It would be fair to assume that one hair dryer is pretty similar to the next but if that was the case, there wouldn’t be so many options to choose from when searching for the best hair dryers around.
Ionic. Ceramic. Keratin-infused. There are thousands of dryers promising to leave your hair looking shiny, healthy and professionally styled so, for the past three months, we’ve been putting the top-selling models to the test to discover which model deserves the title of the best hair dryer 2020.
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These tests involved rough drying our shoulder-length, curly hair after a shower, and after swimming. We trialled each dryer with and without nozzles, and timed how long each styling session lasted. We additionally ranked them based on how powerful they are, their portability, how well they protected and smoothed our hair and whether we could get away with not straightening our hair after each blow dry.
To make these tests as fair as possible, we scored each of the best hair dryers out of 10, on a range of criteria – cost, power, drying times, weight, cable length, how shiny they left our hair, how portable they are and how easy they are to use. We then tallied up the scores and only the highest scoring, best hair dryers made this list.
The best hair dryer should be lightweight and well-balanced. Your hand or arm shouldn’t ache while using it, even if you’ve got particularly long and thick hair. It should have a selection of heat and power settings, to suit different occasions, and this should include a cold shot button, which lets you set and seal in your style. Ideally, it should be small enough to fit in an overnight bag as well, but this is less important considering that most tick this box, and many hotels have hairdryers in their rooms, for instance.
£159 | Buy now from GHD
Why we love it: We wax lyrical in our GHD Helios review just how good this hair dryer is. Described by GHD as its “lightest, fastest, most precise professional dryer”, the £159 GHD Helios comes eight years after the launch of the GHD Air, the brand’s only other hair dryer.
It’s also two and a half years in the making and the effort put in has paid off. It’s fast without damaging the hair, it’s powerful without being noisy and it looks incredible. We can barely fault this hair dryer and still return to it even with every other hair dryer in this list sitting in our cupboards.
If you’re looking for the best hair dryer money can buy, this is it.
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What’s more, as part of a recent collaboration with the Breast Cancer Now charity, GHD released a limited-edition pale pink GHD Helios hair dryer as part of the new Pink Collection. This range also includes a pink GHD Platinum Plus styler, and a pink GHD Gold styler.
GHD will donate £10 from the sale of every pink GHD Helios to breast cancer charities across the globe and you can personalise the hair dryer for free.
£159 | Buy now from Dyson
Why we love it: When it comes to power – represented by the three-figure number suffixed with the letter “w” listed in the specifications or on the boxes of most hair dryers – don’t be fooled into thinking that the higher the wattage, the better.
Wattage tells you how strong the air flow is, rather than how hot the hair dryer will get. Yes, the two tend to go hand-in-hand but it’s what the hair dryer does with this flow that counts.
Take the Dyson hair dryer, for instance. As you can read in our Dyson Supersonic review, on paper the hair dryer’s relatively low 1,600W (compared to the 2,100W and 2,200W of its rivals) should result in a poorer performance. Far from it.
Its motor is incredibly powerful yet it doesn’t damage the hair or blast it into submission. It’s quiet, too. And its unusual design, possible because the motor is in the handle rather than the barrel, makes it easier to put the dryer closer to your head and this gives you more freedom when styling.
It really is a fantastic hair dryer but, as is the case with the £400 Dyson Corrale straighteners, the price is just too high.
FURTHER READING: Dyson Supersonic review
£25 | Buy now from Amazon
Why we love it: The BaByliss 2100 Salon Light is a rare find in the hair dryer world. A dryer that provides a salon-quality finish at a bargain price. It’s not too heavy, nor too loud, it’s not so cheap you have to make sacrifices, yet it’s not as expensive as its performance would suggest. The glossy red plastic design may not be to everyone’s taste but with three heat and two power settings, a cold shot button and a three-metre cable, plus a concentrator nozzle this is the best hair dryer for all hair types.
£12 | Buy now from Amazon
Why we love it: We weren’t expecting much from a travel dryer, let alone one that costs £12, but the TRESemme Fast Dry 2000 punches well above its weight. It’s small, yet mighty and while it doesn’t have ionic technology, which means you sacrifice a little on shine and a smooth finish, the extra space its compact shape will give you in your overnight bag can be used to take your straighteners with you as well. There are three heat and speed settings, a cold shot button and it ships with a concentrator nozzle. A rarity for a travel dryer.
£50 | Buy now from Amazon
Why we love it: The Revlon Pro Collection One Step Dryer & Volumiser is a two-in-one dryer and styler.
Instead of having to angle your hair and your arms trying to blow dry your hair with a brush and traditional dryer, this wonder product from Revlon combines the two. It’s incredibly easy to use, even one-handed, and we often use it with our left hand while applying makeup with our right.
Not only is this absolutely ideal buy for people short on time – or who don’t quite have the standard blow drying technique down yet – it creates the kind of volume that we typically only get from curlers.
It’s loud, and because of its large barrel will likely suit thicker or longer hair better, but it’s hands down the best hair dryer brush we’ve used, and can easily replace traditional hair dryers.
£55 | Buy now from Amazon
Why we love it: It may look a little odd – with an almost duck-billed design – but the Panasonic Nanoe EH-NA65 ticks many boxes when looking for the best hair dryer. It’s surprisingly quiet, almost as quiet as the GHD Helios, and offers the same number of heat and power settings as the Dyson Supersonic. In fact, we’d say it most closely resembled the Dyson in many areas, yet comes in at more than half the price.
The top of the dryer is fitted with Panasonic’s Nanoe filter, which pulls moisture from the air to blast smoothing particles at the hair. It usually retails for £110 but rarely sells for that much. We haven’t seen it on sale for more than £65 in the months we’ve been putting the best hair dryers to the test.
£99 | Buy now from GHD
Why we love it: It’s a testament to the GHD Air’s quality that eight years on it’s still considered one of the best hair dryers around. And until the launch of the GHD Helios, we’d have said it was one of our absolute favourites; combining performance and style. Design-wise, little separates the Air and Helios. In fact, the latter is almost a copy-and-paste job of the former.
The GHD Air just doesn’t come with the advanced technology that’s been added to the Helios. And it’s not as pretty. Yet it’s almost £60 cheaper so we guess there are sacrifices to be made.
If you want a luxury, good-looking, high-performance hair dryer that doesn’t break the bank as much as the Dyson, we highly recommend the Air. Read more in our GHD Air vs GHD Helios explainer.
£35 | Buy now from Amazon
Why we love it: Designed to add shine and protect your hair via oils inside the drying grille, the Keratin Protect is the best hair dryer for curly hair or fine locks. It has three heat and two power settings, and ships with a slim nozzle for styling, a wide nozzle for fast drying, and a diffuser.
The Keratin Protect comes with three heat settings, two power settings and a cold shot button. In our tests, the lowest heat on the highest power was more than adequate for drying our fine hair without causing damage or frizz. It retails for £55 but is almost always on sale at around the £30 mark, which makes this an absolute bargain.
Victoria is founder and editor-in-chief of mamabella, freelance journalist and Mum. She has a passion for empowering people to feel beautiful whatever their age, size, skin type and budget