Salon-worthy blow-dries without the price-tag and lengthy appointments? A hot brush or hot air styler is all you need
'Tis the season for bouncy, shiny blow dries. But if you're struggling to get a salon appointment booked in December, help is at hand.
Enter hot brushes, which can come in the form of hybrid brushes and dryers or brush and straighteners - and they are about to become your BFF for speed drying, volume and sleek waves.
We’re all grown-ups here and know that any heat styling damages the hair, but hot brushes are less damaging and faster than traditional straightening irons because you spend less time and pressure applying heat to the hair.
What type of hot brush do I need?
There are three main types of hot brush
1. The hot air brush for wet hair
A hot air styler combines your hairdryer and a round brush and can be used on wet hair and blows heat from inside, smoothing as it dries, meaning you only need to use one hand to achieve a salon-style blow-dry. You can use it to lift up the roots from underneath or to give heated-roller type curls. It's basically your brush and hairdryer in one, especially if you struggle with blow-drying using a drier and brush separately. They can be on the heavier side, but give an ultra bouncy blow-dry and good root lift and also save time.
The best hot air brush for speed: Amika Hair Blow Dryer Brush, £65
This brush fuses the power of a round brush with a dryer for a smooth blow-dry without a salon appointment. It weighs less than 400 grams and the extra-large oval barrel lifts the roots for extra volume. The barrel itself is coated in tourmaline to help preserve the hair's natural moisture and seal the cuticle for silky hair. You can use this one on dry or wet hair, but given it's a 1000-watt dryer, we like it best for wet hair. It has three heat and speed settings, depending on how quickly you want your blow-dry done.
Our tester has been using this since it launched in April 2021 and her straighteners never even get a look in anymore. Her hair is smooth and polished without the need to go over it with straighteners. The only issue we've had with this is the handle does get fairly hot near the brush end, so be careful not to touch too close to the bristles and you can burn fingertips. Also, be careful how you store this because the bristles easily become bent which makes it a little less efficient.
The best hot air brush for novices: Hot Tools Professional Volumiser, £74
This was the first hot air brush we tried and we were impressed by how easy it is to get on with. It looks a little intimidating when you first unbox it and it’s certainly an arm work out but it truly works to deliver a bouncy blow-dry without the need to go over hair with straighteners to smooth it. It’s a hairdryer and brush in one, drying and straightening in one stroke. You can create bounce too by twirling your hair like you see the pros do, plus the non-heated tip at the end of the brush makes it easy to manoeuvre, especially if you're new to hot air brushes.
2. The smoothing hot brush for dry hair
The second option is a hot brush straightener or smoother, which looks like a paddle brush but the bristles are attached to a ceramic plate. It works similarly to a hair straightener without clamping. For use on dry hair, it doesn’t give the poker straight finish that straighteners do, but it's a great smoother and does take a lot less time than meticulously ironing hair out.
The best hot brush for second-day smoothing: GHD Glide
GHD launched this brush in 2019 , designed to refresh hair the day after you’ve painstakingly styled it, detangling lengths and smoothing them afresh. It has long detangling outer bristles that are cool to touch so you can get them right into the root and short inner bristles for creating the requisite amount of tension for shaping. As with other paddle hot brushes, it doesn't create poker-straight hair, more swishy smoother locks.
The best smoothing hot brush for travelling: Dafni Allure Cordless Straightening Brush, £120
GTG’s editorial director Victoria is a long-term fan of the Dafni brush for its easy straightening and smoothing powers and last year saw the arrival of the cordless version, making it ideal for sorting out hair that's been rain-ravaged on the way to work or manes that don’t get on well with hotel hairdryers. It has a variety of different length bristles to increase hair control and feels like a Tangle Teezer when you’re holding it, albeit a little heavier. Reviews say it makes hair straight and frizz-free in around five minutes even on curly hair. Read our review of the original Dafni brush for more info on this one's big sister.
3. The barrel brush to volumise dry or wet hair
The third option is where the GHD Rise fits it. A smaller, round brush which you use on your roots when they're dry to add oomph to second-day hair – fine-haired friends, this one is for you.
The best hot brush for waves and volume: GHD Rise Hot Brush, £169
The main purpose of this hot brush is to add volume to your hair – it promises to give your hair twice as much volume as normal. It should be used on dry hair; the nylon bristles separate hair fibres and make sure each one gets the attention it needs to create volume. You simply comb through your hair from the roots to style. Hold it in place for extra volume on areas you want to give real oomph to, such as the roots for a bouncy blow-dry look, or twist and hold for salon-worthy beach waves.
The best hot brush for fringes: The Dyson Air Wrap Styler, from £399
Dyson recognised the demand for hot brushes to suit everyone this summer, adding hot brush attachments for fringes and shorter, fine hair to its much-loved Air Wrap, which can be used on wet or dry hair. Rather than blowing air out like a traditional dryer, it sucks air in and can curl and straighten ( read the full low down on this minimal-damage airbrush) . Up until now, the Air Wrap Styler brushes and barrels have been on the larger side at 30mm and 40mm. But now, two smaller 20mm brush and barrel attachments have been launched to fill the gap, meaning you can easily style your fringe as well as create tighter curls - which we all know can be a struggle.