How do you air-dry your hair? The answer seems obvious: Do nothing and let nature take its course. But if you want your hair to look smooth and frizz-free, there’s a little more effort involved. Here are some tips on how to get the best results from air drying your hair.
Moisturize Your Hair
If you want smooth, glossy, frizz-free hair, the first step is making sure that the cuticle — the outermost layer of your hair — is closed. Luckily, you’re probably already using conditioner, which closes the cuticle for you, sealing in moisture to keep your hair smooth and soft. It’s okay to skip shampoo depending on your hair type, but all of our experts agree that you should use conditioner. (If you want to go the extra step, you can also use a strong hair mask to give it a little more conditioning).
Rinse with Cold Water
After you wash out conditioner, rinse your hair with cold water. It doesn’t need to be ice-cold, but it should be colder than room temperature. It may not feel pleasant but switching between hot and cold temperatures is good for your hair. Cold water also seals the cuticle.
Brush in the Shower
Now take a wide-tooth comb or Wet Brush, and comb through your hair. This is when hairstylists agree your hair is best — it’s smooth, it’s moisturized, and it’s shiny. (Note: You want to do this in the shower, not afterwards, because this is when you can comb it without breakage. But more on that in a bit.)
Set Your Hair
Do you want your hair to fall flatly and prettily over your ears, young Sofia Coppola-style? Do you want your hair to have a side or center part? Then do the modern version of a “set” — make sure that you section your hair into that part when it’s wet, so that it naturally goes into that style as it air-dries.
If you want your hair to look extra smooth, consider adding some more product. Some light leave-in conditioner or a smoothing serum can ease it along, and also help close the cuticle.
Every single expert interviewed for this story agreed: No matter how fancy your towels, don’t let them touch your hair. Cotton fibers only. Wrapping your hair in a regular towel dries it, but also dries it out. Plus, towels can create knots and snarls.
We suggest using old T-shirts or microfiber towels. Justine Marjan (the Global Stylist for TRESemmé) also suggests squeezing your hair, rather than rubbing it, to remove moisture. “Just squeeze the water out of it,” she explains. “If you rub it, that increases friction and frizz.” Most curly-haired girls already do a variation of the technique called plopping.
Stop Touching It
Being lazy actually works for your hair when you get it to this point. Your hair is in its most fragile state when it’s wet. Go against most people’s natural inclination to brush it again: This is when it’s most tender and prone to breakage. Brushing or even hand-combing it opens the cuticle again, making it vulnerable to damage and frizz. The more you brush it out of the shower, the more you break up natural waves and cause frizz. Don’t scrunch it, either; that also adds frizz.
Or Put It Up in a Braid or Bun
If you do want to add texture to your hair, when it’s damp, twist it into a very loose braid. Other variations of this trick include spraying a wave spray and/or a sea-salt spray, pinning it into a loose bun, and then letting it dry. Also try pinning hair into loose loops all over the head to create waves and removing it when it dries.
Let It Dry
Relax and chill.
Despite your best efforts, you may have some frizz and flyaways. If you do have a few errant hairs, our favorite trick is to spray hairspray into our hair or onto a brush and use it to brush the hairs down. It tames them without smashing them. If you simply must use a blowdryer, we suggest blowing out just the hair around your hairline to keep it smooth. It’s a trick hairstylists often use backstage when they want the hair to look air-dried but also polished.
Also, sometimes it’s just beyond your control. The bad news is that some people’s hair just looks better blow-dried.