Essential Hairdressing Tools: Hair Dryer Knowledge Guide

by GONG-FU JHANG
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hair dryer

When it comes to having the right hairdressing tools, few tools are as valuable as your basic hair dryer. Let’s face it, without a blow dryer you’d be unable to run a business or for individuals to properly fix their hair. With very few exceptions, most people who get their hair done in a beauty parlor or spa will expect their hairdresser to blow dry their hair once it’s cut, so having a good hair dryer in your arsenal is definitely a must. If you’ve ever wondered about these amazing hairdressing tools, pay attention because below are some things about them that you probably didn’t know.

The Working Principle of the Hair Dryer

hair dryer

Handheld hair dryers for the home first appeared in 1920, and since then the market has exploded. Today, most people have a blow dryer in their home, and the way they work is rather simple. Simply put, these dryers are electromechanical devices that blow either normal or hot air over damp hair so that water particles can evaporate faster and the hair can be dried. Blow dryers work based on relative humidity, which is the ratio of the amount of water held in the air compared to the amount that it could hold.

In practical terms, this means that when the relative humidity is 80%, then the air is holding 80% of its maximum volume of water. Each time the air is heated, the relative humidity of the air decreases. The amount of water is the same, but the air is able to hold more of it. When the relative humidity is lower, it is much easier for water to evaporate. Therefore, when you blow dry with hot air, your hair is going to dry faster. This is because the water in your hair evaporates more quickly.

There are two main parts of a hair dryer: a heating element and an electric fan. The heating element is made out of nichrome wire. These wires are resistors, which means they resist the flow of electric energy and therefore turn it into heat energy. In a blow dryer, air always blows past the resistor, which absorbs the heat as it passes. If your hair dryer is an electric one, it will blow air that is room temperature through the vents. Then, the air passes over the nichrome wire coils and heats up, making it able to blow the hair with this hot air.

When air blows on the hair, water evaporation speeds up, and when you apply power to the dryer, the motor starts spinning the fan on the inside of the dryer. This is what draws the air in through the tiny air holes that you see on the sides of the dryer. The drying process may sound complex, but it really isn’t. In fact, most blow dryers work so simply that this is reflected in their cost. While it is certainly possible to pay a lot of money for a hair dryer, it is definitely not a requirement.

How Much Power Does a Hair Dryer Have?

hair dryer

The first thing you need to know about the power of the typical blow dryer is how power and energy consumption actually work, and that starts with learning a little about the wattage number associated with your hair dryer. First of all, a watt is simply a unit of measurement of power. When a dryer company says their dryers use a certain number of watts, they’re talking about how much power they consume. For instance, if the dryer you purchase operates at 1,600 watts, that means the average power consumption per hour is 1,600 watts, or 1.6kWh.

If the price of your electricity is 16.7 cents per kWh, then using your dryer for one whole hour only costs you about $0.25. If you know how much you pay for your electricity, it’s easy to determine how much it will cost to operate your hair dryer – and it shouldn’t be much!

So, how powerful is a typical hair dryer? Most home-use dryers use between 750 and 2,500 watts, while professional dryers can use as much as 3,500 watts. You can’t tell what the power is just by looking at the dryer itself. To know exactly what the wattage is for your blow dryer, check the label or the box the dryer came in. There can also be a label on the dryer body itself. The wattage number could even be in the user manual or you can find it in a Google search. The point is, it is usually very easy to find out what the wattage number is on a particular blow dryer.

If you’re not interested in how much it will cost you to run your hair dryer, you probably don’t need to be concerned about the wattage it will use. Still, it’s nice to have a number attached to the dryer so you know what kind of power it has.

The Higher the Power of the Hair Dryer, the Better?

Since the wattage usage of the blow dryer tells you how much power it has, does that mean that dryers with higher wattage numbers are better? Should you look for a wattage number that is higher than the rest? Simply put, the answer to these questions is a resounding “no.” Let’s go over the reasons why this is so.

First of all, just because a hair dryer uses more watts doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a higher-quality dryer. Yes, higher-wattage blow dryers do blow hotter and produce much more heat, but there are even some very inexpensive dryers that are low in quality and which consume a lot of power. This doesn’t mean, therefore, that the performance matches the wattage amount. Another consideration is that dryers that have high wattage numbers also have more radiation.

When you use a hair dryer, it emits electromagnetic field, or EMF radiation. Blow dryers with higher wattage numbers will have stronger radiation, and this is especially true when you’re turning them on or off. Higher watts also mean that the blow dryers will consume more power and more electricity. You have to keep in mind that if your dryer uses more watts than the next person’s blow dryer, that means you are consuming more energy than they are.

Yet another consideration is the wattage number versus the limit of the electrical socket in your home. Simply put, if your hair dryer does have a high wattage number, you need to know what the maximum load is for your particular electrical outlet. In fact, any blow dryer that uses more than 2,000 watts needs to be checked against your power outlet. If the maximum load for your particular outlet is 2,400 watts and you decide to use a blow dryer that uses more than 2,400 watts, potential hazards are a possibility.

Of course, if your circuit breaker is working properly, it will cut off the power automatically and you won’t have to worry about this. That being said, sometimes the electrical outlet is not a very good one, and in this case it may occasionally catch on fire. This is the main reason you want to know what your wattage is and what the maximum load amount is for your power outlet.

There Are Several Types of Hair Dryers

hair dryer

The way hair dryers are made is usually fairly simple, and the way they are made is what classifies them into the different types of dryers. The technology used in the making of the dryer and the material used for the heating element are what the different classification types are based on. Below are descriptions of the four main types of hair dryers and the types of hair best suited for each dryer.

1. Ionic Hair Dryers

With this type of hair dryer, negatively charged ions are generated each time the air passes through the electric current in the nichrome wire (or metallic coil). These ions then break down the water molecules, which are positively charged, so that hair can be dried without removing the moisture out of your hair. With ionic blow dryers, therefore, your hair can be dried and made smooth and silky at the same time.

The heating material in these types of dryers can be nichrome or ceramic, or a combination of ceramic, titanium, and/or tourmaline. Ionic hair dryers dry the hair quickly and therefore you save time when blow drying your hair. In addition, when the negatively charged ions break down the water molecules, the cuticles of the hair are sealed, which is why the hair retains more moisture than using other types of dryers.

The only people who should avoid these dryers are people who want to use the dryer to style their hair, people with thin hair, and people with very short hair. This is because they provide no bounce or volume to the hair like some other blow dryers do.

2. Ceramic/Porcelain Hair Dryers

These hair dryers use a heating material such as ceramic clay or porcelain, which provides a much more even heat than ionic dryers do. They emit infrared (IR) heat that penetrates each hair shaft and locks in moisture in the hair. They also emit both hot air and negatively charged ions. One of the main advantages of these hair dryers is that they heat up quickly. Ceramic clay is usually used inside of the dryer, and some even have ceramic heating elements. This is what causes the heat to be even.

With ceramic or porcelain hair dryers, you can both dry and style all hair types, and the hair comes out shiny and smooth. If you dry your hair frequently, this is the type of hair dryer you need because it locks in moisture and won’t dry the hair out. There are some similarities between these and ionic blow dryers, so you may want to research them both to see which one is best for you.

3. Tourmaline Hair Dryers

Tourmaline is essentially a gemstone made out of pyroelectric and piezoelectric minerals. When force is applied to the mineral, an electric charge is generated. The minerals also emit both IR and negatively charged ions, and they dry the hair faster than both ionic and ceramic blow dryers. The tourmaline mineral is used inside of the dryer and sometimes even on the heating element itself. It generates gentle and even heat and causes less damage than other dryers do. This is why it is generally recommended for people who have thick, frizzy hair.

4. Titanium Hair Dryers

With a heating coil made out of titanium metal, these blow dryers are faster than the other three dryers mentioned above. They are not really safe for thin or short hair because of the heat they generate, and they are great for both drying and styling the hair. They are typically very lightweight hair dryers and most of them are manufactured by Conair. In simple terms, titanium hair dryers can dry the hair in less time with much less damage to the hair strands.

What Is the Difference Between Negative Ion Hair Dryers and Nano-Ion Hair Dryers?

As described earlier, hair dryers that use negative ions will break up the water molecules a lot faster, which means the hair is dried much faster than with regular non-ionic hair dryers. These dryers also seal the hair cuticle and therefore produce much less frizz and flyaway hairs. Negative-ion blow dryers are great for people with thick, curly, or frizzy hair.

Nano-ionic dryers use nano silver and blue light technology that is antimicrobial and will clean the air of contaminants, which means that much less bacteria gets inside of the hair strands. When less bacteria gets inside of the hair, the hair is healthier, so essentially both negative-ion and nano-ion hair dryers work hard to make the hair smoother, less frizzy, shinier, and much healthier as well.

Tips and Notes on Buying a Hair Dryer

hair dryer

There are so many types of hair dryers that it may seem complex deciding which one is best for you. The thing is, once you know what to look for in a blow dryer, the process is a lot simpler. Below are five things to consider before you purchase your next hair dryer.

1. How Much Power It Has

Simply put, a more-powerful hair dryer means the hair will dry faster. In practical terms, this means you should look for a dryer with a higher wattage. Blow dryers that offer 1,800 watts or higher are great for thinner or finer hair, while professional dryers that have wattages as high as 3,500 can cut your drying time in half if you have thick or curly hair. The higher-wattage dryers are usually more expensive, but people with thick or curly hair always consider them worth it.

2. A Cool Shot Button

Not all dryers have a cool shot button, but it can be considered a magic button because they help style the hair, setting your hair while you’re blow drying it. For example, if you’re using a large round brush because you want to smooth your hair and get more volume, the cool shot button can be used after the hair is dried to set the style you want and keep it there even longer.

3. Consider Ceramic and Tourmaline Hair Dryers

Not everyone knows about tourmaline and ceramic hair dryers, but both of these offer more even heat and much smoother hair in the end. Ceramic dryers heat very evenly, and tourmaline dryers seal the hair cuticle and help the hair retain moisture. Both of these types of blow dryers are perfect for people with thick, curly, or frizzy hair.

4. Power and Heat Controls

Being able to control both the power and heat of your hair dryer makes a big difference if you want to both dry and style your hair with the dryer. In fact, you can use a higher heat setting until the hair is roughly 90% dry, then use a lower heat setting to style and control the hair. If your hair is damaged or you have split ends, this is a good way to dry and style it, and you’ll want to find one that has both a high and low setting and multiple settings for heat for the best results.

5. Find One with Attachments

Attachments can change how you dry and style your hair. Look for a dryer with a nozzle attachment, and point the nozzle down if you want to reduce flyaways. If your hair is curly, you’ll want to make sure your hair dryer has a diffuser because a diffuser helps spread out the air flow so that frizzies are less common. Other attachments are available as well, and you can research them online.

In addition to all of these things, you’ll also want to shop around so you can get the best price in the end. Check for specials and discounts, especially online, so that you get a good deal. Remember that not all expensive hair dryers are necessarily high-quality dryers, and not all inexpensive hair dryers are necessarily below-par. Do your due diligence so that you can find the best hair dryer for your needs.

What Are the Hazards of Hair Dryers?

hair dryer

Believe it or not, there are hazards associated with hair dryers, and they usually involve both the purchase and the use of these devices. To make sure you are as safe as possible when owning a good blow dryer, make sure you obey the following rules.

When shopping for a good hair dryer, following these simple tips:

  • Always purchase a blow dryer from a reputable retailer. A fly-by-night store may not have reputable brands and models.
  • As soon as you get the dryer home, register it with the manufacturer so you can be contacted if there is ever a recall or a safety notice is issued. Registering the dryer also makes it easier to return the dryer if it’s faulty or if you need it repaired, and you can do this online.
  • Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions to the letter. This is extremely important regardless of the brand or model you buy.
  • Regularly check both the plug and the socket for any buzzing or crackling sounds, burn marks, or if it feels very hot to the touch. If your circuit breaker keeps tripping or you always have fuses blowing, get an electrician to come in and ascertain the problem.

Once you purchase your hair dryer, there are some things you need to do whenever you use it, including the following:

  • When you’re done drying your hair, unplug it and let it cool on a surface that is heat-resistant.
  • If your hair dryer falls into water, don’t reach for it. Unplug it first before you remove it.
  • Don’t use your blow dryer if you are anywhere near even a small amount of water. It is just too risky and potentially dangerous.
  • Always make sure your dryer is turned off when you’re not using it, and do not leave it unattended when it’s plugged in.
  • Check the cord regularly to see if there’s any damage. If you notice any damage, replace the dryer immediately.
  • Make sure the plug and the cord never get wet or even damp.
  • Make sure the plug and cord are never close to any heated surfaces.
  • Make sure the air openings in the body of the dryer are never blocked. They should be free of lint and hair at all times.

Most rules concerning the purchase and use of blow dryers are just common sense, but they are important to follow nonetheless. Always keep in mind that hair dryers are potentially dangerous and even potentially fatal, and take all of the precautions you need to keep yourself and those around you much safer.

Can Pregnant Women Use Hair Dryers?

The answer to this question depends on which article you read and where the information came from. Most articles tell pregnant women that blow-drying their hair is fine and will cause no damage to themselves or the developing fetus. In fact, many articles claim that the only change in hair care while you’re pregnant is the use of certain types of hair-care treatments, most noticeably dandruff shampoo and dyeing your hair, both of which should be avoided.

One study claimed that women who were regularly exposed to electromagnetic fields while they were pregnant, which includes blow dryers, had children who suffered with asthma at rates that were higher than average. This being said, the results of this study have yet to be replicated, so as of now there doesn’t seem to be cause for alarm. Nevertheless, if you are reading this and you’re pregnant, you should speak to your OB-GYN and heed any advice they give you.

Each pregnant woman and each pregnancy are different, but if you review all of the information provided by all different sources, it does seem that blow drying your hair during pregnancy is safe, especially if you are using caution with the rest of your hair-care treatments and procedures.

Tips on Using Hair Dryers for Blowing Hair

hair dryer

While blow drying your hair seems like a piece of cake, the fact is that many people are not doing it correctly. If you blow dry your hair and you’re not happy with the results, it’s likely because you’ve missed something important. There is a method to blow drying your hair correctly, and if you’re not liking what you see once your hair is dry, here are some tips you might want to keep in mind for next time.

  • Make sure your hair isn’t sopping wet when you go to dry it. Always towel dry your hair or let it air dry before you use your hair dryer on it. In fact, ideally your hair will be about 65% dry when you start blow drying it. If you follow this simple rule, it will minimize both frizz and heat damage to the hair strands. It also makes the drying process a lot faster.
  • Make sure you use the right brush. Remember that round brushes aren’t necessarily the best ones when you’re trying to get smooth hair with a lot of volume. If you want your hair to be silky smooth, use a brush that has a lot of surface area. If you choose a traditional boar bristle brush or a nylon bristle brush, you’ll likely get the best results. Just make sure the surface area is big.
  • Make sure you section the hair before you dry it. Trying to blow dry too much hair at a time can cause tangles and knots. For salon-like results, section off the hair into either three or four rows – maybe more – and always work one section at a time. It will take more time to completely dry your hair, but it will be worth it in the end when you see the results.
  • Make sure you dry the hair from roots to tip. Starting at the roots usually means much less frizz and flatness. Also, try not to wrap the hair all around the brush and blast it with direct heat. This is potentially damaging to your hair and besides, it usually takes longer to get the entire head of hair dried completely. Instead, use the brush to lift the hair up and follow the brush with your hair dryer, and always work from roots to tip until that section is dry.
  • Make sure you always use a nozzle. Attachments for your hair dryer are there for a reason. In fact, each attachment serves a particular purpose. Nozzles and attachments mean that the hot air isn’t being blown all over but instead, it is being concentrated where it needs to be. Always use the right attachment for your hair type.
  • Make sure the setting you use isn’t too hot. If you have fine or thin hair, you should be using a low to medium heat. Thicker hair can stand a bit more heat but a lower airflow setting. If you blow dry your hair frequently, using hot air consistently can damage the hair strands. Regardless of how hot the air is, make sure you finish your blow drying with a blast of cool air.
  • Make sure you don’t move too fast as you’re drying. Always allow the hair section to cool on the brush a little bit before you go to the next section. If you do this, the results you get will last a little longer. You’re not going to be able to enjoy the results for very long if you go too quickly instead of taking it slow.

Regardless of the type of hair you have, it’s important to section the hair off and dry it one section at a time, use the right products on it, and use the right heat and temperature on the hair. Here are some additional tips that are a little more specific.

  • For straight hair: use an 1,800-watt blow dryer and make sure it offers multiple heat and airflow settings. Make sure you use the nozzle that comes with the dryer, and for the best results, use a round brush. When sectioning off the hair, use large hair clips to keep each section in place. For the products, use mousse to add thickness and volume to the hair, cream if your hair is dry or damaged, and hair spray to set the style in place.
  • For curly hair: using about 1,400 watts should work well on your hair. Use either a low or medium setting for both airflow and temperature, and make sure you use a diffuser so the air isn’t too harsh on your curls. Also, layer your products. First, apply a leave-in conditioner, then hair gel, and finally, a finishing product.

Hair Dryer Common Failures and Repairs

hair dryer

Just like any other appliance you own, things can go wrong with your hair dryer. Blow dryers are used by both men and women and are often used on a daily basis, and between this and the fact that it can both dry and style your hair, there’s little wonder why it sometimes gives you problems. While blow dryers are made to last for a very long time, you can indeed have problems with them, and these include the following things:

  • Problems with the fan. The fan on a blow dryer pulls the air through a vent then pushes it out of the nozzle. This is the air you use to style your hair, so it’s easy to understand why its constant use may cause it to malfunction occasionally. Moisture and hair are two reasons why the fan may not work properly, so keep the dryer dry and make sure no hair or debris is accidentally clogged up in the body of the dryer.
  • Problems with the heating element. This element is a continuous high-resistance wire that is wound around a frame that is nonconducting. The element itself can encounter numerous problems and therefore cause the hair dryer not to work properly.
  • Problems with the switch. Hair dryers can have just an on/off switch or several different switches, depending on the type of dryer they are. If the switch isn’t working properly, you may or may not be able to fix the dryer. It just depends on what exactly the problem is.
  • Problems with the thermal cut-out. The thermal cut-out in a dryer is found in the element assembly of your dryer, and its purpose is to shut off the dryer element when it gets too hot. Again, you may or may not be able to repair the thermal cut-out.

When something goes wrong with your hair dryer, you have several options. If you’re mechanically inclined, you may be able to repair some of these things yourself, depending on whether or not you can take the dryer apart and see where the problem lies. You might also be able to take it to an appliance repair shop and see what they can do for you. Many repair shops will work on hair dryers, while many others might not.

In all, it might be best simply to buy a new blow dryer because it can often cost more than what you paid for the dryer to get it repaired. You’ll need to weigh the costs of repairs versus the costs of buying a new blow dryer so that you can make the right decision. Indeed, buying a brand-new blow dryer is likely what you’ll end up doing, especially if you didn’t purchase a professional dryer but instead opted for a basic hand-held home-use hair dryer.

Hair Dryer Cleaning and Maintenance

If you’ve never thought cleaning your blow dryer was important, think again. Most of us know how to clean a hairbrush properly, but few people know that they’re supposed to regularly clean their hair dryer. It doesn’t matter how much you paid for your dryer; the point is, you used your hard-earned money to buy the dryer and therefore, you need to do whatever it takes to ensure that it will last for as long as possible.

Why clean your hair dryer? There are numerous reasons. First of all, if your dryer is dirty or clogged, it can be very dangerous as a result. Vents can get blocked with debris, and this can prevent air from being pushed out, which can cause the internal temperature of the dryer to rise to dangerous levels. Dryers that overheat always have the potential to catch on fire, and that is never a good thing. It can also wreak havoc on your hair, causing split ends and even breakage. Your hair can take longer to dry as well, so if you want to prevent any of these things from happening, the proper care of your blow dryer is important.

Fortunately, cleaning your hair dryer is a lot easier than it sounds and should only take a few minutes. Naturally, you have to unplug the dryer before doing anything else with it. Once it’s turned off, go ahead and remove the filter, which is located on the back of the dryer. The filter should come off either by twisting it or removing screws with a screwdriver. Once the filter is out, run it under water for a few seconds until you notice it’s a lot cleaner, then dry it off with either a paper towel or a lint-free cloth.

If you cannot get the filter off, which occasionally happens, use something such as a toothbrush or even a small hairbrush to remove as much debris as you can manually. Some older hair dryers can be cleaned by placing your vacuum cleaner hose on the vent for a few seconds to remove the debris.

More often than not, cleaning the vent on your hair dryer is a breeze. If you are unable to clean the dryer, it likely won’t last as long. Keep an eye on the filter in back so that you can notice when it needs to be cleaned again. How often you clean the dryer depends on how often you use it, but it’s a good idea to clean your blow dryer regularly so the debris doesn’t have a chance to build up to dangerous levels.

Conclusion

A hair dryer is one of the most-important tools to own when you’re a hairdresser or when you simply like making sure your own hair always looks its best. Hair dryers come in all sizes, designs, types, and price ranges, but now that you know a little bit about them, it should be easier to find and maintain the one that’s right for you. Regardless of the type of hair you have or even your budget, you can easily find the perfect blow dryer if you know what you’re looking for, and you should be even more prepared now that you know just how to do that. Hair dryers are easy to find and easy to use and maintain, so enjoying a long-term relationship with your own dryer is a piece of cake.


Other Recommended Reading

1.Essential Hairdressing Tools: Curling Iron Knowledge Guide

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