Is Your Hair Dryer Killing Your Hair?

Natasha Burton
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Woman drying hair

AlainShroder/Getty

Many of us use a blow dryer as part of our regular beauty routine, from a couple times a week to even daily.

But rather than make your mane look rad, all that hot air may actually be ruining your hair. To make sure you’re not doing damage, check out these top tress pro tips on some definite do nots to remember next time you’re faced with wet hair.

Misuse #1: Not detangling before drying.

It’s really important to brush and detangle each section before blow drying to smooth and close the cuticle, says Joseph DiMaggio, Master Session Ambassador for Davines. “Rough drying with a blow dryer poses similar issues as drying tangled hair—it keeps the cuticle open so the hair shafts are dehydrated which leads to a loss of proteins, elasticity and oils,” he explains. “Your hair will look dull and fried.”

Misuse #2: Holding the dryer too close to your hair—or your brush.

According to Albert K, owner of Top Secret Salon and Spa in NY and expert hair stylist for ForStyler Hair Professional, the biggest mistake people make when blow drying their hair is unintentionally heating their brushes—which can then damage their hair if direct contact is made. To make sure this doesn’t happen to you, always use the concentration nuzzle that comes with your blow dryer (which also helps combat frizz) and give yourself enough space. “There should be about half an inch between the brush with the hair and the concentrator nuzzle of the dryer,” he says.

MORE: 9 Ways to Fix Common Hair Mistakes

Misuse #3: Directing air flow to only one part of your hair.

“Keeping the dryer in one place too long is a sure way to end up with singed hair,” says Micki Charles, stylist at Cutler/Redken Salons.If blow drying with a brush, keep each tool moving together at a quick pace to avoid burning your locks.”

Albert K adds that continually twisting your round brush is a good way to keep things moving. “This way, the natural moisture in the follicles of the hair will create shiny results.”

Misuse #4: Using a low-tech dryer.

When it comes to blow dryers, you really do get what you pay for. Ideally, your dryer should have multiple heat and speed settings, Charles says, as well as the following criteria, according to Albert K: 1875 watt power, ceramic and ionic technology, a cool shot button, and an ALCI safety plug. These qualities not only are best for your hair, but they keep you and your locks safe.

However, just because a dryer touts certain bells and whistles, that doesn’t mean it’s a good product, DiMaggio says. “Unfortunately there is no way to regulate any of the science behind the popular buzzwords associated with dryers today, like ‘tourmaline ceramic,'” he explains. “There is no certification process required so the words can be touted on the label, but the actual amount of these materials is insignificant. You find this in a lot in the cheaper dryers on the market, while the more expensive, professional grade dryers are more likely to actually have the elements they claim.” Good to know!

MORE: Dry Conditioners to Try – And What They Can Do For Your Hair

Misuse #5: Using the dryer for too long—or too often.

Ideally, you shouldn’t blow dry your hair more than three times a week, Charles says, because it can strip and otherwise dry out your scalp’s natural oils, which are there to protect your hair against the elements.

As far as how long you should blow dry, Albert K says the time will vary according to individual hair type and thickness, so he suggests various air dry times you should follow before you use a tool. “For frizzy, kinky, or curly hair, air dry about 30% of the moisture, for straight, coarse hair air dry about 70%, and for fine or damaged hair, air dry about 80%,” he advises.

When you’re actually using the dryer, DiMaggio offers this easy tip: Try not to dry a section for longer than one minute at a time.

Misuse #6: Not protecting your hair before drying.

If you don’t use heat-protective serums, you should start ASAP to avoid unnecessary hair damage and dryness, Albert K says. Plus, you want to keep your hair in good condition when you’re not blow drying it for added protection. “Deep conditioning treatments or hair mask should be applied from the roots to the ends in order to nourish the hair,” he advises.

Misuse #7: Using too many styling products.

While styling, do not overload your hair with products. “Most of styling products will have alcohol ingredients. When heated, they will make your hair dry and stiff—it will be harder to work with your brush and you risk damaging your hair,” Albert K says.

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