ANYONE who has tried to recreate at home the look and style that a good hairdresser can create will know what a frustrating experience it can be. Will a hair dryer that promises a professional finish make it any easier, or is this just wishful thinking? We tried out six hair dryers, from the simplest we could find to those bristling with gadgets and a correspondingly higher price tag. Two hairdressers and two models deliver their verdicts.
Simone Harris, model with the Storm agency; Thimmie Christodolou, self-employed hairdresser; Simon Rees, owner of the Engine Room Haircutters, north London; Amy Howsam, model with Elite Premiere agency.
Testers gave each product marks for how easy it was to use the controls, how comfortable the dryer was to handle, how useful the features were, design, how noisy it was and for the overall results on the hair. The totals were converted into star ratings with a maximum of four stars for the best buy.
*PHILIPS TOUCH 'N' DRY
pounds 18.95, 1650 watts
This hair dryer turns itself on and off when you pick up the handle, supposedly to make it easier when you need to put the hair dryer down to style your hair. Our testers didn't seem to find this a particularly useful innovation nor did they rate the hair dryer very highly. Simone Harris was the tester who liked it best: 'Nice heat and power settings, including a cold blast for volume. The loop handle is a good extra and the design is trendy.' This dryer doesn't have a diffuser, although a version with one is available.
**BRAUN SILENCIO 1600
pounds 14.50, 1600 watts
This dryer didn't live up to its name - it was voted the noisiest of the lot. Testers thought the controls were easy to work and that it was comfortable to handle - otherwise they didn't have many good things to say about it. 'It was quite effective and quick, but I would not buy it myself because it doesn't have enough features for the money,' Amy Howsam said. 'Since it doesn't have a diffuser, it's not good for long curly hair,' Thimmie Christodolou said. A couple of testers thought it would be good for travelling, but if you wanted a simple hair dryer to take on holiday, the Clairol Compact costs less than a third as much.
pounds 8.95, 1200 watts
A simple, cheap dryer that would be useful for travelling. Testers found it easy to use and comfortable to handle. But it doesn't have a diffuser or many different settings. 'I thought this dryer was quite effective considering its simplicity,' said Amy Howsam. 'Good value for money.'
**** BABYLISS ULTRA II
pounds 30, 1100 watts
This hair dryer scored top marks all round. Our testers felt it really was up to professional standards and very good value for money. 'Ten out of ten. A dryer I would highly recommend. Great for all types of hair,' Thimmie Christodolou said. 'Easy to use, great for professional and home use,' Simon Rees said. The two models liked a special feature of this dryer, a two-way diffuser, which Simone Harris called 'a must for curly hair'. She found the dryer a bit heavy and bulky.
pounds 39.99, 2000 watts
The most powerful and pricy hair dryer; testers rated its performance highly. But it didn't score quite as well as the BaByliss Professional, which costs pounds 10 less. Amy Howsam was a fan: 'It was effective at drying my hair, which is long and very thick. I would buy it myself despite the price. It had lots of useful features and I liked the sleek design.' Simone Harris was also enthusiastic. But the two professionals were cooler. Thimmie Christodolou said: 'Too complicated for today's lifestyle, with too many switches.' Simon Rees thought it 'great for home use, but not professional. Attachments (a diffuser and concentrator nozzle) below par.' Both hairdressers felt it was overpriced.
pounds 24.99, 1500 watts
Testers thought the controls were easy to use, that it had good features and gave good results on the hair. But its disadvantage was that it was less comfortable to handle than some of the others. Testers also thought it was noisy. 'It's got good attachments, but the handle is too thick for professional use,' Simon Rees said. 'Lovely diffuser adds nice volume to hair,' Simone Harris said.
Next week: Baby alarms