The general consensus is that too much heat on the hair can be damaging, which, in turn, gives the blow-dryer a somewhat bad reputation. However, when used correctly, your strands can actually flourish under the pressure, whether your goal is to style it bone straight or enhance a curl pattern by diffusing.
And since the fall season tends to be a time when we turn up the tool usage, now is the time for a refresher on the smartest and safest way to utilize a hair dryer, regardless of your texture.
First, all hot air isn’t bad. According to MariLynne Cosmillo, director of education for Cherry Blow Dry Bar (one of the fastest-growing blow-dry bar chains with 18 operating salons and 60 more set to open in the coming months), it’s only
“too hot” when used incorrectly.
“If you’re not using a concentrator nozzle to direct the cuticle to help make the strands smooth, you’ll need to keep going over that same hair multiple times,” she says. The latter is what results in overly dry, staticky hair. So that attachment is definitely necessary.
If your goal is a straight look, remember that coarse hair requires more heat to relax the curl pattern, whereas fine hair is the opposite. “A professional will know how to swiftly work through each section of fine hair, but at home, if you have fine and thin hair, a warm setting is a safer bet,” says Cosmillo.
How to Do It
So if your goal is bone-straight hair, start by applying product to prep the hair and then roughly dry to remove excess moisture for a quicker blow-dry.
“Next, sectioning is essential! Your first section should be wherever your biggest challenge is—for example, bangs, or a frizzy hairline. Clip the remaining hair up with a big clip. I recommend always using a round brush instead of a paddle brush to blow-dry with because it doesn’t provide any ‘pull’ for smoothing or offer any shape to the hair. When choosing a brush for your style, remember that the bigger the brush, the straighter the hair,” says Cosmillo.
“Focus on one section at a time, folding the hair around the round brush to create tension, and start blow-drying your root area first. Slowly work your way down, mid to ends, and keep rolling the brush at the ends to seal them smooth. Continue this process until the hair is completely dry.”
Once you’re done, use the cold air setting and gently cool down your hair all over. According to Cosmillo, this adds shine and helps close the cuticle to prevent frizz or curl from re-forming. On the other hand, if you’ve got curly/wavy hair and want to keep it that way, a diffuser (instead of air-drying) will give the hair more fullness and help balance out the curl for a better finished style.
Mind Your Roots
One of our biggest blow-dryer fears is going overboard with the heat near our roots and burning the scalp. If you’re hell-bent on ensuring your roots get the same treatment as your ends, the trick is to aim the air outward instead of inward toward your scalp.
“Start by wrapping the section of hair around the brush once, and lift the hair up or outward away from your scalp (not down, because heat spreads). Using a blow-dryer with a nozzle attached, direct the air outward toward the brush,” says Cosmillo. “Use a ’scooping’ motion at your root to let the air hit your root and quickly back out. This will make the root smooth, provide volume, and keep you from applying too much heat.”
So, now that you know how to properly use your blow-dryer, it’s time to make sure the one you have is quality. Cosmillo says the best options “will have a wattage of at least 1875 for good power; three heat settings including hot, warm and cool; and come with a nozzle attachment.”
Ahead are 10 options that hit the mark, including one with a diffuser for curly girls.