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Whether you want to give your hair a much-needed break from heat-styling, or you simply don’t have anywhere to go, air-drying your hair can save you time and money.
But is air-drying your hair good or bad in the long run? If you Google this exact question, you’ll get a multitude of varying answers.
Ultimately, whether you should air dry your hair will mostly likely come down to your specific hair type.
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When you air-dry your hair, you maximize the amount of time your hair retains moisture. Although this seems like something that would be good for your hair, it can actually be harmful over time.
“Air-drying works best when the hair is damp, but I strongly advise against air-drying straight from when it’s soaking wet,” says Takisha Sturdivant-Drew, a celebrity hair stylist and the founder of hair extension line TSD Hair. “The longer your hair stays wet, the more the cortex of your hair will swell and break, resulting in brittle ends and lots of flyaways.”
It turns out, some types of hair are more susceptible to this.
“Thick hair can absorb a lot of water and be prone to more damage, as hair is weakest when wet,” says Shaun Pulfrey, a hair stylist and the founder of Tangle Teezer. “But thin hair is less likely to absorb water, and it will be less susceptible to this damage.”
It can be!
Overusing your hair dryer or other heat-styling tools can eventually damage your hair. This happens because a dryer blows intense, focused heat directly onto your hair, which causes hair to lose all moisture right away. This can lead to dehydrated strands that break more easily.
That same 2011 study above also found that the higher the heat level (which researchers simulated by shortening the distance between the hair dryer and hair), the more cracks they saw in the hair cuticle.
So, if you’re someone who relies on your trusty hair dryer every day, it may pay to give your locks a break sometimes by air-drying your hair.
Pulfrey says your best bet is a combination of air- and blow-drying. “If you have the luxury of time, leave your hair to air-dry … for about half an hour. And then blow-dry it the rest of the way on the lowest setting,” he says.
People with fine, wavy, straight, thin, curly, and dyed hair are the most likely to benefit from air-drying.
“It’s healthier for people with this hair type because [air-drying] lacks heat, and it’s not directly on the scalp,” Sturdivant-Drew says.
Conversely, if you have thick, coarse, kinky, or relaxed hair, you may want to apply a protective product to your hair before you start. This will help prevent your locks from drying out.
Air-drying your hair in a way that prevents weakened strands and provides good styling requires time and a few key techniques.
No matter your hair type, you’ll want to set yourself up for success by first washing your hair with a moisturizing shampoo and conditioner. This can help keep frizz at bay.
Have wavy, fine, thick, or straight hair? Try the Garnier Whole Blends Replenishing Shampoo Legendary Olive. (You can pair it with the matching conditioner.) Reviewers swear by its hair-softening results and its fresh, pleasant scent.
Folks with curly or coily hair might want to try a co-wash, like the Carol’s Daughter Hair Milk Curl Cleansing Conditioner. Reviewers with all curl types love the lavender scent, and say that the co-wash helps them maintain healthy, shiny, bouncy locks.
Next, gently towel-dry your hair as best as you can. Blot softly, focusing on your roots, until your hair is still wet but not dripping or soaking anymore. Try not to roughly rub or tousle your hair.
How you finish the process will depend on your specific hair type.
If your hair is wavy
After you shampoo and condition your hair, brush it out with a comb, such as the Tangle Teezer Original Brush, which is designed to be used on both wet and dry hair.
Apply a mix of light gel and cream together in your palm. “Apply by patting the product from mid-length to the ends. Then, gently squeeze the product into the hair with a scrunching motion,” says Penny James, a trichologist and the founder of New York-based Penny James Salon.
“Leave [it] alone until completely dry. Then, you can run your hands through your hair and get nice wavy, unfrizzy hair,” James adds.
If your hair is curly
Carefully work the product into the hair without fluffing the hair up too much.
“Leave [it] until dry. Then, gently twist a few sections to eliminate frizz,” James says.
If your hair is coily
When you get out of the shower, apply a hydrating product, like the Alodia Haircare Curl Enhancing Butter Crème, all over your hair and scalp.
“Take organized, 2-inch sections of hair, starting from the sides of [your] head, and twist the hair,” James says. “Do this all over the scalp until your hair is now stretched into a new shape.”
“Once dry, you can gently un-twist your hair, and you will have popping curls,” James adds.
If your hair is fine
After washing your hair, simply use a wide-tooth comb to part your hair the way you normally would. Let it sit and dry without any additional products.
“You will need to finish with a product due to the lightness of the hair,” James notes. “Once dry, use a small amount of [a hairspray, like the] L’Oréal Advanced Hairstyle Lock it Bold Control Hairspray to hold it into place.”
If your hair is straight
Apply a small amount of volume spray, like the Paul Mitchell Extra-Body Boost Root Lifter all over, and brush it into your hair.
“If your hair is cut into a lob, tuck it behind your ears and let it set that way,” James says. “Once dry, you can release from behind [your] ears. It creates a nice soft face-framing wave.”
The most important thing you can do to prevent frizz is to make sure your hair is hydrated.
“Spray on a leave-in conditioner, like the Paul Mitchell Original Conditioner to prevent frizz,” Sturdivant-Drew says. “I also rub a bit of conditioner throughout the hair to protect it using a product, like TSD HAIR Flower Extract Conditioner, that will diffuse the hair [and leave] it with a beautiful shine.”
Afterward, use a detangler. This can help distribute hair masks and oils through wet hair.
Air-drying your hair can be a great way to give your locks a much-needed break from heat-styling.
However, if your hair is on the thicker and coarser side, it may be best to start with a protective product and use a blow-dryer to keep your hair from absorbing too much moisture and causing breakage.
Mellanie Perez is an editor on the wellness team at Healthline. When not covering all things health, beauty, and wellness, she can be found making pizzas from scratch, trying a new workout routine, reading fiction novels, discovering new songs on Spotify, and traveling the world. A native of Puerto Rico, she sashays through life, humming salsa songs under her breath and battling the most incessant need to stand up and twirl.