Want to skip the heat styling this summer but worried you’ll look less than your best? Don’t sweat it. Air-drying your hair doesn’t have to mean looking like you’ve been dragged through a bush backwards! In fact, with a few tips and tricks – and the right products – air-dried locks can look better than a blow wave. Yup, we said it!
Whether you’re super curly, ultra-fine or wonderfully wavy, read on. We chatted to Unico Hair’s Sofia Basile to find out how to air-dry each type of hair the RIGHT way – no fuss, no muss, and definitely no frizz.
First Up… What Are the Benefits of Air-Drying Hair?
“While sometimes only a swishy blow-dry will do, air-drying hair as much as possible is a great idea,” says Basile. “I recommend that my clients regularly let their hair dry naturally, both to minimise damage from constant heat styling, and to maximise sleep in time.”
Plus, without the threat of heat sapping out moisture over time, your strands have lesser chances of becoming dry and frizzy.
While curly hair especially lends itself to great results, Basile insists even fine hair can look fab – provided you use the right products to give it plenty of volume. On this note, air drying is perfect to help hair retain its natural texture. The results? You get to embrace your gorgeous head of hair with minimal effort.
The best time to take this extended break from your blow dryer or curling iron is during the hot, humid summer months. Your hair will dry quicker than in the winter, plus working with your hair’s natural texture gives you a low-maintenance style!
Here are the air-drying steps Basile recommends following for head-turning results – no matter your hair type.
Step 1 – Wash Hair
Unless you’re going for tousled beach waves straight out of the surf, you’ll want to wash your hair before air-drying. So, lather up with a shampoo and conditioner suited to your hair type, such as volumising prods for fine, straight strands, or a deeply nourishing duo for coarse, colour-treated locks.
STRAIGHT HAIR TIP: Want more volume? Basile recommends shampooing hair twice to remove product build-up and excess oils.
CURLY HAIR TIP: Curls thrive on moisture, so avoid over-washing and invest in a good conditioner instead. For intense hydration, Basile likes swapping conditioner out for a hair masque (like our Like A Virgin Nourishing Hair Masque) and wrapping hair in a hot towel. Maximising absorption and super-charging shine, this will help keep strands silky smooth, soft, and manageable.
WAVY HAIR TIP: Listen to what your hair needs. If it’s parched, masque up. If it’s feeling flat, try a double shampoo. You do you.
Step 2 – Rinse Thoroughly
For super-shiny results, make sure you rinse your hair thoroughly to remove all shampoo and conditioner residue. You also want to seal the cuticle and lock in moisture – especially if you’re prone to frizz. The best way to do that (alongside choosing hydrating haircare in step 1) is by rinsing your strands with cold water.
Step 3 – Towel Dry
For air-dried hair that looks amazing, the towel drying step is crucial. And guess what – you’re probably not doing it right. Instead of rubbing your head, which is hellishly rough on your strands, Basile says you want to gently pat/squeeze water from your hair.
STRAIGHT HAIR TIP: Continue this process until your hair is around 80% dry.
WAVY HAIR TIP: Aim for 60% dry.
CURLY HAIR TIP: To prevent a frizzy halo, Basile recommends those with curls stop patting when hair is approx 30% dry.
Once done gently squeezing out the excess water, bend over and flip your hair forward, so it hangs straight down. Place a towel over your hair, so the bottom of the hair and towel are in line. Twist the towel by starting as close to your forehead as possible. Flip the end of the twist on top of your head, and leave your hair in the wrap for about 20 minutes.
ALSO, do ensure that all your hair is hanging in the same direction before you wrap. And do be careful not to twist the towel too hard as this can place stress on your stress, leading to breakage.
TOWEL TIP: While you could use a good quality bath towel for towel drying, we recommend a microfibre towel (or at a pinch, try a soft t-shirt). Not only is microfibre gentler on strands, it speeds up drying time and helps prevent wet strands from swelling and becoming vulnerable to breakage and frizz. What’s not to love?
Step 4 - Detangle Strands
Now it’s time to untangle your damp tresses and kick any knots to the kerb. Hair is at its most fragile when wet, so bypass a regular brush which can cause breakage. Instead, Basile recommends all hair types reach for a wide tooth comb.
TIP FOR ALL HAIR TYPES: Before combing, apply a detangling spray or light, leave-in conditioner to the ends and mid-lengths. Section off hair and gently comb through each section, working from the ends up to the roots to prevent breakage.
CURLY HAIR TIP: “Some of my curly-haired clients also find using their fingers gives great frizz-free results, especially after their hair’s been treated with a moisturising masque,” adds Basile.
COCO & EVE TIP: No wide tooth comb? With 2-tiered bristles that are spaced apart, a tangle tamer glides through the hair and detangles with minimal damaging.
Step 5 – Apply Your Prods
Now your hair is partly dry and 100% detangled, it’s time to apply your leave-in products. From volumising mouse to sea salt sprays, curl plumpers and styling creams, you’ll no doubt have your faves. However, it’s worth remembering that less is definitely more for a natural look.
TIP FOR ALL HAIR TYPES: According to Basile, one product that’s a great all-rounder when air-drying hair is a moisturising hair oil or serum. To supercharge shine and prevent flyaways, apply a product such as our Miracle Hair Elixir to the mid-lengths and ends only, using between 2 drops for fine, short hair and 4 generous drops for long, luscious curls.
FINE, STRAIGHT HAIR TIP: “Nobody wants lank hair, so I love using a sea salt or volumising spray at the roots of fine hair,” says Basile. “For maximum lift when your hair dries, flip your head upside down and use your fingers on the roots to rub product in and promote gorgeous volume.”
CURLY HAIR TIP: For course or curly hair, Basile recommends applying a styling crème or mousse.
Step 6 – Give Hair the Finishing Touches
Is your goal super-smooth, straight strands, undone waves, or defined, bouncy curls? What you do next can make a big difference to your air-drying outcome.
STRAIGHT HAIR TIP: To keep straight strands out of your way during the final drying stage, try popping hair in a low ponytail. Just make sure you use a silk scrunchie or snag-free tie and keep it loose to prevent damage or an unwanted kink.
WAVY HAIR TIP: For relaxed waves, Basile suggests popping your hair into loose plaits and sleeping in them (try our snag-free pillowcase if you do!). Alternatively, gently scrunching your hair as it dries can enhance natural movement and bend.
CURLY HAIR TIP: For enviable, frizz-free curls, it’s important to keep your mitts off as much as possible. After applying your styling products, Basile recommends dividing the hair into large sections. “Take large sections and twist the hair, put pins in and leave for 10 to 15 minutes before removing.”
Alternatively, for a super-easy, foolproof option, simply wrap your hair back up in a towel (or microfibre wrap) after applying your products. Leave for around 10 minutes, then remove for beautiful bouncy curls.
Bonus Tip: Boost colour with UV protectant spray
Just like sunlight is damaging for your skin, it can also take a toll on your hair by fading your perfect colour and drying out strands. Think of a UV protectant spray like sunscreen for your hair — it defends hair from the oxidative stress that happens with excessive sun exposure.
Written By: Pip Jarvis
Edited by: Vidhya