There are many paths to the near-perfect curl. You can utilize a spiraling technique, such as shingling or the classic twist-out. For lazier beauties, cream and gel stylers are the best bet. And if you’ve got a thing (and the arm strength) for hand tools and despise air-drying, the diffuser is your saving grace.
Unfortunately, a lot of us are clueless about how to use it. And when you’re dealing with hot air and wet strands, it can go from normal, everyday routine to straight-up disaster in a matter of seconds. So, if you’re looking for volume and definition without the extra legwork, here’s the proper way to do it the first time.
What Is a Diffuser?
For starters, a diffuser is not a blow-dryer. It’s an attachment for your blow-dryer that disperses air over a large area of hair. And according to Mia Emilio, senior stylist at DevaChan Salon, its purpose is “to disperse the air coming out of a blow-dryer evenly so it is not blowing air in one area of your hair.”
In short: A diffuser ensures that your hair can dry completely and in one fell swoop before you walk out the door, while also retaining the natural shape of your hair, whether it’s curly or straight (although diffusers are typically better suited for the former).
Prepping the Hair
Before hovering the diffuser anywhere near your head, Emilio recommends applying your styling product first. (Her faves for curly hair are DevaCurl’s Styling Cream or Super Stretch.) “I like to let the hair sit 10–15 minutes on its own before I begin drying it. I feel it allows the curls to settle in their ways,” she says.
Using the Diffuser
Everyone’s frizz factor is different—and some of us couldn’t care less about it—but if you do, Emilio suggests starting your dryer on a low setting to discourage high frizz from growing.
“I think the best way to diffuse is in circular motions around the head. Keep moving around while drying all over. You don’t want high heat or wind speed on any one area,” she says. “Sometimes you can cup your ends into diffuser, but you need to be careful depending on your curl texture.” If you’re cupping your curls, only do it for 30 seconds at a time so you don’t alter your hair’s natural curl pattern. Also, try to keep the touching at a minimum.
And in addition to starting your dryer at a low speed, begin with low heat, too. “As you begin to dry more, maybe you can turn the heat up a little, even switching from warm setting and then hitting with cool. I like that trick for really adding height in the root area,” says Emilio.
When you want to create the illusion of fuller-looking hair, start to dry your hair in an upright position and then eventually bring your head down and forward. According to Emilio, “drying upside down offers maximum volume.” Once you are almost dry, use your hands to gently break up the cast that your product has created and massage or gently shake at the root.
“If you aren’t looking for volume, I would suggest keeping your head upright and turning your head side to side to dry your hair to avoid its getting too full,” she says. Once you’re finished, a little hairspray provides extra security, though it’s not completely necessary.
“Honestly, diffusing your hair is a form of speeding up your drying process, so be gentle with it. I don’t feel the product you use before or after makes a huge difference,” says Emilio. In the end, using the diffuser correctly is what will make or break your ‘do.