Types of hand fans vary as widely as the imagination. They can be made from nearly any material, be quite ornate and beautiful or very simple and functional. They can cost next to nothing, or be relatively expensive. It all depends on the workmanship that goes into them and their level of technology.
In the past, hand fans have been only simply designed units without much technology. The material used was a fibrous material, such as paper or dried vegetation, such as palm leaves. In some cases, the energy exerted in order to move air over areas of the skin, usually the face, caused just as much heat to be created as if these woven hand fans had never been used at all.
Collapsible hand fans are perhaps the most common type. These fans often have metal or wood sides that hold the inside of the fan together. When the fan is ready to be expanded, the sides simply pull down, often making a half circle. In some ways, the inside of the fan looks like an accordion.
Hand fans were invented, or at least gained widespread popularity, in Asia and as such may be referred to as Asian hand fans. Often made of silk, they can be very impressive to look at. The designs and colors used often make them a favorite of many people. Even those who do not put them to practical use may buy them to use as collectibles.
While these ornate hand fans can be very expensive, most find paper hand fans a better use of their money. While they may not last as long, they are easily replaceable. Collapsible paper fans can also contain a number of designs. As such, they are very popular and very inexpensive keepsakes and may be given out at parties.
Woven hand fans tend to last a bit longer, and may be plain or very ornate as well. Of all the materials they are made out of, palm leaves seem to be a very popular choice. As such, they may be referred to as palm hand fans. The leaves are often dried and browned and processed in such a way that they do not resemble palm leaves at all.
In recent years, church hand fans have also become popular. These fans are usually made of cardboard or some other type of stiff material that is then attached to a piece of wood. The main portion of the fan may have a picture of a church or some other image printed on it. Those using the fans hold them by the piece of wood. They make for good marketing tools as well.