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How to Use a Diffuser

By Amalah

I’m sure there is probably a really simple answer to this, but what is a hair diffuser for and how in the crap do you use one? Mine has just been taking up precious bathroom space because I have no clue what to do with it. So please… bring me out of the hair drying dark ages and into the 21st century!

So you’ll never believe this, but the diffuser attachment for your hair dryer…diffuses the air. It takes the blast of concentrated hot air that the dryer sends out and kind of…spreads it out, for a more gentle drying. It’s best for naturally curly or permed hair, or very damaged, unhealthy hair. Straight hair? Eh, not so much, unless it’s super prone to heat damage. Some people with really fine hair swear by diffusers for creating volume without being overly harsh, though personally I’ve never really achieved results with a diffuser that couldn’t be done as well and MUCH FASTER by just flipping my hair upside-down and blasting the roots for 30 seconds or so.
Then again, I’ll beat the crap out of my hair in the name of efficiency, because gah babies everywhere that need things gotta finish up in the bathroom right now right now eeeee.
black-diffuser-11.jpgChances are, if you’ve gone your whole life and never had a stylist whip out the diffuser attachment after a haircut, it might not be something your hair needs. I’ve had stylists use diffusers when I requested my hair NOT be blown out straight, but left slightly wavy (as much as my hair can wave…it really just kind of bends, but with the right product and a lot scrunching I can usually coax some beachy, windblown-type waves out of it). I’m always a little torn about the results — it takes a LONG time to get my hair dry with the diffuser, and I sometimes think it really doesn’t look all that different than my usual routine of just drying the roots and then scrunching the wet ends and letting them air dry.
How do you a diffuser? You use it very close to your head, unlike other dryer attachments. Pull sections of hair into the diffuser, allowing the prongs to lift and separate the hair. Start at your roots and move the dryer in a circular direction, then move on down the hair shaft, always blasting the dried hair really quickly with cold air to lock in the style and prevent frizz. Use your fingers to separate and shape curls. If you want volume, flip your head over and spend extra time on the roots, always working in a circular motion. For curly or permed hair, applying some anti-frizz/heat-protection/shine serum before starting will really help set the curls.
My hair dryer actually just kicked the bucket, and even though I always say the next dryer I buy will be a professional-caliber one, I always see the price tags and opt for another middle-of-the-road kind that you can find at Target. This time, I opted to skip the diffuser attachment and went with one by Remington that offered a concentrater (the angled-in tube thing) for drying my hair straight, and then this weird wind-tunnel thing that promised tousled waves. I am a sucker for crazy-sounding promises, plus the dryer was the same price as the ones with diffuser attachments that I KNOW will simply sit in a drawer for all eternity, so I tried it.
Does it work? Yes and no. You have to use the wave attachment at the EXACT right point in the drying process — use it when your hair is too wet, and it will take for-freaking-EVER to dry, though it will still produce nice waves. Use it when your hair is too dry, and you’re left with a tangled, frizzed-up mess. Use it somewhere in between on small (like a inch) sections of hair and you can indeed get some nice-looking waves out of non-naturally wavy hair. (I follow up with some beach/salt spray and some scrunching to keep the waves there all day.)


Published February 27, 2009. Last updated February 27, 2009.
About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected].

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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