My Hair Dryer Is Terrible (And So Is Yours)

A couple of weeks ago my dear friend (and longtime hair stylist) Jessica called to let me know that she would be in San Antonio for the weekend, and would I perhaps be interested in getting into some trouble (as we are wont to do)? The answer was naturally yes, so I packed a bag--except for hair care stuff. Traveling with Jessica means never having to pack your hair dryer ... or hair spray, or styling products, or even a comb.

One morning, after Jessica had left to attend a business meeting, I did the usual--pawed through all of her stuff, and used her high-end products instead of the things that I packed. On this particular day I wanted to quickly dry my bob and get out the door; no straightening with a brush or iron, I just needed my hair to be dry enough to venture out into cool, wet, windy weather. I picked up Jess's hair dryer and the next three minutes were a revelation.

You guys. Our Average People hair driers are terrible.

All I had done was to throw a little styling lotion into my hair, turn my head upside down, and blast myself with heat until my hair was dry. It took all of two minutes. Granted, I have fine hair, but this was still some kind of record. I flipped my hair back up, ran a comb through, and was amazed at how legitimately rocking my hair looked and felt. I couldn't think about anything but that hair dryer for days.

After a week went by, I called Jessica and started peppering her with questions. "What kind of hair drier do you use? Do you like it? Is it the same kind you use in the salon? How much does it cost? How long does it last? Is it really that much better than my Supermax by ConAir that I got at Walmart (probably) for fifteen bucks (probably)?" It turns out that hair driers have really come a long way, and we should consider following them.

"Yes, I am using a way better hair dryer than you are!" exclaimed Jessica. "When it comes to your hair it's all about the proper tools. It's not just me--hair stylists across the globe are using better hair dryers than you are, Christina!"

Jessica uses a BaByliss Pro hair dryer--the same kind she uses in her salon in Upstate New York. "A good, professional hair dryer will cost about $80-$120," explained Jessica. "You can find them at a beauty supply, like Sally's, or you can just go online. [The BaByliss] has a salon life of about one year, but at home it should last at least three."

So what's so great about a hundred dollar hair dryer?

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"My dryer is lightweight, but it's got a lot of power. It's also "ionic"--most styling tools offer an ionic option--which creates a smoother, more professional result," said Jessica. According to various Interweb sources, an ionic hair dryer emits negative ions which break down water molecules, drying hair from the inside out, resulting in a smoother cuticle and thus, shinier hair. Jessica says that in addition to looking for ionic technology, you should look for high wattage--at least 1500, although her professional dryers are around 1800 to 2000 watts--and multiple speeds, including a cool setting. "Heat elements and motors in professional hair dryers are better, and because they are designed for salon use, will last longer--especially at home."

It turns out that not only are we using the wrong hair dryers, we're using them all wrong. For starters, did you know there are three steps to a great blow out? "Start by drying your hair on medium heat to get most of the moisture out--say, 80 percent," advised Jessica. "Then, use a high heat combined with a low speed to shape the hair using a brush. Finally, use the cool setting to set and finish the hair." Use a heat protectant product, dry hair in sections, use the right brush for your hair length, and use a concentrator to properly direct heat. "A concentrator [attachment] works to concentrate the heat on a very small--a half-inch or a quarter-inch--section of hair," explained Jessica. "By concentrating the heat, you are closing the cuticle down, which smooths out the hair and makes it like glass, so when the light reflects it has a lot of sheen."

For curly-haired girls, Jessica advises skipping the concentrator and using the diffuser attachment. This will diffuse the warm air, keeping the hair cuticle smooth and preventing frizz. "When I style my hair with its natural curl, I put in product and let it air-dry if I can," said Jessica. "But if you have to use a hair dryer on curly hair, a diffuser is a must."

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