Best Cheap Hair Dryers

Price Range

$10 - $40

Cheapism

$40 - $100

Mid-Range

$100 and up

High End

Have you ever walked out of the salon after a blowout with smooth, sleek hair, feeling great? Many consumers spend hundreds trying to recreate the look at home with high-end hair dryers. Frugal shoppers can find a number of decent cheap hair dryers with some of the same professional qualities for less than $40. The hard part of seeking out the best cheap hair dryers is wading through a market that's flooded with different budget brands and models, all claiming to produce "professional" results. Many do not, of course, but some come close.

Cheap Hair Dryer Buying Guide

Our top pick, the Revlon RV544 (starting at $20) wins raves for noticeably frizz-free results. The runners-up in this category are the Andis RC-2 (starting at $20), which works for travel as well as everyday use, and the Babyliss Pro Ceramix Xtreme BAB2000 (starting at $41), which sits atop our price range but impresses users with its 2,000 watts of power. The Revlon RV484 (starting at $18) comes with plenty of appealing features as well, but reviews suggest it poses a safety hazard.

Generally hair dryers range in price from around $10 for cheap hair dryers to as much as $300 for high-end models. The difference in price often reflects whether the appliance is meant to be used in salons by professionals or at home by consumers. Consumers have begun demanding professional-quality hair appliances and manufacturers have obliged, leading to an abundance of high-end hair dryers for retail consumption. Professional hair dryers are designed to dry hair faster, do less damage to the hair, and be lightweight so that professionals wield them all day. In addition, professional hair dryers are built to last through many more hours of use, whereas retail hair dryers tend to give out sooner. A former beauty editor writing for Lifetime Moms also points to the time-saving power of expensive models relative to cheap hair dryers.

Features to consider when shopping for any hair dryer include the wattage as well as the heating and drying technology and the heat and speed settings. Cheap hair dryers employ several heating technologies, but ceramic is the best choice because of its ability to heat evenly and avoid overheating the unit or the hair. Drying technologies include ionic and tourmaline. Ionic technology uses negative ions to enable the hair shaft to close in moisture and avoid a dull, static look. Tourmaline technology is said to use more ions when drying the hair for even better results. Of course, the more heat and speed settings (e.g., low, medium, high), the more adjustability you have for precise styling.

Few experts weigh in with reviews of cheap hair dryers, probably because they use the professional-grade models. We based our evaluations of cheap hair dryers' performance primarily on consumer reviews posted online, which weigh in on subjects ranging from frizz control and hair health to durability and ease of use.

Hair Dryer Reviews

Consumers who post hair dryer reviews expect even cheap models to dry their hair without creating frizz and static. They also note the dryer's impact on the health of their hair after repeated use. Consumers appreciate models that are easy to use and express disappointment in hair dryer reviews when a given model doesn't last several years.

Frizz Control and Hair Health.

You shouldn't have to sacrifice the health of your hair just because you're not purchasing an expensive professional hair dryer. The Revlon RV544 (starting at $20) produces results that stack up against what you'd get with a professional model, according to hair dryer reviews. In fact, in a comparative test by Good Housekeeping, the Revlon RV544 beat out a top-ranked, high-end hair dryer for the No. 1 spot in its category. It's also a big hit among users posting hair dryer reviews on Amazon, garnering just over a four-star rating overall. One reviewer says other dryers make her hair noticeably frizzier the Revlon RV544, which leaves her hair shiny and sleek even without a lot of product.

The Babyliss Pro Ceramix Xtreme BAB2000 (starting at $41) also finds fans in hair dryer reviews on Folica.com, where several users comment appreciatively on the shine and healthy look they achieve with this model. The Andis RC-2 travel hair dryer (starting at $20) also effectively reduces frizz and keeps hair healthy, according to hair dryer reviews. One user posting on Amazon had to have this dryer after trying it out in a hotel. She reports that it gives her normally dull, flat hair tons of body and has eliminated the need for a curling iron or straightening iron.

Some discount hair dryers just don't cut it with consumers. One of these is the Revlon RV484 (starting at $18). A user who posted a hair dryer review on the Sears website says this model fries hair and makes it unmanageable.

Ease of Use.

Professional stylists look for hair dryers that are easy to handle, and so should frugal home users. One hair dryer that stands out in this regard is the Andis RC-2, which is billed as a travel hair dryer because it folds up, has a retractable cord, and is lightweight. Many users posting hair dryer reviews on Drugstore.com say they originally bought this model for travel but have found it ideal for daily use at home, as well. Opinion is mixed about the Hot Tools Ionic Anti-Static Travel Dryer (starting at $28), according to hair dryer reviews at Folica.com. Some users say it's loud and a bit heavy while others love the smooth results. It features dual voltage, so you don't need an adapter to use it abroad.

The Revlon RV544 also ranks high with users for ease of use. In hair dryer reviews posted on the Walmart website, only one reviewer gives the Revlon RV544 fewer than four or five stars, and many mention that it's lightweight and easy to handle. Some users gripe about the weight of the Babyliss Pro Ceramix Xtreme in hair dryer reviews on Amazon, but many add that this model is so powerful they don't need to hold it up for too long. Opinions are mixed on the sliding controls and a few users find the cold-shot button too easy to press by accident, but many remark on the good, comfortable fit in the hand and the range of heat and speed settings. The Revlon RV484 does not fare well with consumers when it comes to ease of use. Several users posting hair dryer reviews on Amazon consider the dryer heavy and bulky.

Hair Dryer Quality and Durability.

Even on a budget, consumers posting hair dryer reviews expect a certain level of quality and a life span of several years. The Revlon RV544, which gets high marks in other areas, is also a quality star. It comes with a two-year limited warranty and users appreciate the affordable price for such a good product, according to hair dryer reviews on Walmart.com. One consumer writes that she didn't feel as though she sacrificed anything in the way of quality with this dryer.

The Babyliss Pro Ceramix Xtreme comes with a limited three-year manufacturer's warranty, and one hair dryer reviewer on Amazon remarks that the high quality of the hair dryer is noticeable immediately. The Andis RC-2 travel hair dryer also seems to impress users with its life span and comes with a five-year warranty. In a hair dryer review on Amazon, one user comments that she bought the Andis travel hair dryer three years ago and has dropped it several times, yet it continues to work just fine.

On the not-so-sturdy side is the Revlon RV484, which has seriously disappointed consumers in alarming ways, according to hair dryer reviews at Target and Amazon. For example, one user notes that the cord developed a hole and started sparking when turned a certain way. Others report that this hair dryer has overheated, caught fire, caused first-degree burns to their hands, or literally burned their hair.

Ionic and Ceramic Hair Dryers

Ionic Hair Dryers.

Some of the newest hair dryers incorporate something called ionic technology, which claims to use negatively charged ions to dry hair more smoothly and quickly. According to experts at Misikko, a retailer of salon-grade tools, the reasoning behind this (based on no proven facts) is that positively charged air blowing out of a traditional dryer forces open the hair shaft and lets moisture escape, leaving hair frizzy, dull, and static-charged. Negative ions are thought to leave the hair shaft closed, holding in moisture, so you wind up with smooth, sleek, and nearly static-free locks.

Tourmaline hair dryers incorporate fragments from the tourmaline gemstone and allegedly produce even more negative ions. While ionic and tourmaline technologies are not scientifically proven to be more effective in hair dryers, user comments we found during our research suggest that consumers cannot get enough of these technologies.

All the budget models we researched are ionic hair dryers. Our top pick, the Revlon RV544, is a tourmaline ionic hair dryer. In one of many positive reviews at Drugstore.com, a consumer remarks that she specifically bought the dryer because it employs both technologies and she can see a huge difference in the health of her hair after using it. The Hot Tools Ionic Anti-Static Travel Dryer lets users opt to turn off the ions -- a rare feature that allegedly creates volume. Users posting on Amazon credit the ionic technology in the Andis RC-2 with making their hair feel noticeably smoother.

Ceramic Hair Dryers.

Hair dryers work by drawing in air, heating it up, and then forcing it out. How Stuff Works explains that the heating element in a traditional hair dryer is coiled nichrome wire, which is also used to heat other household appliances such as toasters. In high-end hair dryers and an increasing number of cheap hair dryers, this heating element is coated with ceramic. Ceramic hair dryers disperse the heat more evenly to avoid overheating sections of hair, which can result in damage and frizz. The Babyliss Pro Ceramix Xtreme BAB2000 and Andis RC-2 are both ceramic hair dryers.

Hair Dryer Power.

The most popular wattage in cheap hair dryers is 1,875 watts. Professional hair dryers can reach up to 2,000 watts, which theoretically means faster drying (and quicker customer turnover for the salon). One inexpensive hair dryer that can satisfy a need for speed is the Babyliss Pro Ceramix Xtreme, which provides 2,000 watts of power.

Heat/Speed Settings.

Professionals like to have options when styling hair, which means multiple heat and speed settings. Even budget hair dryers now come with a range of settings, along with a cool-shot button that provides a blast of cool air to help set a finished style. All the budget hair dryers on our list feature this function. According to experts at Misikko, a cooler setting works best if your hair is damp, while very wet hair calls for high heat. Among cheap hair dryers, the Andis RC-2 travel dryer has three heat/speed settings while the Revlon RV544 has two heat settings and two speed settings. The Babyliss Pro Ceramix Xtreme and Revlon RV484 offer three heat and two speed settings. There's no proven ideal for the number of settings, and our research indicates that users seem just as happy with two settings as with three, as long as hair dries quickly and looks silky at the end.

Hair Dryer Attachments.

Many hair dryers, even in our budget price range, come with styling tools that attach to the end of the nozzle. All the models on our list include a concentrator, which focuses the hot air on a specific section of hair for precise styling. The Revlon RV544 and RV484 also come with a diffuser for curly hair. That hair dryer attachment disperses the powerful stream of air, which would otherwise create flyaways, and encourages natural wave instead of blowing hair straight. The prongs help lift and separate curls.

Raechel Conover

Raechel Conover is a freelance writer whose work has appeared on Yahoo, blogs, and other websites. She's a self-confessed shopaholic and frugal mom, always scouring the sale and clearance racks for deals and taking full advantage of free community activities and events with her husband and young sons.

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