It’s rare, when searching for the best hair dryer (or any product for that matter), to find a model that hits such a sweet spot between price and performance as BaByliss’ bright red 2100 Salon Light dryer does.
Costing $39.50 / £25 (around AU$47) sits at the lower end of the price range in BaByliss’ vast collection of appliances but offers mid-range features and ticks many of the boxes needed for a leading dryer – ionic technology, a ceramic heating element, a three meter-long cord and a good choice of heat and speed settings.
In the world of hair dryers, you typically end up paying a premium for a brand name – as is the case with the GHD Air, a decent dryer but one that doesn’t quite live up to its $199 / £99 / AU$220 price tag – or have to sacrifice key features for a more affordable price, so it’s refreshing to see BaByliss create an exception to this rule.
The Salon Light’s shiny red design is likely to divide the room. For some, it will represent a breakaway from the myriad boring black models that flood the market, for others this color will appear garish and cheap. We’re inclined to sit in the latter camp.
It’s not an ugly dryer, and when its black nozzle is attached the contrast between the two actually borders on attractive, but we’re unsure as to why it needed to be so red. If BaByliss wanted to make a statement, it could have toned down the color a tad or even made the shell matte and it would have produced a much more elegant effect, albeit possibly with a higher price tag.
The rear of the dryer’s thin barrel is curved, which helps keep the blades of its internal fan away from the surface, and prevents accidentally sucking hair into the appliance.
The handle has a slight curve, too, and both give the hair dryer a feminine touch. As does the compact nature of the overall design, and the fact it’s a fairly lightweight machine. Despite its slightly misleading name, it’s heavier than a number of its rivals, including the Dyson Supersonic, but only by around 100g so it’s a marginal difference.
The cold shot button sits below the barrel, above two flick switches. The top switch controls the Salon Light’s three temperature settings, while the bottom controls its two speeds.
These chunky, stiff switches do feel, and look, a little cheap but their positioning makes them easy to use mid-dry and you won’t accidentally knock them. The cold shot button sits a little high on the handle and has to be constantly pressed down to generate a blast of cool air, so can’t be used comfortably for any length of time.
What the BaByliss 2100 Salon Light lacks a little in style, it makes up for in substance. Especially at this price point, taking just 3 minutes and 57 seconds to dry and style our hair after a shower, using the middle of the three temperature options.
This puts it on par with the GHD Air, despite being three times cheaper. On the highest temperature setting, this time dropped to 3 minutes 27 seconds but left out hair looking more frizzy, so we’ll take the 30-second hit.
Thanks to its ionic technology and ceramic heating element, the BaByliss 2100 Salon Light again punches above its weight, leaving our hair looking shiny and smooth. It fell a little short of the shine we’ve seen on more expensive models, but outperforms other dryers that cost similar.
This shine is improved when the nozzle that ships with the Salon Light is attached. It’s not an overly bulky attachment, so doesn’t add much weight or length to the dryer’s barrel, but significantly helps with styling and offers more versatility. It doesn’t get too hot during use, either, is easy to attach and remove, and doesn’t rotate mid-dry unless we want it to.
If we were to blindly test this hair dryer, without having any idea how much it cost, we’d pitch it much higher than its $40 pricetag. That’s before you take into account the fact it rarely sells for that much; it’s regularly on offer for much less.
That’s because its features, settings and performance outrank its more expensive rivals by quite a margin. The cheap finish and garish color are the only specifications that allude to its budget price, but they're a small price to pay, literally, for a great all-rounder.
- Read our GHD Air review