We spent over 33 hours researching hair dryers to sort it all out. We began with learning about hair and the best way to dry it in order to keep it happy and healthy. After thoroughly testing each of our top 5 finalists, we found the best overall hair dryer to be the Conair 1875 Cord Keeper.
Table of Contents
History of Hair Dryers
Depending on your age, you might remember heading to the hair salon and meeting up with your friends for the all-day event of getting your hair done (or ‘set’ as it was once called). This was the social event of the week where you could catch up on all the recent gossip while under the large hood dryers at the salon.
Long before hood dryers of the 1950s however, the very first hair dryer was invented at the end of the 19th century. This first dryer was an early prototype of a hood-style dryer (versus a hand-held) and was invented by French salon owner Alexandre-Ferdinand Godefroy. His invention could be attached to any heat-creating device. It would capture the device’s heat and send it through a tube to a dome-shaped hood that was wrapped around the head. The inspiration for his invention came from watching the female clients in his salon desperately wishing for a way to dry their hair quickly.
This early hair dryer style ultimately lost popularity because it lacked a viable way to send airflow through the tube. In essence, the women were just sitting under a heat lamp (of sorts) while hot air surrounded their head and the heat did not actually blow onto their hair.
The next stage of hair dryers included a unique “contraption” invented in the early 20th century that could be hooked up to vacuum cleaner exhausts. Women were often found attaching these devices (with filters attached to the end to catch particulates) to their vacuums to “quick dry” their hair. During this time, dryers also began being referred to as “blow” dryers.
This period also saw the development of the first portable hair dryer. This unit was basically a hand-held model made of steel but it had the motor on the outside – unlike today’s models that have the motor inside the body of the dryer. It was bulky and heavy and didn’t gain much popularity.
Unfortunately, hair dryers of the 1920s were also very dangerous to use. Not only were electronic devices unrefined, this was the advent of electricity in the home and people didn’t understand how critically dangerous it can be to use it near water. Being injured or even killed by electrocution was not unheard of during this early era of electricity.
The 1960s saw a boon in hair dryers as the first, lighter-weight, hand-held unit was developed. The advent of plastics helped reduce the weight of previous metal hair dryers into a weight that was much more user friendly. Women could now manage to hold their hair dryer long enough to fully dry their hair within a reasonable time frame – an important development since these dryers were only capable of using 100 watts of power vs the 2000 watts available to us today. With only 100 watts of power, it took much longer to dry your hair.
Other developments during this period include men becoming interested in using hair dryers and women becoming enthralled with the suitcase-style hair dryer. This suitcase style was a portable model that included a cap to put over your head and a hose that brought in the warm air. It was reminiscent of the hood style dryers popular in salons in the 1950s but exciting because you could use it at home.
The 1980s saw changes in styling as attachments became popular and makers began offering options such as high and low heat as well as various blowing speeds. Big hair on both men and women was all the rage during the 1980s and everyone was buying hairy styling devices with fervor. They also developed to now be capable of generating 1250 watts of power. Hair styling devices and products of all kinds were selling like crazy during this time – so much so that the CPSC (Consumer Product Safety Commission) sent out a release cautioning hair dryer owners not to use them without care.
Today, in an effort to entice buyers, the styling and design of hair dryers is constantly changing. However, despite these physical design changes, the unit itself uses much the same mechanics as the very first dryers of 100+ years past. They are simply a device that forces air over a heating element. This hot air is then focused and blown onto wet hair until the hair is dry.
Recently, models have been developed that offer ceramic, ionic, and tourmaline technology. This advancement uses ionic technology and negative ions to help your hair dry faster without damaging it by using excess heat.
Why Heat is Bad for Your Hair
Although it is only one of the blow-drying mistakes you can make, excessive heat is one of our hair’s worst enemies.
Each strand of hair is made of up two parts. The first part is an inner cortex that is covered by the second part – a protective outer layer called the cuticle. The cuticle is the layer of hair most important to take care of when restoring or maintaining healthy, shiny, strong hair. If the cuticle isn’t intact, hair can become dull, lifeless, and break easily. Using high heat during drying is one way to quickly damage your hair’s cuticle.
The cuticle is basically a protein-based layer of scales that protects your hair. These scales react to the pH levels of substances they encounter by opening and closing. When they are open, chemicals and other components can enter and damage or alter your hair. In fact, this is how hair color and chemical hair-straighteners work. They enter the cuticle and travel inwards to the cortex. There they change the natural design of the cortex which is the layer of your hair that determines your hair type: straight, curly, thick thin, etc.
Because heat can damage your cuticle, drying your hair with high heat is not recommended by most hair experts. Rather, they suggest drying your hair on a medium or cool setting which will keep your hair’s cuticle healthy, shiny, and strong.
Features to Consider
When looking at hair dryers, you will often see a wattage number on the outside of the box and maybe even on the dryer itself. The wattage of a hair dryer refers to the amount of power it puts out. Purely and simply, the higher the wattage, the faster and hotter the hair dryer can get. Celebrity hairstylist Ryan Richman recommends buying a higher wattage unit but turning down the heat to protect your hair.
Ionic technology is a groundbreaking development in the way hair dryers dry your hair. This is the first time that heat alone is not the only element drying your hair. Ionic technology is a helpful option to look for if you want to speed up the drying process without using the high heat setting and damaging your hair.
Hansen Liu, a stylist at Marie Robinson Salon in New York City, says that an ionic dryer can speed drying times up to 70% and can make hair smoother and not so dry and brittle. While drying your hair with an ionic dryer, negatively charged ions break up water in your hair which helps the water evaporate and speeds up the drying process so you don’t need to use high heat to get the job done quickly.
A ceramic hair dryer emits infrared heat which is non-damaging and dries hair gently. The ceramic in a hair dryer can be found in its body, in the heating element, or as a coating on the internal parts. The infrared heat that it emits penetrates to the hair shaft which preserves the hair’s natural moisture and luster.
Tourmaline is a somewhat rare, semi-precious gemstone that generates only negatively charged ions when it’s heated. By adding a coating of tourmaline to the internal parts of a dryer, the dryer will blow dry your hair more quickly. The negative ion output of a tourmaline dryer will also close your cuticle layer, resulting in shinier hair.
Having all three of the above elements in one unit (for example, an ionic dryer with a tourmaline boosted ceramic system) is usually only found in professional-style hair dryers. These three elements together provide professional stylists the ability to offer the quickest and safest hair drying experience to their customers. Three of our Top 5 have all three of these elements.
|Conair Cordkeeper||Rusk w8less||Remington||Revlon – Travel||Conair Pro Blackbird|
In addition to the above-listed internal options, there are also options to look for that can control drying, such as adding various attachments to the end of your dryer.
For example, while using the medium or cool setting, it is recommended to use a diffuser attachment. A diffuser is an attachment that minimizes direct heat by circulating that heat around the hair versus directly blowing it onto your hair. This attachment is commonly used on curly hair as it can produce a soft curl with minimal frizz.
Another attachment commonly included when you buy a hair dryer is a concentrator. A concentrator works just as its name suggests. It concentrates the heat into one spot and is a great tool to use when you’re trying to dry your hair as straight as possible.
How We Selected
Before setting out on our quest to choose the best, we did our homework. We wanted to keep our choices under $80 and mostly under $50. We feel that the average person will find exactly what they’re looking for within this range. While researching, can you believe we discovered that Dyson offers a Supersonic Hair Dryer for around $500?! This price might make you cringe but it claims to dry your hair in half the time and leave it so shiny and smooth that you won’t need to use a straightener.
Next, we set off to find out what other customers think of their hair dryers. With literally thousands of hair dryers on the market we surmised that if the product had a high number of positive reviews, we could choose from that pool to narrow down the list and find our finalists. People love to give their opinions!
We even consulted sources such as Marie Claire (who knows a bit about beauty!). For example, we loved their article on blow-drying mistakes which made us realize that attachments are a must. Anyone know what to do with that diffuser you promptly tucked away when you bought your last hair dryer? Well, you can use it to dry curly hair without making it frizzy as it spreads the heat evenly.
Once we filtered to our price range ($50 – $80) and only considered hair dryers with a high number of positive reviews, we still had 367 hair dryers in the running!
Next, we read dozens of articles by beauty bloggers, many of whom insisted on choosing a hair dryer that can dry your hair quickly and efficiently without damaging the cuticle or drying out your hair. The way to achieve this is to choose a unit with a combination of ionic, ceramic and tourmaline technology. We filtered out hair dryers that did not offer this technology (but did test one that did not have this technology just for comparison). From the remaining dryers, we chose 5 models with high customer reviews and positive feedback.
We now had our Top 5 contenders to thoroughly test. We couldn’t wait to see which came out on top.
How We Tested
We set out ready to discover all the ins and out of our Top 5 contenders. Not only did we want to learn the obvious, such as how well and how fast these dryers could dry our hair, but we also wanted to perform additional tests we thought would be helpful – things-you-didn’t-know-you-wanted-to-know that could help you make a choice.
We tested the heat settings of each dryer by measuring the surface temperature of a paper towel roll after 30 seconds of blowing onto it with the hair dryer. We wanted to determine how much heat each of the top 5 produced – both on low and high settings. Most professionals suggest that you don’t add additional heat to your hair so we felt it would be important to know exactly how much heat the hair dryer will create.
Rusk w8less – Highest Temperature
Conair Cord Keeper
Conair Pro Blackbird
We tested the noise level from both 12 inches away (simulating the noise level while using) as well as from outside a closed door (to see how it will affect others). We thought it necessary to know which unit is quietest. Best not to wake your sleeping child, spouse, or roommate! We all know how frustrating it can be if you have to listen to a loud hair dryer when you’re still in bed trying to catch a bit more sleep.
Conair Cord Keeper
Remington – Quietest
Conair Pro Blackbird
Wait… That’s over 1 pound. Maybe they weighed it without the cord…
We tested the weight of each dryer by placing it on a scale. After all, the Rusk w8less markets itself as weighing less than 1 pound so we wanted to check that out. Surprisingly, it wasn’t the lightest of all the dryers we tested. Not only that, but it weighed in at over one pound. To be fair, we weighed the cord too which they might not have included in their calculations.
Most people might not think about considering weight but it is critically important for those with long or heavy hair which takes longer to dry, as well as those with weak or arthritic joints. Holding a heavier hair dryer can become cumbersome and painful if you need to hold it for long.
Conair Cord Keeper
Revlon Ionic – Lightest
Conair Pro Blackbird
We tested wattage usage after 30 seconds of blowing. We tested by plugging the dryer into a wattage meter and used the highest and hottest settings. This test helped us to determine which of the units uses the most energy. Energy efficiency is becoming more important as the world becomes more energy conscious. This test also helps if you are keeping a close eye on electrical usage.
Rusk w8less – Most Powerful
Conair Cord Keeper
Conair Pro Blackbird
Wind Speed Test
Finally, we tested wind speed by blowing each dryer onto an anemometer which we held 12 inches away. The best hair dryers will dry your hair without excessive wind or heat so we wanted to get a good idea of wind speed versus drying time.
Conair Cord Keeper
Remington – Highest Wind Speed
Conair Pro Blackbird
Conair 1875 Cord Keeper Review
Conair 1875 Watt Cord Keeper After hours of using these dryers, and performing our many, various tests, the Conair 1875 Cord Keeper clearly stood on top. It performed every basic function that a hair dryer should while still offering all three of the additional options we looked for in a hair dryer: Ionic, Tourmaline and Ceramic technology. This dryer heated up well (not too hot and not too fast) and came with two attachments – both a diffuser and a concentrator. It also offers multiple heat settings for various drying needs.
In the end, we found that this dryer offered everything we wanted and performed as good as the others. Ultimately, there were two features that took it to the top. First, the bonus feature of being able to retract the cord which kept us from struggling to put the dryer away and take it out when we wanted to use it. Secondly, the price is reasonable. The price of this dryer was smack dab in the middle range of our 5 top contenders which placed it within our ultimate price range of $25 – $45. The Conair Cord Keeper is our clear winner because of its great value-to-price ratio.
Rusk Engineering w8less Professional Review
Rusk Engineering w8less professional This hair dryer also offered all three of the options we wanted: Ionic, Tourmaline, and Ceramic technology. It also did a fine job of drying our hair. However, it did the same job as the Conair Cord Keeper yet only came with one attachment (the concentrator) and was twice the money as our winner. Because it performed flawlessly, but didn’t have the extras of our Best Overall, we choose it as Runner Up. We did like that it offers a button you can push to blow a burst of cool air onto your hair. This is great if you’re trying to set a style and don’t want to wait for it to naturally cool down.
Remington D3190A Damage Control Ceramic Review
Remington D3190A Damage Control Ceramic This purple beauty weighed in the lightest of the 4, full-sized hair dryers we tested. It also tested the quietest in our Sound Test. It offers 6 speed and heat settings as well as two attachments, and offers all three of the options we wanted as far as the Ionic, Tourmaline, and Ceramic technology.
The reason we didn’t choose it as one of our top hair dryers is that we felt it blew too strongly and didn’t use a delicate enough heat force to dry our hair. It did do a fine job but wasn’t refined as our top two picks. It’s great as a Budget Option and will dry your hair quickly, but you’ll have to play with it a bit to get it just right.
Revlon RVDR5005 Ion Select Review
Revlon RVDR5005 Ion Select We were excited to have this unit on our list of Top 5, but straight out of the box we could tell it wasn’t what we were hoping for. Although it is marketed as a “travel styler”, in reality it is nearly as bulky as our 4 full-sized hair dryers. The handle does fold for travel but the motor section is still rather large and round. The nozzle is shorter than the others but we didn’t feel this made it any more compact.
Additionally, the unit we tested made a high-pitched whirring sound that we found annoying. We didn’t know if it was just our hearing, but we confirmed it in our noise test. It didn’t test louder than the other 4 at the shorter distance, but it was the loudest of the bunch when comparing the sound levels from outside a closed door.
Conair BB075W Pro Blackbird Review
Conair BB075W Pro Blackbird Hair Dryer This dryer dried our hair perfectly fine. And despite being the heaviest of the 5, it was middle of the ground in all other tests which was great – no extreme results. It also performed all the basic functions, but we found it the least user friendly of the Top 5. It also did not have any of the three bonus options of ionic, tourmaline, or ceramic technology.
As far as what we didn’t like, it was the heaviest of the bunch. Also, while using this dryer we felt that the controls were not intuitive. For example, the hot and cold levers, although red and blue respectively, did not seem to work the way we expected. It seemed they were set up opposite of how we would have expected. In addition to our confusion, the levers were not labeled so it was just trial and error working out the settings.
What We Liked
- We love the retractable cord on the Conair Watt Keeper which none of our other contenders offer. This was great during storage as the cord didn’t get in the way or knock over other items in the closet.
- The Rusk w8less has a button that can sent a burst of cold air which is helpful if you’re trying to set your hairstyle quickly without needing to wait for it to naturally cool.
- The Remington was the lightest and also the quietest of the Top 5 hair dryers we reviewed – we feel these are two of the most important tests we performed and it “won” them both.
What We Didn’t Like
- As part of our testing, we weighed each hair dryer to compare how easy it is to hold for an entire drying period. We expected the Rusk w8less to be the lightest of the 4 full-sized models we reviewed, especially because it is marketed as lightweight on the box. However, we were surprised to find that it wasn’t the lightest of the bunch and certainly not around the 1 pound weight they claim.
- The Revlon Ionic Select travel dryer we tested gave off an unusual, high-pitched noise when we used it. We thought this especially strange for a travel dryer which you would hope would have the least intrusive nose levels. Also, other than being able to fold in half, it wasn’t particularly compact.
- The Conair Pro Blackbird was heavy and we felt its control levers were confusing.
In the start of this review, our first instinct was that one of our 2000 watt hairdryers would be crowned the winner. After much testing, we found that the higher wattage did not make much of a difference and it was actually the small details that were important in the end. We liked having a variety of options for heat and speed as well as the ability to add attachments to help us create various hair styles. During this review, we were happy to learn some finer details about each dryer such as which weighed the most and which was the quietest.
Never before have we thought so much about the details of drying hair. Before researching for this review, we would simply buy an affordable hair dryer and hope that it lived up to the claims made on the box. Now we have been enlightened to the important details that make the difference as well as the details that don’t matter much at all.
We’ve pulled it all together for you here in hopes that our research will save you time and money when it comes to your next hair dryer purchase. We think it will.
After our many hours of research, the Conair Cord Keeper took the crown as Best Overall Hair Dryer. It gave us everything we wanted at an affordable price. It also offered the bonus of a retractable cord while still being the most user-friendly of the 5 models we tested.