Keep your ringlets looking healthy, shiny and frizz-free with the best gentle hair dryers
If you have curly hair, you’ll already know that gentle care is essential if you want to maintain its shape and shine. Harsh heat treatments that strip moisture impact all hair types, but curls suffer the effects of dullness and frizz worst of all – so it’s essential to equip yourself with the best hair dryer to gently care for your curls.
Air drying and plopping (drying the hair by wrapping it in a low-friction towel or t-shirt) are two ways to avoid damage from excessive heat, but there are times you may want to blow-dry a more structured style into hair, or dry your hair quickly before work in the morning. In those cases, you’ll need a curl-friendly hair dryer.
The best dryers for curls are those that favour airflow over heat to dry the hair, since lower temperatures won’t strip vital moisture from the hair. Look out also for ionic drying technology that helps preserve moisture in the hair, alongside heating elements coated in ceramic or tourmaline to encourage even heat distribution. Finally, a good diffuser attachment will help lift and separate curls, preserving the curl pattern rather than blasting your curls out of shape.
Here, we round up our favourite hair dryers that will dry curly hair gently and keep it full of bounce and shine, while also offering advice on how to choose the best hair dryer for your hair.
How to choose the best hair dryer for curly hair
What features should I look out for?
It’s important to consider a number of features when looking for a suitable hair dryer for curly hair. The following comprise the most important of these features.
Heat and airflow control:Heat is the most important consideration when choosing a dryer for curly hair. Lower temperatures are less damaging for fine and delicate hair, while higher heat settings will help thicker and more densely textured hair to dry quickly. The best dryers for curly hair will allow you to select from a range of heat and speed settings, and ideally the heat and airflow controls should be separate from one another so you can rough-dry on a higher speed setting without increasing the heat, before switching to a lower speed for gentle styling.
Digital (EC) motors: Hair health has been on the drying industry’s mind for some time, and the latest “digital motors” (also known as EC or electronically commutated motors) allow for increased air velocity with reduced heat, so you don’t need a high wattage to experience powerful drying results on a lower heat setting. Lower heat settings are ideal for all hair types, but especially for curly hair, which can easily become dehydrated as a result of heat styling.
Ionic technology: Many modern hair dryers include ionic technology, where negatively charged ions are generated when the air passes through an electric current in the heating element. These ions break up the water molecules in your hair, allowing ionic dryers to dry your hair quickly and spread moisture more evenly throughout your hair for a smooth and glossy finish. Ionic technology is popular in many heat-styling tools, since by heating evenly and quickly drying the hair, it helps reduce heat damage and seals in moisture for shiny and hydrated hair.
Ceramic-coated heating elements: Ceramic elements distribute heat more evenly to prevent “hotspots” that can damage the hair. They also generate infrared heat that dries quickly and seals the hair cuticle, giving a soft and shiny finish. The mineral tourmaline, also used in some heating elements, offers similar benefits.
Cable length: Not a curl-specific feature, but a longer cable makes it easier to move the dryer around your head, and means you can set up your dryer exactly as you’d like, without having to be right next to a power socket.
READ NEXT: The best curling wands
How else can I keep my curls intact when drying?
Having curly hair can present many challenges – as can styling it. Here are our tips to achieve the best finish.
Point the hair dryer nozzle downwards: As well as drying on a low heat setting, it’s important to keep the nozzle of the hair dryer pointed downwards along the hair shaft, from the roots towards the ends, to smooth the cuticle as you dry. Textured hair is especially susceptible to frizz, which can result from blowing the cuticle back up the other way. As such, always blow downwards to keep hair frizz-free.
Use a diffuser attachment: These cone-shaped attachments use internal fingers to lift the hair away from direct heat and produce an effect similar to air-drying. Diffusers with longer, or adjustable, fingers will help you get the air right to the roots, adding volume and lift. Diffusers can be purchased separately, but an attachment made to fit your particular hair dryer is likely to deliver the best results. We’ve noted below where a diffuser attachment is provided in the box, or whether an attachment designed for the dryer is available separately.
Use a heat protector spray: Even when drying on a low heat setting, you’ll want to use a heat protector spray to prevent heat damage. A curl cream can also be a good choice to seal in moisture and retain the curls’ natural bounce. Finish with a light serum, oil or curl cream to add extra shine and definition.
How we test
At Expert Reviews, we know that hands-on testing gives us the best and most complete information about a product. We personally test all the hair dryers we review, drying hair using the different heat and speed settings each hairdryer offers and, where applicable, the attachments supplied in the box. Where dryers are recommended for a particular hair type or usage, we test on that hair type to be sure we’re making an accurate recommendation.
When testing, we time the speed of drying from freshly washed hair to fully dry (noting the length and texture of hair we test on); and evaluate the overall ease of use, noise, and the finish and feel of the hair after drying. We also note how well curls, waves and straightened styles last throughout a typical day. Finally, we confirm the weight and dimensions of the tool.
READ NEXT: The best hair dryers to buy
The best hair dryers for curly hair you can buy in 2023
1. Dyson Supersonic: Best high-end dryer for curly hair
Price when reviewed: £330 | Check price at Boots The Dyson Supersonic blew the world away when it launched back in 2016. The Supersonic’s four heat settings and three-speed settings mean you can choose gentle low heat to keep your curls intact, with intelligent heat sensors monitoring the temperature constantly for optimum hair health. The Supersonic uses fast airflow, powered by a beefy V9 motor, to dry hair rather than heat, which is great for maintaining moisture and reducing frizz.
The dryer comes with a traditional diffuser attachment and concentrator nozzle, as well as a Gentle Air attachment that diffuses the airflow with a wavy edge to distribute heat and air more evenly. There’s also a wide-tooth comb attachment designed to detangle curly or coily hair while drying. There’s no denying this hair dryer is expensive, but the healthy results mean it could be your curls’ new best friend.
Read our full Dyson Supersonic review
Key specs – Heating element: Ionic; Temperature settings: 4; Power: 1,600W; Speed settings: 3; Cable length: 2.8m; Cool shot button: Yes; Accessories: Concentrator, diffuser, gentle air and smoothing nozzles; Weight: 660g
2. BaByliss Hydro Fusion dryer: Best mid-range dryer for curly hair
Price when reviewed: £50 | Check price at John Lewis BaByliss’ Hydro-Fusion hair dryer is part of the Hydro-Fusion range of heat-styling tools that use BaByliss’s own Advanced Plasma ionic technology to smooth hair and reduce frizz. The dryer uses both negative and positive ions to break up water molecules, which allows the hair to dry more effectively at lower temperatures – just what curly hair needs to stay healthy. Our shoulder-length curly hair took less than five minutes to rough-dry from completely wet, and felt soft and less frizzy than usual after blow-drying.
The Hydro-Fusion’s two speed and three temperature settings can be adjusted separately, allowing plenty of versatility in the way you style your hair; and there’s a cool shot, too, to set your style. The dryer comes with a concentrator nozzle to direct the heat for smooth straightening, and a diffuser to volumise natural curls. Gentle and hydrating, the Hydro-Fusion is a good mid-price choice for curly hair.
Read our full BaByliss Hydro-Fusion review
Key specs – Heating element: Ionic; Temperature settings: 3 Power: 2,100W; Speed settings: 2; Cable length: 2.5m; Cold shot button: Yes; Accessories: Concentrator, diffuser; Weight: 570g
3. Remington Hydraluxe Ionic Hair Dryer: Best dryer for curly hair under £80
Price when reviewed: £70 | Check price at Boots Remington’s Hydraluxe hairdryer combines effective drying at lower temperatures with ionic conditioning technology to lock in moisture and create a glossy shine. The dryer has two speed and three temperature settings that are independently controlled using switches on the handle, so you can mix and match the best settings for your hair type. The dryer also has a Hydracare smart heat sensor that monitors and restricts the air temperature, so there’s no chance of overheating.
Remington promises airflow speeds of up to 80mph, allowing hair to be efficiently dried without the need for excessive heat; the higher airflow settings certainly feel powerful and dried hair quickly. The Hydraluxe comes with wide and slim concentrator nozzles and a diffuser to lift curls, which twist and lock firmly into place so there’s no jiggling during use. In all, this is a good-value hair dryer that leaves hair feeling soft and looking glossy, healthy and frizz-free.
Key specs – Heating element: Ionic; Temperature settings: 3; Power: 2,300W; Speed settings: 2; Cable length: 2.5m; Cool shot button: Yes; Accessories: 2 x concentrator nozzles, diffuser; Weight: 760g
4. Shark Style iQ: Best smart dryer for curly hair
Price when reviewed: £180 | Check price at John Lewis With the Style iQ, Shark has created a premium hair dryer that delivers quick, damage-free drying. It offers three heat and three airspeed settings that are independently adjustable, so it’s easy to select the settings that best suit your hair length and texture. The Style iQ comes with two “smart” styling attachments in the box: an adjustable concentrator nozzle and a diffuser attachment with extendable prongs. The attachments trigger recommended smart heat and airflow settings when you clip and twist them onto the dryer. We found these settings worked well, but the heat and speed can also be manually adjusted if you prefer.
The Style iQ’s powerful airflow means the dryer’s cooler settings are still effective, so you can dry your hair efficiently without toasting it. In addition, the dryer uses ionic technology to moisturise the hair as it dries; our hair was smooth, glossy and hydrated after drying. The cool shot setting is handy to seal the cuticle and set your style once you’ve finished drying. A smart and stylish dryer that leaves hair feeling healthy, with clever attachments to help you find the ideal settings for your preferred style.
Read our full Shark Style iQ review
Key specs – Heating element: Ionic; Temperature settings: 3; Power: 1,520W; Speed settings: 3; Cable length: 2.5m; Cold shot button: Yes; Accessories: Concentrator, diffuser; Weight: 500g
5. Flower Beauty Ionic Pro Dryer: Best lightweight hair dryer for curly hair
Price when reviewed: £80 | Check price at Boots We love Drew Barrymore’s Flower Beauty range for its simple-but-effective products with a cute aesthetic at reasonable prices. This ionic hairdryer in a striking cobalt blue colour is super-lightweight at under 390g. Nevertheless, it packs a powerful drying punch thanks to its advanced airflow system that promises the results of a 2000W dryer, using a turbine fan system to push the air through fast. Ionic technology also reduces drying time by breaking up water molecules, leaving hair soft and hydrated, and a tourmaline-ceramic element ensures gentle and even heat with no scorching.
The Flower Pro offers two heat settings and a variable airflow dial, so you can vary the speed of the airflow to your liking. There’s also a cool shot, and the dryer comes with a cute pink concentrator nozzle in the box (a diffuser attachment is available to purchase separately). The result is soft, shiny and frizz-free hair, especially when used on curls and coils. Cute, but smart with it.
Key specs – Heating element: Ceramic/tourmaline, ionic; Temperature settings: 2; Power: 2,000W; Speed settings: Variable; Cable length: 3m; Cool shot button: Yes; Accessories: Concentrator, diffuser available separately; Weight: 390g
6. Panasonic EH-NA65 Nanoe hair dryer: Best dryer for tight curls
Price when reviewed: £60 | Check price at Boots Panasonic’s patented Nanoe system jets nano-sized water particles (a billion times smaller than steam particles) directly into your hair as you dry, hydrating the scalp and reducing static, frizz and split-ends as it does so. The result is impressively shiny and smooth hair, especially noticeable on longer, thicker, curly and afro-textured hair.
The three temperature and four speed settings can be independently selected using the sliding switches on the handle, making it very easy to control the level of heat and air you expose your hair to. There’s also an innovative alternating hot and cold mode, which blasts hot air along the hair shaft to heat it into your chosen style, followed automatically by cool air to seal the cuticle and set the style. A scalp mode gently dries the roots and scalp at 50˚C, and is particularly good for dry and sensitive scalps.
The Nanoe comes with a diffuser attachment in the box to lift curls as you dry.
Key specs – Heating element: Ceramic/ionic with Nanoe technology; Power: 1,800W; Temperature settings: 4; Speed settings: 3; Cable length: 2.7m; Cool shot button: Yes; Accessories: Concentrator, diffuser and quick dry nozzles; Weight: 578g
7. ghd Helios: Best salon-style hair dryer for curly hair
Price when reviewed: £179 | Check price at Lookfantastic Launched in 2020 as an update to ghd’s iconic Air hair dryer, the Helios is a powerful yet quiet and lightweight salon-style blow dryer. The powerful motor blows air at 78mph, meaning hair is dried quickly and smoothly without the need for high heat, which can dehydrate locks. In tests the Helios rough-dried our mid-length hair from wet in well under five minutes. Two heat and two speed settings are fewer than some rival dryers on our list – but the power of the motor more than makes up for the fewer number of settings. A ceramic heating element and ionic technology together give hair a glossy finish, and keep the heat gentle on delicate curly hair.
The dryer weighs just 780g, yet feels solid and well balanced in the hand. The Helios was originally launched in a white and rose-gold colourway; ghd has since added stylish matte black, plum, navy, pastel blue and champagne gold variants to the range.
A good salon-style dryer that packs a powerful drying punch without dehydrating your locks.
Read our full GHD Helios review
Key specs – Heating element: Ceramic/ionic; Temperature settings: 2; Power: 1,850W to 2,200W; Speed settings: 2; Cable length: 2.9m; Cool shot button: Yes; Accessories: Concentrator nozzle; Weight: 780g
8. Dyson Airwrap Complete: Best for smooth and sleek curls
Price when reviewed: £480 | Check price at John Lewis Most of the hair dryers included on our list are ideal for keeping your natural curl pattern intact. However, if you occasionally prefer to style your curls with a little more old-school Hollywood glamour, then the Dyson Airwrap should be your styling tool of choice. The Airwrap, unlike other curling tongs, uses air rather than direct heat from metal plates to curl hair, adding curls and ringlets to wet hair. So, if you’re a curly girl, you don’t need to dry and straighten your hair before curling. The Airwrap styles quickly and effectively without exposing hair to high heat, so it’s excellent for preserving the shine and health of curly hair, which can suffer if heated to excess.
The updated Airwrap includes a new switch that allows the direction of airflow to be changed, making it easy to alternate between clockwise and anticlockwise curls for a natural effect. There are three independently adjustable heat and airflow settings, plus a cool shot mode to set each curl. Arriving with a gentle drying attachment to rough-dry wet hair, there are also two different barrel sizes to create looser or tighter curls, two paddle brushes for smoothing, and one round brush for salon-style volume.
This is an expensive hair-styling tool, but the benefits to hair health make it worth the investment if you frequently style your curly hair this way.
Read our full Dyson Airwrap review
Key specs – Material: Tourmaline-ceramic barrel; Speed/heat settings: 3; Cold shot: Yes; Cable length: 2.6m; Accessories: Smoothing dryer, 30mm barrel, 40mm barrel, soft and firm smoothing brushes, round brush, filter cleaning brush and storage case; Weight: 661g