Do I need to spend $200 on a hair dryer?
October 6, 2010 11:28 AM   Subscribe

Do I need to spend $200 on a hair dryer?

I almost never blow dry my hair but recently I've been thinking I need to do it in order to make my shoulder-length wavy, thick, color-treated hair look a little more presentable. Previously if I wanted to make it look better, I used a flat iron on it and discovered that an expensive flat iron (I bought a Chi after being unhappy with a cheap $30 drugstore brand) works MUCH better than a cheap one. Will this also be true for blow dryers?

I have a cheap blow dryer but my results when drying are not stellar. This could be due to poor technique but I also wonder if an expensive dryer would give me better results. Are there awesome blow dryers that are worth the expense? If so, which ones are the best? What makes them so great? I don't mind spending over $100 if it's really going to make a difference.
posted by otherwordlyglow to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (16 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
I bought an Elchim based on the recommendations in this thread and found that it made a tremendous improvement over the cheapo Conair I'd been using. Well under $100!
posted by ferociouskitty at 11:38 AM on October 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

In my experience there is definitely a difference between inexpensive blowdryers and higher end ones, but it's not necessary to spend $200. I bought this one on Amazon, and actually it was on sale for about $70 (less than listed in that link, but still not $200). Doing a search on Amazon just now I found a CHI model for $95. So while not cheap, it's not $200 either.

I don't know why the CHI has been so good for my hair, there may be other people who understand the mechanics more than I do, but I can't deny the difference. Perhaps there's just too much heat but not enough air blowing through in the cheaper ones? Technique does help, as well as good products. But my technique and products pre-CHI were the same, so the dryer is the only variable. Cheap dryers left my hair a lot more brittle-feeling.

I also tried a middle of the road dryer (sorry, I don't remember the name) that retailed at about $65. It was an improvement over the cheap models but there was also room for improvement.
posted by DrGirlfriend at 11:42 AM on October 6, 2010

I've never spent more than $40 on a hair dryer. If you're not blowing your hair dry first, it may take an expensive flat iron to get the results you're after. I dry my hair with a blow dryer and big flat brush, and then use an inexpensive flat iron to get nice shiny silky results.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 11:43 AM on October 6, 2010

FWIW, Consumer Reports's two top hair dryers are from Chi ($135) and the Bespoke Labs ($200). The rest are all in the $20-$40 range, and all about 20 points (out of 100) behind those two. HOWEVER- CS says the difference largely comes down to noise, not drying quality.
posted by mkultra at 11:43 AM on October 6, 2010

I have a $200 T3/Bespoke hair dryer. For almost two years, it has been worth every penny. I have thick, wavy/curly hair that I typically blow straight, and when it was longer (anywhere from just past my shoulders to about level with my back bra strap) it would regularly take 45 minutes to get mostly dry. Before I cut it, my T3 did the job in about 20 minutes. My hair is chin length now, and I can spend about seven minutes on it before I use my flat iron.

A couple of months ago, my hair dryer broke - the heating element burned out, the victim of just-about-every-day use. Since it was under warranty, I sent it back and bought a $40 Conair dryer to use in its absence -- and I counted the days until I got my T3 back. The Conair was more powerful seeming, and it was certainly louder, but my hair wasn't as soft or as smooth or as shiny, and it took me about twice as long to get my hair dry. Who knows, maybe my mind was just playing tricks on me, maybe my hair wasn't as different after using the Conair dryer as I thought, but if nothing else the time I save using my T3 is a major selling point for me.
posted by alynnk at 12:00 PM on October 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

My girlfriend and I discussed this recently. She was talking about hair dryers, I was talking about vacuum cleaners. Yeah, one sucks, one blows, but the mechanics are similar. We both agreed that with devices like this, you get what you pay for, and it's worth spending a bit more to get that model that's not "super cheap" and is hopefully manufactured a bit better. It will get the job done faster when you're using it, and it will last longer before it dies and has to be replaced.

Having said that, $200 for a hair dryer seems a bit on the high side.
posted by Diag at 12:05 PM on October 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

Seconding the Elchim! This is the one that I bought (though not from Amazon). It dries my thick hair much faster and I can make it really hot or quite cool.
posted by analog at 12:22 PM on October 6, 2010

Response by poster: I've seen the CR index on hair dryers but it seemed like their ratings were based on speed, loudness, and extra features but didn't really cover the results in terms of how awesome your hair looked after using them. I think that type of result is harder to quantify, hence this question.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 12:37 PM on October 6, 2010

Saw a CHI blowdryer at HomeGoods for $50 the other day. Check your local store, it's usually a good place for high-end beauty goods for cheap.
posted by cedly at 1:47 PM on October 6, 2010

I found a $20 hair dryer at Target (Andis brand) that was tourmaline+ceramic+ionic, which were my three main considerations. It works great!
posted by Aubergine at 2:19 PM on October 6, 2010

After several years of replacing cheapo hair dryers every 10-12 months (they died), and never having the look I wanted, I bought a Sedu dryer (similar to this one). I've had my Sedu since 2007 and I have to say, it is awesome. I also have thick, wavy, shoulder length hair (and my hair was even longer when I first bought the Sedu), and it was always impossible to get it straight and shiny with cheap hairdryers. But I tell you what, it takes me less time to dry my hair now, and it looks better, and I generally don't even have to use a straightening iron if I use a large round brush. Following my stylist's advice, I usually let it air dry some before blowdrying with the round brush, but I can get it pretty close to professional blow-out quality if I try, and I could NEVER get that to happen with the cheap brands.

tl;dr: Yes, it's worth it, though I don't think you necessarily need to spend $200, but maybe $100-150.
posted by DiscourseMarker at 3:02 PM on October 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

I almost never blow dry my hair but recently I've been thinking I need to do it in order to make my shoulder-length wavy, thick, color-treated hair look a little more presentable.

this is me except for the color-treated part and i have to say that my hair has never looked as good as it does now that i only wash it every other day or so, only with shampoos that have no sulfates, only ever condition the ends, and never brush or blow dry it. millions of girls with straight hair spend a zillion dollars every year trying to get what you and i already have naturally, so why not just enjoy it?

(alternately, if you really want straight hair, it's probably cheaper for you long term—if you factor in all the time you'd spend straightening it otherwise—to just do the japanese hair rebonding thing.)
posted by lia at 4:54 PM on October 6, 2010

My hair is similar to yours, and I've been using one of those brush-hairdryer combo thingies for the past couple months - it's seriously awesome. Mine is cheap from Target, but my hair looks awesome when I'm done - full and volumey and shiny even without the flatiron (much as I love my CHI). I let my hair mostly air-dry first and it only takes 2-3 minutes to fully dry and style.
posted by ella wren at 5:21 PM on October 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

the advance is in how the heat is generated:

1. ionic: "ionic technology uses negative ions to heal damaged hair. Damaged hair is positively charged and the negative ions bond with hair to seal broken cuticles and infuse moisture. The result is shiny healthy hair." [via]

2. far infrared: "The use of "FIR" hair dryers are significantly cooler than conventional dryers but dry in the same time span ...Since they dry from the inside out, they tend to cause less hair problems in terms of management than drying from the surface inwards where the outer shaft becomes less permeable as it dries." [via]

sorry about the wonky advertising links ... not meant as endorsements in any way (i'm a 'chi' user myself) ... couldn't find a more educational cite for this stuff & was unable to articulate it. in addition, 'professional' models are built with much heavier usage in mind, and are lighter, sturdier, etc., thus the premium price. if you do get a pro model, check if there is a filter that needs periodic cleaning ... should help the device's longevity.
posted by Rube R. Nekker at 8:13 PM on October 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

i used to use cheapo hairdryers until my stylist hooked me up with one she recommended. it takes me about half the time to dry my hair and my hair feels smoother and less fried when i use it. i would not go back to the cheapos ever.
posted by violetk at 11:05 AM on October 7, 2010

$200 is too much.
posted by mrgrimm at 3:33 PM on October 7, 2010

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