My hair story is simple. Curly and down when I’m being social; messy bun when I mean business. In terms of upkeep, I’m always in a rush. Bar indulging in a blow dry on occasion, I used to grab my hairdryer, rough dry my locks, and finish the task with a straightener – looking to a mist of heat protection as my saving grace. Simple. I never thought about my equipment – until the Dyson Supersonic came into the picture.
It’s been hailed as a game-changer by every super stylist, from Jen Atkin to Larry King. Sales have skyrocketed, even past the margins Dyson itself predicted. The reason: hair health. “Using most heat tools regularly can cause damage to the integrity of the hair, leaving it dry, brittle and dull,” explains King. Before the Dyson Supersonic hit the scene, regular hairdryers focused on heat and power, which cause damage to locks. “My clients and social media followers from all over the world complain about the same two things. Unhealthy hair and lack of time,” Atkin says. “With Dyson, you can easily cut down on styling time and it will never cause heat damage.”
To further understand the innovation behind the device, I took a trip to the Dyson headquarters in the UK. Icons of innovation dot the area around the unassuming town in Malmesbury. A Harrier Jump Jet, the first of its kind capable of a vertical takeoff, welcomes guests. An English Electric Lightning Jet – a supersonic fighter aircraft – hovers over employees in the cafeteria. It was placed there by founder Sir James Dyson, who says, “Having an idea for doing something better and making it happen – even though it appears impossible – is still my dream.” The Dyson philosophy is to start with a problem and then solve it. The scientists and engineers, who make up one-third of the workforce, are inventors. Function comes first, form follows.
Dysons engineering expertise is located at HQ. The site features some of the industry’s most advanced labs, where collaboration is key. Hands-on prototyping spaces, workshops, and areas for collective ventures mean any idea can be cogitated. It’s a notion developed from Sir James Dyson’s journey to develop the world’s first bagless vacuum cleaner, which took five years and more than 5 000 prototypes. On average, new machines take three to five years from concept to final product. The Dyson Supersonic is one such project.
I am taken on a tour of the labs. Walking past a dark, mirrored building, the lengths that Dyson go to, to keep their technology secret is apparent. Only the research development, and development team – 450 engineers – are granted access to the building. The majority of the labs are off-limits to many of the staff. I am told to keep my phone strictly in my pocket while walking around the campus. The tour weaves through the various labs, with fingerprint recognition required for access.
Dyson spends more than US $6 million on research and development a week, and the labs are impressive. There are workshops piled high with motors and a room filled with 3D printing machines, ensuring prototypes can be created almost instantly. An electromagnetic compatibility chamber tests that appliances will work throughout your home. An acoustics testing facility is so comprehensive that I realize I have never truly understood the concept of silence. Then there are the hair-testing labs. These specialized set-ups were created for the Dyson Supersonic, where technicians can work to understand every aspect of hair.
The star of the show is the Dyson digital motor V9. It’s the fastest to come out of the Dyson HQ, and spins on average six times quicker than other hairdryer motors. It’s tiny. By propelling 13 liters of air up the amplifier every second and traveling at 168 km/h, it enables fast drying time and precision styling. Not to mention, it fits in the handle of the device, and has been engineered for balance. The motor also runs on one inaudible frequency, making it one of the quietest hairdryers on the market today – if not the most. As Atkin puts it, “It’s super lightweight, quiet, chic, and with a powerful engine.”
Another impressing aspect of the hair dryer is its artificial intelligence. “It uses intelligent heat control technology to help prevent heat damage to your hair, preserving its natural shine,” says King. A thermal sensor measures the temperature of the flow exiting the dryer 20 times per second. By transmitting that data to the microprocessor, the level of heat can be intelligently controlled. This was developed after countless tests, which saw the labs use more than 1 600 km of human hair in their experiments.
The engineers didn’t just test the impact of heat – they worked to understand everything about hair, from straight to wavy to curly, all different ethnicities, from the cortex to the cuticle. The stresses of drying were tested, as were the impact of brushing and the effects of color and chemicals. Extreme heat causing irreversible damage was key in their findings – specifically the fact that damaged hair doesn’t always appear to be so. Damaged hair – breakage, split ends – leads to diminished shine and the inability to hold a style (which is probably why your curls always drop out). It can’t be fixed and has to be cut off to regrow as a healthy head of hair.
The Supersonic’s three attachments, which take different hair types into consideration, ensure that styles are easier to fashion. “I believe the diffuser is the best on the market,” says King. “The magnetic nozzles are really important features. It has a protector around the nozzles, so you never burn your fingers if you have to switch nozzles,” Atkin adds. “For a woman in the Middle East who’s looking to save time, have shiny locks, and minimize heat damage, this dryer is the perfect tool to add to a beauty routine.” While the Dyson Supersonic is pricy – around AED1 500 – the investment is worth it.
Originally printed in the February 2018 issue of Vogue Arabia.