Ok, so you know that blow drying is bad for your hair. And you’ve heard the talk about embracing your true self – AKA “Go natural.” But most of us don't want to go back to the Dark Ages way of styling our hair (at least not all the time) and lose out on precious time we save in our busy lives using a modern hairdryer.
On more than one occasion as a student hairdresser, I accidentally burned the clients’ ear or scalp trying to learn to control the heat and air direction of my blow dryer. Just imagine what kind of damage it can do to your hair if it can give you second degree burns on your skin! The damage potential becomes increasingly severe with finer hair, so we are going to consider hairdryer features and how you can choose the right dryer for the type of hair that’s most at risk. I hear what you’re saying: there’s so much to consider! Negative ions, ceramic, titanium, microprocessors, and so much more.
Don’t worry! I’m going to demystify the hair dryer buying process so you are better equipped to get the product that functions with the least amount of damage.
First of all, let's talk about what does fine hair needs to be strong, healthy, and long.
Unfortunately, fine hair = less resistance to heat than other hair types. Fine hair can be limp, fragile, and prone to frizz and split ends. Ultimately, if left unchecked, it can become damaged, thinner, and weaker.
One important thing to remember is to limit the amount of heat you apply to your hair. You don't want to end up frying your hair on your first test drive with your new blow dryer.
As is true with all hair types, fine hair definitely should be dried only up to 80%. That means you should stop before your hair is bone dry.
We have already determined that, with fine hair, it is essential to regulate the amount of heat the hair receives — the more adjustments for the heat setting, the better.
For fine hair, it is best to look for a dryer that has at least three heat settings.
Some blow dryers have only low, medium, and high settings without the ability to independently regulate the speed of air. Dryers that have separate controls for heat and airflow are ideal. Say you want to dry your hair quickly but don’t want all the heat. You can set the airspeed to high then put the heat setting on low. That way you are protecting your fragile hair from too much heat.
Hairdressers use the cool shot button frequently. After the hair is almost dry, use it to cool the hair and close the cuticle. This protects the internal structure of fine hair which is important for maintaining shine.
This feature is especially helpful when you want to build volume by directing cold air at the scalp. Pro tip: Be aware that not all cool shot buttons are blue.
When we think of something negative, we tend to believe that it isn't good for us. In reality, negative ions are beneficial while positively charged ions are harmful as they cause our hair’s cuticles to open up, resulting in the loss of moisture and shine.
The amount of positive ions goes up as the hair dries which increases the likelihood of damage. Pollution is also the result of positively charged ions, whereas negative ions are found in the pure nature where oxygen is abundant. Negative ions also help to eliminate static electricity.
Summary: Negative ions help to rid fine hair of the dirt and grime of life, seal in moisture, close the cuticle, and eliminate frizz by reducing static. The result is shinier hair and a happier you!Because fine hair is less durable, negative ions are especially beneficial for fine hairto serve as an extra protection from the elements.
Some hair dryers give you the option to turn on and off the ion production. This is important because turning ion production on makes for smoother hair, and turning off the ion production gives way for more volume.
What is it? Tourmaline is a semi-precious gemstone mixed with other substances such as aluminum, iron, magnesium, sodium, lithium, or potassium which gives tourmaline a variety of different colors.-Wikipedia This mineral gets crushed up and then used to coat the plates inside of the hair dryer.
Why it matters: This semi-precious stone has the natural ability to eliminate positive ions and emit far-infrared.
this feature gives you the two-for-one benefits of negative ions and far-infrared which will be discussed in the following section.
What is it? Infrared is radiation (also called infrared light) and is generally invisible to the human eye. Far infrared (FIR) is part of in the infrared range. Wikipedia
Why it matters: As the safest portion of energy coming from the sun, far infrared offers a number of health benefits including enhanced circulation, eased pain, reduction of oxidative stress, and relief of inflammation.
Summary: Infrared results in faster drying times because it heats from within. This is especially useful for fine hair because less heat and less drying time is ideal. There is also the therapeutic benefit of better scalp circulation that aids in growing thicker and healthier hair.
Both materials are used to produce consistent heat results; however, titanium heats up and cools down super quickly. Ceramic is typically made of baked clay and can be used in the heating element or as a coating on internal parts of the blow dryer and create a far infrared heat.
Why it matters: Since Titanium heats up quickly, delicate hair can be damaged before you realize it. Ceramic heats slowly and steadily and is more self-regulating as it will not overheat. Ceramic, when heated, appears to have some infrared properties.
Summary: For fine hair, ceramic is preferred over titanium, but if you choose titanium, make sure you have the ability to control the heat settings.
I have recently discovered hair dryers with Blue LED, and Nano-Silver or Red LED light. Both Blue LED light and Nano-silver are supposed to kill bacteria, whereas Red LED has a healing effect similar to infrared.
According to Elle and Nanosilver naughty or nice; This technology has been used on the skin as a therapeutic treatment for the past few years, and if it’s good for your skin, it’s likely good for your hair.
Summary: Red LED is suitable for fine hair much like infrared, so if you choose this option on your hair dryer, opt for the red unless you are a hairdresser and want to take extra precautions with sanitation practices or if you are concerned about microbes.
Also read our page on best blow dryers.
Temperature regulating smart sensors are a relatively new feature and are a really good option to have if they fit your budget. Most hair dryers have internal thermostats or fuses to prevent electrical shorts which is a safety feature required by law in the US and other countries to protect the user. The standard internal features of a blow dryer that prevent it from overheating DO NOT take into consideration the amount of heat the hair can take before it is damaged. This NEW feature electronically regulates the temperature, so your hair is protected from excess heat damage.
What is it? Wattage or watts is a measurement of electricity usage or output. Think of it like horsepower: the more watts, the more output the dryer has. This means the higher the speed or velocity of the motor, the more heat potential.
The number of watts for which a hair dryer is rated translates to its maximum output ability. In other words, the device is at full watt potential when being used at max air and heat settings. Hair dryers can range from 1000 watts to 2400-watt rating, so don't be fooled by the numbers like 2800, 3000, 3600 or 3900. Unless the UL rating label on the dryer itself says that it uses 3000 watts, it’s just the model number, not the wattage. In my early days as a hairdresser, the most common professional hair dryers were 2000 watts. Now I am seeing more 2100 watt dryers, and even 2400 watt. For the average person who uses the dryer just once or twice a day, less wattage will serve you well (1600-1875).
Usage is a factor when considering how many watts you need. Since hairdressers use their blow dryer day in and day out, the extra power is important. Think of it as a small car engine running continually at maximum rpms; eventually the motor will stop working. The same is true for hair dryer motors. If you regularly need to turn your dryer to maximum settings to get the desired effect, you should probably upgrade to a higher wattage device.
Summary: So by now you may have come to the conclusion that lower watt rating is better for fine hair. That is true because you don't want too much heat on your hair. Remember, though, the dyer is NOT using the full wattage unless it is running at full output (high heat and high airspeed). Those of us who have both fine and thin hair, even a 1000-watt travel blow dryer will do the trick; however, consider who else may use the dryer, how often it will be used, and, of course, the other great features we have already discussed. That will help you make a better choice to fill the needs of everyone in the family.
Briefly, I want to mention how technology has changed our perspective of watts needed to do the job. Infrared and supersonic features have enabled manufacturers to make hair dryers that provide more airflow and heat while using less wattage. Dyson and Kyone are an excellent example of this. Less wattage is better for the environment as we are consuming less electricity, and it's suitable for fine hair because a lower heat setting can achieve the desired effect.
I hope this article has helped prepare you to find a dryer that suits your needs and budget. If you haven't already done so, check out some of the fantastic hairdryers I've discovered for fine, thin and fragile hair. Happy drying, and enjoy your healthier hair!