Blow Drying vs Air Drying: What’s Better?

beautiful woman using a blow dryer but Is Blow-Drying Better Than Air-Drying?

Is blow-drying better than air-drying?

Well, that depends entirely on how you define “better!”

If you’re talking about which is healthier for your hair, then yes, one definitely wins out over the other

But as I’ll show you below, when it comes to style and convenience, the answer isn’t so cut and dry (pardon the pun)!

Check: The Blow Dryer That Straightens Hair

Is Blow-Drying Better Than Air-Drying?

a curly-haired woman showing the difference between Blow Dryer Vs Hair Dryer

Yes and No! The efficacy and damage caused by blow-drying your hair depend on how you’re using the tool.

There’s no denying the fact that surface damage is highly likely when using a blow-dryer. But that’s not to say it’s an all-out war on hair-dryers.

Based on one study, you can reduce the damage caused by these blow-dryers [1]. If you keep a distance of about 15 cm (or about 6″) between your scalp and the blow-dryer, the damage is reduced by a large margin.

Other than keeping the tool a certain distance from your hair, you must air-dry your hair until it’s not sopping wet.

Most experts say to follow the 80-20 rule. In other words, air-dry your hair about 80% of the way, then use a blow-dryer for the last 20%.

Yes, I know, what I just pointed out seems much more inconvenient and time-consuming, but trust me, your hair will thank you.

Blow-drying Vs. Air-Drying: Benefits

Now that you know blow-drying is not all that damaging for your natural hair, let’s begin weighing the benefits and drawbacks of each drying process.

Blow-Drying Benefits

blonde lady showing how to blow dry a bob

First, blow-drying helps save time and is more convenient when compared to natural air-drying.

I don’t think anyone would deny that! I have a friend with crazy-thick and long hair. It takes her 30 minutes to blow-dry her locks, which is longer than most.

However, it takes literally hours upon hours to let it air dry. In fact, she’s gone to bed with wet hair and woken up with it still quite damp.

On top of that, blow-drying your hair makes it shinier and silkier because it seals the hair cuticle.

Air-Drying Benefits

Of course, air-drying has some extraordinary benefits as well. First, you’re not exposing your hair to any heat, so you don’t have to worry about frying your tresses.

Second, if you just want to go au natural and let the beauty of your true hair shine through- quirks (or corks, for my curly-haired friends) and all, then you can’t beat air-drying.

Blow-drying Vs. Air-Drying: Drawbacks

Now let’s look at the drawbacks of using a blow-dryer vs. letting your hair just dry on its own.

Blow-Drying Drawbacks

As I mentioned earlier, blow-drying itself isn’t excessively damaging. But I must point to the fact that certain aspects such as brushing your hair too hard, over-drying, and overheating can and will lead to hair loss and irreversible damage [2].

Doing so leads to extreme hair breakages and structural weakening of the hair shaft. Overheating will certainly cause a loss of moisture from within your hair.

Air-Drying Drawbacks

In case you thought it’s all safe and fine if you naturally air-dried your hair, allow me to bring a few things to light.

True, you’re not exposing your hair to heat which is generally the case when using blow/hair dryers. But the main issue here is the excess retention of moisture within your hair [3].

lady with a long, straight hair

GHD Global Ambassador Adam Reed notes, “Hair can absorb up to 30 percent of its own weight in water.” Also, “Natural drying takes time. The longer it stays wet, the more the cortex swells and cracks permanently damaging hair.”

After air-drying, your scalp retains moisture for a few hours. And excess water can easily result in bacterial overgrowth and, in turn, ruin your scalp.

Other than that, you can cause irreversible damage to your hair if it’s stretched, rubbed, or stays dry for long periods of time.

Also, using a towel and rubbing it against your hair for drying purposes is a big NO. That will rip and strip your hair.

Generally, splits occur when you stretch your hair tightly while combing wet hair to speed the drying process. And letting your wet hair be can lead to knots or abrasions on your strands.

After all is said and done, the question remains. What’s the “right way” to dry your hair?

How To Dry Your Hair To Prevent Damage

By now, I’m sure you’ve become well-acquainted with the issues as well as the benefits that both these methods have. 

But it’s all for naught if the health of your hair cuticles is falling apart. So, before anything else, pay extra attention to the condition of your hair cuticles.

Take Care Of Your Hair Cuticles

Keratin protein forms the building of each hair strand. These proteins exist as cuticles which are shingle-like structures [4].

So long as you’re not compromising its structure, these cuticles maintain their protective and strong characteristics. Also, exposing the cuticles to intense heat or excess moisture can damage the structure.

According to Toronto-based hair restoration expert, dermatologist, and MD at the Hair Club Medical Group, Jeff Donovan, “When the cuticle layer is perfectly intact, then the hair is very shiny and doesn’t tend to break.” [5]

So, it’s clear that the secret to healthy hair is actually keeping the cuticle layer of the hair intact.

Now that we’ve established a foundation for the two drying processes, here are some foolproof steps to avoid needless damage to your beautiful hair.

Blow Drying Your Hair Correctly

Let’s start with the right way to use a blow-dryer.

Dry your hair with a microfiber towel or soft t-shirt.

Take a look at this comparison video:

Before you begin blow-drying your damp hair, make sure you blot your wet hair dry using a soft t-shirt or microfiber towel. Do that until your hair is damp.

As Mindy from the famous YouTube channel, Cute Girls Hairstyles suggests, wrap your wet hair around the microfiber towel. Twist your hair using the towel and bring it up.

If you’ve got long hair, wrap it into the microfiber towel and follow suit.

Dermatologist Shilpi Khetarpal recommends avoiding heavy towels to dry your hair. Such towels put more stress on your hair, making them more prone to breakages [6].

According to her, you can lessen the amount of heat required by efficiently drying your hair beforehand.

Do Not Brush Your Hair While It’s Wet

Until your hair has dried out to a certain degree, avoid brushing your wet hair with a round brush.

Rather, while your hair is still somewhat wet, take a comb (preferably wide-tooth) and detangle it. That will prevent your hair from forming knots when it becomes dry, and more importantly, the round brush won’t get stuck.

What I also find crucial is the type of brush you use. That, of course, depends on your hair type and the style you wish to achieve.

I advise you to use a ceramic brush if you have straight hair. It offers more volume by retaining more heat.

In case you have coarse hair, I recommend using a boar-bristle brush. It will help smooth your unruly strands much more effectively by providing the needed tension.

Use A Good Blow-Dryer

lady blow drying her natural curly hair

DO NOT compromise on the quality of a blow-dryer. I’d recommend you to go for a versatile tool that offers multiple speed and heat settings.

If possible, go for a blow-dryer with thermal/ionic tech. Such types of blow-dryers dry your hair faster on a minimal heat setting.

Also, before the blowout, make sure to apply a mild heat protectant spray.

Check: Curling Your Hair Without a Round Brush

Air-Drying Your Hair Correctly

You might think that there’s really no right or wrong way to airdry your hair. That’s not exactly true, though.

Prep Your Hair Beforehand.

The very first step sealing and closing your cuticles. This will ensure that your hair remains frizz-free and smooth.

woman washing her curly hair

For that, I advise you to use a mild and sulfate-free shampoo and conditioner. And, if it contains glycerin or similar moisturizers, it’s definitely a plus.

Oftentimes, I use cold water to wash out the conditioner. I find it to be more effective in sealing and moisturizing the cuticles from within. That means shinier, frizz-free, and smoother hair.

Air-Drying Your Hair.

As already mentioned in the sections above, be wary of the type of towels you use to air dry your hair. The majority of bath towels have fibers that can cause extreme damage and frizz.

I love the texture and feel of the microfiber towel on my hair. It helps reduce hair swelling, dries my hair much faster, and has a gentle action.

Use A Leave-in Conditioner.

woman smiling while applying conditioner to her hair

Unless you don’t mind dealing with pesky flyaways, I suggest you use a mild leave-in conditioner to prep your hair for the styling process. It helps combat heat damage, humidity, and frizz by forming a protective outer layer around each strand.

Blow-Drying Vs. Air-Drying: Expert Tips

While blow-drying your hair, make sure that you’re blowing towards your ends.

Remember to style your hair after the drying styles. That will help you prevent your hair from getting tangled and keep it frizz-free.

You must spray an ample amount of mild heat protectant spray before you blow-dry your hair. Avoid over-drying or overheating your hair and scalp.

If you’re running late, you can choose to skip drying most of your hair. But I suggest against doing the same for your roots and scalp.

Let your wet hair rest on the scalp. Avoid rolling it up. Use heat on a medium setting (if possible, on the lowest setting) when blow-drying your hair. Maintain a 15 cm distance from the scalp.

Do not, I repeat, DO NOT comb or brush your wet hair.

FAQs

How can I dry hair most effectively?

Begin by air-drying your hair until it’s about 80% dry. Make sure that you’re not stretching or rubbing your hair too hard with the towel. Quickly follow it, blow-drying your hair.
The result is silkier, shinier, and, most importantly, healthier hair.

Is air-drying better for curly hair?

Yes. And, if you’ve got natural curls, air drying might be your safest bet. It offers more definition to your curls.
But make sure to get rid of excess moisture by using a t-shirt or microfiber towel for blotting your hair dry.

How do I prevent frizz after a blowout?

In order to prevent that from happening, prime your hair before exposing it to moisture. That way, you can air-dry your hair without having to worry about frizzy hair.
It’s because frizz is the result of your hair expanding during the drying process right after a shower.

Conclusion

Blow-drying and air-drying can both have detrimental effects on your hair. That is if you don’t follow the correct way to use hair tools and procedures. I would strongly advise you to use both these methods in tandem to maintain hair health.

Based on your hair type, you might have to tweak a few things here and there. But overall, stick to a combination.

That way, you’ll be able to prevent hair breakage, damage to the scalp, split ends, and ultimately keep your hair healthy.

Also, consider checking out my expert guide on how to blow-dry layered hair and blow-dry twist out to learn more.

Let me know what works best for your hair type by leaving your comments down below.

References

  • 1. Lee Y, Kim Y-D, Hyun H-J, Pi L, Jin X, Lee W-S. Hair Shaft Damage from Heat and Drying Time of Hair Dryer. Annals of Dermatology [Internet]. 2011 [cited 2021 Dec 8];23:455. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3229938/
  • 2. How to stop damaging your hair [Internet]. Aad.org. 2021 [cited 2021 Dec 8]. Available from: https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/hair-loss/insider/stop-damage
  • 3. 0. The Best Way to Air-Dry Your Hair, According to Experts [Internet]. Healthline. Healthline Media; 2021 [cited 2021 Dec 8]. Available from: https://www.healthline.com/health/beauty-skin-care/air-dry-hair#should-you-air-dry-your-hair
  • 4. https://www.facebook.com/verywell. What Is Keratin? [Internet]. Verywell Health. 2020 [cited 2021 Dec 8]. Available from: https://www.verywellhealth.com/keratin-5083786
  • 5. Dr. Jeff Donovan. Donovan Hair Clinic [Internet]. Donovan Hair Clinic. 2021 [cited 2021 Dec 8]. Available from: https://donovanmedical.com/
  • 6. Shilpi Khetarpal, MD | Cleveland Clinic [Internet]. Cleveland Clinic. 2021 [cited 2021 Dec 8]. Available from: https://my.clevelandclinic.org/staff/19843-shilpi-khetarpal
an Asian woman blow drying her hair after showering

Is blow-drying better than air-drying? Let us know your thoughts on this topic below!

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