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Best hair dryers for curly hair 2021: Fight frizz with our selection of the best gentle dryers

1 Dec 2021
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Keep your curls curly, luscious and free from unwanted frizz with the perfect hair dryers

If you have curly hair, you’ll already know that gentle care is essential to maintain its shape and shine. Harsh heat treatments that strip moisture from hair impact all hair types, but curls suffer the effects of dullness and frizz worst of all – and that’s why it’s essential to equip yourself with the best hair dryer for curly hair care.

The best hair dryers for curls are those that favour airflow overheat to dry hair, keeping drying temperatures low to avoid stripping vital moisture from the hair. You should also look out for ionic drying technology, which helps preserve moisture in the hair; and heating elements coated in ceramic or tourmaline to encourage even heat distribution with no damaging hot spots. Finally, a good diffuser attachment will help lift and separate curls, preserving curl pattern rather than blasting your curls out of shape.

Airdrying 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 blowdry a more structured style into your hair, or dry your hair quickly before work in the morning. In those cases, you need a hair dryer that is curl-friendly.

Here we’ve rounded up our favourite hair dryers for drying curly hair gently, and keeping it full of bounce and shine for beautiful coils that will be the envy of your straight-haired friends.

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READ NEXT: Get beachy waves with our top curling wands


Best hair dryers for curly hair: At a glance


How to choose the best hair dryer for curly hair

What features should I look out for?

Heat and airflow control: The first and most important consideration when choosing a hair dryer for curly hair is heat, and how much control the hair dryer offers over both heat and airflow settings. To dry hair, all hair dryers use a fan to direct air through a heating element and out through a nozzle to the hair. Lower temperatures are less damaging for fine hair, while higher heat settings will help thicker and more densely textured hair dry quickly. The best dryers for curly hair will allow you to select from a range of heat and speed settings; ideally these controls should be separate from one another, so that you can rough-dry on a higher speed setting without increasing the heat before switching to a lower speed for gentle styling.

EC (Electronically Commutated) 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 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 healthier for all hair types, but especially for curly hair which can become easily dehydrated by heat styling.

Ionic technology: Many modern hair dryers also include ionic technology in which 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 hair 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, as by heating evenly and drying the hair quickly 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” which can damage the hair; it also generates infrared heat that dries quickly and seals the hair cuticle, giving a soft and shiny finish. The mineral tourmaline is also used in some heating elements, with similar benefits.

How else can I keep my curls intact when drying?

Point the hair dryer nozzle downwards: As well as drying on a low heat setting, it’s important to remember to keep the nozzle of the hair dryer pointed downwards along the hair shaft, from the roots towards the ends, to smooth down the cuticle as you dry. Textured hair is especially susceptible to frizz, which can result from blowing the cuticle back up the other way – so always blow downwards to keep hair frizz-free.

Use a diffuser attachment: This can be a good choice for drying curly hair - these cone-shaped attachments use internal fingers to lift the hair away from direct heat and produce an effect similar to airdrying. 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 give 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 help curl retain its natural bounce. Finish with a light serum to add extra shine and definition.

READ NEXT: The best hair dryers to buy

The best hair dryers for curly hair in 2021

1. Shark Style iQ: Best smart dryer for curly hair

Price: £230 | Buy now from Shark

A newcomer in the haircare market, Shark was until very recently best known for its cordless vacuum cleaners. With the Style iQ, Shark has created a premium hair dryer that delivers quick, damage-free drying – and that doesn’t suck the life out of curly hair.

The Style iQ has 3 heat and 3 airspeed settings which are independently adjustable, so it’s easy to select the settings that best suit your hair length and texture. The powerful airflow means the dryer’s cooler settings are still effective, so you can dry your hair efficiently without toasting it. The dryer also uses ionic technology to moisturise the hair as it dries; our hair felt smooth, glossy and hydrated after drying. There’s also a cool shot setting, to seal the cuticle and set your style when you’ve finished drying.

The Style iQ comes with two ‘smart’ styling attachments in the box – an adjustable concentrator nozzle and a diffuser attachment with extendable prongs to reach deep into the roots and provide extra volume and lift. The smart part is that the attachments trigger recommended smart heat and airflow settings when you clip and twist them onto the dryer. In practice we found these ‘smart’ settings worked well, but they can also be manually adjusted if you want to tweak them to your own preferences.

Key specs – Heating element: Ionic; Temperature settings:3; Power: 1520W; Speed settings: 3; Cable length: 2.5m; Cold shot button: Yes; Accessories: Concentrator, diffuser; Weight: 500g

Buy now from Shark


2. BaByliss Hydro Fusion dryer: Best mid-range dryer for curly hair

Price: £60 | Buy now from Amazon

BaByliss’ Hydro-Fusion hair dryer is one in a series of heat-styling tools using Babyliss’s own “Advanced Plasma” ionic technology, designed to smooth hair, promote hair health and reduce frizz.

The plasma technology, which uses both negative and positive ions to break up water molecules, allows the hair to dry more effectively at lower temperatures – just what curly hair needs to stay healthy. In tests, 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 dryer comes with both a concentrator to direct the heat and a diffuser to volumise natural curls. The attachments slip on easily and stay in place well. The two speed and three temperature settings can be adjusted separately, allowing plenty of versatility in the way you style your hair. The dryer also has a cool shot to finish your style with. Gentle and hydrating, the Hydro Fusion is a good mid-price choice for curly hair.

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. Dyson Supersonic: Best high-end dryer for curly hair

Price: £300 | Buy now from Dyson

The Dyson Supersonic blew the world away when it launched this market-disrupting hair dryer that looks more like a prop from Star Trek than a traditional dryer. The Supersonic’s four heat settings and three-speed settings mean you can choose gentle low heat to keep your curls intact – and intelligent heat sensors monitor the temperature constantly for optimum hair health.

Thanks to Dyson’s beefy V9 motor, the higher speed settings are powerful enough to dry by themselves, without needing to turn up the heat. Dyson also has a range of comb and diffuser attachments that fit the dryer using magnets, helping them stay in place with no wobbling or wiggling. The dryer comes with a diffuser attachment and concentrator nozzle, as well as a new “Gentle air” attachment that diffuses the airflow with a wavy edge rather than with traditional fingers to distribute heat and air more evenly. There’s also a wide-tooth comb attachment designed to detangle curly or coily hair while drying.

The Supersonic comes with a super price tag, but the healthy results mean that if you blowdry your hair regularly and want to maximise style while minimising damage, this premium dryer could be your new best friend.

Key specs – Heating element: Ionic; Temperature settings: T4; Power: 1,600W; Speed settings: 3; Cable length: 2.7m; Cold shot button: Yes; Accessories: Concentrator, diffuser and smoothing nozzles; Weight: 690g

Buy now from Dyson


4. Panasonic EH-NA65 Nanoe hair dryer: Best dryer for tight curls

Price: £110 | Buy now from Amazon

Panasonic’s patented Nanoe system jets nano-sized water particles (a billion times smaller than steam particles) directly into your hair as you dry, to hydrate the scalp and reduce static, frizz and split ends. 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 how much 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 the hair 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 NA65 (fuschia pink) and its siblings in champagne and rose gold all come with diffuser attachments 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; Cold shot button: Yes; Accessories: Concentrator, diffuser and quick dry nozzles; Weight: 578g


5. Parlux Alyon Ionizer hair dryer: Best salon-style dryer for curly hair

Price: £122 | Buy now from Amazon

Italian hair dryer specialist Parlux launched this stylish hair dryer last autumn. Like other dryers on our list, the Alyon uses airflow rather than heat to minimise damage and keep curls frizz-free and a ceramic heating element distributes heat evenly over the hair.

The compact but powerful motor blows 84 cubic metres of air per hour, drying effectively even at curl-friendly low temperatures, and ionising technology keeps tresses shiny and hydrated.

The Alyon dried our shoulder-length curly hair easily and quickly in tests; hair felt soft and silky after drying, especially on the lower heat setting. If you’re a diffuser fan, do be aware that there’s no diffuser attachment in the box; Parlux diffusers are available separately for around £15 to £20. Despite this small drawback, the Alyon is a good salon-standard option for curly hair.

Key specs – Heating element: Ceramic/ionic; Temperature settings: 2; Power: 2,250W; Speed settings: 2; Cable length: 1.5m; Cold shot button: Yes; Accessories: 2 concentrator nozzles in box – diffuser sold separately; Weight: 425g


6. Nicky Clarke Frizz Control 2200W Ionic Dryer: Best budget dryer for curly hair

Price: £25 | Buy now from Argos

Hairdresser Nicky Clarke, known to the nation from appearances on This Morning, recently unveiled this budget-priced ionic hair dryer especially designed to control frizz. Although the price looks too good to be true, the drying and conditioning results are close to many of the more premium options on our list.

The Frizz Control dryer has a long barrel, making it easy to direct airflow for precise styling, and comes with a concentrator nozzle to smooth the hair; do note that there’s no branded diffuser available, so if you prefer to diffuser dry you’ll need to purchase an attachment separately.

The 2,000W motor is powerful enough to dry hair fast and with a minimum of fuss, and the ceramic element and ionic technology help the hair to retain moisture for a sleek and healthy finish. There are two combined speed /heat settings, plus a cool shot setting to finish your style.

Build quality feels a little less durable than some of the salon-quality hair dryers here, but for the price this is an excellent choice of dryer.

Key specs – Heating element: Ceramic/ionic with tourmaline; Power: 2,200W; Speed/heat settings: 2; Cable length: 3m; Cold shot button: Yes; Accessories: concentrator nozzle; Weight: 590g

Buy now from Argos


7. Revlon One Step hot brush: Best for flattening curls into straight styles

    Price: £60 | Buy now from Boots


    We’ve focussed above on dryers that help keep natural curls intact and in bouncing good condition – but if you’re looking to change up your curls into a sleek blown-out style for a special event, we really can’t fault the Revlon One Step for instant curl transformations with minimal hair damage.

    The One Step’s unique oval shape and large, natural bristles smooth out curly hair into a sleek and bouncy style in mere minutes; our Type 3 shoulder length hair takes under 10 minutes to style with the One Step, a process onlookers have described as “magic” and “a miracle”.

    As with other tools on our curl-friendly list, ionic technology protects the hair and speeds up styling, while the ceramic barrel ensures that there’s an even heat distribution. The One Step has two combined heat/speed settings and an overheating cut-off function that automatically stops airflow once it reaches the optimum drying temperature to help protect your hair from damage. A handy swivel cord which makes it easier to reach the back of your hair and a cool-touch tip means you can hold the brush at both ends without scorching your fingers or scalp.

    An absolute must-buy if you like to style straight occasionally, the One Step is amazingly fast, effective and you’ll save an absolute fortune in salon trips.

    Key specs – Material: Ceramic barrel; Speed/heat settings: 2; Cold shot: Yes; Cable length: 2m; Accessories: n/a; Weight: 820g

    Buy now from Boots


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