Hair diffusers help slowly disperse the force of air from blow dryers to give those with curly hair shape and definition. However, they can be bulky. We rounded up ones you can travel with.

If you’ve ever owned a hair dryer, there’s a good chance you’ve encountered a diffuser attachment before. Diffuser attachments are round, claw-like pieces that fit onto the nozzle of a hair dryer and, spread out any air emitted from the blow dryer. This allows for a gentler and more even airflow than what you might get from the nozzle alone.

Diffusers are especially useful for people with curly hair, since, by evenly dispersing (and slowing) the force of air, they can dry waves, curls and coils without affecting their shape and definition. Plus, depending on how you use your diffuser, this attachment can also boost volume and enhance texture.

However, diffusers’ round, thick shape can make them bulky, so they may be particularly troublesome to travel with. Some are even designed to fit only on dedicated hair dryers, which is why finding a portable option can be helpful. With that in mind, we asked hairstylists to share their picks for travel diffusers that’ll give you healthy, shiny curls wherever, whenever.

SKIP AHEAD How we picked the top-rated travel diffusers | Top-rated travel diffusers to shop in 2024 | How to shop for travel diffusers | Who should use a hair diffuser? | How to use a diffuser | How to pack a diffuser

Our top picks

How we picked top-rated travel diffusers

If the size of a standard diffuser is too large for your luggage, then you have two options, according to experts we spoke with. You can either find a collapsible diffuser, which folds into a flat, round shape, or opt for a sock diffuser, which is made of a soft, foldable material. Some also prefer to use the attachments that come included when you buy a travel hair dryer. Here’s what else to consider.

  • Compatibility: Diffusers aren’t always one-size-fits-all. If you’re planning to use a hotel hair dryer, opt for a diffuser attachment that comes in a universal size to ensure it fits.
  • Material: The material of your appliance can determine how much space it will take up.  Soft, mesh materials will take up the least amount of space.
  • Size: Diffusers can differ in their diameter, which can impact how easily they are to travel with’ as well as how they style hair.

Top-rated travel diffusers to shop in 2024

Below, we compiled the travel diffusers that experts use to style their clients’ hair on the road. We also include travel hair dryers that come with diffuser attachments, since these often have more bells and whistles, like cool-shot buttons and multiple heat settings, than your average hotel dryer. (Plus, there’s no guarantee that a dryer will necessarily be available wherever you’re traveling.) For that reason, we included recommendations for both.

Top-rated travel diffusers

YS Park Large Diffuser

Several experts we spoke with recommended this soft sock dryer, since it’s incredibly versatile. “I use this diffuser for setting a wet look and drying men’s hair, as well as drying natural waves and curls,” says Jennifer Nast, a hairstylist at Sharon Dorram Salon at Sally Herschberger in New York City. Mia Santiago, a hairstylist in Los Angeles, also says that it’s easy to pack and use. The mesh fabric is infused with silver and titanium particles, which help it retain heat, plus it comes with an adjustable strap to fit any nozzle, according to the brand.

Compatibility: Universal | Material: Mesh | Size: N/A

Hot Sock The Ultralight Diffuser

Unlike a plastic option, this foam sock diffuser is small enough to put in a purse and is effectively weightless, according to the brand. It has a 4.3-star average rating from 2,771 reviews on Amazon, and should extend as far as four inches beyond the tip of the dryer, according to Hot Sock. 

Compatibility: Universal | Material: Foam | Size: N/A

The Curly Co. Collapsible Hair Diffuser

The stretchy, flexible silicone of this diffuser, which collapses flat to a width of 2.25 inches, can  fit on most hair dryer nozzles, according to the brand. It also has built-in grips, and works best with low heat, according to The Curly Co. It has a 4.1-star average rating from 5,410 reviews on Amazon.

Compatibility: Universal | Material: Silicone | Size: 5.25-inch diameter

Conair Volumizing Universal Hair Diffuser

When she doesn’t want to pack a hair dryer, Sandra Almanzar, a Davines Salon specialist and hairstylist, relies on this diffuser, saying that it fits comfortably in her suitcase. Plus, this has prongs, or fingers, which lift the hair while diffusing, adding volume and body to the hair, she says. It doesn’t have the smallest profile, but it does fit most hair-dryer nozzles, including many Conair models, according to the brand.

Compatibility: Conair hair dryers | Material: Plastic | Size: 5.5-inch diameter

Top-rated travel hair dryers with diffusers

Curlsmith De-Frizzion Travel Hair Dryer & Diffuser

While this hair dryer is relatively small as it is, the handle folds down to further shrink its footprint. It has dual voltage, multiple speed and heat settings, and comes with a 6-inch diffuser, which is smaller than the  8-inch version that Curlsmith typically offers, according to the brand. The dryer, which has a 5.0-star rating from 47 reviews at Sephora, also comes with a storage bag.

Combined weight of diffuser and blow dryer: 1.1 pounds | Size: 6-inch diameter

Bed Head Curls-in-Check 1875W Hair Diffuser Dryer

This diffuser, which comes recommended by NBC Select associate updates editor Zoe Malin, is built into a compact dryer (although you can remove it for cleaning and to increase the airflow). It has three heat and two speed settings as well as a cool-shot button, according to the brand. “It honestly doesn’t take up much space in my luggage and is super reliable,” says Malin. “I’ve had mine for over a year and use it at home every day in addition to while traveling.”

Combined weight of diffuser and blow dryer: 1.55 pounds | Size: 8.5-inch diameter

Dyson Supersonic

The Dyson Supersonic has a slim profile and light weight (clocking in at 1.8 pounds) that makes it easier to pack than the typical hair dryer. It comes with a diffuser that magnetically attaches to the nozzle of the dryer. “I absolutely love the diffuser attachment with the Dyson blow dryer because of the long prongs and how it dries the hair evenly,” says Almanzar.

Combined weight of diffuser and blow dryer: 1.8 pounds | Size: N/A

InfinitiProBy Conair Worldwide Travel Folding Dryer

This folding travel hair dryer has two voltage levels, which automatically adjust when you plug it in, according to the brand. It also has an LED display to note the voltage, too, as well as three heat and two speed options. The diffuser attachment itself has long prongs, and the dryer has a 4.4-star average rating from more than 1,100 ratings on Amazon.

Combined weight of diffuser and blow dryer: 1.55 pounds | Size: 4.7-inch diameter

How to shop for travel diffusers

When you’re shopping for a travel diffuser, the most important thing to consider is whether you want a standalone diffuser — meaning you’ll attach it to a hotel hair dryer — or a diffuser attachment that comes with a travel hair dryer.

That said, the wattage (which measures the power of the dryer and influences the drying time) will differ between hotels, travel dryers, and your usual, at-home hair dryer. “Most travel dryers aren’t as powerful as an at-home dryer, so it may take a bit longer than normal to diffuse your hair,” says Meri Kate O’Connor, a hair colorist at Benjamin Salon in West Hollywood, CA.

Then, there’s the type of diffuser. There are generally two types to consider:

  • Sock diffusers: These are essentially small, sock-like bags that cover the end of the blow-dryer. “This option can easily be packed in any carry-on or suitcase,” says Nast. This type of diffuser is very gentle on the hair, but it can take longer to fully dry waves and curls.
  • Collapsible diffusers: These diffusers, which are typically made of silicone or plastic, pop out for diffusing, and then collapse down for storage. As a result, they’re helpful for saving space while traveling, says O’Connor. The drawback is that depending on the quality of the diffuser, it might not stay popped open while you’re using it.

The material of your diffuser is also important to consider when shopping. Some are made of silicone, which allow the base of the diffuser to fit over any nozzle size. Others are made of plastic; the advantage here is that these typically have prongs throughout, which grip and lift the hair while you diffuse, improving volume and texture. 

And, of course, the size matters. The larger the diffuser, the more evenly it can disperse air — and the faster your hair dries. However,  “compact or collapsible diffusers may have a smaller diffusing area,” says Almanzar. “This could slightly compromise the overall styling effect compared to standard-sized diffusers.” It’s ultimately the tradeoff for being able to easily transport a diffuser.

Who should use a hair diffuser?

If you have any bend to your hair, be it a loose 2A wave or a springy 4B coil, a diffuser can be helpful.  “A diffuser attachment is beneficial for individuals with curly or wavy hair textures, as it helps enhance natural curls and reduce frizz,” says Almanzar. “It can also be used by anyone looking to add volume and texture to their hair.”

That’s because these attachments diffuse the airflow coming from your hair dryer, making it gentler so the force of it doesn’t straighten out hair or reduce definition. (For my own 2C and 3A curls, which I typically air dry, I find that using a diffuser is a fast way to get a tousled, air-dried look without the wait.)

Using a hair dryer with a powerful airflow, can inadvertently cause frizz, so the diffuser also minimizes frizz and flyaways and delivers a smoother, shinier appearance to curls.

How to use a hair diffuser

First, it’s important to position your diffuser correctly. Start by aiming the diffuser downward, in the direction of the hair shaft, says O’Connor. By aiming the airflow in a single direction, it helps keep the cuticle of the hair — and your hair itself — smooth.

Try not to touch your hair during this step, since doing so can create frizz. (And, depending on the material of the diffuser — as with a sock diffuser — you could make your hair fuzzy.) Then, “gently check the hair periodically to see how dry the hair is,” says Nast. “When you are about 80 to 90 percent dry, lower the heat and speed level.” 

At this point, you can go in and start scrunching your hair with your hands, moving the diffuser around the hair and placing your curls in the bowl of the diffuser until they’re fully dry. You can also style your hair to get different effects. For instance, if you’re looking for volume, you can flip your head upside down or tilt it to the right or left while aiming your diffuser upwards, says Santiago. 

For the best results, “don’t drag your diffuser through your hair,” she says. “Bounce it in and out to disperse the airflow into the hair.”

How to pack a diffuser

Once you have your diffuser in hand, it’s important to pack it right. If you’re working with a sock diffuser, it’s simple: Simply fold it up and stash it with the rest of your clothes or toiletries. Meanwhile, when packing a standard-size diffuser for travel, “try placing it in the middle of your suitcase, preferably between clothes,” says Nast. (That way, it’ll be cushioned to minimize the chance of it breaking.)

But you can adjust it to whatever feels most secure. For instance, “I keep mine sideways to pack things around it so it doesn’t move or get broken,” says Santiago.

Meet our experts

At NBC Select, we work with experts who have specialized knowledge and authority based on relevant training and/or experience. We also take steps to ensure all expert advice and recommendations are made independently and without undisclosed financial conflicts of interest. 

  • Jennifer Nast is a hairstylist at Sharon Dorram Color at Sally Hershberger Salon in New York, NY, where she specializes in easy-to-maintain haircuts.
  • Sandra Almanzar is a Davines Salon specialist and hairstylist based in New York, NY.
  • Mia Santiago is a hairstylist who splits her time between Columbus, OH, New York City, and Los Angeles. She specializes in editorial, advertising, and red-carpet hairstyling.
  • Meri Kate O’Connor is a hair colorist at Benjamin Salon in West Hollywood, CA. She focuses on blonde hair colors, as well as extensions and keratin treatments.

Why trust NBC Select?

Deanna Pai is a freelance beauty writer and editor who has been covering beauty and health for more than a decade, including recent stories on how to identify your curl type and roundups of the best brushes and combs. She uses a diffuser to dry her Types 2C and 3A curls in a pinch, and interviewed four hairstylists to learn how to take your hair diffuser on the go.

Catch up on Select’s in-depth coverage of personal finance, tech and tools, wellness and more, and follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and TikTok to stay up to date. 

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