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Updated November 2022
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Buying guide for Best ionic hair dryers

A hair dryer purchase can feel enormously complicated. There’s a confusing array of types available with a variety of features, all promising the perfect blowout. There’s also a wide price range, from the cheap pharmacy generic to expensive high-end salon models.

A recent entry into the fray, ionic hair dryers use modern science to dry your hair faster than traditional models, and they use less heat, too. Usually at a higher price point than regular dryers, however, they represent a big investment.

Are they worth it? How are they different? Do they live up to the hype?

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Ionic hair dryers are environmentally friendlier, since regular dryers add a ton of positive ions to the atmosphere. Some brands use recyclable materials, too.

What is an ionic hair dryer?

First of all, we need to go back to science class. Briefly, ions are atoms or molecules made up of protons and electrons. If you have more protons than electrons, you have a positive ion. Positive ions can be harmful with excessive exposure. They can make you feel lethargic, fatigued, and anxious. In nature, you find them in high winds, pollution, humidity, and preceding some lightning storms — which is why you can sometimes feel a storm coming on and why you might feel “under the weather.” Computers, TVs, central air (and, yes, regular hair dryers) all emit positive ions, too.

Negative ions have the opposite effect. Molecules with negative ions are drawn to harmful particles in the air like mold and dust. These molecules can actually strip viruses and bacteria from a room! Negative ions are found by waterfalls and running water, in the forest, and just after a thunderstorm, which is why these make us feel so good, and why there are many negative ionizers on the market to purify our indoor air.

This isn’t just an allergy or feel-good issue, either – negative ions neutralize free radicals, revitalize cell metabolism, and enhance immune function, all of which is powerful stuff. As an application for hair dryers, though, these negative ions can be put to work. The water in your hair after you’ve washed it contains positive ions, so the negative ones produced by the dryer cause the water molecules to split up and evaporate faster, drying the hair from the inside out. This seals the hair cuticle, leaving it silkier and shinier. The result is a style that’s more like a professional salon blowout. Curls will be more defined, and frizzy hair will be sleek.

Less drying time is not only convenient, it also causes less stress on the hair, especially since ionic hair dryers don’t need to use as much heat for the same result. This means less damage and overall healthier tresses over time.

Another plus: These hair dryers tend to be much quieter than the old-school models, and they often come in some snazzy designs and colors.

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Safety tip
Bear in mind that ionic dryers do use some form of heat, so all the usual precautions (not putting the nozzle too close to your scalp, for instance) need to be addressed.

Features to look for in an ionic dryer

Adjustable temperature and speed settings

The more control you have, the better your hair will look.

Cool shot button

This helps to “lock in” your style and should be used when the hair is almost dry. (A nice feature is when these lock into place, rather than you having to hold the switch down.)

Nozzle concentrator

This can direct the drying to specific areas, giving you more control and precise results.


This allows you to dry your hair without frizzing it up.

Ergonomic design

The best ionic hair dryers feel light and balanced in the hand.

Understanding the talk about tourmaline and ceramic

You’ll often see tourmaline and ceramic as part of the hair dryer’s description. Tourmaline is a semi-precious stone, which is partly why the dryers cost more. Tourmaline maximizes the negative ion output. It may be used in the internal parts of the dryer or crushed into powder and used as coating for the major components.

Ceramic is used as a way of producing infrared heat. Not all ceramic dryers are ionic, but infrared heat is also less damaging than regular heat. Some ionic dryers incorporate both technologies, and contain both ceramic and tourmaline.

Ionic hair dryer prices

The other main issue is the cost. Ionic hair dryers are significantly more expensive than regular hot air ones.


At the low end of the market, you can find a very basic brand name model in the $30 range, but these will have limited features, such as only having two speed settings.


There are some quality dryers in the $80 to $100 range which combine some of the better features, like the cool shot and ergonomic design, that would work well for most people.


For a high-end product in the professional range, expect to pay a minimum of $200 right on up to $500.

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Wondering about wattage? Stylists generally recommend looking for dryers that are at least 1,800 watts.


Q. Do ionic hair dryers work well on African-American hair?

A. African-American hair is often challenging because it is usually thick and coarse yet can also be brittle — especially if it has been relaxed or has gone through other processes. The ionic technology is a great way to help protect it from more heat damage. You may find it useful to look for an ionic hair dryer that also has a comb attachment.

Q. Does the use of styling products on the hair affect the outcome?

A. The ions will work the same, so there’s no reason to change your routine. It’s always a good idea to add protectant serums, lotions, and sprays to the lineup, though you may want to try the dryer without them first and adjust accordingly based on your results.

Q. Do I need to look for UL listing on the dryer?

A. Yes — being UL listed means it has been tested for safety by the Underwriters Laboratories, a not-for-profit organization that has been around for more than 100 years.

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