Here's why you may be blowing it if you use a hair dryer daily—and what to do instead.

By By Didi Gluck
Photo: Getty

If you've ever held your dryer too close to your neck while styling, you know how hot it can get. But chances are that hasn't stopped you from aiming it at your poor, fragile strands day after day. Not surprisingly, that repeated and prolonged heat can erode the integrity of your hair's outer cuticle layer, leaving your locks dry, frizzy, and apt to break. It's time to unplug and learn how to air dry hair. And no, it will not leave you limp and lifeless if you do it right. Try these tools and tricks for a gorgeous look (body, bounce...the whole package), all while cutting the cord. Your hair and scalp will thank you. (If you won't step away from the hot tools, at least use one of the best new hair tools out there.)

Air-drying is an exercise in embracing your natural texture, says Jon Reyman, founder of Spoke & Weal salons in New York City, Chicago, and California. So start by assessing whether your hair tends to be soft and fine or coarse when dry (regardless of whether it's straight or curly). Then follow these guidelines. (Or, you know, just don't wash your hair for five days.)

How to Air Dry Soft Hair:

Build volume in your air-dried mane by "shampooing twice, conditioning at the ends only, and using light-hold stylers like dry shampoo, beach spray, or mousse, which don't contain oils," Reyman says. Paul Labrecque, owner of the Paul Labrecque salons in New York City and Philadelphia, adds: "Turn your head over and shake your hair a bit while it's drying to lift the roots and make them less flat."

Your air-dry product arsenal:

  1. Apply Living Proof Perfect Hair Day In-Shower Styler ($24, after cleansing and conditioning, then rinse lightly for hold without buildup.
  2. Or try L'Oréal Paris Advanced Hairstyle Air Dry It Ruffled Body Mousse ($5, to add texture while air-drying.
  3. You can also use dry shampoo, such as John Frieda Luxurious Volume Volume Refresh Dry Shampoo ($7, or Ouai Dry Shampoo Foam ($28,, once hair has dried, for extra body.

How to Air Dry Coarse Hair:

Keeping your hair from getting big (and by extension, frizzy) is a challenge when air-drying. Reyman says to "shampoo once, condition all over, and use a combination of a light-hold product to set the hair and an oil or cream styler to shrink and soften strands." Adds Labrecque, "Keep your hands off your hair entirely until it's dry, or you'll disturb the curl pattern and introduce frizz."

Your air-dry product arsenal:

  1. The lightweight polymers in Bb. Don't Blow It Thick H(Air) Styler ($31, help enhance bounce, while plant extracts add hydration so hair air-dries smoothly.
  2. Especially frizz-prone? Apply Redken No Blow Dry Bossy Cream ($24,, which contains quick-dry polymers, to damp locks.

Can't deal with your natural texture?

How to straighten curls without heat: If you can't even face your natural texture, there are simple hair hacks that can help you achieve the look you're after-sans dryer. To make curly hair straight, Labrecque suggests wrapping it in Velcro rollers while it dries. The larger the curler, the straighter the hair will get.

How to add waves without heat: To add texture to straight hair, Reyman advises a double knot: one on top of your head and one in the back. Undo when your hair's dry for more body and wave. (Here are more no-heat hair curling tips from beauty blogger Stephanie Nadia.)

Comments (2)

May 30, 2018
I have thick curly hair and it looks great after air drying the problem is the next morning when I have to brush it. Frizz City! And anyone with curly coarse hair knows you can NOT wash it everyday. It will dry out so bad and just makes the frizz worse.
November 26, 2017
Great approach to air drying but what wasn't discussed are the variety of hair towels now available I have tried a number of these and have found Studio Dry by far the most effective. Removing just the surface water so no dripping wet hair down my back! I leave on the towel for about 15minutes Then I can apply my styling products and actually style with Studio Dry Gloves instead of just my fingers as they also eliminate frizz and set my curls or if I am blow drying smooth once I remove my hair towel I just add my product and blow dry. The Studio Dry towel reduces drying time and damage , prevents static and frizz.