Transformers: Stylish Performance

Blow Dryers · Powered Toothbrushes · Shavers

Manufacturers continue to develop ways for you to re-create the salon at home by using appliances that promise to transform grooming time into a simple, speedy, satisfying experience—although some advances can cost you a pretty penny.

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These days, putting your best face forward never has been so important. With the fierce competition that’s in the job market, first impressions are crucial, but tightened purse strings might prevent you from spending on salon services that will keep you looking your best.

Fortunately, manufacturers of personal-care appliances have developed new products that more closely re-create the salon experience at home than did those of 4 years ago (when we last reviewed these products). And today’s products do this at a fraction of the cost of the salon. Beautiful!

BLOWN AWAY. A good way to make a bad first impression is to have a bad-hair day. You’ll find plenty of blow dryers (also called hair dryers) today that claim to deliver “salon quality” results at home, but don’t be fooled by product names. Just because a blow dryer includes the word “professional” in its title doesn’t mean that you’ll get the same results as you would in the salon. For years, manufacturers have used professional to mean big wattage (a few current models now top 2,000 watts) or the latest in drying technology, and that continues today.

Ceramic, ionic and tourmaline continue to be blow dryer buzzwords for their ability to reduce drying time and eliminate static electricity. Tourmaline, which is a mineral that naturally creates negative ions that help to dry and style hair, was the hottest thing in blow dryers a few years ago and now is available in models that cost less than $30. Manufacturers are close to making ceramic, ionic or tourmaline technology standard in blow dryers, and they now increasingly combine these technologies in a single blow dryer to cover all of the bases.

However, the hair-care professionals with whom we spoke tell us that the real mark of a pro-quality blow dryer is the motor—specifically an AC motor that is typical these days of ultrapremium models that cost around $200. An AC motor is driven, of course, by alternating current. Manufacturers say blow dryers that have these motors are more powerful, dry hair more quickly and last longer than do models that have standard DC (direct current) motors. These claims don’t appear to be a lot of hot air.

When compared with similarly sized models that use standard motors, AC-powered blow dryers weigh about one-half of a pound more. That might not seem like much, but because you use only one hand to move the blow dryer around and above your head, the extra weight is noticeable. And so is the power. The first time that we turned on such a model, we experienced a bit of recoil. But it took only a few minutes to adjust to both the power and the extra weight, and the drying time was about half of what was required by a DC-powered blow dryer.

Although we can’t verify claims about the longer life of AC motors, Andis, Conair and Remington back their AC-powered blow dryers with warranties of at least 4 years (compared with the standard 2 years of most personal-care appliances). What’s best of all is that AC motors aren’t exclusive to $200 blow dryers; you now can find them on models that cost as little as $40.

When it comes to power, manufacturers long have boasted about the power that their blow dryers generate—typically noting the wattage in big numbers on the barrel. But now a few manufacturers are talking about the power that their models will let you save when you use them. At least six manufacturers in the past 4 years added blow dryers that use lower wattage than do other models in their lineups, and blow dryers from mainstream manufacturers now top out at as low as 1,000 watts. Two models—one by Andis and one by Remington—even allow you to toggle between the standard 1,875 watts and a lower wattage—1,200 for the Andis model and 1,000 for Remington’s. Because “green” products are hot sellers, we expect manufacturers to roll out more eco-friendly blow dryers in the next few years.

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