It's the kind of product you come across when you pop into Sephora to quickly re-up your favorite tinted moisturizer, but end up walking out with thinking, "maybe, just maybe, it really will make it easier to style my thin/coarse/straight/curly/whatever hair."
In some respects, the Airwrap delivers. The packaging and products themselves are beautiful, in true Dyson form. The $550 "Complete" kit I tested comes with six attachments. There are also two $500 kits with four attachments each, the Volume + Shape version is geared toward folks with fine, straight hair, while the Smooth + Control version is for thicker, coarser hair.
All of the attachments connect to a single styling wand easily, making it convenient to switch from drying your hair with the "pre-styling dryer" to curling or smoothing it with one of the other accessories.
But here's the thing -- while the Airwrap does use lower heat and it's more efficient than switching from the hairdryer to the straightener (or whatever styling tools you typically use), the lower heat often didn't deliver the results my colleagues and I wanted in the end.
I tested the Airwrap alongside Ashlee Clark Thompson and Molly Price. I have type-2 wavy hair, Ashlee has type-4 coily hair and Molly has straight hair. (Not sure what I'm taking about? Or curious to find out your hair type? Start here.)
Also, the curling barrels that "auto-wrap" your hair via the Coanda effect (a fluid dynamics phenomenon you can read more about here) were imprecise and difficult to control.
The Airwrap is a fun product to try out, particularly to see the Coanda effect in action, but none of us walked away ready to buy -- or recommend -- it to most people. That's especially true given its high price. I strongly suggest you test it out in a store (if possible) before adding it to your shopping cart.
Let's take a look at what you get for your $550. Not surprisingly, Dyson's packaging and the product itself looks great.
It comes in a cute leathery case with a black felt interior so you can safely store all of the different attachments after each use. You'll need a significant amount of space in your vanity to fit this whole case, so keep that in mind. Inside the case is a series of neatly arranged gray and pink accessories. They include:
That's a lot of stuff and all of it connects easily to the wand. Line up the attachment with the top of the wand and press it down until you feel it snap into place. Pull down and hold the "unlock" lever on the back of the wand to remove each accessory. The wand has a built-in plug that you connect to a wall outlet just like a hair dryer, or any other styling product.
Its integrated motor blows air at low, medium and high intervals. You also have options for cool, warm and hot temperature settings.
The Airwrap uses air to style your hair, rather than high direct heat -- that's its neatest feature. This is where Dyson takes advantage of the Coanda effect, a phenomenon wherein, according to UK-based S&C Thermofluids LTD, "a jet flow attaches itself to a nearby surface and remains attached even when the surface curves away from the initial jet direction." It's most apparent when you're using one of the curling barrels.
Dyson gives you two of each curling attachment because the air flowing from the wand blows out from the barrels in different directions. You would typically curl your hair away from your head, so you need one barrel for each direction. Arrows on the barrels help show you which one you need for which side.
The Airwrap and the Coanda effect is an intriguing concept, but the barrels and the wand's airflow effect didn't always do a good job grabbing our hair. We had some other problems, too. Let's talk about this thing's performance.
As someone with thick, wavy, layered hair, the Airwrap regularly grabbed some of my hair and missed other pieces, resulting in an odd, uneven curl I regularly had to re-do. I also found I had to use less hair that I usually would because it had a hard time grabbing onto my hair. Even though I saved time by not having to fully dry my hair with a separate appliance, I wasted time having to use smaller pieces of hair during the styling phase.
With a traditional straightener or curling iron, I would have much more control over how my hair attached to the tool, and its higher heat would more effectively straighten (or curl) it how I typically like it.
The other tools, like the firm smoothing brush, did in fact smooth my hair, but it still had some waves and texture, so don't expect it to "straighten" your hair like a traditional high-heat straightener. That was less of a disappointment, since the Airwrap doesn't claim to straighten like a straightener, but I still prefer the result of a regular ol' straightener.
I have tightly coiled, thick hair, so I was doubtful that the Dyson Airwrap could do anything for me. It turns out that I was only half wrong. The Airwrap's firm smoothing brush attachment was the most useful tool. I brushed it through my hair from root to tip, and my hair got straighter with each pass of the Airwrap. Natural hair like mine can be deceptively delicate and prone to heat damage, but the Airwrap's was gentle on my strands while still being hot enough to straighten out my curls.
The Airwrap let me down when it came to curling the straightened hair into bouncy beach waves. (Yes, I realize it sounds weird to add curl to hair that was curly to begin with. The haircare struggle is real.). The Airwrap barrels had difficulty grabbing my hair to curl it, even after I had re-dampened it in the hope of helping the process. Once it did get a hold of my hair, the result was a sad imitation of what a curl should be. And the barrels barely did a thing to my hair when I hadn't straightened it beforehand with the firm smoothing brush attachment.
The Airwrap would make it easier to straighten my hair on the few occasions I do so. However, I would still need to use a curling iron to add some bounce. One of the Airwrap's biggest selling points is the fact that it doesn't use potentially damaging, high levels of heat. But for hair like mine, you have to pull out the big guns, and the Airwrap ain't it.
I have fine, straight hair and while Dyson's 1.2-inch barrel did achieve curls, they were wispy and it didn't quite grab the ends of my hair completely. The blowing air made it feel like I didn't have much control over how my hair attached to the tools. The small sections I had to work with made me feel like it would take a really long time to achieve a fully curled head of hair.
On the flip side, the soft smoothing brush and the round volumizing brush worked really well. My hair felt soft, voluminous and dried quickly. I can't see myself paying $550 for a kit with all these attachments when I'd really only be interested in one or two. I can't even see myself paying $500 for a kit with just a few attachments, either. It did, however, really make me want to buy a $60 heated drying brush.
None of us had a great experience with the Dyson Airwrap, and regardless of what it claims, it didn't ultimately make it easier for us to style our hair. Yes, the Airwrap uses lower heat than many styling tools, but sometimes you need higher heat to achieve the result you want. The "auto-wrapping" curling barrels were a disappointment, too, since they didn't do a great job grabbing any of our hair consistently.
The Airwrap is a neat concept with promising claims, but it fell far short of expectations. For $550 that isn't good enough.
Ashlee Clark Thompson and Molly Price contributed to this review.