CNN Underscored September 12, 2022

CNN Underscored


The art of air-drying your hair, according to your hair type and texture


Air-drying your hair is like gambling. You can either win big with smooth, breezy hair and time to spare, or you can spend all day with frizz and flyaways. If you’ve historically found the results disappointing, now is a good time to rethink it. Not only does forgoing styling tools keep your hair healthy, but who wants to aim a hot hair dryer at their head in the dead of summer? (Not us.) Successfully air-drying hair is simply a matter of understanding how to work with your natural hair type. Here’s how to do it.

Why air-dry your hair?

Well…why not? Sure, if you have to have a virtual meeting with your boss’s boss, then your DIY blowout might be a safer bet. However, air-drying offers a multitude of benefits for hair. First, there’s the savings on time. “You can save yourself a good 10 to 20 minutes in your routine by opting to air-dry,” says Leigh Hardges, stylist at Maxine Salon in Chicago.

Not only that, but your hair itself benefits too. “Every time you use heat on your hair, there is going to be some degree of damage happening to your hair strand,” explains Gia Wendt, hairstylist at Space by Alex Brown in Chicago. “Over time, that can lead to dryness and split ends.” By air-drying, you eliminate that incremental damage from heat, keeping hair healthier.

Last but not least, air-drying your hair, when done right, can deliver an effortless “bedhead but better” look. “Depending on the products used, using diffusers and dryers can sometimes leave a tighter, more ‘crisp’ look to the hair,” Hardges explains. “Because of the wind, walking and regular movement related to air-drying, the results tend to be more ‘lived-in.’”

How to air-dry your hair

Historically, the drawback of air-drying hair is that it can look frizzy and unkempt. However, a few extra steps can make all the difference without tacking on a ton of time. First, detangle. “You always want to start your detangle at the ends of the hair and work your way directly to the roots,” says celebrity stylist Kendall Dorsey, who’s a fan of the Elchim Paddle Brush.

Also, keep your hands off your hair once you’ve applied your products. “The most common mistake people make when air-drying the hair is touching it,” says Hardges. “Friction becomes frizz, so the less friction that is caused, the better the results.”

It’s also essential to take your unique hair type into account, as the best products and techniques for you may differ according to your hair texture, pattern, porosity and density. “Those with very coily hair may wear twists to stretch their curl pattern out while air-drying, while a loose, wavy pattern will want to scrunch to enhance waves,” says Wendt.

Here are some of our favorite products for air-drying your hair, according to your texture.

Straight or fine hair

R+Co Dallas Biotin Thickening Shampoo

Pantene Silicone Free Hair Volume Multiplier Shampoo

If you’re working with straight hair, your styling starts in the shower. “For a client with fine, naturally straight hair who wants to lay off the heat styling and air-dry, I would recommend a lightweight thickening shampoo and conditioner in the shower,” says Wendt. That sets your foundation for additional volume, which can lend body and bounce to straight hair once it’s dry.

Moroccanoil Hydrating Styling Cream

Then nix frizz and flyaways before they start with a moisturizing cream. “This moisture-rich styling cream creates a soft, natural feel so that the hair can still move but also is left looking very healthy,” says Gina Rivera, hairstylist and CEO of Phenix Salon Suites. “It’s a terrific remedy for smoothing flyaways.”

Virtue Volumizing Primer

While your hair is still damp, amp up the volume. “I apply Virtue’s volumizing primer at the roots for a little added thickness and root-plumping, since air-drying fine hair can make it lie flat,” says Wendt. Work it into the roots to ensure that hair retains some lift throughout the day.

Wavy or curly hair

Color Wow Dream Coat for Curly Hair

For waves or curls prone to expanding in size at the first drop of rain, start with a layer of protection. “This product is an anti-humidity formula that works to keep your hair looking great rather than frizzy or flat,” says Rivera. “It’s a tremendous product when dealing with air that is damp and full of moisture.” Just spray it onto hair when it’s still damp.

Jane Carter Solutions Curl Defining Cream

To create defined curls, Hardges recommends applying curl products when hair is more wet than damp. “For curls, I prefer something with a little hold to help prevent frizz,” she says. “Jane Carter Solutions Curl Defining Cream delivers a perfect balance of moisture and hold for bouncy, air-dried tendrils.”

(If you’re in a rush, go ahead and blot moisture out of your hair, which is a good way to speed up the process. Just make sure not to disturb the curl shape and pattern while you do it, warns Hardges.)

Tigi Catwalk Curls Rock Amplifier

For waves and curls alike, you can’t go wrong with this cream either. “It provides hold and control for defined curls and streamlined waves by enhancing natural texture,” Rivera says. “It’s a great go-to for getting the most out of your curly hair.”

Coily hair

Curls Cashmere + Caviar Hair Silk Leave-in

Bread Beauty Supply Hair Oil

Afro Sheen Crown Defining Curl Cream

First, make sure your hair is wet. “For coily and kinky hair, apply products while hair is sopping wet — like still-in-the-shower wet,” says Hardges.

Instead of raking your fingers through your curls, squeeze or squish the product into them, then deploy the LOC method. “That stands for leave-in conditioner, oil and cream,” she explains. “By layering the products in that order, the hair gets optimal moisture retention.”

Wrapperoo T-Shirt Hair Towel

Air-drying coily or kinky hair might save time, but it’s a little less convenient when you’re dealing with water and styling products dripping everywhere. “Remove as much moisture as possible by using a T-shirt-like material (towels cause frizz) after applying products and using a cape to prevent staining clothes,” says Hardges. “Wrapperoo is a styling cape and hair turban, a truly ingenious product that does both.”

Color-treated hair

Aveda Nutriplenish Multi-Use Hair Oil

Decided to bleach your hair in quarantine? Then your hair is likely more porous and dry. If that’s the case, “use a wide-tooth comb with conditioner in the shower to gently detangle,” says Wendt. “Then use an oil every day.” You can use this oil to nourish hair before shampooing or as the last step in your routine to enhance shine.

Authentic Beauty Concept Glow Mask

A weekly hair mask is always a good idea, but especially so if you want to air-dry color-treated hair, says Dorsey. “I recommend using the mask every time you cleanse your hair,” he explains. “It’s very much a prescription to correct the hairs’ integrity.” Just replace your conditioning step with a mask; this one is designed to preserve hair color and restore color-treated hair.