Waking up with perfect hair is a dream, but like most dreams, it’s not quite reality. It takes care and attention to get those flowing locks where you want them to be. But that is not enough; you need more. You need the best tools that are designed specifically to work with curly hair. From shampoo and conditioners to combs, hairbrushes and hairdryers, everything you use should help give you shining, flowing, voluminous, frizz-free, glorious curls.
That is why top of your list should be finding the most effective diffuser for your hair. A basic hair dryer is just not going to cut it—and let’s be honest you are not going to stand for anything but the best for your curls.
- Things to Consider Before Buying a Diffuser
- The 10 Best Diffusers for Curly Hair in 2021
- 1. Best Overall Diffuser: Black Orchid Large Hair Diffuser
- 2. Best Travel Diffuser: Segbeauty Travel Hair Dryer Diffuser
- 3. Best Premium Diffuser: Segbeauty Professional Hair Dryer Diffuser
- 4. Best Combination Diffuser/Dryer: Bed Head Curls in Check
- 5. Best Budget Diffuser: Conair Volumizing Diffuser
- 6. Best Gentle Diffuser: Hairizone Universal Hair Diffuser
- 7. Best Universal Fit Diffuser: Ulico Universal Hair Diffuser
- 8. Best Silicone Stretch and Fit Diffuser: The Curly Co. Collapsible Hair Diffuser
- 9. Best Budget Travel Diffuser: KingKam Collapsible Silicone Hair Dryer Diffuser
- 10. Best Collapsible Diffuser: SindycurlsMagic Collapsible Silicone Hair Diffuser
- Everything You Need to Know About Diffusers for Curly Hair
- Final Thoughts
Things to Consider Before Buying a Diffuser
A diffuser is normally an attachment that fits to a hairdryer. For the most part these attachments have no power or heat themselves: that is all down to the hairdryer. There are some exceptions: for example, the Bed Head Curls in Check model is a combined diffuser and hairdryer – the perfect one-stop-shop for your drying needs.
Diffusers can be more complex than you might expect. Knowing more about how they work and what you need to be thinking about can help you make the right buying decision. We have put together some healthy pointers to set you on the road to enlightenment (and, of course, those legendary bouncy curls).
Designs for diffusers might surprise you with their variety. The most common type is the familiar wide, round dome with the small ‘fingers’ sticking out. But there are also:
- All-in-one models combining diffuser and hairdryer in a single unit, like the Bed Head Curls in Check we mentioned earlier.
- Collapsible models like the Segbeauty Travel Hair Dryer Diffuser which are perfectly designed for travelling.
If you’re going to purchase a diffuser attachment, be sure to match it with one of the choices from our guide to the best hair dryers for curly hair.
Another important factor in the design are the ‘fingers’, the pointy bits that stick out, which allow you to wrap strands of hair around them as you dry to enhance your curls and helping the air flow and heat get deep into your hair for a more even dry. Longer ‘fingers’ can also include extra holes which help spread that airy love, softly and gently throughout your curls.
The depth of the bowl is also important. A deeper bowl allows you to rest more hair on the diffuser, drying larger areas and making life easier for your arms because you are not moving the diffuser as much.
There are a variety of materials that are used, from plastic to silicone. In general, diffusers will be built from sturdy stuff, but there are additional advantages of some materials. For example, silicone is a great material for diffusers because it is heat resistant. This means that, while you are using it, if you happen to touch the attachment it will not be hot to the touch. It also means less heat on the hair that dangles around the diffuser, so less damage.
Silicone is also popular in travel diffusers, because it makes them more flexible for fitting the wide range of hotel dryers you may come across.
A product which uses a specific, stand-out material will often mention this in the description, so it is always a good idea to look out for that. Material technology is always advancing, which can only mean great things for your hair!
This is about which hair dryers each diffuser is compatible with in its size and shape.
We live in a world with millions of products, manufacturers and designs. This can be bad for compatibility because one product like a diffuser is not always going to fit with your hair dryer.
We have pointed out compatibility throughout this guide, so you can make sure your dryer is a good fit before you buy.
Big hair needs big solutions, which is why all the diffusers you see have such wide openings. This is so it can do the job of spreading the airflow for a gentler dry.
This does not necessarily equal travel friendly. We’ll show you some good options, which are specifically built to be flexible, collapsible and easily fit into the corner of your suitcase. This is a great feature when you want a diffuser for vacations, weddings or weekends away.
Some diffusers have extra features beyond the basic design. These could include adjustable air controls like the Segbeauty Professional Hair Dryer Diffuser, detachable parts for easier cleaning like the Segbeauty Travel Hair Dryer Diffuser and more. These extra features could be just what you are looking for in your hair drying experience.
The following products show you what is out there in the world of diffusers. From professional to budget, travel to universal, we have investigated, probed and prodded to give you the highlights to help you choose the best diffuser for you and your amazing curls.
The 10 Best Diffusers for Curly Hair in 2021
1. Best Overall Diffuser: Black Orchid Large Hair Diffuser
- Fitting size: 8 inch
- Universal fit: No
- Material: Plastic
- Extra features: Inner banded seal to prevent movement
The professional nature of this diffuser really shines through in its extra-large design. Bigger ‘fingers’ help to dry your hair faster and extra air vents target your roots and tips at the same time. It is like this diffuser is designed to caress your hair and coax it into wonderful curls, which makes it a must for those with thicker hair.
The main flaw of this diffuser is a drawback of one of its key features—just as the size makes it very effective, it also makes it much less portable. If you’re looking to take your diffuser on the go, you might want to trade some of that quickness in drying for some added portability by choosing something like the Segbeauty Travel Hair Dryer Diffuser.
- Extra-large design for quicker drying
- Gentler airflow for less hair damage
- Effective for thicker hair
- Larger design makes it less portable
2. Best Travel Diffuser: Segbeauty Travel Hair Dryer Diffuser
- Fitting size: 65 inch to 1.77 inch
- Universal fit: No
- Material: Silicone
- Extra features: Removable filter net, comes with a carry bag
The most stand-out part of this design is the ability to fold or collapse, making it a breeze to carry on your travels.
This diffuser is made from silicone, which is a material that resists heat. This means that it will happily blow heated air through your hair, but if you accidentally touch the diffuser it will feel cool, making it much easier for handling.
It won’t fit every single hair dryer, though, so if your chosen dryer is outside of its size range, you may want to look at the similarly portable but significantly stretchier Curly Co. Collapsible Hair Diffuser.
- Collapsible – perfect for travelling
- Made from silicone for cool touch handling
- Removable net for easy cleaning
- Not a universal size fit
- Fitting size: 73 inch to 1.77 inch
- Universal fit: No
- Material: Nylon and rubber
- Extra features: Adjustable air flow
This diffuser is made from nylon and rubber which make for an exceptionally durable attachment. It will handle frequent use and travel like a pro.
Although featuring the usual ‘fingers’ for hair control, this product approaches the typical design differently by giving you a deeper bowl. A shallow bowl in other models can give less control of your hair as it dries. With a deep bowl it holds your hair in place, allowing for an even dry, easier handling if you want to twirl your strands around the fingers and causing less friction as hair blows around. This is perfect for helping to reduce the damage your hair suffers during the drying process.
If you like the Segbeauty product but you’re wanting something which is more travel-friendly, you can check out the Segbeauty Travel Hair Dryer Diffuser which is built specifically for travel.
An adjustable airflow lets you tailor the diffuser to your hair. A stronger flow for thick hair to help it dry, a lighter flow towards the end as you finish the last strands without causing additional damage and over-drying of the already dry areas. This flexibility can lead you to greater volume and shine.
- Durable build
- Deeper bowl for better hair control
- Adjustable airflow
- High efficiency heat transfer for quicker drying
- Not a universal fit
4. Best Combination Diffuser/Dryer: Bed Head Curls in Check
- Fitting size: N/A
- Universal fit: N/A
- Material: Tourmaline/Ceramic
- Extra features: Hair Dryer Combo with heat and airflow settings for curly hair
The ‘fingers’ on the diffuser are thinner but it does have a good-sized opening to cover a good area of hair. The ability to remove the diffuser attachment is a handy option. The ceramic technology boasts improved frizz management and better shine.
The hairdryer part of this product has 3 heat settings, 2 airspeed settings and is clearly designed with the needs of the curly-haired in mind. An extra ‘Cool Shot’ button will help with setting your hair after the heat of drying, which is a bonus.
As this diffuser comes with the dryer, you do not need to be thinking about compatibility – the diffuser will definitely attach!
- Combined diffuser and dryer made for curly hair
- Ceramic technology to reduce frizz
- No need to think about attachment size
- Not as portable as an attachment
5. Best Budget Diffuser: Conair Volumizing Diffuser
- Fitting Size: 8 inch
- Universal fit: Fits most but not all hairdryers
- Material: Unknown
- Extra features: None
This diffuser includes the familiar ‘fingers’ sticking out, which you can wrap your hair around as it dries to lifts hair while drying. They are slimmer than other models, so if you are looking for something wider, the Segbeauty Professional Hair Dryer Diffuser might be better for particularly thick hair.
If you don’t have massive curls, though, this could be exactly what you need. It’s simple but it’s affordable, and it just works—making it the perfect entry-level diffuser.
- Cheap option
- Designed for permed, naturally wavy or curly hair
- Fits most hairdryers
- No extra features
- Thin ‘fingers’ in design
- Not a fully universal fit for – check size first
6. Best Gentle Diffuser: Hairizone Universal Hair Diffuser
- Fitting size: 7 inch to 2.6 inches
- Universal fit: Over 90%
- Material: Temperature resistant PC
- Extra features: More air holes and an adjustable size button
This design comes with the usual ‘fingers’ for holding up your hair as you dry. A particular benefit with this diffuser’s design is the range of hair dryer sizes it is compatible with. Although it is still quite large for traveling, if you do take it with you and need to use a hotel dryer, there is a good chance this attachment will be compatible. This diffuser includes an adjustable size button which gives you the flexibility to use it with a range of hair dryers.With a size range from 1.7 inch to 2.6 inch, this diffuser could be compatible with over 90% of dryers.
Extra holes in the design help to diffuse the air further, creating a more gentle flow for your air and causing less damage.
This model also uses temperature resistant PC material, making it more resilient against damage from heat.
- Works with over 90% of hair dryers
- Reasonable price
- Extra holes for a gentler airflow
- A small number of hair dryers may not be compatible
- For some dryers, additional adjustments may be needed for a perfect fit
7. Best Universal Fit Diffuser: Ulico Universal Hair Diffuser
- Fitting size: 4 inch – 2.6 inch
- Universal fit: Yes (compatible with over 99% of dryer nozzles)
- Material: Nylon and PC
- Extra features: Rotary locking mechanism for a wide range of fit
This diffuser uses a honeycomb design to diffuse air. This allows uniform distribution of heat to gently dry your hair without overheating the strands and avoiding frizz.
This diffuser uses a rotary lock mechanism to attach it to your dryer. This allows it a greater range of dryer nozzles it is compatible with.
The ‘fingers’ in the bowl are shorter than other models which make it slightly less effective than other models.
A strong combination of nylon and PC material makes this a resilient piece of kit which can resist heat and wear and tear damage, effectively extending the life of this product.
- Reasonable price
- Universal fitting for over 99% of models
- Lifetime warranty if this diffuser breaks
- Shorter ‘fingers’ than other models
8. Best Silicone Stretch and Fit Diffuser: The Curly Co. Collapsible Hair Diffuser
- Fitting size: 25 inch but flexible to expand or shrink
- Universal fit: Yes
- Material: Silicone
- Extra features: Flexible fitting
This diffuser features a basic, no frills design with a honeycomb structure to create a uniform airflow. Smaller ‘fingers’ and a shallow bowl could make it less effective, especially for thicker curls.
The standout feature for this model is the way it handles attaching to your dryer. The silicone construction can stretch and shrink, fitting hair dryers of most sizes.
The collapsible design gives you a diffuser for your travels. Combined with the flexible attachment size, you should have little to no trouble using this diffuser in hotels or anywhere you take this.
This diffuser has a 2.25 inch opening, but it is flexible. While the manufacturer’s guide does not provide a specific range of sizes it will fit, they do state the ability to stretch or shrink the attachment makes it suitable for a wide range of hair dryers.
- Collapsible and great for travel
- Flexible fitting size for a wide range of dryers
- Uniform airflow
- Shorter ‘fingers’ which could make it less effective
9. Best Budget Travel Diffuser: KingKam Collapsible Silicone Hair Dryer Diffuser
- Fitting size: 575 inch to 1.968 inch
- Universal fit: No
- Material: Silicone
- Extra features: No
Made from silicone to provide a lightweight design, this collapsible diffuser is built for travelling. Silicone is heat resistant leading to less heat damage and cool to the touch.
A honeycomb structure in the bowl gives you uniform heat and airflow for less damage to your air and avoids the frizz.
Smaller ‘fingers’ make this option less effective for thicker curls, so if you don’t think this will be enough the travel diffuser made by Segbeauty Travel Hair Dryer Diffuser is a bit more heavy duty.
This diffuser does not have any additional features, which is reflected by the lower price for this product, making it a good budget choice if you are not interested in extra bells and whistles.
- Great for travel with a collapsible design
- Silicone material
- Designed for a range of nozzle sizes
- No extra features
- Shorter ‘fingers’
10. Best Collapsible Diffuser: SindycurlsMagic Collapsible Silicone Hair Diffuser
- Price: Lower price suitable for most budgets, reflects no frills design
- Fitting size: 6 inch to 2 inch
- Universal fit: No, but will fit a large variety of dryers
- Material: Silicone
- Travel model: Yes
- Extra features: No
This model includes the tried and tested design with a honeycomb filter to disperse airflow and heat evenly.
This model has a pop on and off attachment, made out of silicone rubber and flexible enough to adapt to nozzles with 1.6 inch to 2 inch openings. Silicone has the added benefit of being heat resistant and adds to this model’s durability.
This model is created to do the job and does not have extra features, which is reflected in the price. Collapsible as standard, with a drawstring bag as storage, this model is built with travel in mind.
- Collapsible for easy travelling
- Drawstring bag included
- Smaller ‘fingers’ so not as effective with thicker curls
Everything You Need to Know About Diffusers for Curly Hair
We have put together a guide for using a diffuser, along with tips for choosing a travel diffuser and some general FAQs to help you explore more in your pursuit of curls beyond curls.
How Diffusers Work
You will notice how wide and round the diffuser tends to be. The purpose is to, as the name suggests, diffuse the air coming out of the dryer. This serves two purposes:
The first is dispersing air over a wider area reduces the power of the airflow. This helps to keep the curl in your curls. Too strong a blast can weaken the curl, damage your hair, lessen the fullness and leave you with flat, dull and lifeless hair.
The second reason is that a wider area of air blowing onto your hair reduces the heat on each strand. Concentrated heat, as you get with the normal hairdryer airflow, can lead to damaged hair and the dreaded fizz. A diffuser limits the negative effect of drying and, especially for those with much thicker hair, it allows you to blow dry for longer.
How to Use a Diffuser for Curly Hair
Impressive curls can take some effort and there are a few stages, but it is all worthwhile in the end. No pain, no gain, right? Whether you’re buying a professional diffuser and using a hair dryer with all the bells and whistles, or you’re on your travels with a collapsible option that fits snuggly into your overnight bag, it’s just one part of your repertoire.
Step 1 – Washing and Conditioning
The journey to great hair starts in the shower. Why? Well, the diffuser is the last stage and you need to protect your hair against damage and the dreaded frizz, so you need to get a few things sorted first.
Have the following on hand:
- Wide-tooth comb
Shampoo your hair using a product specifically designed for curly hair. This will remove the day’s grime. Do not get rough, just gently massage to create a smooth lather. Remember: The name of the game is protecting your curls from losing their shape. Rinse your hair thoroughly, but gently.
Next, you are going to condition your hair. Choose a conditioner with superb moisturising properties. Your hair will thank you.
Conditioning provides the moisture to keep your hair looking and feeling healthy. It also helps to reduce damage and frizz when you get to the diffuser stage.
Step 2 – Detangling
Next, you need to comb out the knots in your hair. Gently. Doing this in the shower while your hair is wet is another way to reduce damage to your hair and, you guessed it, leads to less frizz. Notice a pattern here?
Pro Tip: Avoid combing through your hair while using the diffuser. The combined air flow, heat and combing action will create frizz.
At this point you are almost ready for drying.
Step 3 – Remove Excess Moisture
It may seem obvious, but still important to say – do not step out of the shower and start drying your hair with the diffuser. They really do not like to get wet, and an electric hair dryer combined with water is just a really bad idea.
To get the excess water out of your hair, bear in mind the following:
- A think fluffy towel may seem perfect for drying your hair, but the rough surface will lead to damage and frizz.
- You want to be gentle with your hair – give your curls the chance to thrive.
- You are not trying to completely dry your hair at this point, that is what the diffuser is for.
A cotton t-shirt or microfiber towel are both perfect options. Wrap your hair in one of these and squeeze out the extra water.
Step 4 – Remove Any Final Tangles and Final Conditioning
Running your fingers through your hair will get out any leftover knots. Do this gently to avoid damage. You can encourage the curls to keep their shape by twirling around your finger as you go.
If you’re using leave-in conditioners you can combine adding this product while also removing knots. Simply use your fingers to rake the conditioner through your hair, gently tease out knots and twirl the ends through your fingers to retain the curl.
Pro Tip: For extra protection, choose a leave-in conditioner with heat protection to reduce the damage caused by blow drying, even with a diffuser.
Stage 5 – Time for the Diffuser
At this stage, whichever diffuser you choose will work in a remarkably similar way. The main difference being the size of the opening (requiring more drying time if smaller) and the size of the ‘fingers’.
A less expensive model like the Conair Volumizing Diffuser with smaller ‘fingers’ might take a little longer to dry your hair than a wider model like the Black Orchid Large Hair Diffuser. This one is also great for those with thicker curls, as the larger size can get deep into your hair for an effective dry that does not involve excessive time exposed to heat.
- Make sure your dryer is set on a low heat and low blow setting. High heat causes damage and a strong air flow can cause your curls to look limp.
- For technique, the key is to be gentle. Use the diffuser to lift your hair over the surface, then take strands of hair into your fingers and gently push against the diffuser. To help maintain a good curl, twirl your hair around the ‘fingers’.
Pro Tip: Avoid the urge to tightly scrunch your hair. Friction from the strands can add to long-term damage.
- Continue to move the diffuser to different strands of your hair, using your fingers to gently press into the bowl each time.
- Keep doing this until your hair is dry.
Here is a video of a hair diffuser in action so you can see how easy it really is!
There is a good choice of diffusers for travelling. The Conair Volumizing Diffuser is a cheaper option, while the more expensive Segbeauty Travel Hair Dryer Diffuser offers more features and durability.
When considering travel and the variety of hair dryers you will meet in hotel rooms, The Curly Co. Collapsible Hair Diffuser offers the most versatile attachment with its unique stretch and shrink design. With its price in the mid-range for travel diffusers, it is a great option when you are wanting the ease of mind that comes with a flexible fitting system.
What does ‘universal size’ really mean?
This can be a bit misleading. Universal for a diffuser refers to how it fits with hair dryers. When products state ‘universal’ it usually means that they fit most dryers. There are so many varieties, models and designs, it would be almost impossible to create a truly universal fit. So, the best advice to deal with this is to check your dryer for the size of the opening. Around 1.8” tends to be the most common.
Can I use a high heat with a diffuser for faster drying?
You might be tempted to dry your hair faster, but you really should not. Yes, diffusers do spread the heat over a large area, but that does not mean you can get away with turning the temperature up. Higher heat settings will dry your hair faster and can be tempting if you are in a rush, but it will be guaranteed to cause more damage to your hair. Heat dries out the hair cuticle and creates the dreaded frizz effect. This damage to your hair can be permanent. The best advice to avoid heat damage: Give yourself time for a slower dry on a lower heat setting. Your hair will thank you and this advice will help you to avoid dull, limp and frizzy curls.
If you are interested in the science, an interesting study into the effects of heat on hair was conducted, showing how hair dryers can damage hair – the results aren’t pretty!
Does the design make a difference?
The size of the ‘fingers’ which protrude from the diffuser can affect how effective the diffuser can be. For example, the Black Orchid Large Hair Diffuser is built with much wider fingers and will speed up drying while also allowing you to wrap your hair around these ‘fingers’ as you go. Being wider, you are not scrunching your hair so tight, which reduces the friction and therefore the damage to your hair that can be caused by styling.
Will a diffuser curl straight hair?
The main reason for using a diffuser is to dry already curly hair. Yes, you might see some slight curling if you use one on straight hair, but it is not recommended, and it is not what diffusers were invented for.
Should I use products to protect my hair from heat when using a diffuser?
Yes, it is really recommended to use products which protect your hair from the heat of drying. The aim is to get the benefit of heat for drying your hair, while minimising the damage it can do to the hair cuticle.
Can I use a diffuser on dry hair?
Technically yes, but you absolutely should not. The purpose of a diffuser is to dry your hair in a way that protects your curls while limiting the damage to your hair that styling can cause. A diffuser is not designed for use on dry hair when you are wanting to enhance your curls.
Choosing the right diffuser is important, but deceptively simple. While many of the options feature similar designs, there are some subtle (and not-so-subtle!) differences which can be important factors in your final decision.
If you want to talk curls with others, there are some great resources and forums out there, where you can share tips, experiences and more.
So, what are you waiting for? Go get that diffuser to suit your technique, your hair and your lifestyle.