Dyson Airwrap review: high-tech hair styling

The quest to make curly hair straight, straight hair curly, and the in between just do something (anything) has been a constant since the ancient Egyptians started using flat iron plates to manage their unruly curls.

The next big advancement in hair difference wasn’t until some Parisian guy in the 1800s started using heated rods to style hair. That started the mainstream trend of burning your hair (and sometimes hands) while trying to tame hair to suit whatever the style was at the time.

Aside from whatever crimping was aiming for in the 1970s and 80s, not a lot evolved in how people changed the waviness of hair, until Dyson came along.

The production of Dyson’s new hair styler, the Airwrap, actually started at the same time as their Supersonic hair dryer, but it took them an extra two years to get it right because it turns out hair requires more finesse than our previous “just burn it into submission” attitude would suggest. Also, being Dyson, it’s $699.

According to the Airwrap’s engineering team, the secret to bouncy curls and straight, shiny hair is the Coanda effect, which is the phenomenon of how a jet flow will attach itself to a nearby surface, and remain there, even when the surface curves away from the original direction. It was first discovered by a Romanian aeronautical engineer named Henri Coanda, who might have failed at building a successful plane, but, by observing the way the flames and gasses clung to the fuselage of his wrecked aircraft, discovered a new aerodynamic effect.

Dyson uses the effect in the curling attachments of the Airwrap, heating the hair to no more than 150 degrees, which is the maximum temperature you’d want to use on hair, and less than the damaging 180 degrees you’d get on traditional curling irons. Not damaging the hair is key, because it can’t heal itself.

The Airwrap box is massive, because it’s holding a lot of attachments.

Included is a hair dryer attachment, 40mm and 30mm curling attachments (two each, for the left and right sides), a straightening brush for thick hair, straightening brush for thin hair, a cylindrical “volumizing” brush, and the Airwrap itself. It all comes in quite a nice leather storage container, but it’s definitely only for people with quite a bit of space in their bathroom cabinet.

The Airwrap comes with heaps of attachments, and a big leather case to keep them.

The Airwrap comes with heaps of attachments, and a big leather case to keep them.

A traditional curling iron requires you to twirl your dry hair around the heating rod. The Airwrap works best on damp hair (preferably with a little styling moose in it), and you curl the hair by holding a “tail” of a small section up to the curling tip and then you watch it get vacuumed into a tight or loose curl depending on your attachment of choice. You need separate attachments for the left and right sides because the curl should go away from your face, and the attachments only curl in one direction.

To properly test the Airwrap I used it on my own curly hair, and got my wife Karma to use it on her straight-ish hair. I’ve never really used a curler myself, whereas Karma frequently uses a curling iron she got for $40 at Hairhouse Warehouse.

At the briefing event, I started out sceptical about how effective it would be on my hair. Many hairdressers have tried to use curling irons on me to make proper ringlets, and every time the curls fall out after two hours. Plus, I’ve been dyeing my hair for more than 20 years, and it now basically has the texture of fairy floss.

So, I decided to test how long it would take for the neat ringlet the hair care professional put in my hair to fall out. Amazingly, it lasted until about 12:30am Friday AEDT, after being styled at 8:00pm the previous Tuesday. In that time it endured two runs, a 30km walk, and a flight from Melbourne to New York with over ear headphones. The Coanda effect really does work.

The ringlet at the Dyson event, then 31 hours later landing in LA.

The ringlet at the Dyson event, then 31 hours later landing in LA.Credit:Alice Clarke

However I couldn’t quite manage the same effect on my own, though that would likely improve with practice. I found that even when I grabbed small sections of hair to feed to the curler, it would still end up grabbing much more hair the closer it got to my head, and not get the effect I was going for.

Karma found the curling experience frustrating, because it was too different to what she was used to with the traditional curling iron, which is an adjustment process most converts are likely to find difficult. If you’re spending $699 on a curling iron, it’s probably not going to be your first time, so you’ll have a lot of muscle memory to unlearn.

She also didn’t manage to get the right amount of wave going, either getting a ringlet that was too tight, or a wave that looked too haphazard.

The straightening, however, was much more impressive. A quick brush of Karma’s hair left it sleek and shiny. And while many have tried and failed to get my hair straight, the effect of one quick brush through left it looking naturally straight with a slight wave. Much more brushing made it look salon straight, and stayed that way until I got rained on shortly afterwards.

With a very quick brush my hair was, impressively, almost straight.

With a very quick brush my hair was, impressively, almost straight.Credit:Alice Clarke

In the end, the Dyson Airwrap is an extremely impressive device, that with practice can help you achieve almost any hair style you have your heart set on. Is it worth $699? Probably not. The R&D, putting all the engineers who work in the hair department through hair dressing school, and the design and brand name all add to the cost. It’s certainly a premium product, but there’s not going to be a lot of people who can justify shelling out the equivalent of 350 avocados.

However, if you have the money, and don’t mind putting the work in to become proficient with it, the Airwrap is probably the best hair styler you can buy.

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