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5 Tips for Air-Drying Your Hair Like a Pro

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Unless you’ve been blessed by the hair gods, the set-it-and-forget-it approach to air-drying hair (aka doing nothing) means taking a gamble on having a good hair day. Usually, this means scrambling out the door in the morning and resorting to a lazy pony by noon. As a styling technique, air-drying gets a bad rep, but it’s really just misunderstood—and with a little skill can be just as chic as a full blowout. Plus, putting down the blow dryer has a ton of benefits, like giving a sizzled mane a much needed hot tool break, rehabbing dry strands with moisture, or helping you get reacquainted with your hair’s natural shape. Oh, and it’s great for all hair types—even baby fine and stick straight. Yay! More time to press snooze in the a.m.

Ready to go pro naturel? With the expertise of Los Angeles-based stylist, cut specialist, and air-dry enthusiast Kelly Macedo, we gathered the expert info to help you enjoy your morning coffee while you embrace a salon-worthy, air dried style—courtesy of Mother Nature.

Your Step-by-Step Guide to Air-Drying

MARC ANTHONY TRUE PROFESSIONAL Bye Bye Frizz Heat Protectant Leave-in Conditioner
MARC ANTHONY TRUE PROFESSIONAL Bye Bye Frizz Heat Protectant Leave-in Conditioner

1. Hydrate Your Hair

To steer clear of frizz while air-drying your hair, you’ll want to add a healthy dose of moisture. There are two main ways to do this: Using conditioner to infuse moisture into the cuticle and rinsing with cool water to seal it all in. If your hair is dealing with extra damage or dryness, you can give it an added boost of smoothness with a lightweight leave-in conditioner. Opt for a product with nourishing oils (like coconut) and keratin proteins that can help smooth the hair cuticle, like MARC ANTHONY TRUE PROFESSIONAL Bye Bye Frizz Heat Protectant Leave-in Conditioner.

Once you’ve shut the water off, you’ll be tempted to wrap the nearest fluffy towel around your head and go to town, but Macedo advocates for going low-key. “Avoid vigorously rubbing and shaking the moisture out of your hair with a towel—this will only add frizz, breakage, and hair shedding,” she says. Instead, wring out excess water from your hair manually or grab an old t-shirt to pat your roots (this area takes the longest to dry) and squeeze the lengths of your hair. Using a t-shirt or microfiber towel is a much gentler way to remove the excess water without harshly stripping it of moisture. Kind of like a golden rule of air-drying, treat your hair as you’d wish to be treated—gently massaged.

FOXYBAE Rose Gold Detangling Brush
FOXYBAE Rose Gold Detangling Brush

2. Gently Brush Through

Okay, the hard part is done! Phew. While your hair is moisturized and mostly wet—but not completely dripping—it’s prime time for combing. This will help keep breakage to a minimum and set the stage for the styling that’s to come. “After that first brush through out of the shower, don’t brush the hair at all during the air-drying process,” recommends Macedo. So, this means it’s extra essential you use the right comb for your hair type. Not sure where to start? Wide-toothed combs work best for wavy hair while flexibly-bristled brushes specifically designed for wet hair (like the FOXYBAE Rose Gold Detangling Brush) are ideal for straighter types. Curly girls have it easiest—just use fingers to gently comb through curls.

NATURELAB. TOKYO Perfect Smooth Hair Oil
NATURELAB. TOKYO Perfect Smooth Hair Oil

3. Apply Your Fave Product

Acting like a primer for styling, adding product into your hair prior to styling will help lock in whatever look you’re going for. Not sure what to use? Let’s break it down.

Coily Hair Types

Moisture is key for coils, so look to a mega-moisturizing cream or gel that also has a good amount of hold and apply from root to tip. An Ipster (and editor) fave is BRIOGEO HAIR CARE Curl Charisma™ Rice Amino + Quinoa Frizz Control Gel.

Fine or Straight Hair Types

“Salt spray and curl cream can bring out any texture, wave, or curl in the hair,” says Macedo—just be sure to use creams in small amounts to avoid weighing the hair down. For the perfect mix of volume and texture, check out R+CO RockAway Salt Spray.

Medium or Wavy Hair Types

Frizz can quickly turn sleek waves into rough waters, so look to a smoothing mousse to help close the cuticle. If you’re in a humid environment, a little holding power in the mix will be a lifesaver. For a frizz-free dry down, we’re big fans of OUAI HAIRCARE Air Dry Foam.

Thick or Curly Hair Types

Layering is your bff. Keep your curls in shape by spraying a leave-in conditioner throughout your hair and following with a curl cream to define—just rake through with your fingers from mid-length to tip. This tropical curl cream is heaven in a bottle: PACIFICA BEAUTY Pineapple Swirl Curl Defining Cream

4. Style And Shape

This is where the magic happens. For straight and naturally wavy types alike, Macedo suggests twisting sections of the hair (think one to two inches) into little tendrils to coax out extra movement. “Always twist the hair around your hairline away from your face,” she advises. Once all of the hair is loosely twisted, Macedo follows with some satisfying scrunching. “I like to scrunch the hair during the air-drying process to keep activating the product and wave pattern,” she says. For curly and coily types, the best approach to maintaining your definition after applying product is to leave it be (to avoid adding frizz)—then once it’s fully dried, grab a pick or wide-toothed comb and fluff at the root for instant volume.

5. Let It Dry

You’ve carefully conditioned, combed, and prepped, so now it’s time to relax—but don’t touch! If you know you’re a notorious toucher, this would be the perfect time to paint your nails.

More Air-Drying Tips to Save

Got Bangs? Pin ‘Em Back

No matter your texture or type of bang, Macedo recommends grabbing a few clips to set them in place. “My favorite trick is to pin your bangs into the shape you want them to sit and let them form as they dry,” she says. By securing them into position, the residual body heat from your forehead will lock them into place. Just make sure to use creaseless clips, so you don’t accidentally crimp your bangs. These GET CLIPPED Creaseless Clips from IGK HAIR are so cute you may be tempted to leave them in.

Keep The Windows Up

The Barbie convertibles of our childhood failed to teach us that it can spell disaster for a hair style. Yes, just like the beach doesn’t magically give us beach waves (more like stringy tangles), driving with the windows down won’t result in perfectly windblown hair. “That wind will really frizz the hair and pull out any wave or shape we’re trying to set while drying,” says Macedo.

Try Curl “Plopping”

Dry time is notoriously long for curly and coily types, but the “plopping” method is an easy hack for cutting down the wait. Grab a t-shirt and lay it on a flat surface (with sleeves facing you), then bend over and “plop” your hair down into the center of the t-shirt. Fold the fabric behind your head up onto your neck and tie the sleeves around your head. This will help absorb excess water and keep the frizz at bay.

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About the author
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Hannah Cassidy
Hannah is a beauty editor at IPSY and has been creating content for fashion, beauty, and wellness in Los Angeles for over five years. Outside of the beauty world, she’s an avid vintage collector and dog mom to Pumpkin and Turtle.
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Article Last Updated June 24, 2020 12:00 AM