Maintaining healthy hair is a complete catch-22. You can use a flat iron to tame your flyaways, but then you’ll have to deal with the repercussions of using a hot tool. On the other hand, you could air dry your hair in order to avoid heat damage, but then you run the risk of a frizzy mane come noon. The good thing? While it may seem like solving one hair care problem leads to another, the road to smooth, frizz-free hair post-air drying doesn’t have to involve a concoction of unnecessary styling products and strand-damaging hot tools. As it turns out, though air drying your hair is an art form, it’s one you can master if you take into account one thing: your specific hair type.
Now, there are a few cardinal rules across all hair types when it comes to a successful air dry (think: using the right brush and nixing towels), but ensuring flyaway-free locks post-shower has a lot to do with your unique hair type and density. For example, what someone with straight, fine hair would do post-shower differs from what someone with thick, curly hair would do.
Ready to make everyday a good hair day? Below, learn how to properly air dry your hair sans frizziness.
Straight/Type 1 Hair
While straight hair types have it a little easier when it comes to frizz-free air drying, there are still a few key things to keep in mind. For one, hair prep. “An apple cider vinegar rinse diluted with water can help smooth the hair cuticle,” says celebrity hairstylist Adam Campbell. “It will lower the pH of the scalp and hair, and add shine and luster back into the hair, ultimately helping to reduce [the appearance of] frizz.” After shampooing and conditioning, apply an ACV rinse evenly across your scalp and rinse thoroughly after a few minutes.
After showering, it’s all about keeping the movement of your hair intact while eliminating any potential for frizz. If you have longer lengths, your hair is more likely to be weighed down, so opt for a loose braid post-shower to ensure your hair doesn’t lack volume once it’s dried (a tighter braid can give your hair some added texture, too).
In terms of product, Campbell says that straight, fine, or thin hair definitely should use lighter weight formulas to prevent the hair from being too weighed down and potentially look greasy. If you’re the owner of straight, thick hair, you can get away with both a heavier product and a heavier application. Finally, because your hair is in its most fragile state when it’s wet, resist the urge to rub it with a towel — Campbell warns this will definitely create more tangles and frizz. A soft t-shirt or microfibre towel can be gentler to help dry and reduce flyaways.
Wavy/Type 2 Hair
Impeccable waves — minus the frizz — starts with a little effort in the shower. Frédéric Fekkai, founder of FEKKAI, says those with wavy hair should use a shampoo and conditioner that contains hydrating ingredients — such as shea butter and monoi oil — to not only keep frizz at bay, but to enhance the natural waves. Also, blasting your hair with cold water at the end of your shower helps to keeps the protein bonds of your hair intact, which means less frizz and more smoothness, Fekkai tells TZR.
Once out of the shower, Fekkai says to avoid using two things: towels and paddle brushes, as both can disrupt your hair shaft and lead to frizz. Instead, opt for a cotton t-shirt or pillowcase for a gentler drying method as well as a vented brush or a wide-toothed comb. If you have fine, wavy hair, Fekkai recommends avoiding products with oils or heavy silicones and going for products that are more lightweight. Those with thick, wavy hair should look for products containing creamier consistencies and thicker moisturizers such as shea butter and avocado oil.
Finally, to really get the mermaid waves of your dreams sans frizz, Fekkai says to scrunch your locks. “Scrunching helps add additional volume, bounce, and dimension to your hair all while reducing frizz” he says. At this stage, you can also try adding in another layer of product (think: a matte pomade) to enhance your natural texture.
Curly/Type 3 Hair
Curly hair is often synonymous with frizz, but according to curl stylist and salon owner Evan Joseph, it doesn’t always have to be. Curly hair that was not adequately nourished before drying equates to frizz, Joseph says, so it’s important to load up on frizz-fighting products that also douse strands with hydration — starting with your shower.
If you have curly hair, always use a shampoo and conditioner combo that’s made specifically for your texture, as these are usually designed with the least drying cleansing agents to provide a gentle cleanse without stripping the hair of its natural oils. Similarly, conditioners created for curly hair are typically silicone-free, which, in Joseph’s book, is a good thing. “Silicones in hair conditioner may make curly hair feel good initially, but over time it’ll leave curls dehydrated, limp, and lifeless since it creates a barrier on the hair and prevents nourishment from entering the strands,” he notes.
But here’s the ultimate tip that’ll ensure frizziness doesn’t make an appearance: When in the shower, avoid rinsing out all of your conditioner. The logic? According to Joseph, when you slather the hair with conditioner while it’s wet, as it dries, the water will be replaced with conditioner. When the hair is full of conditioner, it’s less likely to reach out to the environment around it for moisture. Translation: less frizz. “I recommend applying conditioner to soaking wet hair, flipping your head upside down, and squeezing out as much water as possible,” Joseph says. “This will leave the perfect amount of conditioner behind, and your hair will only hold onto what it needs.”
Post-shower air drying for curly hair isn’t too complicated — Joseph says forego the brush and just gently rake through your curls with your fingers instead, which allows you to be more thorough in removing tangles and will result in better curl grouping. Finally, always apply product to sopping wet (versus damp) hair. “If you’re struggling with styling your curls, not applying product to wet-enough hair is likely the culprit,” he says. Opt for lightweight nourishment as opposed to glueing down your curls with heavy products — lighter weight products will allow your curls to flourish naturally, notes Joseph.
Coily/Type 4 Hair
Coily hair is susceptible to becoming dry and frizzy much faster than other hair types, so to master air drying this hair type, it’s important to keep one thing in mind: hydration. According to celebrity hair stylist and natural hair expert Annagjid "Kee" Taylor, all the magic happens in the shower. Look for a shampoo and conditioner that contains moisturizing ingredients such as macadamia nut oil, avocado oil, cocoa butter, shea butter, honey, and black castor oil.
Next, Taylor recommends using a wide-toothed comb or a detangler brush, brush your hair while it’s dripping wet in the shower — not only will this be the most comfortable time to detangle, but your coils are fully defined and at their peak when drenched in water, which means you won’t run the risk of disrupting your coil pattern or causing breakage. When it comes time to dry, avoid a terry cloth towel at all costs, as “the large, abrasive fibers create a high level of friction and can cause breakage,” warns Taylor. Instead, use a microfiber cloth, a natural cotton towel, or just a cotton t-shirt.
In terms of product application, Taylor says this should also be done on wet hair to avoid frizz. “Most of the time, products that are made for coily hair are formulated to work best when hair is soaked in water,” she says. “This is because when the strand is wet, the hair cuticle is open and primed to hold onto products easier.” Apply an anti-frizz serum to your hair, making sure to only go as far up as the midsection to avoid a greasy look.
The last step of air drying coily hair is to work on defining your strands. For more volume, Taylor says to slide metal clips under your curls and along the scalp. “Make sure you’re lifting the hair before clamping the clips closed — this also helps the hair dry a little faster,” she says. For more defined curls, she recommends finger coiling the hair with hair cream to define the hair while also taming the frizz.