In a world where everything is going wireless, an appliance that remains firmly attached to it’s plug is the hair dryer. This however does not mean that no advances have been made in hair dryer technology. Dyson, arguably the coolest appliance company*, saw a gap in the market for hair dryer innovation and pounced. 840 million rand, 600 prototypes and 50 months later, the Dyson Supersonic hair dryer was born.
Picture this: I’m in clicks walking up and down the hair dryer isle. My hair dryer has finally given out. For the last few months it’s been cutting out every two minutes due to overheating and by the time it has restarted, I’ve finished putting a whole face of make-up together. An hour later I have dry hair but its puffy, frizzy, brittle from the intense heat and I now need to go over it with a hair iron to get a smooth-looking, outside friendly hairdo. Why it took me this long to find a replacement is a mystery, but as I stand scrutinising model after model, I have no idea what to choose.
I decide I need the highest power at the lowest price. I choose a 2200W model that boasts words like “salon series”, “ionic”, “expert” and at less than R300, I decide I can’t go wrong. I prove myself wrong and return it the next day. The nozzle kept falling off, the power wasn’t strong enough, a rough blow dry took 30 minutes. I repeat this sequence 3 times. On my 4th hair dryer, out of sheer exhaustion and frustration I decide to keep the hair dryer, I tell myself it isn’t so bad, but every time I dry my hair, I’m frustrated and annoyed.
Around about the same time as my Clicks ordeal, Jen Atkin, celebrity hairstylist, whom I follow on Instagram, starts teasing images of this donut holed futuristic looking contraption ahead of its September 2016 launch in the US. It’s the Dyson Supersonic and it promises to change the hair drying game.
When the Dyson Supersonic finally launches in South Africa late 2017, the retail price is around R6,499.00 (currently selling at R5,999.00 on Dyson’s online store) – steep, but doesn’t make it sound any less attractive to me. When hair drying is part of your every day life and the hairdryers you have always used are frustrating, your curiosity is peaked when you hear the claims of this new one.
Why is the Dyson Supersonic Hair Dryer so expensive?
When Dyson started rethinking the hair dryer, they first built a hair lab, so they could independently study and understand the science of hair. They designed and built all the state of the art equipment needed and purchased 1,010 miles worth of natural hair tresses which apparently caused a worldwide shortage. Their team was made up of 103 engineers consisting of motor specialists, electronics technicians, user interaction engineers, testing engineers and hair scientists.
Innovation is expensive and when you read about the lengths they went to create something better, the price tag makes sense.
What makes the Dyson Supersonic so great?
The elements that make the Dyson Supersonic so spectacularly innovative and work so well are the digital motor, thermistor and microprocessor. Yes microprocessor. We’re still talking about a hair dryer BTW.
The Digital Motor V9 is the heart of the Dyson supersonic. Measuring 27mm in diameter and weighing in at 49g, it is small yet powerful. The digital motor’s size enabled them to rethink the design. Traditional hairdryers contain bulky motors forcing them to be placed in the head of the hair dryer. The Dyson Supersonic’s motor sits in the handle, making the machine much more ergonomic and lighter. It is why they say it is engineered for balance. More importantly however is the power it possesses. It propels 13 litres of air up to the amplifier every second, where it goes through Air Multiplier Technology. Being amplified by three times it produces a high-pressure, high-velocity jet of air. Dyson says,
“Fast drying isn’t just about high-speed air. You also need the right balance of pressure and turbulence. You need to control the air, and make it stable.”
The glass bead thermistor guards against extreme heat damage which protects natural shine. It works by measuring the exit flow air temperature 20 times per second, transmitting the data to the microprocessor.
The Microprocessor then receives data from the thermal sensor and transmits calculated instructions to the heating element. Amazingly, the burst of hot air is so controlled that the hair dryer is cool to touch.
Before I knew about This technology, what made me so curious to try it out was the layman sounding claims that this technology results in;
- Fast Drying
- Engineered for balance
- Smooth and controlled Styling
- Protects Natural Shine
The magnetic attachment mechanism and filter cleaning function also really excited me.
The Dyson Supersonic comes with three attachments – they all magnetically clip onto the hair dryer which appeared very innovative and user friendly. They also put focus on the need to clean the filter of a hairdryer and made it incredibly easy to do so.
The Dyson Supersonic sounds great but does it actually work?
Very often you read press releases of new products that offer you the world and sound phenomenal, but in reality underwhelm you. I wanted to know what the user experience was really like and most of the review information I came across took a surface level first impression approach. I’ve been told that I tend to create a thesis on any topic I get tasked with, so naturally I prefer a more in-depth approach, especially on high priced items.
Luckily for you readers, Dyson South Africa were kind enough to send us a hair dryer so we could put it through the ringer. Full disclosure; I made sure to use it solidly (min. 3 times a week) for two months before writing this review.
From the moment my eyes set sight on the box, I was drawn in. I appreciate packaging, especially when it is thought out and Dyson made sure to not scrimp on any elements of the full user experience. The box it comes in not only looks beautiful in a minimalistic non-wasteful way, but every single slot is thought out and carved out perfectly. Even the lid is designed with specially shaped foam pieces to protect the contents. From my first use, to this morning’s use, I have chosen to not unpack the box into my get ready area and rather leave the open box on my makeup table which each piece neatly stacked in its slot.
Despite my attachment to the box, the Dyson Supersonic comes with two options of “storage”. It comes with a rubber non-slip mat for counter-top display and a storage hanger hook for hanging it. The thin side of the hook easily slips into the grooves at the handle’s base, allowing you to hang it with the thicker loop.
The hair dryer, hands down, looks cooler than any hair dryer that exists. What impresses me most about the design is that isn’t trying to look different for a novelty factor. The hole in the centre of the head purposely replaces the common grille. No grill, no hair catching. If you’ve used a hair dryer enough, this is something you have experienced, which is both painful and damages your hair.
The Dyson Supersonic comes in two color options; Iron with a fuchsia pop of color on the flat end of the head and Silver with a pop of white on the cylindrical portion of the head.
As I mentioned, the Dyson Supersonic comes with 3 attachments that attach to the hair dryer with a magnetic mechanism. Once again, this cool feature is equally in part functional as it is fun. Firstly, it makes switching between the diffuser, smoothing nozzle and styling concentrator incredibly easy – so easy that I found myself inclined to use two attachments each time I dried my hair, even when in a rush. Secondly, the magnetic hold is strong enough that your attachments do not knock off mid-use, a problem I have found with many hairdryers.
I love that Dyson have removed the threaded approach to connecting attachments to the hair dryer. Not only is this old-school method more tedious and time consuming, but the biggest issue I have had with it in the past is that high-heat from the dryer has melted the thread, preventing me from using even the standard nozzle.
The smoothing nozzle is what I would compare with the standard nozzle hairdryers come with. Slightly wider than the styling concentrator, it gives a wider air flow – best used for quick drying. What I love about this attachment is that it doesn’t just dry, it styles at the same time – meaning that your finish is smooth and controlled – no puff, frizz or need to tame your hair post drying with a hair iron.
The styling concentrator provides a very precise, straight lined airflow which Dyson describes as “a high-velocity blade of air”. What I love about this attachment is how well it smooths down baby hairs and shorter front pieces. As I direct the dryer down a piece of hair (wrapped around a round bristle brush) I can physically see these shorter pieces being directed downwards, underneath the top layer of silky smoothed hair.
I use two attachments each time, because the combination of the smoothing nozzle and styling concentrator provide a perfect, yet quick finish. Method: Start with the smoothing nozzle to rough dry your hair with your fingers (quicker than with a brush). Brush and part your hair before switching to the styling concentrator. wrap the top layer of your hair around a round bristle brush for using the styling concentrator. (I do this in 4 sections; front right, front left, back right, beck left). Finally, I switch back to the smoothing nozzle to blast dry my hair to a dry-dry finish. To see this in action, scroll down to my summary video review.
The third attachment, the diffuser, was quite honestly my least favourite. Granted, it is designed for people with a natural curl. It is there to accelerate natural drying without disturbing the structure of your curls. Dyson say that it reduces frizz and improves definition. I have wavy hair that naturally does not have a very defined curl. When I air dry my hair the result is more frizz-puff than wave, so I tried it out to see if it would help bring out my wave in a wearable manner. It did not bring out my wave but it most definitely eliminates frizz. What I disliked about it is that it requires a ton of patience. For a result I didn’t quite love it took me approximately 23 minutes. For my go to method mentioned above, it took me on average 6-8 minutes and I was good to go. I did however watch a tutorial on Dyson’s website, performed on one of the Dyson design engineers who has very curly hair and the result is beautiful.
The hair dryer is powered on and off with an easy slide toggle switch on the hair dryer’s handle. Once it is on, you control the airflow and heat with press buttons on the side of the hair dryer’s head.
There are 3 speed settings and 4 heat settings. The setting you are on is indicated with an LED light, each touch of the button moves the settings up a level with an indicative LED dot, and once you’ve reached the highest (3 dots) each touch moves it down a level. What I love about these buttons and the display is how easily customisable it is and how well you can see what level you are on. You can have the highest air-flow with the highest-heat or the highest air-flow with the lowest heat – it’s really up to you.
There is also a cool shot button underneath the on-off switch that is supposed to set hair after styling, but I have found that I don’t have a use for this and ignore it entirely. With the 4 heat settings, if you power it down to the lowest (no dots), it is set to constant cold. I can see it being useful for a hair stylist to set sections without changing settings.
The second you turn on the dryer a powerful whoosh of air greets you. In one review, I saw it referenced as the kind of air you experience from a powerful hand dryer in airports (Dyson technology too). This is quite accurate. What truly shocked me is that I have always related the wattage of a hair dryer to how good the hair dryer would be. If you search “what does watts in a hairdryer mean” on google, you may come across the following explanation:
“Pay attention to wattage. “The higher the wattage, the hotter and faster the blow-dryer,” says Urban. Simple enough. Both stylists recommend using dryers with at least 1800 to 1850 watts for the speediest results.”
For that very reason, I have never owned a hair dryer lower than 2200 Watts. The Dyson supersonic doesn’t specifically advertise its wattage, but if you go to the information page on their website you will see that it is listed as 1600 Watts. The Dyson Supersonic is far better than any hair dryer I have ever tried, being both hotter and faster.
Another surprising elements was how hot the highest heat setting felt. The highest heat is listed at 100 degrees C, going down in 20 degree increments per button press. Dyson make it clear that;
a) There is intelligent heat control for shine and to protect against heat damage, and
b) There is heat shield technology to provide a “cool to touch effect” resulting in a cool surface on the attachment.
I have never not powered on a hair dryer to the highest settings. It never felt hot or fast enough on medium. With the Dyson Supersonic, the hottest heat setting is so hot that you don’t feel the need to keep it at the top. Rather, the closer to the scalp you are drying, the lower the heat should be (In my excitement, I tested it out on boy-short hair and almost burned my unsuspecting victim’s scalp).
I can confirm that their claims are true. The Dyson Supersonic’s heat controls do in fact result in;
a) Shinier hair. I used to have to finish off with a hair iron to give my hair that shiny smooth look and feel. Now the only reason I pick up a hair iron is to create curls.
b) Cool to touch attachments. This is once of the reason switching between attachments during drying is so non-fuss.
Aside from how good I think my hair looks each time I use this hair dryer, the biggest take away from using the Dyson Supersonic over the past two months – and something I was not expecting – is that it has improved the feel and condition of my hair. My hair is softer, smoother and easier to manage. It feels stronger and specifically doesn’t feel brittle and dry, even though I always choose hair drying over air drying and have racked up years’ worth of heat damage.
The Filter Cleaning
I legitimately never knew that cleaning a hair dryer’s filter was important and certainly wouldn’t have known how to. Why should you clean the filter? Dust gets collected which causes it to be blown back into your clean hair and it can be a fire hazard when dust prevents a hair dryer from properly venting. Hair dryers can overheat and shut down when too much lint collects. Ever seen a red-hot hairdryer element or smelt a burning smell or had your hair dryer shut down mid-use? Such an AHA educational moment for me.
Not only do Dyson educate you by making the filter cleaning a prominent feature, but they make it easy for you to do it ,with a simple twist the bottom of the handle until your red dot lines up with the open white dot and you gently pull down. The instruction manual inside the box tells you what is safe to use for cleaning. No youtube tutorials necessary. It is said that it will notify you when the filter needs to be cleaned (I think the dots will light up) but this has not happened yet. I have however cleaned it a few times on my own during testing.
Is buying the Dyson Supersonic a worthwhile purchase?
Spending R6000.00 on a hair dryer is no easy purchase but if you are a big hair dryer user and start to break down the time saved and compare the results to a professional blow wave, I believe it is well worth it.
Time is money. During the past two months, each hair drying session took 6-8 minutes. Let’s round that up to 10 minutes on the slowest of days and compare it with the minimum 20 minutes my previous hair dryer took. At 3 times a week The Dyson Supersonic saves me 30 minutes, giving me an extra 2 hours of life every month.
The Dyson comes with a 2-year guarantee on parts and labour and should the hair dryer only last this time frame (I’m expecting it to survive long past that, but will report back if it is not the case), it would have saved me 2 full days during this run.
The results save money. If you are prone to professional blow waves because you struggle to get good results yourself, I am certain that would change with the Dyson Supersonic. A standard blowout at Sorbet’s dry bar will set you back R195 – the cost of the Dyson Supersonic is therefore equivalent to 30 sessions.
Before I started testing the Dyson Supersonic I had planned to do a comparative blow dry session, using my old hairdryer vs. the Dyson Supersonic and noting the differences. Once I picked up the Dyson and experienced it, I couldn’t bare the thought of putting myself through my old drying experience, not even for the sake of research. Be warned, once you go Dyson, you can never go back.
If you favour video over words, watch my summary review and see the features in action here:
To purchase the Dyson Supersonic Hair Dryer click here.
Full Disclosure: The Hair dryer was provided by Dyson South Africa. The review and opinions are independent and our own. For more reviews like this, subscribe to our newsletter.
Photography by Zissy & Feige Lewin. Video by MK Productions.
* Listen to the story of Dyson’s founder James Dyson if you don’t believe me