Are cheap hair dryers worth it? Kmart vs. Big W compared

Anula Wiwatowska
Apr 23, 2024
Icon Time To Read5 min read
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Like all budget electronics, buying a cheap hair dryer comes with some compromises. Some are heavy, some pack too much heat, and some lack basic hair protection feature, but its not all doom and gloom.

Across Kmart, Target, and Big W there are plenty of affordable hair dryers that tick a lot of the important boxes. In this guide we compare the Anko and Big W hair dryer range, and break down which big box store device is going to be better for your hair and your wallet.

Kmart vs Big W hair dryers quick comparison

If you're looking for a cheap hair dryer under $50, there are plenty to choose from at Kmart, Target, and Big W. Kmart and Target now stock many of the same Anko products, so we won't double up on the comparison, but just know that you've got buying options.
Hair dryer
Hair dryer
Price range
Key specs
Rating
Retailers
Anko Ionic Hair DryerKmart ionic Hair Dryer
From
$27
Weight: 1.5kg (packaged) Wattage: 2200W
3.5 out of 5 stars
3.5
Anko Matte Black Hair DryerKmart matte black hair dryer
From
$19
Weight: Unknown Wattage: 2000W
3 out of 5 stars
3
Anko Ionic Hair DryerKmart Anko ionic hair dryer
From
$22
Weight: Unknown Wattage: 1800W
3.3 out of 5 stars
3.25
VS Sassoon Pro Hair DryerVS Sassoon Pro Hair Dryer
From
$23.20
Weight: 445g Wattage: 2300W
3.3 out of 5 stars
3.25
Remington Pro Air Turbo Hair DryerRemington Pro Air Turbo Hair Dryer
From
$39.20
Weight: 1kg (packaged) Wattage: 2400W
3.8 out of 5 stars
3.75
Remington Shea Soft Hair DryerRemington Shea Soft Hair Dryer
From
$31.20
Weight: 1kg (packaged) Wattage: 2200W
3.8 out of 5 stars
3.75
VS Sassoon Turbo QuietoneVS Sassoon Turbo Quietone 2400
From
$39.96
Weight: 447g Wattage: 2400W
4 out of 5 stars
4
Remington Aero 2000 Hair DryerRemington Aero 2000 Hair Dryer
From
$39.96
Weight: 600g (packaged) Wattage: 2000W
3 out of 5 stars
3

Should I buy a cheap hair dryer?

Cheap hair dryers aren't intrinsincally bad products, and you can certainly find some diamonds in the rough if you know what to look for. The main things to consider when buying a hair dryer are; the maximum temperature, whether it has ionic and ceramic heating elements, and it's weight. These details can be harder to find on budget hair dryers, but searching them out can make a huge difference.

Both the temperature and the heating elements have the potential to damage or smoothen your hair depending on which side of the spectrum they fall on to. Temperatures above 60 degrees C can cause damage, with irreversable damage starting at 140 degrees C. The best hair dryers tend to have in-depth specifications noting the temperatures for each heat setting, but cheap hair dryers don't. Without this information you need to look at wattage as an indicator of how hot the heating element will actually get. The higher the wattage, the hotter that top setting is going to get to, and the more likely it will be to damage your hair. For cheap hair dryers, look for a wattage range starting below 2000W where possible, and promise that you'll never use the super hot setting. PROMISE ME!

You'll also want to make sure the hair dryer has some sort of ionic or ceramic element. These create an extra layer of protection between the hearing element and your hair which can help minimise damage. Ionic charges in particular can tame static and leave you with a smoother look.

Budget hair dryers tend to be on the heavier side which can make them quite uncomfortable to use for extended periods of time. Unless you want an arm workout with your blow out, look for lighter devices.

Kmart hair dryer vs Big W hair dryer: Hair health

Top pick for hair health
Also consider
Remington Shea Soft Hair Dryer
Remington Shea Soft Hair Dryer
3.8 out of 5 stars
3.75
RRP
$39
  • pro
    2200W
  • pro
    Ionic charge + Shea Oil micro-conditioning

When it comes to hair health the main things we want to see in hair dryers are the top temperature, and any additional hair protection elements like negative ions. None of the budget hair dryers from Big W, Kmart or Target gave us information about the maximum temperature, however all but one had wattage spanning over 2000W.

While this means that many of Big W's Remington and VS Sassoon products are incredibly powerful, it also means they will get very hot. The Remington Pro Air Turbo Hair Dryer, and VS Sassoon Turbo Quietone in particular have 2400W at their highest temperatures, which is about the same as a high-powered heater. Kmart and Target's Anko hair dryers aren't much better, with two thirds of the range sitting above the 2000W mark. For reference, high end hair dryers like the Dyson Nural cap out at 1600W. 

Pretty much every hair dryer available across the big box stores has some kind of hair protection element. Either ceramic heating elements or negative ions are seen in all but three products from the three stores combined. If you value your hair's health we would recommend steering away from the Matte Black Anko hair dryer, the VS Sassoon Pro Hair Dryer, and the Remington Aero 2000. None of these include negative ions, and there are plenty of other options for comparable prices. 

Kmart hair dryer vs Big W hair dryer: Design

Top pick for design
VS Sassoon Turbo Quietone 2400
VS Sassoon Turbo Quietone
4 out of 5 stars
4
RRP
$49.95
  • pro
    2400W
  • pro
    Ionic conditioning + Coconut Oil mico-conditioning ceramic
Also consider
Remington Pro Air Turbo Hair Dryer
Remington Pro Air Turbo Hair Dryer
3.8 out of 5 stars
3.75
RRP
$49
  • pro
    2400W
  • pro
    Ionic charge + Ceramic plus technology

Design isn't just about how a hair dryer looks, it is about how practical it is to use. Within the 'design' category we look at aspects like weight, included accessories, the cable length, and whether the hair dryer has a removeable filter.

Big W hair dryers from VS Sassoon and Remington all scored higher than Kmart and Target devices across the design front. Generally these devices are lighter than Anko products, meaning they will be less taxing to use, they have longer cable lengths, and they all come with removeable filters for easy maintenance. 

Out of these the VS Sassoon Turbo Quietzone wins out with it's super lightweight form factor of just 447g - which is lighter than most salon-quality hair dryers. The removeable filter means it is easy to clean out dust and dander to keep the air flow running smooth, and plus it comes with a round brush! The downside is that the Quietone's Turbo Boost function absolutely brings the heat at 2400W, so to protect your hair as much as possible we would recommend sticking to medium and low settings wherever you can.

What is the difference between cheap and expensive hair dryers?

Regardless of price, all hair dryers have the same basic functions - they have a heating element and a fan which blows the warm air in a concentrated line. Expensive hair dryers just look closer at the details.

Higher end hair dryers tend to give the user more control over how they can use the device. This can look like better temperature control, stronger air flow, lighter units, more accessories, better airflow directionality, and quieter operation. On the other hand cheap hair dryers (and hair straighteners) tend to do the bare minimum.

Like many other categories, cheap products do have a habit of picking one spec and really focusing in on it. With over ear headphones it is bass, with hair dryers it is wattage. A trend we have noticed is that cheaper hair dryers tend to have crazy high wattage. At a surface level this can dry your hair much faster, and therefore looks like solid performance. But, like all heat styling, prolonged exposure these high heat dryers can irreversibly damage your hair.

There are middle grounds between stupid expensive, and dumb cheap. What would we call it..? Middling middle? Anyway, if you're happy to spend up to around $300 there are plenty of hair dryers that give you more control without going all the way up to a $649 Dyson.

Anula Wiwatowska
Written by
Anula Wiwatowska
Anula is the Content and Social Media Editor within the Reviews.org extended universe. Working in the tech space since 2020, she covers phone and internet plans, gadgets, smart devices, and the intersection of technology and culture. Anula was a finalist for Best Feature Writer at the 2022 Consensus Awards, and an eight time finalist across categories at the IT Journalism Awards. Her work contributed to WhistleOut's Best Consumer Coverage win in 2023.

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