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Updated: 8 Jul 2021

10 hair dryer mistakes cramping your style

Avoid these hair-drying blunders for healthier hair that behaves the way you want it to. If any of these problems ring a bell, take comfort in our possible solutions.
Haddi Browne

You may have wondered how the glorious, catwalk-worthy blow-dry you have after a visit to the salon is so vastly different to your own efforts at home. 

But there’s no need to spend a fortune and fit trips to the hairdressers into your busy schedule to get a glamorous result. 

It could be as simple as investing in a new hair dryer to achieve gorgeous hair in the comfort of your own home. Many of us rely on hair dryers to dry our hair and create our desired style. However, excessive heat can damage hair, leaving it a dry, dull and brittle mess. Read on to see whether you’re making any of these mistakes.   

Need a new hair dryer? Here's our guide on how to buy the best hair dryer.

This article suggests solutions to these problems:

My hair takes ages to dry

Potential issue: You have a sub-par hair dryer 

When you’re drying your hair, does it feel like it’s taking forever? 

If you have lots of hair or you blow dry often, it’s worth investing in a high-quality model that will protect your hair and have it dry in no time. Using a substandard hair dryer that takes too long to dry could be damaging to your hair – the less time your hair spends exposed to heat, the better. You don’t have to get the most expensive model to achieve great results. 

Look out for hair-preserving features such as high power, various temperature settings, ionic air technology, a cool shot and ceramic technology.

Or: Your hair is soaking wet

If you have fine to medium hair, it should already be 80% dry before you get your hair dryer out. Thicker hair needs to be about 50% dry before blow-drying because full or curly hair is easier to get straight while still a bit damp.

Blow-drying your hair seconds after hopping out of the shower will have you standing there blasting heat at your strands for ages. Trying to dry and style it when it’s too wet will make the process longer and subject your hair to more heat damage. Ideally, you should let it air dry or, if you’re strapped for time, towel dry it as much as you can.

My hair is flat or lacks volume

Potential issue: You ignore the diffuser

When you’ve finally managed to get your hair dry, is it lacking in style and bounce? Well those extra hair dryer gadgets are worth holding on to. Many hair dryers come with an extra attachment called a diffuser, which has prongs that hold up sections of your hair to add volume to the roots. Some take one look at it and think ‘what’s this?’ before dumping it in the ‘miscellaneous’ drawer. But it’s time to dig it out because lifting your hair from the roots while blow-drying is key if you want more volume. The diffuser also helps define natural curls by reducing the intensity of the air flow.

It takes longer to dry your hair using a diffuser, but the result is well worth it.

My hair is frizzy and tangled after blow-drying

Potential issue: You’re leaving off the concentrator nozzle

Another removable hair dryer accessory you may have neglected is the concentrator nozzle – a flat, narrow attachment that concentrates air flow and heat. You may have initially seen this as an unnecessary extra, but it has great smoothing power and helps control the airflow. The result? A smooth finish and hair with less tangles and split ends. The nozzle makes the distribution and concentration of hair dryers more targeted and protects hair from heat damage. For extra volume, direct the nozzle towards your roots, but move it often to avoid heat damage.

Thinner nozzles are better at blasting hot air directly to the roots, resulting in more volume or for straightening naturally curly hair.

My hair is damaged

Potential issue: Your hair dryer is too old

If your beloved hair dryer is more than five years old, it’s time to wave goodbye to it. You’ve gotten your money’s worth after about 600 to 800 hours of use (about 300 to 400 blow-dries). It’s no longer performing as effectively as it used to. Old hair dryers are more likely to overheat and burn your hair.

One way hair dryers can overheat is when there’s excessive build-up of hair, dust and other particles in the protective grate at the back of it. So it’s important to clean the grate frequently to extend its lifespan. 

My hair looks dull after blow-drying

Potential issue: You’re using the wrong hair dryer

You’re unlikely to have considered your hair type when you went shopping for a hair dryer. But not all hair dryers are created equally. If your hair is naturally curly, frizzy, thick or difficult to dry, opt for a model with ionic air technology, which helps tame curls, frizz, creates shine and dries hair faster. A ceramic hair dryer might be your best bet if you have fine and/or dry hair. If you desire a sleek finish, a tourmaline hairdryer could be the answer to your prayers. 

Another hair-saving feature, especially if your hair takes forever to dry, is high-wattage (approximately 1,800 to 2,000W). A strong motor has more wind power, cutting down drying time and reducing exposure to excessive heat.

My hair lacks shine after blow-drying

Potential issue: You don’t blast your strands with a cool shot

The cool shot button isn’t there for decoration – it’s there to help seal your hair’s cuticle, locking in your style and keeping your hair looking shiny. For hair that holds its style and shine, use the cool shot once your hair is completely dry.

All the models we’ve tested have a cool shot button.

I’m not sure which temperature setting to use

Potential issue: You haven’t considered your hair type

Have you ever considered the purpose of the different heat settings on your dryer? Didn’t think so. If you’re in a rush, you may automatically put your hairdryer on the highest setting to get your hair dry as soon as possible. But the less heat you expose your hair to the better. So, unless your hair is quite coarse and thick, you should stick to the low setting. Thicker hair may require a higher heat setting to dry in a reasonable amount of time. Conversely, the low heat setting should be enough for fine hair. All the models we've tested have this feature.

My blowout doesn’t last very long

Potential issue: You skipped heat protection

Whether you have straight hair or natural curls, you need to protect your hair from heat damage. Damaged hair is more prone to frizz, split ends and breakage, meaning your smoothing blow-dry may damage your hair in the long-term. Make sure you’re applying it properly – part your hair into sections and apply the serum all over, especially the ends.

My hair breaks easily

Potential issue: You’re towel drying

Your hair is at its most vulnerable when wet so the best option is to let it air-dry before reaching for the hair dryer. Many people hop out of the shower and either rub their hair frantically to dry it or spend the next 30 minutes with a towel around their head. Cotton-based towels cause friction and are more likely to damage hair and cause breakage. It’s more advisable to use a microfibre towel or an old, clean T-shirt. Then only spend about 10 minutes with your head wrapped up.

My hair is greasy/my hair is hard to control

Potential issue: You’re using the wrong products for your hair type

Once again, it’s all about your hair type. Using the wrong product can either weigh your hair down or fail to give it the level of control it needs. If your hair is on the finer side and you’re looking to create noticeable volume that lasts, spritz your strands with a thickening spray before you blow-dry. Those of you with thick, unruly hair may consider using products designed to tame and de-frizz.

Want more help and advice? Read our guide on how to buy the best hair dryer.