How to Air-Dry Your Hair So It Looks Good and Stays Healthy

Turns out you do need to put in a little (teeny bit of) effort to air-dry your hair if you actually want it to look "effortless."

wet hair
Photo: AJ_Watt/Getty Images

No matter how your natural texture dries—straight, wavy, or curly—mastering the art of the air dry is, in fact, an art. Even though air-drying is working with your natural texture, it often seems more complicated and leaves a lot up to chance. However, just like learning to French braid, once you know the correct steps, the process is way less intimidating than it originally seemed.

Set aside your trusty blow dryer and give your hair a break from the curling, straightening, and teasing, and round brushing. We talked to the hair pros to learn the products and techniques you need for frizz-free, air-dried hair goals.

The Benefits of Air-Drying Your Hair

Sure, the ability to step out of the shower and walk out the door with hair you can count on to dry into a beautiful, frizz-free style is motivation enough. But breaking up with your heat tools can also do wonderful things for your strands. "Taking occasional breaks from heat styling is critical to the health and vibrancy of your hair," says celebrity hairstylist Bryce Scarlett. "Repeated exposure to heat breaks the hair down, causing strands to be brittle, dry, and prone to breakage."

The best time to take this extended break from your blow dryer or curling iron is during the hot, humid summer months. Your hair will dry quicker than in the winter (and you won't risk freezing your strands on your commute), plus working with your hair's natural texture gives you a low-maintenance style.

Step-By-Step Guide to Air-Dry Your Hair

#1. Start the process in the shower.

You need proper hydration to achieve great air-dried hair. First up, swap in a moisturizing shampoo. Then, use a hair mask in place of conditioner to treat your strands to some extra TLC. The break from heat tools allows for more moisture retention so hair can rebuild, says celebrity hair stylist Laura Polko, a Sun Bum hair ambassador. Make sure to brush the mask through in the shower with a gentle detangling brush, adds Scarlett. (Try the Wet Brush Hair Brush Shower Detangler, Buy It, $14, Then, rinse. Hard stop! When you step out of the shower, resist wrapping your hair in a towel—that step comes later. (Yes, not even a microfiber hair towel.)

#2. Apply your hair-appropriate products.

Selecting the right styling product for your hair type is important to get natural-looking texture/waves/curls that aren't bogged down by something that's too thick.

If your hair is wavy or curly and thick: Choose a curl cream, such as Moroccanoil Curl Defining Cream (Buy It, $34,, and apply the product while hair is still very wet, bordering on sopping, says Scarlett.

If your hair is kinky/wavy or fine: You may do better with a lighter product, such as Sun Bum Whipped Mousse (Buy It, $15, Use a comb to smooth the product through your hair while wet to ensure it gets evenly distributed. A trick to know how much product you need is to use a circle that's the diameter of the thickness of your hair in a ponytail. Now is when you'll scrunch your hair using a microfiber towel or t-shirt to get as much moisture out as possible, says Scarlett.

If your hair is straight with little natural texture: Reach for a beach spray, like Not Your Mother's Beach Babe Texturizing Sea Salt Spray (Buy It, $5, Air dry or take water out with a towel until hair is damp, then spritz in the spray and scrunch. Leave to air dry or add a braid or twists while it dries.

#3. Consider braids or twists.

Your next move depends on how much of a wave you want in your hair—you can leave damp hair alone to air dry the rest of the way or add a few twists while it's still in the process of drying. "Split hair into 2-inch sections and twist the hair away from the face on each side, says Polko. "The key to the beach wave is twisting away from the face, so twist all the sections in the same direction." If needed, clamp the ends with alligator or claw clips to hold as hair air dries. Once dry, shake twists loose with your hands. This twisting technique is great for almost all hair textures—it gives a more relaxed look for curly hair, adds texture to straight hair, and helps to define the bends of wavy hair, says Polko.

If you typically wash your hair at night, you can air-dry it while you sleep. Complete steps one and two, then keep waves intact and fight frizz by throwing in a few three-strand braids around the head or try the latest hair craze seen on TikTok: sock curls. Place a scarf, long sock, or belt from your robe on top of your head with the ends hanging down each side. Then, taking 2-inch sections wrap hair away from your face around the scarf on either side, says Polko. This will give an amazing beachy, voluminous wave without the heat damage from an iron.

#4. Finish it off.

Once hair is dry, give more lift at the roots and provide hold to waves with a little dry texture spray, says Polko. Spritz DryBar Triple Sec 3-in-1 Finishing Spray ($26; from mid-lengths to ends, then shake to loosen waves and create body. Smooth a dime-sized amount of hair oil through the ends if you're worried about frizz, says Scarlett. Bumble and bumble Bb.Hairdresser's Invisible Oil Heat/UV Protective Primer (Buy It, $28, defrizzes and detangles while also providing heat and UV protection for your strands.

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles