By Shannon Palus
This post was done in partnership with The Sweethome, a buyer’s guide to the best homewares. When readers choose to buy The Sweethome’s independently chosen editorial picks, it may earn affiliate commissions that support its work. Read the full article here.
After more than 20 hours of research and interviews, more than five hours of putting seven dryers to speed, heat, and time tests, and a holiday season’s worth of hair styling, we worked our way through all the marketing claims to find out that no hair dryer is going to make your hair look better or dry faster than the leading competition. The Xtava Peony tied for second-lightest of all the dryers we tested, has a curved handle and a long cord, and will make your hair look just as good as a dryer that costs 10 times the price. We’ve now used our top two picks for a year, and even after pitting them against a $ 400 luxury dryer, we still like them just as much.
Who should get this
If you have a hair dryer that’s 1,800 or more watts, not too heavy, and in possession of a long-enough cord, and—if you prefer a curly or wavy hairstyle—a diffuser attachment, you can stick with what you have now.
However, if you have a cheaper hair dryer that tires your wrists or is slowing down in its old age and you blow-dry your hair frequently, you might consider switching to our pick before your current one bites the dust. A good hair dryer isn’t just competent at getting the water off your hair: It’s light enough for you to hold above your head for several minutes, the buttons are easy to push without getting in your way, the handle fits easily in your hand, and the plastic’s finish feels nice.
How we picked and tested
Most of the buzzwords and specs on hair dryer boxes are useless at best and pseudoscience at worst. No clinical studies say one type of hair dryer is better for your hair than another—at least, none that we, nor the dermatologists that we interviewed, could find. After speaking to experts, I looked for hair dryers that were hot and fast. A few qualities that don’t have anything to do with speed or heat helped us narrow down what to test: multiple heat settings, a cool-shot button, a nozzle that’s compatible with attachments, and an intake filter that’s removable so that you can clean out debris. I also considered cord length, diffuser attachments, and how a dryer felt to hold. See more about hair dryer claims and the features that matter in our full guide.
To test, I looked at the basic stats of seven hair dryers (plus the Dyson Supersonic, a luxury dryer released after the initial round of testing), using a weather meter to test speed and heat, an iPhone app to test volume in decibels, and a postage scale to weigh them.
Next, I timed them drying a swatch of hair wetted with five grams of water with the dryers on their highest setting. With a few dryers eliminated, I put my four favorites to a few more time tests with the hair swatch and took them home for a couple weeks to use daily. I found few differences in drying time, but I did learn that a number of other features, like button placement and size, cord length, and weight are rarely discussed but are very important to the overall experience of using a hair dryer.
This dryer is as inexpensive as a dryer you’d find at a drugstore, but it will dry your hair just as well as a luxury device. It’s lighter than most we tested, smaller, and by far the easiest one to hold, and has a nicely curved handle. The buttons on this one are all located in a logical position. (Sounds like a small thing, but we disqualified one dryer from our favorites for having buttons that would poke your hand.)
Most important, it gets the job done just as quickly as every other dryer we tested: The Xtava Peony took about the same amount of time to blow-dry a hair swatch in testing trials as the rest, and the same amount of time to blow-dry my head of hair during my morning routine, as nearly every other dryer I tested. It made my hair look just as nice as the $ 300 dryer I tested did.
This dryer’s housing is shiny and sleek. Sure, that’s superficial, but the way the housing looks was the only difference that I noticed between the drugstore dryers and the stuff on sale at Sephora. With its sleek design, this one won’t look cheap sitting in a fancy bathroom.
The Rusk CTC Lite is lighter than almost all dryers we looked at. The buttons were all nicely placed—easy to push but hard to push accidentally—and the cord is long enough (8 feet, 7 inches) to reach distant outlets. The housing is nice: It’s glossy, the logo is understated, and the nozzle is on the shorter side. The sound of the air is smooth. It comes with both a concentrator and a diffuser.
At 0.95 pounds, the Rusk CTC Lite is very, very light. Of the seven dryers we tested, it was second lightest by only 0.04 pounds. Like the Xtava, the buttons are easy to reach. Unlike other dryers, the cool-shot button is wide, so holding it down for several seconds won’t be uncomfortable.
The CTC Lite was originally our top pick, until it doubled in price, making it more expensive than the Xtava. We like the sleek black design and lighter weight a little better than the Xtava’s—but because they do the same thing for your hair, we don’t feel the CTC Lite is worth the extra cost for most people.
Our pick is already on the inexpensive side for a dryer, but another one we liked is about the same price and includes a diffuser. If you don’t dry your hair often or our top pick is sold out and you want a dryer that comes with a diffuser and you have an outlet near your mirror, the Conair Comfort Touch dryer will do a good job and doesn’t have any hugely annoying design features. What makes this dryer less desirable than our other picks is the clunky and cheap casing: it has a thicker handle and a shorter cord that make it harder to maneuver.
This guide may have been updated by The Sweethome. To see the current recommendation, please go here.
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