Get the salon look with a hair dryer at home
With practice, it's quite easy to give yourself a good blow dry at home - as long as you have a hair dryer that is up to the task, writes Claire O'Mahony
There was an ominous burning smell and a strange whirring sound. This was followed by a burst of panic that woke me out of my early morning reverie and had me flinging my hair dryer to the ground and wrenching its plug from the socket. There was no dramatic explosion of flames but sadly my trusty hair dryer of five years standing, a sturdy Braun, had given up the ghost.
The beginning of November is a bad time for this to happen. Contrary to common belief, going outside with wet hair won't give you a cold, but it's still unpleasant. However, the quest for a new hair dryer was not as straightforward as anticipated.
Having previously been the beneficiary of several hair dryers as gifts, I'd been out of the game for the last 10 years, and re-entering it was like someone who'd only ever experienced Bebo having to now contend with Instagram and Snapchat.
Technology in the field of hair styling, as per everywhere else, has moved on and now dryers are likely to offer keratin grilles, infrared radiance, frizz control and ionic generators as a matter of course.
While the purchase of a hair dryer can't compete in importance with the selection of a cooker or a home heating system, for example, it's still an investment that can potentially make your life a lot easier and arguably the elimination of bad hair days would significantly improve humankind's lot.
Depending on how often you wash your hair, you're likely to use your hair dryer several times a week and generally in the mornings, a time of the day when speed is of the essence. So it's worth spending some time seeing what kind of options are out there, especially given that, potentially, you could spend anything from €10 up to €200 on a hair dryer.
According to Derek Twomey, electrical store manager at Harvey Norman, Rathfarnham, the average spend on a hair dryer here is between the €50-€60 mark. "What we find people really look for are cord lengths, something nice and lightweight, but the main thing they want is ionic drying, which won't over-heat or burn the hair, making it much less damaging on hair," he says. The science part of ionic drying is that they emit negative ions, which attach to the positive ions in wet hair, thus locking in moisture and creating sheen.
Other buzzwords to look out for on a hair dryer's list of features is ceramic, frequently found in hair straighteners, which heats up quickly and distributes heat evenly across the surface, again preserving the hair's moisture, and semi-precious materials, often tourmaline, which makes heat on the hair gentler during drying meaning you can use high levels of the heat with less damage.
Melissa Pearman is the buying manager for electrical hair products with Boots and agrees that customers want dryers that deliver healthier hair with less heat damage. "Invest in the best you can afford," she advises. "Technology has moved on so much. Whereas it used to be 'turn on, turn off' with a cool shot but now there's technology to make your hair shiny and more conditioned and there's definitely a vast difference between entry level hair dryers to more premium hair dryers," she says.
Another important consideration according to Pearman is to consider your hair type. "I have really thick hair so I go for something that's really powerful but has oils in the hair dryer and that you can use on a lower setting to keep hair healthy. Thinner hair doesn't need such a powerful dryer," she says. One of Boots' best-sellers is the recently launched Mark Hill Salon Professional Perfect Blow Dry dryer (€59.99), which has an argon oil infused grille and over 25 heat/speed combinations, making it suitable for a variety of hair types.
At the top end of the scale here you could invest in the BaByliss 3Q (€175), which its manufacturers are hailing as heralding in a new era in high-shine, powerful hair drying and which features brushless motor technology for a controlled airflow; a super light weight, a very speedy drying time and reduced noise.
The higher the wattage, the more powerful the dryer and the faster the drying time, with 2400 watts constituting high performance. If speed is an important factor in your hair dryer purchasing decision, you might want to think about stocking up on high wattage dryers now as the EU have been considering banning them, in the same way as they did with vacuum cleaners, in an attempt to tackle climate change.
According to Boots' Melissa Pearlman, there's no reason for panic yet, as manufacturers are looking at producing the same powerful effects at a lower wattage. "The BaByliss Futura Hair Dryer (€50.99) has a 1700W Smart Adesign and gives the drying performance of 2200W," she points out.
But no matter how basic or advanced your hair dryer is, maintenance is all in ensuring its life span and this means cleaning the grill of lint on a monthly basis. "The main thing is always maintain the cable," says Harvey Norman's Derek Twomey. "We always get lots of issues where people wrap the cable around the hot body of the hairdryer and that can break and tear the wires."
Then there's the important aspect of technique too because even an all-singing, all-dancing hair dryer can't give you a salon perfect look if you're not drying your hair correctly. According to Karen Fraher, owner of The Hive salon on Dublin's South Great George's Street, with a bit of practice it's quite simple to give yourself a good blow dry at home, but the key word here is practice.
"When doing your hair at home the best tips to follow are to make sure the hair is well towel dried, use a product that suits your hair and not too much of it and to ask your stylist which brushes are best for the type you want to achieve. Then practice, practice, practice," she says.