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I’d be lying if I said I put even a quarter of the effort I used to (pre-pandemic, of course) when getting ready these days. The thought of having to pick out an outfit that doesn't start with “ath” and end with “leisure” is daunting enough, but then having to worry about styling my hair? Not happening. And I know I’m not alone with the need for low-maintenance styling options as we re-emerge into civilization.
According to Brooklyn Cardenas, stylist and owner at A Kelly Cardenas Salon in Brooklyn, the “summer months are the best time to train your hair to air dry.” I know you’re curious about the amazing benefits of this low-maintenance styling technique, so let me fill you in on all the perks of air-dried hair and how to perfect it before you hit the beach.
Not only will you gain valuable time back, but Cardenas says you’ll also regain your hair’s integrity. “Heat styling can cause irreversible damage to your hair including causing breakage, split ends, hair color fading, and a breakdown in curl and wave pattern," she says. "By incorporating non-heat styling into your hair routine, you will see major improvements not only in the length of your hair but the overall texture and condition." Embrace air drying by switching out your blow-dryer and a brush for some new styling products and techniques, giving your natural texture the opportunity to shine.
As Cardenas mentions, in order to air-dry your hair and get good results, it takes skill, a few products, and patience. Yes, anyone can jump out of the shower and let the natural hair gods take over, but more than likely if you follow these expert techniques, you're going to like the result a lot more.
That’s why we spoke to several celebrity-adored stylists and gathered step-by-step techniques to air dry every hair texture!
A few universal tips:
Just before ending your shower, rinse your hair one final time with cool water (slightly colder than room temperature) to help seal the cuticle and provide more shine.
Don’t use your regular bath towel on your hair. Instead, opt for a microfiber towel. Cherilyn Farris, LA-based stylist, and assistant to Jen Atkin, recommends the one from Crown Affair because it “absorbs so much moisture” faster than a regular towel. Plus it will be gentle on your strands.
If your hair requires any combing, only use a wide-tooth comb or a brush meant to be used on wet hair like this one from Wet Brush. Hair is most fragile when it’s wet, so be gentle to avoid breakage.
The length of your hair can make a difference in how your hair will dry. Farris says that “short hair will usually dry a little quicker and can spring into its natural texture easily, while longer lengths can be weighed down and lose movement when damp. Long hair may do better with air drying in a braid or using bang clips for support.”
According to Millie Morales, Garnier Celebrity Stylist, you should avoid going outside in cold weather with wet hair as “the cold air is extremely dehydrating to the hair.”
The first thing that comes to mind when I think of wavy hair is Gisele Bunchen and her perfectly tousled mane. But despite what you may think, she does not get those beautiful beach waves without a little effort.
Step one: Use a hydrating shampoo and conditioner. This will not only help to provide definition for your waves but will also smooth the cuticle and help ward off frizz.
Step two: Do not towel dry your hair! Instead, while your hair is still very wet, apply a rich and creamy leave-in product like Paul Mitchell Clean Beauty Repair Leave in Treatment. According to Brooklyn Cardenas, you’ll want to “slather” the product into your wet strands so that it not only provides “great hydration, but also slip.”
Step three: Next, according to Farris, you’ll want to layer in a secondary product to help maintain the texture of your hair. Farris suggests using something like OUAI Matte Pomade “on the mids and ends to avoid frizz but encourage the natural wave.”
Step four: Scrunch, scrunch, scrunch!
Step five: Use a 100% cotton t-shirt, or paper towels, to blot hair and continue to scrunch. Avoid using a towel!
While straight hair may seem fool-proof when it comes to air-drying, that is not the case. There are lots of things to take into consideration, including placement of your face-framing pieces as well as the type of towel you use to dry it and the product you use to keep it hydrated and shiny.
Step one: Towel dry your hair with patting motions vs. rubbing (which could cause friction and create more frizz).
Step two: Use a wide-tooth comb to remove any tangles.
Step three: Find a lightweight air drying cream like Oribe Featherbalm Weightless Styler, and work it through your hair from mid-lengths to ends—keep away from your roots.
Step four: Style your hair around your face the way you want it to dry and try your best not to touch or mess with your hair until it’s completely dry, “as the oils from your hands can make it frizz,” says Kelly Cardenas.
Bonus Step: Want to get a little wave? Opt for either a curl cream like L'Oreal Paris Elvive Dream Lengths Super Curls Cream Leave-In, or braid wet hair into two braids. Leave the braids in until 90% dry, and then enjoy the waves!
If you have fine hair, that means you more than likely have flat hair—and you’re probably seeking a little volume. If you use a product that is too heavy, you run the risk of weighing the hair down even more and making it look limp and lifeless. That’s why you want to opt for a lightweight texturizing product. Ouai stylist, Cherilyn Farris, suggests the OUAI Wave Spray for a little grit and volume.
Step one: Choose a shampoo and conditioner that is specifically meant for fine hair. Anything too heavy will just weigh hair down from the start.
Step two: Towel dry your hair until it’s about 50% dry.
Step three: Add volume by using a thickening mousse or texturizing spray.
Step four: Use a wide-tooth comb or your hands to style. “The less tension, the more natural texture, and volume will remain,” says Farris.
Step five (optional): Scrunch your hair to help any natural waves take form.
Step six: To add shine, use a lightweight oil or serum on the ends of your hair (from your chin down).
Want the curls of your dreams without using heat? Stylist Brooklyn Cardenas’ favorite tip is to layer your products while still in the shower.
Step one: Use shampoo and conditioner specifically for curly hair, like this one from Garnier.
Step two: Detangle in the shower with a conditioner and a wet brush.
Step three: Only rinse out 80% of the conditioner. “Leaving a little in the hair is ok. Your curls will thank you, I promise!” says Cardenas.
Step four: Keep the hair very wet before you add the product. “For looser curl types, lightly coat hands with a curl cream and thoroughly rake through the hair mid-length to ends, then scrunch and squeeze out some of the water. For tighter curl types, coat your hands with a curl cream and rake through from the mid-length and ends, then take quarter-sized sections and twist in the direction of the natural curl and repeat through the whole head for lots of definition,” says Farris.
Step five: Once out of the shower, use a microfiber towel to gently dab off any excess water.
When prepping to air dry kinky or coily hair, you need to load up on hydrating products while still in the shower. Hydration is key if you want to provide good definition to your curls.
Step one: Use a moisturizing, yet frizz taming, shampoo and conditioner like this line from Shu Uemura.
Step two: While still in the shower, rake your fingers through your hair to detangle.
Step four: Once out of the shower, use a paper towel or cotton t-shirt to absorb excess water. Unlike other textures, you’ll want to avoid using a microfiber towel because, as Millie Morales, Garnier Celebrity Stylist, shared with me, “coily hair needs all the moisture it can get.”
Step five: Start by sectioning hair into small segments about an inch thick. “Twist two individual strands of hair in the same direction and then cross them over each other. Continue until you reach the ends to create rope-like braids,” says Cardenas.
Step six: When hair is completely dry, Cardenas says to “mix a lightweight oil into the palms of your hands and carefully untwist and expand into a voluminous curly style.”
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