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Back to Basics: How to Find The Best Blow-Dryer

Here's what you need to know if you're going to invest in a new tool.
Model Marjan Jonkman with a blowdryer backstage at Kenzo. Photo: Ian Gavan/Getty Images

Model Marjan Jonkman with a blowdryer backstage at Kenzo. Photo: Ian Gavan/Getty Images

"Basic" may have adopted a negative connotation in recent years, but there's no shame in seeking advice on theoretically simple sartorial conundrums. In our latest column, "Back to Basics," we're here to guide you through life's most common (and important) fashion and beauty concerns.

Shopping for a blow-dryer can seem daunting. The good ones with high-tech promises and fancy attachments are enticing but expensive. And if you want to find the one that's not an absolute pain to use, then speed, weight and (of course) results are all of importance. But it's hard to know which one's actually going to deliver until you take the plunge and try it. We tapped some hair experts — hairstylists Harry Josh and Matt Fugate — for their best blow-dryer-buying advice.

First, identify your hair type and what you're hoping to get out of your blow-dryer.

Don't assume that the tool your hairstylist uses is definitely going to be the one you'll want to invest in for home use, says Fugate. "Professionals are looking for something different than the average person, as we're using our dryers on all hair types. At home, you need to figure out what you're using your blow-dryer for: Do you want to stretch your hair out? Do you want to create volume? Are you diffusing?" he says. All of those are important factors that can help you narrow down which tool will yield the best results.

Ionic dryers are good for sleek styles, but not for enhancing volume.

Hair texture and type — as well as your desired styling results — will also determine whether or not you'll want to seek out a dryer that produces ions. "Ions counteract frizz and static, and a blow-dryer with an ion setting will really help women with frizzy, unruly hair achieve a sleeker blowout," says Josh. But the flip side of that is that it can leave fine hair limp and deflated looking. "If you have fine, straight hair, you amy notice a decrease in body from your blowout, so this setting is really best for women with a lot of pre-existing texture and thickness," says Josh, whose own eponymous blow-dryer offers an on/off switch so you can toggle between releasing ions or not.

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Another important thing to look for when you're shopping for hair tools: a warranty — especially if you're going for a pricier model. 

"I'd first look for a warranty," says Josh. "That way you know you're getting your money's worth and that the dryer isn't going to die after a few months. This is imperative for women who are drying their hair every day." Josh makes a solid case for investing in a higher-end tool, pointing out that the cheaper models might not hold up well to daily use. "Cheaper models can get cracks in the barrel, give uneven heat or sometimes even give off a smoky smell," says Josh.

Yes, all of those attachments actually do something.

"I always recommend using attachments. Many dryers come with nozzles, which help concentrate the airflow," says Josh, who points out that one common misconception is that these nozzles make the blow-drying process take longer. "It actually makes your blow-dry much more efficient," he says. Fugate also points out the importance of technique when you're using a concentrator attachment: "I recommend not placing it up against the hair or the brush, since it'll burn the hair and also cause the motor to fail over time," he says. Hold it several inches away, pointing in the direction you're styling the hair, for the best results.

For anyone with curly hair, a diffuser attachment is a must. "Diffusers help distribute the air from the dryer without creating a frizzy mess," explains Josh.

Click through the gallery below for a selection of some of our favorite blow-dryers you can buy right now (at a variety of price points!).

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