I’m sure I speak for most women when I say I’m addicted to hair-styling heat tools. Although I’m fully aware how damaging wands and blow-dryers can be when used excessively, I’ve found they’re the most effective way to turn my naturally straight hair wavy. And because of that, I inevitably plug in my wand, spray in the heat protectant and hope for the best.
After realizing I had gotten to a point where I forgot how to style my hair in its natural state, I decided to attempt to give my mane the biggest detox possible and go 30 days without using a single heat tool. I wanted to see if I noticed any improvement in its overall health, and find out if those alternative ways to get the tousled look actually worked. And so the “no heat challenge” was born. Here’s a breakdown on what happened.
The first week sucked.
I’ll reiterate that I used tools almost every day, so the first week left me in withdrawal. For the first few days, I did nothing but air-dry my hair and use a few spritzes of dry shampoo at the roots to build volume, adding in a hair flip here or there. I felt a strong dislike for my hair and complained to my editor every chance I got. It’s silly and contradictory, but I didn’t feel like myself at all in my natural state.
My hair immediately looked unhealthy.
While I was struggling with what to do with my locks, I really started to notice the fact that I needed a haircut. Rebellious fly-aways and breakage became more noticeable without a heat tool to temporarily smooth over hair cuticles. Because my hair dries straight with very minimal volume, split-ends were also glaringly apparent instead of being camouflaged in a tucked-under curl.
Getting waves without heat may be easy—but it’s certainly not fast.
Braiding your damp hair or setting it in rags or foam rollers before going to bed necessitates hours of advanced planning. I had to make sure I was going to get enough sleep to allow my hair to dry by the morning. But I faced another problem: The humidity would drag my waves down the minute I walked outside the next morning. To get past this, I doubled up on product. I used a curl serum to refine tendrils, dry shampoo to build volume, and a light hair oil to smooth fly-aways.
There’s more than one way to create texture naturally.
I’m not simply referring to sleeping in braids versus buns here—how you execute any damp style can give you vastly different results. The method that worked best for me was creating one French braid starting at the crown of my head, which gave me pretty, loose boho waves. However, French-braided pigtails that I gently pulled apart provided tighter, rippling waves that I kicked up a notch with beach spray.
Sleeping in twisted and even braided knots work, too. During an Aussie styling session, celebrity hairstylist Sarah Potempa showed me how sleeping in two buns fastened at the back of your head creates loose waves, while taking 2-inch sections of hair and creating a bunch of buns all over your head makes a curlier, more voluminous look.
I cheated…kind of.
I’ll be honest: I didn’t make it through the 30 days completely heat tool–free. I may have willingly gone to a beauty event where there would be blow-dryer–fueled hairstyling—but it was for work, alright? Another time, I sat down at a hair touch-up station and completely forgot about my challenge until the stylist was halfway through curling my hair. My editor called me out on that one, but I promise it slipped my mind.
Products saved my life…when I used the right amount.
Because I didn’t have tools by my side to help with styling, I heavily relied on products. That was a trial-and-error process. While trying to smooth fly-aways sans straightener, I applied way too much hair oil and came into work with greasy-looking hair. Another time I applied too much hair paste to attempt texture and ended up with really sticky strands.
I couldn’t use enough dry shampoo, though. By far the biggest multitasker, I reached for this to add texture, to boost volume and to refresh my hair when I didn’t want to shampoo. I even switched to volumizing shampoo and conditioner to give myself the best base possible.
My hair didn’t feel as dry.
I noticed my mane didn’t seem like it was being stripped of as much moisture, which in turn left it shiny and way less frizzy after it dried.
My routine got 10 times faster.
Mornings became way more productive. I had time to make myself a hearty salad for lunch, leisurely scroll through Tumblr while eating my cereal and get a head start on answering emails. On day 31, I didn’t even feel a desire to curl my hair—something that actually kick-started my mornings a month ago.
I actually might make this a regular practice.
Just like your body deserves a detox after a weekend filled with junk food and desserts, your hair needs some downtime, too. I have a better understanding of how my hair maintains moisture naturally and even perfected a few braiding styles along the way. Leaving my hair straight doesn’t ruin my day anymore (dramatic, but true), and I have a greater appreciation for products that blur the boundaries of care and styling. I’d be okay with limiting my heat styling from here on out, just don’t make me cut it out cold-turkey. It’s all about moderation, right?