The pros & cons of the ionic hair dryer

Count on hair salons to have the latest in trendy products and equipment, all designed to give you shiny, bouncy hair that looks like it was salon-styled. The ionic hair dryer is one of the more recent styling tools that lures female consumers with promises of healthier hair. But does this gadget really work?

Consider some of the pros and cons before you purchase an ionic hair dryer.

How It Works

Positive and negative ions exist in all substances. Purportedly, when wet, hair is "positively charged." Ionic hair dryers "restructure" ion clusters by bathing the hair with negative ions, allowing water molecules to penetrate deep into the hair. As a result, hair is rehydrated and reconditioned with each use of an ionic hair dryer. Marketers make the additional claim that ionic hair dryers cut hair-drying time in half.

Good Housekeeping Review

In a recent product test, the Good Housekeeping Institute tested ionic hair dryers to see if they did all that they claimed. Institute testers didn't observe any noticeable increase in drying time, but did note that ionic hair dryers gave hair extra shine. The institute choose two ionic hair dryers for testing purposes. When using the IonShine 1875 by Conair ($19.99), testers noted that hair was shiner when the dryer was used on both humans and hair swatches. The Panasonic Pantene Pro V ($24.99) eliminated static. Ellen Levine, editor-in-chief of Good Housekeeping Magazine, stated that both dryers performed well and were reasonably priced.

Scientist Review

David Akerman, research and development scientist at Clear Edge Filtration, debunks the notion that ionic hair dryers are better than any other blow-dryer. According to Akerman, water is already ionic; therefore, applying negative ions to damp hair will have no effect. Additionally, many would-be consumers experience the ionic hair dryer for the first time in a salon environment---after their hair has been deep-conditioned, slathered in anti-frizz treatment, and sprayed with heat protectant. Part of the ionic hair dryer's perceived success could be because of the magic in these little potions.

Ouch, My Wallet!

When it comes to the ionic hair dryer, those who aspire to have fuller hair might end up with a flatter wallet---many retailers that specialise in hair styling tools sell "salon quality" ionic hair dryers for anywhere from £52 to almost £195. Some of the more durable models weigh more than a pound more than traditional hair dryers (2.5 to 3lbs.) and might be more unwieldy when it comes to the art of self-style. If you choose to go with the more expensive "pro" model dryer such as one manufactured by CHI or Sedu, send in your warranty: It's no fun to be the girl with the shiny new toy, only to have it break within a couple of weeks.

On the Shiny Side . . .

There's no hard scientific research to prove whether ionic hair dryers work better than those that use traditional technology other than anecdotal evidence. If you're curious about this dryer, some models, such as those used by the Good Housekeeping Institute, can be purchased for a reasonable sum. If you're nervous about parting company with your money for what might be a passing fad, test a friend's ionic blow dryer using your regular styling routine and check out the results.