology have the crushed minerals, which help dry hair up to 40% faster than ionic technology and don't harm strands.
Ceramic: A heater with ceramic coated coils that is self-regulating, which means you won't get hot spots or heat damage.
Turbo: This button on the dryer increases the speed in seconds for harder-to-dry sections.
Concentrator: A narrow attachment that allows air to flow directly on a section of strands. It's optimum for smooth, sleek styles because it gives you greater control. It's usually included with nozzle-type hair dryers.
Diffuser: A wide, circle attachment that is used to create body and curl, it is best for styles that crave volume. The "long finger" version separates and lifts locks.

The Experts

Good Housekeeping recommends the Revlon Tourmaline Ionic 1875 Watt Dryer based on its performance and value. It was the lightest and quietest of all three tourmaline dryers tested in our lab. But choosing the right dryer for you will depend on your hair condition, length, thickness and texture, Source: Good Housekeeping Institute
The Chi Turbo Hair Dryer can't be beat for people who straighten their wavy hair. It uses the highest grade of ceramic coils, is the only dryer on the market with a low electromagnetic field — something to consider about an object that you're pointing at your head every day — and runs on only 1500 watts of power with all the drying benefits of a higher-speed, higher-powered dryer. Source: David Evangelista, Stylist for CBS Early Show.

The Brands

Conair is a U.S company offering technologically advanced dryers at reasonable price points.
Elchim is a European company that's a favorite of top salons.
Solano dryers are handcrafted in Italy and award winning, having been named the best hair dryer by InStyle Magazine for four years.
Babyliss hairdryers are cutting edge, combining the latest technology from Paris with a lightweight and versatile design.
Revlon is a popular mid-priced brand known for cosmetics, as well as creating good everyday hair dryers at low prices.
CHI hair dryers are mid-to-high priced professional hair dryers that use the latest in hair drying technology and are usually very lightweight.
T3 is very well known for their popular T3 Tourmaline hair dryer. Great brand that uses state-of-the-art patented SoftAire technology, but you'll pay a pretty penny for one of these beauties.

The Price

$: Conair 1875 Hair Dryer At this price point, expect to find a basic dryer with two speeds, a cool button, an attachment, and good wattage.
$$: Andis Nano Ionic Ceramic Hair Dryer Look for ceramic and ion technology combined with more heat speeds and tech-y features, like a digital display showing hair temperature.
$$$: Hai Tourmaline Hair Dryer Most dryers in this price point are used by professionals, so they're designed to last through hours of drying time, giving you a lot of bang for the buck. They also usually have the latest and greatest technology that dries hair faster without heat damage.