All the Ways You're Damaging Your Hair When Drying It
You probably know that coloring and using hot styling tools (like straightening and curling irons) on your hair can be damaging. But did you know that the general drying process—whether you're using a hair dryer or simply air drying—can be harmful if you're not gentle? "Hair is weaker when it is wet, as it's already stretched to its elastic limit, so it's important to be very careful. If you are rough, you can easily snap strands," says Anabel Kingsley, brand president and consulting trichologist at Philip Kingsley Trichological Clinic. Here, all the ways you could be hurting your hair while drying it—and how to correct them, stat.
You're too vigorous with the blow dryer.
Using high heat, holding your dryer too close to your head, or continuing to blast away after your hair is dry enough can break its bonds and proteins, Kingsley says. This makes your mane fragile, weak, and prone to split ends. Hair also becomes less manageable, porous, dry, and dull, adds Angela Soto, hairstylist and owner of Baja Studio in New York City. To mitigate damage, Kingsley recommends using a low to medium heat setting, holding your dryer about 12 inches from your head, and turning your dryer off when your hair is just dry. You can also defend strands with a heat protective spray, like Caviar Anti-Aging Restructuring Bond Repair Leave-In Heat Protection Spray ($32, sephora.com).
You're roughly towel drying your hair.
Rubbing coarse towels against your hair can wreak havoc on its cuticles. "It can make your hair frizzy and prevents natural moisture from setting in," Soto says. (Not to mention the fact that twisting the hair tightly on top of your head when wet can pull at your hairline and weaken strands, she adds.) Instead, Soto advises wringing out most of the water with your hands, and then use a soft cotton towel or t-shirt to gently absorb the rest. The surface of the strands will keep their natural shape, therefore reducing frizz.
You're air drying your hair when it's cold outside.
While going outside with wet hair in the summer is fine, avoid skipping out the door with wet hair in freezing temperatures. "Hair, like skin, is more sensitive in a colder climate," Soto notes. "The hair is more resistant to drying and stays in a more fragile state longer, making you more susceptible to breakage and dry ends." Believe it or not, if you're out long enough, your hair could actually freeze and break off.
If you can't wait to go outside with dried hair, Soto recommends using a leave-in conditioner—try It's a 10 Potion 10 Miracle Instant Repair Leave-In, ($24.99, ulta.com)—or an argan oil, which will add moisture that hair lacks when wet and exposed to cold air. "Wearing a protective hat like a beanie until you can get indoors is a good idea, too, to put a barrier between your hair and the cold," she continues.
You're brushing while your hair is wet.
Because strands are so delicate when wet, they can easily snap when you brush them. Use a comb with medium to widely-spaced teeth. "Start at your ends and gently and gradually work your way up," Kingsley says. says. Using a detangling spray, like Oribe "Run-Through" Detangling Primer ($37, www.nordstrom.com), beforehand can also help decrease traction.
You're using accessories before your hair is dry.
Don't try to style your hair into a half-up, half-down look or pop in barrettes, bobby pins, or ponytails while it's damp: These accessories can break vulnerable strands. Wait until your hair is fully dry—and then go for it. When you do, be sure to use fabric-covered ponytail holders, which don't create unsafe traction.