The Best Hair Diffusers for Drying Your Curls

Find out the best way to diffuse your curls, plus the best diffuser attachments and dryers.
By Renee Cherry
November 17, 2020
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If you have naturally curly hair, styling products such as curl creams and leave-in conditioners can make a world of difference when air drying your locks. When you don't feel like air drying, though, a hair diffuser can also be a game-changer. Unlike concentrated blow-dryer attachments, which are designed to focus the stream of air and dry hair in a sleeker, straighter style, diffusers allows you to spread out the airflow in a manner that will boost, not hide, your natural curl pattern. (Related: The Best Conditioners for Curly Hair)

Not only can hair diffusers speed up the drying process when you're short on time, but they can also help make your curls pop. "Diffusers are a great way to speed up the drying process for natural and curly hair," says David Lopez, a celebrity hairstylist and Ulta Pro Team member. "They also help provide extra volume and stronger curl patterns to looser textures that are wanting to enhance their waves or looser curls."

Hair diffusers typically look like a saucer with a collection of plastic prongs on the concave side. Typically referred to as fingers, the plastic spikes provide added grip for extra control as you're styling. The design of a hair diffuser allows you to cup your curls and draw them toward your scalp the same way you'd scrunch your hair with a towel or your hands. (Although you can also use one held at a distance from your head, more on that below.) Here's the best way to use a diffuser, according to Lopez. (Related: This New Hair-Care Collection Turned My Sad, Limp Waves Into Swoon-Worthy Curls)

How to Diffuse Hair

  1. Wash hair and apply any products, such as a leave-in conditioner, curl cream, mousse, or gel.
  2. Attach the diffuser to the nozzle of your hairdryer, and turn the dryer on to your desired heat and speed settings. "Because you're diffusing, I don't mind using the dryer on the highest heat and speed setting," says Lopez. When diffusing, the airflow is more dispersed, so the higher speed and heat won't cause as much as if you were blasting hair directly. "But if your hair is more sensitized (color-treated, highlighted, etc.), then turn the heat down to medium," he recommends. That's because these treatments tend to cause damage, so Lopez suggests avoiding high heat (and thus even more harm) when using a diffuser.
  3. Begin drying hair, holding the diffuser a few inches away from your head and slowly rotating it around your hair until your hair feels 80 to 90 percent dry. At this point, you're not touching your hair but allowing the diffuser to hover away from your head.
  4. Turn the heat and speed on your dryer to the low settings to avoid creating frizz during this step. Continuously cup sections of the ends of your hair with the diffuser and raise them toward the scalp until hair is dry. This step helps to create additional volume.

How to Choose a Diffuser for Your Hair

If you're ready to start using a diffuser, you have plenty of options. Most are sold as individual attachments, but it's also possible to buy a hairdryer with a built-in diffuser. Be careful when choosing a diffuser attachment that's not designed specifically for your hairdryer. Even if they're marked as "universal," that's not always the case, so you want to be sure the nozzle measurements match up if you go that route. No one wants a piece of plastic dropping on their head unexpectedly. (Related: I Tried the Curly Girl Method and It Totally Transformed My Hair)

When comparing options, pay attention to how deep or shallow the disk looks, especially if your hair is long, says Lopez. "You want the diffuser to have almost a bowl-like shape, deep enough to hold longer lengths," he suggests. To get you started, here are some of the best hair diffusers to choose from.

T3 SoftCurl Diffuser

Credit: Ulta

Lopez loves using the T3 SoftCurl Diffuser on his curls because it's made to fit his dryer of choice, the T3 Cura Lux. (Disclaimer: Lopez is an ambassador for T3.) It also has the relatively deep bowl-like shape that he likes for longer hair. The attachment is generously vented to evenly distribute heat, preventing over-drying.

Bio Ionic Diffuser

Credit: Amazon

Bio Ionic's Diffuser fits all of the brand's hair dryers as well as other dryers with 2.25-inch-diameter nozzles. You can adjust the diffuser to allow or block airflow through the center vents, allowing you to control the overall amount of airflow.

The Curly Co. Collapsible Hair Diffuser

Credit: Amazon

Diffusers are pretty bulky compared to other hair dryer attachments. This unique design is collapsible and weighs less than an ounce, so you'll never question whether it deserves a spot in your loaded carry-on.

Drybar The Bouncer Diffuser

Credit: Amazon

If you've already been using one of Drybar's blow dryers to mimic the chain's "Manhattan" or "Mai Tai" styles at home, you might as well grab the brand's diffuser for days when you'd rather let your natural texture shine. As its name suggests, Drybar's diffuser is designed to give you your bounciest curls with the help of long, vented "fingers."

BaBylissPRO Nano Titanium Universal Finger Diffuser

Credit: Amazon

The best-selling diffuser attachment on Amazon, the BaBylissPRO Nano Titanium Universal Finger Diffuser is titanium-plated. Titanium tools tend to heat up quicker, amounting in a faster styling time.

Harry Josh Pro Tools Pro Dryer 2000 Diffuser

Credit: Dermstore

If you're one of the many people who use the hairstylist-adored Harry Josh Pro Dryer 2000, you can grab the brand's diffuser, too, for when you don't want to use the two concentrated nozzles it comes with. Since it's made specifically for this hair dryer, you're guaranteed a secure fit.

Hairizone Universal Hair Diffuser

Credit: Amazon

This diffuser attachment is designed to be truly universal. It has an inner ring that can expand and retract to attach to any hair dryer nozzle measuring 1.7 to 2.6 inches across.

Bed Head Curls In Check 1875 Watt Diffuser Hair Dryer

Credit: Amazon

If you don't already own a blow dryer and know you'll only want to use it as a diffuser, you can buy this one for less than the price of many attachments. It features three heat and two speed settings and a conveniently truncated nozzle.