Cold weather wreaks havoc on every hair type, but curls are particularly prone to turning dry and frizzy when temperatures drop. A Google search turns up thousands of results on how to style, revitalize and care for curly hair, but there’s one thing everyone seems to agree with: a diffuser is a must-have when air-drying isn’t an option.
Diffusers are bowl-shaped attachments that fit on the nozzle of a hair dryer to disperse the concentrated flow of air, and their vented surfaces are often dotted with “fingers”—long prongs that are designed to separate individual curls. A good diffuser can help define curls, dry hair more quickly and evenly, boost volume and shine and tame frizz. To get the best results, pros recommend using diffusers on low speed and heat settings to preserve curl patterns and avoid scorching hair, which can lead to frizz.
And while this sounds like a one-step solution to having perfectly curled locks and manageable hair all year-round, a top-of-the-line dryer and diffuser set will set you back anywhere from $215 to $500. So, is a diffuser really worth the investment? Four curly-haired Chatelaine staffers weigh in.
DevaCurl DevaDryer with DevaDiffuser, $215 for the set, sephora.com.
“I’ve used DevaCurl products for years, so I was excited to try their diffuser—and I was not disappointed! The hand-shaped attachment gave my kids a giggle, but it’s the best feature, hands down (pun intended). You can get diffused heat right at the roots, which gave my curls a nice lift. You can also sit “under” the hand to achieve a hooded dryer effect and get a salon-quality experience. Bonus: The dry time was much quicker than I expected. The DevaDiffuser can be bought separately to use with your own dryer, but I tried it with the brand’s DevaDryer, which has three speeds, three temperature settings, a cool button and comes with an extra attachment for more precise heat. Overall, I highly recommend.” —Alicia Cox Thomson, freelance writer and editor
Dyson Supersonic Hair Dryer with Diffuser Attachment, $500 for the set, dysoncanada.ca.
“My wavy hair has gotten frizzier and more unpredictable in my 40s, so I’d been straightening it more rather than playing good-hair-day roulette. I’d coveted the Dyson Supersonic for quite some time but could never justify the price. Then I got a sample to try, and there’s no denying it: this thing is a curl whisperer. My waves are back, and aside from those impossibly wiry grays coming in, there’s no frizz halo. The Supersonic has three speed settings and four heat settings; I kept both on low as recommended when using the diffuser, which is magnetic so it won’t pop off and bonk you on the head mid-blow. Drying took about the same amount of time as with other dryers, but I turned up the speed and heat to rough-dry my hair for straightening, which was much faster than usual. Even going full-force, fluff is minimal. Is a good hair day pretty much every day worth $500? I’m still not sure, but I’ll be over here embracing my natural hair texture while I figure it out.” —Sasha Emmons, director of lifestyle content
T3 Cura Luxe Dryer ($365) with T3 Soft Curl Diffuser ($40), shoppersdrugmart.ca.
“The last time I used a diffuser was during my Aussie Scrunch Spray days (read: the early 1990s), but I was game to take this T3 model for a spin. How hard could it be? As it turns out, harder than I thought. I love my T3 straightener, but this was the first time I’ve tried a T3 dryer—and I didn’t realize that it has an “auto-pause sensor feature” that turns the dryer off when you put it down for a minute (to, say, section out a piece of hair). For some reason, this function meant that every time I brought the dryer within 30 centimetres of my head, it shut off. As you can imagine, this was not ideal. However, after I took the time to actually read the instructions and figured out how to turn the auto-pause function off, I loved the Soft Curl diffuser. The resulting curls looked great—even better than my usual air-dried ones, and, true-to-name, very soft without any frizz or crunch. Also important to note: the diffuser stayed firmly attached to the dryer at all times. Would definitely use again!” —Maureen Halushak, editor-in-chief
Drybar Buttercup Blow Dryer ($250) with The Bouncer Diffuser ($45), sephora.com.
“Since I started wearing my hair in its naturally curly state, I’ve stopped using a blow dryer, for reasons of both laziness and environmental sustainability. (Hair dryers use a lot of energy.) But, my hair also takes hours to dry, and I sometimes end up going to sleep with wet hair and waking up with squashed curls like a bad sketch-comedy wig.
Drybar’s The Bouncer diffuser—which I used with the brand’s Buttercup dryer—is designed to dry large sections of hair at a time. Using the dryer at full power blew my curls apart, but drying at the suggested low-to-medium heat took a loooong time. I also didn’t think my diffuser-dried curls looked as good as when I air-dried them—my hair is pretty short, and the fingers broke up my sizeable ringlets into smaller snarls of hair.
Sadly, this diffuser also had a tendency to fall off the dryer, something other reviewers have pointed out. (There have also been complaints about its compatibility with non-Drybar dryers.) Environmental guilt, laziness and a lack of upper body strength mean that I likely won’t use it regularly, but it’s nice to have the option to speed things up in a pinch.” —Gillian Grace, deputy editor