Whether it’s our cynical nature or the fact we’ve been in the business of writing reviews for a long time and have seen many a bold marketing claim, we began this review with a little scepticism. Oh, how wrong we were. The GHD Helios has been years in the making and the effort put in has paid off. It’s head and shoulders, excuse the pun, above the GHD Air and it’s toppled the Dyson Supersonic as our favourite hair dryer.
|House of Fraser||£159|
Having been on sale in the US for some time, and following its launch into select salons last month, we’ve now had time to complete a full GHD Helios review since it went on sale in the UK.
Described by GHD as its “lightest, fastest, most precise professional hair dryer”, the £159 GHD Helios comes eight years after the launch of the GHD Air, the brand’s only other hair dryer, and six years since the brand released – and subsequently discontinued – the GHD Aura dryer.
The £145 Aura is still available from third-party sellers but is no longer available direct from GHD.
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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 – it’s up there as one of our favourites – but GHD’s rivals have been hot on its heels in recent years and a seeming lack of innovation from the hair giant has allowed other brands to gain ground. GHD Helios is set to disrupt this.
So does the dryer live up to the claims, and is it really better than the Dyson Supersonic?
Developed by GHD’s UK Research and Development lab in Cambridge, in conjunction with top physicists, engineers and styling professionals, the GHD Helios is said to be lighter and more powerful than its rivals – as well as its predecessor – to help you dry your hair faster while giving you more styling control.
Before we get into the crux of the GHD Helios review, it’s worth just highlighting the key differences between the GHD Helios and the GHD Air.
The GHD Air is now eight years old and, in terms of performance, the signs of ageing were starting to show. However, looks-wise, it still holds it own and the GHD Helios looks remarkably similar. Almost a copy-and-paste job in some areas including the placement of the controls. It has the same 3-metre cable, too. The GHD Air costs £99 whereas the GHD Helios price in the UK is £159. You still only get one concentrator nozzle as standard – and need to pay separately for other attachments like a diffuser – but the nozzle has been redesigned.
For the extra money you get:
Typically, when a brand comes out swinging with claims about being lighter and more powerful, the differences between the product in question and its rivals is rarely tangible. This makes it difficult to qualify exactly how much lighter, or exactly how much more powerful one is compared to another. So you’re left relying on consumer testing and a specs sheet from the brand itself.
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GHD Helios breaks this mould. Having owned, and used, a GHD Air for at least five years we can categorically say that the GHD Helios is noticeably lighter from the first use. You can instantly tell it’s quieter, too, and its extra power becomes immediately clear as soon as you start using it (more on that in the Performance section below).
On paper, the GHD Helios weighs 780g (without the plug and cable included in that weight), compared to the GHD Air’s hefty 1.54kg – so half the weight. The engineers have pushed the motor speed up marginally, from 2,100w on the Air to 2,200w, and its concentrator nozzle is thinner and longer on the Helios compared to the somewhat stubby nozzle that ships with the Air.
There is also a number of other instantly noticeable changes that fed into this GHD Helios review.
The GHD Air’s plastic shell feels slightly rough to the touch, ever so slightly, and many other hair dryers we’ve used feel the same. The plastic feels cold and clinical. The plastic shell on the Helios is much smoother, with an almost silicone-style feel to it.
The plastic hook on the Air, and which is common on other rivals, has been replaced with a silicone loop. We tested the white and rose gold model of the GHD Helios and it’s stunning. The rose gold accents on the grill and the loop add a stylish touch and we’re big fans of the additional colourways. What let this down, however, is the fact the nozzle is still black. So looks out of place when attached.
However, all of these changes, which have largely been made to boost the GHD Helios’ performance, do lessen how luxurious the dryer feels. The extra weight on the GHD Air was rarely an issue because the dryer is so well-balanced and, in fact, the extra weight gave the dryer a reassuring heft that made it feel expensive. This is missing with the GHD Helios, and it feels like many other dryers on the market while costing in the region of 10 times as much.
Where the Helios most definitely does not feel like other dryers, though, is in its performance. Until now there have been two benchmarks for us when testing hair dryers – does it offer the speed of Dyson Supersonic, and does it offer the styling control of the Revlon Salon One Step Hair Dryer and Voluminiser? These are our go-to dryers on a daily basis.
As our GHD Helios review scores show, the Helios surpasses these two dryers in almost every category. In terms of speed, during our GHD Helios review, the dryer took our fine, mid-length hair from wet from a shower to dry in one minute and six seconds. It took a little longer – 1 minute 50 seconds – to dry our hair following a swim, and despite only rough drying our hair, as opposed to using the concentrator nozzle to smooth it, we were pleasantly surprised with how effectively the Helio’s ionic technology de-frizzed.
Our hair didn’t have the shine that comes from styling it properly, but we didn’t have to use straighteners which is almost a given with other models following a rough dry. Including the GHD Air.
To put this into perspective, the Dyson Supersonic was previously the fastest dryer we’ve used – drying our hair in 2 minutes 6 seconds which is now a minute slower than the Helios. Similarly, the Supersonic was a minute and eight seconds slower at drying our hair after a swim. With the concentrator nozzle attached to the Helios, it took us two minutes and 20 seconds to style our hair. Again, a minute faster than the Dyson Supersonic and on par with the Revlon.
The GHD Helios does have a faster motor than the Dyson (2,200w vs 1,600w) but in reality, this isn’t the main differentiator here and the motor speed is largely moot.
Don’t be hoodwinked into thinking a faster motor equates to a superior product. It’s what the motor does with the airflow that counts and a large part of the development of the Helios went into its so-called AeroPrecis technology.
For example, the Dyson Supersonic’s motor produces around 1,600W but there is no denying that it’s incredibly fast and efficient.
Consisting of four technologies that combine to create the overall effect, these four components are the grille, the impeller, the stator vanes and the nozzle. GHD’s VP of Innovation, Dr Tim Moore, told mamabella that the system begins with the maximum intake of air entering the Helios via patented custom design holes.
Instead of having straight, flat edges, the edges on the holes on the rear are slightly concave which helps reduce the level of noise and volume created by the dryer.
The number and sizes of holes in this grille then control the intake of air and this air travels into the impeller which rotates, via an integrated power supply, to increase the air’s velocity.
This faster airflow is catapulted into the stator vanes which stop the rotation and direct this faster airflow in a straight line towards the nozzle.
The nozzle has been redesigned and its noticeably curves at the end – similar to wingtips on planes Dr. Tim tells us – which acts to reduce the air turbulence and create a precise flow of air towards the hair.
By increasing the power and concentration of the airflow, it also reduces the need for more heat which is better for the environment and your hair, and the reduction in turbulence coupled with the ionic technology is what reduces the amount of frizz and flyaways.
GHD adds that the GHD Helios “puts the power of a salon-blowdry in your hands” by creating smoother styles and giving your hair 30%+ more shine. This isn’t something we can quantify for our GHD Helios review, and our experience is subjective.
It should also be noted that the 30% figure is compared to hair that’s been dried naturally, so we’d expect there to be more shine with any leading hair dryer in this scenario.
The sacrifice you make for the GHD Helios’ increased speed, it seems, is in volume and bounce. Something that not a single dryer has been able to match when compared to the Revlon. This was the first, and only real disappointment we felt when using the Helios. In the pursuit of shine and smoothness, the precision on the Helios does not lend itself as well to creating bouncy locks, as some of its rivals do.
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On the subject of styling, the lighter weight of the Helios as it moves around the head, and is lifted up and out during a blowdry, is welcomed and we thought the GHD Air was well-balanced until we used the GHD Helios. The effort GHD claims it has put into making the Helios ergonomically balanced appears to have paid off.
That said because the nozzle is longer and thinner than on the GHD Air – the feature that helps make it so precise – the shaft length is ever-so-slightly too long for our arms. This is a minor complaint and, because less heat is needed to dry the hair, it is possible to place the dryer closer to your scalp so it’s less of an issue than it may first seem but is worth noting.
Whether it’s our cynical nature or the fact we’ve been in the business of writing reviews for a long time and have seen many a bold marketing claim, we began this GHD Helios review with a little scepticism. Oh, how wrong we were.
The GHD Helios has been two and a half years in the making and the effort put in has paid off. It’s head and shoulders, excuse the pun, above the GHD Air – which we already rate highly – and it’s toppled the Dyson Supersonic as our favourite hair dryer.
This is bolstered by the fact that while still an expensive piece of kit, at £159 the GHD Helios is almost half the price of Dyson’s equivalent. If you are in the market for a new hair dryer, the GHD Helios is a wise investment. And even if you’re not, we’d be surprised if your current dryer can live up to the results of the Helios.
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