GHD has been in the hair styling business for almost two decades and its straighteners are still regarded as the best money can buy. In 2012, it took its first foray into the world of professional hair dryers with the launch of the GHD Air, still considered one of the best in the business.
At the time of launch, this attractive, stylish dryer bordered on revolutionary. It offered salon-quality styling and faster drying speeds of many of its consumer rivals at a time when such professional products were selling for much more. It's a testament to its build quality and design that the Air has barely changed in the past seven years – but can it still hold its own against the myriad, cheaper competitors that have flooded the market since it hit the shelves?
Price and availability
The GHD Air hair dryer is available to buy from the GHD website for $199 / £99 / AU$220, although it's not unusual to find it discounted on Amazon from time to time – and with Black Friday and Cyber Monday coming up, you may find it among the best deals of the massive sales event.
It's no secret that this is a pricey hairdryer – but is it worth it?
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The GHD Air is not a compact hairdryer, neither is it particularly lightweight – but instead of being negatives, these design features work in the GHD Air’s favor. Its sturdy, well-built design gives the GHD Air a luxurious feel and the company has successfully balanced the barrel and handle in such a way that the dryer doesn’t feel overly heavy during use.
GHD’s luxury aesthetic is bolstered by the dryer’s black matte finish, chrome styling, and chunky red and black buttons, as well as the branded grill on the rear end of the barrel. Like its straighteners, GHD has managed to pack a decent amount of tech into a straightforwardly sleek design.
Housed inside its well-balanced barrel is a 2100W motor with ionic technology, which the company claims reduces frizz while drying your hair “twice as fast” as its rivals. This motor controls two power settings and two heat settings, found on the rear of the handle, plus a cold shot button found on the inside of the handle, under the barrel.
This positioning of the setting and temperature buttons makes the GHD Air easy to use regardless of which hand you use, and it means you’re less likely to switch it off mid-dry as is the case with dryers that house power buttons on the inside of the handle.
The cold shot has been tucked up too close to the underside of the barrel to similarly avoid it being knocked accidentally, and this conversely makes it harder and more awkward to use when the time comes.
Another negative is that this range of settings is lower than nearly all of its competitors, including the Dyson Supersonic which offers three power and temperature settings and a cold shot. Plus, unlike Dyson which ships two nozzles and a diffuser with its dryer, the GHD Air only comes with a single nozzle, with other attachments sold separately.
Despite GHD’s claims about the Air’s speed and frizz-reducing properties, the dryer fell short in both categories when compared to some of its rivals. It produces a powerful blast of hot air, and our hair dried in a respectable time of four minutes and two seconds, yet we’ve used travel dryers – namely the TRESemme Fast Dry 2000 – that are faster, by almost a minute.
When using the GHD to style, rather than simply rough dry our hair, this time increased to four minutes 50 seconds – 45 seconds slower than the more expensive Dyson, and an average of 30 seconds slower than cheaper BaByliss model we’ve tested, as well as the £16 (around $19 / AU$30) Remington On the Go travel dryer. It is worth pointing out that while both the travel dryers mentioned are fast, they lack ionic technology so don’t remove as much frizz.
On that note, the GHD Air did an adequate job of removing frizz, almost living up to its claims, although we were still left having to straighten our hair to get the smooth finish we desired. This added styling time of around 30 seconds. While these time increases may not seem like vast differences, the extra seconds taken to dry and straighten your hair will add up, and for the price of the GHD Air, as well as its bold performance promises, we expected more.
We have to give credit to the GHD Air for how well it protected our hair, though. After just a week of use, we noticed fewer breakages, and the dryer is one of the quietest we’ve used.
For a dryer that has barely changed in almost a decade, the GHD Air is still one of the best hair dryers around; holding its own in an increasingly flooded market. However, it’s no longer a market leader. Cheaper rivals have since caught up, and in some cases, have overtaken the GHD Air in terms of settings, technology and design.
If the GHD Air was cheaper, our expectations would be lower and many of its relatively minor shortcomings would feel almost insignificant. Sadly it appears that when you buy a GHD Air, you’re paying a premium for the brand name.