Recreating the look and feel of a salon blowout at home is doable without spending megabucks. These days it's easy to find a high-quality hair dryer for $30 or less that's equipped with some of the same features demanded by professional stylists. The challenge in seeking out the best cheap hair dryer is wading through a market flooded with budget brands and models, all claiming to produce lustrous results. Cheapism.com combed through scores of expert and user reviews to find several that hit the mark, along with a few blow dryers that serve specialized needs.

See full Buying Guide

Our Top Pick

Conair Infiniti Pro Salon Performance Dryer
Our Picks
Conair Infiniti Pro Salon Performance Dryer

Pros:

  • Quiet, fast, and long-lasting, reviews say, with ceramic ionic technology for frizz-free results on thick and thin hair.
  • AC motor with 1,875 watts.
  • Recommended by Elle and Allure magazines for powerful heat on a budget.
  • 3 heat settings, 2 speed settings, cold shot.
  • Comes with a diffuser and a concentrator.
  • Removable filter and hanging hook.
  • 4-year warranty.
  • Recommended by Wirecutter as a great budget option.
  • Recommended by Good Housekeeping for everyday use.

Cons:

  • Weighs 2.55 pounds.
  • 6-foot cord seems short to some users.

Takeaway: A favorite entry-level hair dryer of many beauty editors, the Conair Infiniti Pro Salon Performance AC Motor Styling Tool (model 259Y) also exceeds users' expectations. It ranks high for efficiency and power at a reasonable price, and does the job without leaving telltale signs of excessive heat. The relatively hefty weight and short-ish cord make this Conair Infiniti Pro hair dryer hard for some users to maneuver with ease. Still, reviewers marvel at the silky, smooth results when stacked against other dryers and say the "cold" shot really does the trick. The Conair brand enjoys a loyal following for dryers that last years.

Conair Tourmaline Ceramic Styler

Pros:

  • Dries hair quickly without scorching and leaves it shiny, according to users.
  • Triple play of ionic, ceramic, and tourmaline technologies.
  • Relatively light, at 1.8 pounds.
  • Soft surface makes for a comfortable grip.
  • 3 heat and 2 speed settings, plus cool shot.
  • Comes with a diffuser and a concentrator.
  • Hinged filter and hanging ring.
  • Wirecutter's budget pick.

Cons:

  • Short 5.5-foot cord.
  • Side-by-side slider switches can be hard to activate, some reviews say.

Takeaway: Along with testers at Wirecutter, scores of users consider the Conair 1875-Watt Tourmaline Ceramic Styler (model 225NP) a 5-star buy. The dryer generates enough heat and speed to avoid the "hot" setting, some reviewers write, which minimizes the chances of fried hair. On the down side, the relatively short cord may hinder maneuverability and the DC motor may not prove as long-lasting as the AC motors found in competing models. But, overall, reviewers like the high-shine and frizz-free results, light weight, included attachments, and value price of this Conair hair dryer.

Revlon Pro Collection Salon Infrared Styler

Pros:

  • Fast drying without frizz or static, reviewers say.
  • Infrared heat plus ceramic coating and ionic tourmaline technologies dry evenly and gently.
  • 2 heat and 2 speed settings, plus cool shot.
  • Comes with a concentrator and diffuser.
  • 4-year warranty.

Cons:

  • Some reports of electrical failures.

Takeaway: Although some consider the infrared technology little more than a gimmick, most users say the 1,875-watt Revlon Pro Collection Salon Infrared Styler (model RVDR5105N4) makes quick work of drying and does so with a surprisingly gentle touch. The low price shocks some reviewers given the impressive performance of this Revlon hair dryer, which reportedly holds for all types of hair.

Andis Ceramic Ionic Styler

Andis Ceramic Ionic Styler Review

Pros:

  • Particularly effective for thick and/or curly hair.
  • Hair comes out smooth, soft, and full, users report.
  • Ionic and ceramic technologies for quick drying and even heat.
  • Lightweight, at 1.3 pounds.
  • Comes with 1 brush and 2 styling comb attachments.
  • Dual voltage -- suitable for overseas travel -- and 1,875 watts.
  • Longer-than-usual 5-year warranty.

Cons:

  • 3 combined low, medium, and high settings limit styling options (other dryers have separate heat and speed settings).
  • Some reviewers grouse that the comb attachments are flimsy.

Takeaway: The unusual vertical drying shaft of the Andis Ceramic Ionic Styler (model HS-2) might not work for everyone, but users with curly and/or thick locks sing its praises. The inability to choose separate speed and heat settings barely warrants a mention in reviews, which otherwise focus on the overall effectiveness of this Andis hair dryer. Some say the styling tools seem fragile, but others note they stay firmly in place and the rounded tips on one of the combs are gentle on the scalp.

Remington Pro With Thermaluxe

Pros:

  • Ionic ceramic technology dries hair quickly and keeps it feeling soft, users report.
  • 3 heat and 2 speed settings, plus cool shot.
  • AC motor with 1,875 watts.
  • Comes with a diffuser and a concentrator.
  • Tangle-free fabric cord, removable filter, and hanging loop.
  • 4-year warranty.
  • Recommended by Good Housekeeping for everyday use.

Cons:

  • Some reviewers say it feels heavy in the hand (the weight is not specified).
  • Power and heat seem a bit weak to some users.

Takeaway: Proprietary technology coupled with ionic and ceramic properties blast out enough hot air to dry hair in a relative flash, according to testers at Good Housekeeping and the vast majority of users reviewing the Remington Pro with Thermaluxe (model AC9140). Some reviewers quibble about the heat and speed. Others consider the dryer a bit loud and the weight somewhat unwieldy. Overall, though, this Remington hair dryer scores high on the performance scale -- beating out pricier models, some say -- and wins extra points for a sleek design and a durable, tangle-free cord.

Revlon Pro Collection Salon 360 Surround Styler

Pros:

  • Open-barrel design dries hair on all sides, section by section.
  • 3 heat and 2 speed settings, plus cold shot.
  • Built-in concentrator and contoured outlet direct air flow.
  • AC motor with 1,875 watts.
  • Recommended by Good Housekeeping.
  • Singled out by a beauty editor at Glamour magazine for making thin, color-treated hair shiny and silky.

Cons:

  • Many users find the design awkward.
  • Drying takes way too long, some reviewers say: 25 to 30 minutes compared with 10 minutes with a typical dryer in Glamour's testing.
  • Not ideal for curly hair.

Takeaway: Revlon takes a different tack with the new Salon 360 Surround Styler (model RVDR5206N1). You can use it like a regular hand-held dryer, or twist the barrel open and move it up and down with one section of hair at a time dangling in the middle. There's quite a learning curve here, and even many users who received a freebie in exchange for a review balk at the open-barrel setup, describing the drying process as time-consuming and unwieldy, in part because the dryer feels heavy. Some consider it a novel idea that would benefit from a bit of tweaking.

Buying Guide

Choosing a Hair Dryer

Conair is by far the dominant brand in the budget and mid-price segment. It also owns the Babyliss and Rusk brands. Other household names include Revlon and Remington, with additional offerings from the likes of Andis, Berta, Wazor, and more. At the top end are professional hair dryers with lesser-known labels sometimes seen in salons and touted by celebrity stylists, such as Harry Josh, Paul Mitchell, Ghd, Croc, T3, Sedu, Solano, and Drybar. Dyson, known for uber-expensive household appliances with unusual engineering and aesthetics, makes a splash with a $400 "supersonic" hair dryer.

Pricey vs. Cheap Hair Dryers

The price range on hair dryers for home use is wide, starting at about $10. But aside from the labels, the differences between budget models and their pricey counterparts have begun to fade. High-end models may be quieter, include more heat and speed options, blow hot air at a higher velocity, come with a longer cord, and feature a more ergonomic design and perhaps even touchscreen controls. The best entry-level blow dryers have plenty to offer, as well, including the latest in drying technologies, multiple heat and speed settings, ease of use, and, according to reviews, a finished 'do that's shiny, silky, and soft.

Ionic Technology

The secret sauce of modern hair dryers, regardless of price, is the use of ionic technology. Almost all new-model hair dryers feature ionic technology, which emits negatively charged ions. These ions supposedly break apart water molecules, so that hair dries faster, and seal the hair cuticle, which reduces frizz and static and arguably creates more shine. Negative ions also may give a boost to styling products, with their positively charged ions. The real benefit here is less exposure to intense heat, which means less damage to the hair.

Ionic hair dryers increasingly feature ceramic and tourmaline technologies, as well. According to marketing claims, each of these advancements further cuts down on drying time and helps minimize heat damage.

Tourmaline Technology

Hair dryers labeled "tourmaline" incorporate fragments from the tourmaline gemstone into components of the hair dryer. When subjected to heat, the tourmaline lets loose more of those negative ions that close up hair cuticles and speed drying. Tourmaline technology is found most often in upmarket hair dryers but makes a limited appearance in the budget price range.

Ceramic Technology

In high-end hair dryers and a growing number of less expensive models, the heating element, grill, or nozzle is coated with a ceramic compound that mitigates the harshness of the heat. Ceramic hair dryers also disperse heat more gently and more evenly, and cut down on drying time. Some ceramic dryers also give off infrared heat, which helps seal in moisture by drying from the inside out, thus protecting the hair's natural oils and making it more manageable.

Travel Hair Dryers

Travel hair dryers tend to be compact and lightweight, and often have a handle that folds. Many also feature dual voltage, meaning they can be used in the United States with its 120-volt electricity or in countries with 220-volt outlets. Some users are so pleased with these compact models that they remain on duty even when stationed at home base.

What We Considered

To assemble our list of the best hair dryers for $30 or less, we scrutinized product specifications and online reviews posted by beauty editors, product testing sites, and consumers. Although few experts weigh in on low-cost hair dryers, one or two models inevitably show up on "best" lists. We consulted women's magazines, such as Allure, Elle, Glamour, and Good Housekeeping, as well as consumer product review sites, such as Top Ten Reviews and Wirecutter, for expert opinions. Consumers also have plenty to say about budget dryers, and we considered their comments on the websites of retailers including Amazon, Walmart, Best Buy, Walgreens, Target, Ulta, and Sephora.

Features and performance matter to experts and consumers alike. In particular, they care about hair health, frizz control, speed, and user-friendliness. Consumers also write about durability and the included attachments, which offer styling versatility. All the models on our list earn very strong support -- an average of at least 4 stars -- from reviewers.

Power

The most common wattage for hand-held hair dryers is 1,875 watts. Professional hair dryers can reach beyond 2,000 watts, which theoretically means faster drying. Some compact and travel dryers feature wattage as low as 1,000.

Many of the best entry-level hair dryers are powered by AC motors, which marketing copy claims can dry hair in half the time of a blow dryer with a DC motor. AC motors may last longer, as well, and generally are more cost effective. Manufacturer specifications often don't indicate the type of motor, however.

Heat and Speed Settings. Professionals and consumers want options when styling hair, which means a choice of heat and speed. A simple on/off button doesn't cut it. Even budget hair dryers now offer two or three heat settings and two speed settings, which lets users mix and match these two variables. Almost all now include a cool (or cold) shot button for a blast of air that helps set a finished style. Specialized dryers -- for travel, say, or curly hair -- may combine the heat and speed options as simply "high" and "low." Our research indicates that users seem just as happy with two heat settings as with three, as long as hair dries quickly, looks silky at the end, and doesn't wind up damaged.

Attachments

Many blow dryers, even in the Cheapism price range, come with styling tools that attach to the end of the nozzle. The most common are a concentrator, which focuses hot air on a specific section of hair for precise styling, and a diffuser with prongs that disperse the stream of hot air and build volume, encouraging natural waves instead of blowing the hair straight.

Ease of Use

Professional stylists and home users look for hair dryers that are easy to handle. Typically that means a model that's lightweight and feels comfortable in the hand. Some hair dryers stand out for their minimal poundage (less than 1 pound), but most are closer to the 2-pound (and sometimes more) mark. The models on our list generally earn points for being lightweight, although a couple are dinged for their heft.

Buttons or switches for heat and speed get a bit of notice in reviews. Some users prefer a rocker-type switch and others prefer a slider arrangement. Occasionally a reviewer gripes about the placement of the switches, saying it's possible to unintentionally hit a button while styling and interrupt the process or noting that the space below the buttons isn't large enough for a sturdy grip.

Hair dryers collect lint, so it's important that the filter be accessible for cleaning. Most models come with a removable or hinged filter. Regular cleaning can improve a hair dryer's longevity.

Durability

Regardless of budget, reviewers expect a certain level of quality and a life span of at least several years. Reports about dryers that spark, smoke, or just plain conk out after a few uses or a few months show up here and there for all the models we researched. That said, we read many more extolling the longevity of a hair dryer bought years ago. Among users disappointed by a dryer that failed, some seem to take it in stride, saying the cost of a replacement is sufficiently modest.

The warranty on inexpensive hair dryers is typically two, three, or four years; a smattering are backed by a one-year or a five-year guarantee. Reviewers caution that the cost of postage to return a bum dryer in exchange for a new one may exceed the cost of just buying another.

Features Comparison

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Review Score:
Product Title
Drying Technology
Power
Settings
Attachments
Product Title
Drying Technology
Power
Settings
Attachments

Conair Infiniti Pro...

$23
Ionic, ceramic
1,875 watts (AC motor)
3 heat, 2 speed; cold shot
Diffuser, concentrator

Conair Tourmaline...

$28
Ionic, ceramic, tourmaline
1,875 watts
3 heat, 2 speed; cool shot
Diffuser, concentrator

Revlon Pro Collection...

$17
Infrared, ionic, ceramic, tourmaline
1,875 watts
2 heat, 2 speed; cool shot
Diffuser, concentrator

Remington Pro with...

$30
Ionic, ceramic
1,875 watts (AC motor)
3 heat, 2 speed; cool shot
Diffuser, concentrator

Andis Ceramic Ionic Styler

$17
Ionic, ceramic
1,875 watts, dual voltage
3 heat/speed; cool shot
Brush, 2 styling combs

Revlon Pro Collection...

$25
Ionic, ceramic
1,875 watts
3 heat, 2 speed; cold shot
None

BabylissPro TT...

$30
Tourmaline, infrared
1,000 watts, dual voltage
2 heat/speed
Concentrator

Conair Curl Fusion Ionic...

$30
Ionic, ceramic
1,800 watts
2 heat/speed; cool shot
Diffuser