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The Art of the Air-Dry

Woman air-drying her hair

Air-drying hair is like playing the lottery. Once your hair actually dries—which, depending on your hair texture, may not happen until midday—you could either hit the jackpot (less frizz, more shine) or end up with a loss. But the low-maintenance method still holds a lot of appeal, and for good reason: It entails very little time, even less skill with hot tools, and no heat damage to hair. Still, there’s a right way to air-dry hair, particularly if you’re plagued by frizz, dryness, or flyaways. Consider this your primer.

Your in-shower strategy 

No matter when or how often you shower, make sure you’re washing with a gentle shampoo—and sparingly. “Washing hair too often can strip the natural oils out of the hair and cause hair to dry out, thus making it dry too quickly and lay flat,” says Linet Keshishian, a celebrity hairstylist in Los Angeles who goes by Linet K. Try not to shampoo more than every other day. Choosing a clean formula can also help—namely, one that’s created without harsh surfactants, which can dry out hair and scalp and lead to a fuzzier air-dry experience. Unlike conventional sudsers, the Nourishing Shampoo cleanses with coconut-based surfactants that whisk away impurities and excess oil without stripping strands.  

A little extra conditioner can also make a world of difference. “A good leave-in conditioner can help tame the frizz while it air-dries as well, leaving the hair soft, shiny and touchable,” says Keshishian. You don’t necessarily need a dedicated leave-in formula for it, though. One easy trick: Don’t wash your conditioner out all the way on days when you know frizz may be a problem (think rain or humidity). A small amount of a lightweight conditioner formula, like the shea butter-infused Nourishing Conditioner, can keep frizz in check without adding extra weight.

Your post-shower steps 

Certain materials, including terry cloth, are an open invitation for frizz. Opt for a soft, cotton material, which won’t disrupt the hair’s cuticle, and pat your hair dry instead of rubbing to minimize friction. The Aquis Rapid Dry Hair Towel not only wicks away moisture—shortening your hair’s overall drying time—but it also prevents fragile wet hair from stretching and snapping.

Once you’ve toweled away as much water as you can from your hair, gently detangle with a wide-tooth comb, and add a leave-in styling product that’s geared toward your texture. “For someone with more of a straight or wavy texture, pick a product that will enhance hair texture, like a sea salt pomade or texture spray,” says Ryan Austin, a master stylist at IGK Salon in NYC. One like Innersense I Create Waves Texturizing Spray, enriched with Himalayan pink salt, can lend shape and body with just a few scrunches. Finally, “to define the curls, apply product to your wet hair and twist one inch sections around your finger and let hair air dry,” says Austin, who recommends a cream or serum. Yarok Feed Your Curls Defining Creme, packed with softening argan oil, defines and adds shape without a telltale crunch.

Once you style your damp hair, keep your hands off. “No matter what your texture is, try not to disrupt the natural texture pattern after applying product,” Austin says. Allowing your hair to air-dry completely undisturbed is key to a polished final look.

Sleep on it

If your schedule allows, shower in the evenings, as it gives your hair ample time to dry without interruption. To avoid frizz, it’s best to air-dry overnight, where the hair will stay in place on the pillow while you sleep,” explains Keshishian. You can even set your style before calling it a night. “Twist and loosely pin as big or little as you like to create natural texture and wave,” she suggests. Bonus: With less time spent working on your hair in the morning, you’ll have more time to savor your coffee, meditate, or…just stay in bed.