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Blow-Dryer Guide

How to buy the best blow-dryer for your budget.
Blow-Dryer Guide
Photo: Getty Images

It’s shocking what a blow-dryer can do for your hair. Shampoo matters, so does conditioner and products, but use the wrong dryer and you can still end up with frizz. Plus a great dryer means shorter dry time, which leads to less damage, smoother texture, and serious shine. There are a lot of ingredients that go into making the perfect version--ions, ceramic components, watts, air filters--but which do you need? We asked hairstylist Gregory Russell, who works with Chloe Moretz, January Jones, and Alexa Chung (and has long, flowing locks of his own) to weigh in.

What Do All These Words Mean?
The biggest buzzword when shopping for a new dryer is ions. To put it simply, ion technology means your dryer negatively charges air molecules to help control frizz and shorten dry time. Also popular: ceramic. Components made of ceramic help evenly distribute heat and are especially important in your dryer’s attachments. A concentrator nozzle is the key to a smooth blowout, and if you have curly hair you’ll want a diffuser, which distributes air without disturbing texture. Varied heat and speed settings are important, and a cool shot button sets hair once it’s dry. Wattage measures the power of the dryer, so the more watts, the more forceful the flow of air will be.

What To Look For
Russell’s priorities are ions, multiple heat settings, a cool shot, and the proper attachments. Standard wattage is 1875, which is great for normal hair, but if your locks are thick you may want higher wattage for more power. Travel dryers are less powerful because of their low wattage, so unless you really need to save space you won’t be doing yourself any favors by buying a small model. A dryer with a filter isn’t totally necessary, but it will help extend the life of your purchase.

What to Splurge On
“A good dryer should last anywhere from two to five years,” says Russell, which makes the price-per-use equation heavily favor splurging on a quality model. “My favorite brand is Parlux,” he says. “They have excellent quality, and lightweight models that get the job done fast. I use mine every day on numerous people and I’ve had my latest model for over two years!” Parlux’s 3200 Ceramic & Ionic Edition Professional Hair Dryer ($164) has four heat settings, two speeds, a cool shot button, is ionic and ceramic, has a removable filter, and includes two concentrator nozzles. He also likes Elchim; their Uragano Ionic Dryer ($140) has ion technology and varied speed and temperature settings. Our office favorite is T3, especially their Featherweight 2 ($200). It has tourmaline technology, which emits negative ions and infrared heat for healthier drying. It’s also ionic and ceramic, has three heat settings and two speeds, a cool shot button, and comes with a concentrator attachment and removable filter.

If you want a salon-quality model, but can’t quite muster the higher price tag, there are middle-of-the-road options. Turbo Power’s MegaTurbo 2500 Professional Hair Dryer ($79) has numerous heat and speed settings, a removable filter, and a concentrator attachment. BaBylissPRO’s Carrera 2 Ceramic Hair Dryer ($96) is ionic and ceramic, has different heat and speed settings, and includes a concentrator attachment as well.

What To Save On
Needless to say, picking out a low-priced version is a little more difficult. Like Russell mentioned above, the most important things to look for are varied heat settings, a cool shot, and ion technology. BaBylissPRO’s Ceramix Extreme Dryer ($40) is powerful (2000 watts), has a removable air filter and concentrator nozzle, two temperature settings, and a cool shot at a much lower price. Conair’s 1875 Watt Ion Shine Multi-Setting Styler ($30) is another good option with ceramic and ionic technology, a hinged filter, and two heat settings.

Spending $200 on a dryer may seem like a lot, but it’s part of the reason your hair looks amazing when leaving the salon.

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