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Best hair dryer: 5 hair dryers for smooth and shiny styles

Hair dryers should in theory all do one thing – dry your hair. Yet for such a seemingly simple task, there are hundreds of makes and models to choose from available at wildly varying prices. That’s not to mention the jargon and buzzwords thrown around. Is ionic or ceramic technology better? How much power do you need? To diffuse or not diffuse? 

When choosing a hair dryer, consider how well it would handle your hair type. If you’ve got long hair, a heavy, bulky dryer will soon leave your arms aching. Curly hair? Dryers with diffusers will make a big difference to your style. People with fine hair don’t need huge amounts of power or heat, and if your hair is thick, try a dryer with a concentrator nozzle to help tame your mane. 

A few points to note about hair dryers, though. A higher power does not always equate to a better dryer. It’s how hair dryers use this power, in conjunction with their heat settings, that determine how well they dry your hair and how shiny it looks afterwards.

Blasting hair on the highest heat setting is similarly not always the way to go. It may get rid of moisture quickly but it could do damage to the hair and will leave it looking dry and lacking in shine. People with fine hair should always use a lower setting, even if it means drying times are longer. The extra minute or so will make a world of difference to hair quality. 

The best hair dryers we’ve tested have all had one thing in common – ionic technology. This technology releases negative ions towards the positive ions in wet hair. This is said to cause the water molecules to evaporate faster, reducing the time it takes to dry as well preventing unnecessary heat damage. Beyond motors, hair dryers with ceramic heating elements also tend to outperform those without. Ceramic not only heats up quickly and evenly, it generates infrared heat, which causes less damage to hair than metal-based heating elements.

Finally, is the cable long enough for you to stretch from a plug to your mirror? It’s a factor that’s often overlooked but is worth considering if you don’t want to be stuck on one side of the room attempting to dry your hair in a mirror on the other. 

For the past month, we’ve been putting the most popular hair dryers through various tests including how long it took to dry our hair after a shower, and after our hair had become saturated following a swim. Weight, price, how loud they were, cable length, and how shiny they left our hair were also factored in. Here is TechRadar’s pick of the best hair dryers around. 

(Image credit: Future)

Dyson Supersonic

Dyson turns its engineering expertise to hair styling with this premium dryer

Fast drying times

Lots of heat and speed settings

Lightweight design 


Controls can be fiddly to use

There’s no hiding the fact this is an expensive gadget – and let’s be honest, is beyond many people’s budgets for a small appliance. But Dyson has crammed a shed-load of tech into its Supersonic dryer to go some way towards justifying this price. 

It looks like few hair dryers we’ve tested and largely performs on a different plane, too. Instead of having the motor behind the nozzle, Dyson has moved it to the handle and this motor sucks in air via a filter in the base rather than through a vent in the barrel. This design shrinks the size of the Supersonic considerably, almost putting it on par with the size and shape of a pair of straighteners, which makes it perfect for travelling with. What’s more, having the motor closer to your hand, and the barrel closer to your head, shifts the overall balance of the dryer, making the Supersonic feel much lighter than its 659g. This spells the end of awkwardly twisting your elbows and holding your arms up until they ache to achieve the ideal blow-drying position. 

Not that this would be an issue, given how quickly the Dyson Supersonic dried our hair. From wet to styled in three minutes and 15 seconds, and with enough shine to negate the need to run the straighteners over it afterwards, the Supersonic is one of the fastest dryers we’ve used. Only the Revlon Pro Collection One Step Dryer and Volumiser beat this record, at three minutes and four seconds.    

On paper, the Supersonic’s 1,600W motor should fall flat in comparison to other models but its clever use of engineering and airflow technology means it actually performs better, while being noticeably quiet in comparison. This motor powers four heat and three speed settings, offering something for all hair types. It has a long 2.8-metre cable and ships with three attachments – a smoothing nozzle, a concentrator nozzle and a diffuser. You can also buy two recent additions to the line-up separately; a wide-tooth comb best suited for textured hair (think afro or curly hair), and a “gentle air” attachment designed for fine hair to add volume without excessive heat. Each of these attachments connect via magnets which is a small, yet nice touch. 

The Supersonic isn’t perfect. We often blocked the filter with our hand and the buttons are a little fiddly to access mid-dry. And while this is the best hair dryer we’ve used we’re still not convinced it’s worth that price tag. That said, it’s hard to put a price on shiny hair, not to mention the time you save to achieve it. 

(Image credit: Future)

Remington Keratin Protect

Dyson-style performance for a fifth of the price, if you can stand the noise

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