For many of us, our hairdryer doesn’t do much more than it says on the tin – but it’s time to become blow-dry masters.
When you’ve spent decades working on the heads of Kate Moss and Gisele Bündchen, you get to know a lot about women’s hair habits. So when acclaimed hairdresser Guido Palau told Stylist, “Women don’t know how to blow-dry their hair,” we listened. ‘But what about all those mornings I spend welded to my hairdryer?’ we hear you cry. And therein lies the problem.
“Lots of women just grab the dryer and start, thinking they’re doing it properly, but actually they’re just causing lots of static and flyaways,” says Palau, Redken’s global creative director. He may have a point; we don’t seem to be using our secret weapon to its full potential. The fact that blow-dry bookings have increased by 63% year on year on beauty app Treatwell shows we still want that sleek, bouncy finish, but we aren’t happy with DIY results.
“Randomly rough-drying at home is good for a quick dry, but it roughs up the cuticle, making your straighteners work even harder,” explains Adam Reed of Percy & Reed. The products, tools and know-how needed to master a blow-dry shouldn’t just be for the pros. Here’s how to wield the most powerful tool in your beauty arsenal.
Get to know your hairdryer
Ideal for frizz, ion dryers emit negative ions to break down and evaporate positive water molecules and reduce static. Most models have it – BaByliss’s Rose Blush model, £45, smooths even the most unruly of strands.
“Always direct the dryer at a downwards 45° angle against the hair,” advises Reed. “This smooths the cuticle down and avoids frizz and tangling – but you can also direct the nozzle upwards into the roots for a targeted volume boost.”
Ignore this feature at your peril. A blast of cold air at the end of drying does exactly the same thing to your hairstyle that a fridge does to a tray-bake, setting the shape and ensuring it lasts longer. Move the flow of air over your whole head for approximately 10 seconds to lock in the style.
While it’s tempting to blast your hair at top speed, it’s important to consider what’s best for your hair. The specific speed at each level depends on your dryer, but as a general rule, low speed gives heat without moving the hair around so much that it tangles and frizzes, medium is a safe middle ground, and high can create more flyaways but is good in a rush. Three speeds is great for options, but a dryer with two speeds is sufficient, says Hicks.
A medium setting is usually enough and it shouldn’t go above 108°C, according to Dyson, whose Supersonic dryer has heat sensors to check air temperature every 20 seconds. As a general rule, if it feels like it’ll burn your hand, it’ll damage hair.
“Don’t base a hairdryer purchase on weight alone, instead hold the dryer in your hand and check for balance; you don’t want it to cumbersomely tip backwards or forwards,” recommends Ginny Hicks, the marketing director at BaByliss.
Nozzles are the secret ingredient to achieving a smooth finish, so don’t let them gather dust. They direct air flow over the hair to seal the cuticle for shine. Diffusers soften the blast and gently wrap warm air around curly hair without disturbing the curl pattern.
“There are models from £50 with a high standard of technology and long-lasting, powerful motors,” says Remington ambassador Kieran Tudor. Stylist recommends Remington’s PROluxe (above) for its features and affordability. Stretch to ghd’s frizz-fighting Air Dryer, £99, or Dyson’s Supersonic, £299.99, to halve drying time.
Blow-dry methods for each hair type
The attachments, products and tools for all hair textures
Use a narrow nozzle to target not-so-dense sections of hair, especially around the hairline and nape of the neck.
Percy & Reed The Perfect Blow Dry Makeover Spray
Percy & Reed The Perfect Blow Dry Makeover Spray, £12.50, is a lightweight multi-tasker that protects and adds shine. Pair it with Bumble and Bumble Hairdresser’s Invisible Oil, £32, on damp hair to lock in moisture.
Bumble & Bumble Hairdresser’s Invisible Oil
“Fine hair gets a huge volume boost from a large-barrelled round brush,” advises Antony Rawlings, creative director at Lockonego in London. Try Kent’s Large Radial Hair Brush, £11.55.
Kent Large Radial Hair Brush
Go for a wide nozzle to expand air flow and dry hair efficiently.
Redken’s Pillow Proof Primer Cream, £18.50, does indeed ward off bed-head, prevent breakage and is specially designed to halve the time it takes to dry thick hair. Double up with Living Proof’s Restore Smooth Blowout Concentrate, £26, for extra sleekness.
Redken Pillow Proof Primer Cream
Living Proof’s Restore Smooth Blowout Concentrate
“The core of a ceramic brush heats hair from the inside out for a quicker blow-dry,” says hairstylist Luke Hersheson. Try Hersheson’s Medium Ceramic Ionic Brush, £28.
Some dryers come with a bowl diffuser, but you might need to buy one separately. Try BaByliss Pro’s 3-in-1 Universal Diffuser, £6.50, or YS Park’s Metal Mesh Diffuser, £32.
BaByliss Pro’s 3-in-1 Universal Diffuser
YS Park Metal Mesh Diffuser
Fight frizz with Color Wow’s Dream Coat for Curly Hair, £24. “If blow-drying curls straight, prep with a nourishing oil to protect and boost shine,” says award-winning hairdresser Charlotte Mensah. Stylist’s go-to is Mensah’s Manketti Oil, £38.
Color Wow’s Dream Coat for Curly Hair
Charlotte Mensah Manketti Oil
Only Curls Comb
ghd Natural Bristle Radial Brush
Detangle with Only Curls’ comb, £8, then dry with ghd’s Natural Bristle Radial Brush, £17.50, to keep some bounce in your coils.
Salon Services Afro Pik attachment, £6, stretches hair out while you dry for a Solange-worthy ’fro.
Salon Services Afro Pik attachment
Protect by applying Briogeo’s Rosarco Blow Dry Perfection Crème, £21.50, to damp hair and seal in moisture with Jim + Henry’s hydrating Five Oil, £18, before drying.
Briogeo Rosarco Blow Dry Perfection Crème
Use Moroccanoil’s 35mm Boar Bristle Round Brush, £46.45, after you’ve finished drying and combing through with the Afro Pik attachment to help smooth and straighten the hair.
Moroccanoil 35mm Boar Bristle Round Brush
Three key styles
Now you’re kitted out, try your hand at these takes on the classic blow-dry
“For shiny, poker-straight hair, you need a smoothly blow-dried base,” says Rawlings. “Drape each section over a round brush and pull it downwards without curling under.”
“Twist a round brush slightly out and down as you blow-dry,” says Reed. “Take sections of hair and wrap the top around a curling wand, then wrap the bottom in the other direction.”
Full and bouncy
“Part hair into sections and blow-dry from root to tip, rolling the brush away from the face,” says Hersheson. “Blast roots, then wrap hair around your fingers to create pin curls.”