A Complete Guide to Air-Drying Your Hair

Celebrity hairstylists share how to enhance your natural texture in the process.

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As far as wash day goes, people usually have their favorite shampoos and conditioners on deck and a hair dryer on standby to get wet strands back to their natural (albeit more manicured) state. But it's important to remember that you can achieve those coveted good hair days sans hot tools. Consider air-drying, instead. "One of the main benefits of air-drying is that you get to see what the natural hair pattern is without forcefully telling your hair what to do," says celebrity hairstylist Christin Brown. "Many aren't able to blow dry their hair every day, nor can all hair types take a lot of heat on a daily basis. Air-drying allows for the hair to dry on its own time without compromising heat damage or dryness over time." To master this method, read on for expert advice.

woman hair towel
Getty / Aliyev Alexei Sergeevich

Start with a good wash.

Before you even think about air-drying, you need to get your hair wet first: After all, the most important step is the wash—whatever your texture. When approaching this process, first decide when you want to wash your hair. Brown says it doesn't need to be as often as you may think. "For all of these hair types, I believe that they all should wash their hair only one to two times a week," she notes. "Typically, those with straight hair will over-wash their hair, and even those with curly hair will do the same based on lifestyle activity or simply growing up thinking that you must wash the hair daily." Sticking to a maximum of two times a week can reduce oiliness on the scalp, and, in turn, improve your air-dry method.

Pick hydrating shampoos and conditioners.

Celebrity hairstylist Mark Townsend always turns to moisturizing shampoos and conditioners when air-drying, since they can seal your cuticle, smooth strands, and fight frizz sans heat. He explains that detoxifying and clarifying shampoos are best for those with straight hair, since weighed-down strands are common. One of his favorites? The Collective Laboratories Detoxifying Shampoo ($25, collectivelabs.com) since it's "gentle enough for daily use and dissolves build-up without stripping essential moisture from the scalp and strands." Or consider his go-to wash set: The Oribe Signature Shampoo and Conditioner Bundle ($78, amazon.com).

Curly and coily hair require even more care during this process to retain hydration. "Due to the shape of the strands, curly hair tends to be much drier than straight hair and needs extra moisture," Townsend explains. To keep wavy textures at their best, he suggests Dove Beauty Hair Therapy Hydration Spa with Hyaluronic Serum Shampoo and Conditioner ($8.59, target.com; $8.59, target.com). René Furterer Sublime Curl Activating Shampoo ($30, amazon.com) and its matching conditioner ($32, amazon.com) are his picks for curly hair. Townsend recommends Dove Amplified Textures Hydrating Cleanse Shampoo and Conditioner ($20.37, amazon.com) to moisturize coily textures. After choosing your pick, thoroughly shampoo and then condition hair; brush the latter product through (Townsend suggests the Pattern Shower Brush ($17, ulta.com)) so it is evenly distributed from crown to ends.

Towel-dry your hair.

Once you finish your wash routine, Townsend says to pick up a cotton T-shirt or a microfiber towel, like the Colleen Rothschild Superluxe Microfiber Hair Towel ($24, colleenrothschild.com), and use it to partially dry your hair. "It is important to leave curls and coils at least 50-percent wet," he advises. Cheryl Bergamy, a celebrity hairstylist and the founder of Contents Haircare, adds that towel-drying curly and coily hair lightly is particularly helpful, since these textures are easier to care for when wet. Straight and wavy hair should then be about 75-percent dry before applying any products.

Apply leave-in products.

"The first step after the shower—and towel drying—is to apply the Collective Laboratories Activating Serum ($39, collectivelabs.com) to the scalp to strengthen, increase circulation, and add volume," Townsend says. "No one likes flat roots!" To add even more moisture, he recommends products that feature ethylhexylglycerin, which seals the hair's cuticle, allowing other ingredients to penetrate deeper into the scalp.

If your hair is in need of some extra care—and especially if it's heat-damaged—Brown recommends applying a leave-in reparative cream, like Olaplex No.6 Bond Smoother ($28, sephora.com), which she notes is great for all hair types. "For straight textures, you can comb it through, but be mindful of excess tension on the hair," the hairstylist says. "For curly types, rake through with fingers to reduce drag and enhance the curls." If those with curly or coily textures are still lacking hydration altogether, Bergamy points to Contents Style & Go Leave-In Conditioner ($48, contentshaircare.com) and says to apply this from roots to tips to revive each strand.

Let your hair dry in full.

The last step is simple: Give your hair the time it needs to dry. If you have straight hair and want to add waves, Brown suggests parting the hair down the middle and putting it in two braids until you are fully dry. Otherwise, those with curly textures can leave their hair out (just avoid touching it to reduce the chances of frizz) or wear a protective style. "The beauty of curly and coily is that you can start with one style one day and it can go into a different style days later," Bergamy says. She suggests a two-strand twist updo—style after applying a leave-in product—for the air-dry process. "Leave the style in for one to two days, then loosen the twists," adds Bergamy. "Twist out tips: When twisting on 4C hair, use hair oil and separate the twist (I recommend Contents Earth Silk Glossifyer ($28, contentshaircare.com)) for moisture and shine." Then, wear a satin scarf or bonnet or use a pillowcase of the same material to maintain and protect hair at night.

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