Beauty

How to master the at-home blow-dry

Posted by
Ava Welsing-Kitcher
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Master the at-home blow-dry

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

Ion technology

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.

Angle

“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.”

Cold shot

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.

Speed

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.

Temperature

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.

Weight

“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

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.

Price

“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

Fine

The attachment

Use a narrow nozzle to target not-so-dense sections of hair, especially around the hairline and nape of the neck.

The Products

Percy & Reed The Perfect Blow Dry Makeover Spray

Blow dry hair

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

Blow dry hair

The tool

“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

Thick

The attachment

Go for a wide nozzle to expand air flow and dry hair efficiently.

The products

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

Blow Dry Hair

The tool

“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.

Curly/Wavy

The attachment

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

The products

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

Blow dry hair

ghd Natural Bristle Radial Brush

The tools

Detangle with Only Curls’ comb, £8, then dry with ghd’s Natural Bristle Radial Brush, £17.50, to keep some bounce in your coils.

Afro

The attachment

Salon Services Afro Pik attachment, £6, stretches hair out while you dry for a Solange-worthy ’fro.

Salon Services Afro Pik attachment

The products

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

Blow dry hair

The tools

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

Blow dry hair

Three key styles

Now you’re kitted out, try your hand at these takes on the classic blow-dry

Glass hair

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.”

Kick-back wave

Blow dry

“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

Blow dry

“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.”

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