What to Look For
The best blow dryers today have many features that are beneficial for maintaining healthy hair of all types and textures, including African American hair. Because African American hair tends to be fragile, and break easily if it is not carefully handled, shoppers should look for models with ceramic and tourmaline infused heating elements that dry hair using ionic or far infrared technology. These features lock moisture and other conditioning agents into your strands, leaving hair soft and lustrous. Quiet motors and ergonomically designed handles are other desirable features.
Consider your needs and usage habits when making your decision to purchase. For example, you don’t need to buy the most expensive blow dryer if you don’t use it often. On the other hand, if a budget hair dryer is used frequently, the heating element may burn out quickly. Choose your blow dryer for its basic features rather than for its styling attachments. Always check for manufacturer's warranty and vendor return policy information before purchase to make sure that you have the option to return, replace or exchange a model that doesn't work for you.
Where to Buy
Online retailers such as Folica and Misikko carry a selection of high-end hair dryers and also have thousands of consumer reviews to help you make a decision. Beauty supply stores such as Sally Beauty and Ulta sell a good selection of mid-priced dryers. Both Sally Beauty and Ulta are brick-and-mortar retailers with online stores. If you go to one of their physical locations, you can ask questions about different models and get advice from sales associates about the right selection. Drugstores and discount marts like Target and Walmart are good places to shop for budget priced models.
As of September 2010, you can expect to pay as much as $200 for high-end blow dryers such as FHI, CHI and T3. Mid-priced models such as Jilbere de Paris and Babyliss range in price from about $50 to $100. Budget priced models commonly found in drug stores and discount marts such as Conair and Revlon are typically priced at $20 to $50.
High-end models typically used in professional salons often feature lightweight, ergonomic designs beneficial both for stylists who use them everyday and for home users with long or thick hair to dry. On the other hand, cheaper models can be heavier and harder to handle. Pricier dryers have multiple heat settings to choose from, whereas budget models may have only a “high” and a “low” setting. The two most important features to look for in any price range are a motor that operates at a minimum of 1800 watts for quick drying time and a drying element that uses “ionic” technology.
Most dryers include several styling attachments such as concentrators, diffusers, combs and brushes. These can also be purchased separately at beauty supply stores. Separate styling tools can also be used. Round boar bristle brushes create smooth results when blow drying chemically relaxed African American hair, but may not work as well for extremely curly natural hair. Alternatively, a ceramic barrel brush with reinforced plastic bristles, a paddle brush or a medium toothed comb are also good blow drying tools for extremely curly hair. Quality brushes and combs are sold at beauty supplies and drugstores for reasonable prices.
A "pik" comb styling attachment can be useful when blow drying highly textured African American hair. If you prefer a comb attachment, look for one designed to snap into the nozzle of your dryer instead of sliding over the nozzle, because the slide-on attachments are not secure and tend to fly off during styling. Side-opening dryers are not as common as front nozzle dryers but can be useful for drying and styling short or tightly coiled hair. According to Consumer Reports, drying times did not vary much between budget and high priced hair dryers.
Based in Reston, Va., Lydia King has been a writer and editor since 1996, working with diverse subject matter including law, government contracting, philosophy and career guidance. She completed a Bachelor of Arts in history at National University, where she is pursuing a Master of Arts in English and comparative literature.