6 Secrets for Air-Drying Your Hair Without Looking Like a Hot Mess
Everyone has that one friend whose perfect waves or curls inspire envy in everyone — especially when you ask for her styling secrets and she shrugs, “Oh, I just air-dry it.”
Girls like these are either lying or lucky. But for most of us, attempting to leave the house without any heat-styling is a literal nightmare, as in a bad dream, like showing up to school ass-naked.
See, some textures lend themselves well to air-drying. Mine is not one of them. My hair is thick but mostly straight. So when I air dry it, it just looks… lumpy. Shapeless. You might call it wavy if you were trying to be nice. Otherwise you’d probably just assume I passed out drunk the night before and slept on it funny.
But heat-styling my hair every day takes a long time, which makes me feel guilty and annoyed. Guilty because spending anywhere from 15 to 40 minutes per day on my hair feels incredibly self-indulgent, and annoyed because I’d much rather be doing something other than styling my hair.
But I want to be confident enough to walk around with air-dried hair when I don’t have the time to style mine. And I want you to, too! So here are some tips I’ve assembled to help you get through the day with air-dried hair if it’s not something you’re used to.
As you get more and more used to foregoing your heat tools, you won’t even have to follow all this advice. But for now, here’s how to do it.
1. Get the right products.
Just because you aren’t blow-drying or straightening your hair doesn’t mean products won’t help. I recently test-drove four Kevin Murphy products that the company specifically recommends for air-drying, and they really did make a difference, plus my head smelled like a creamsicle all day.
First I used Kevin Murphy’s UN.TANGLED to smooth my hair out. This already proved I’ve been doing something wrong in the air-drying department. I thought I was supposed to leave my hair a little tangled to add texture.
Sounds dumb, I know, but back when the wet-scrunch look was in (what do you want from me? I’m from New Jersey), we would avoid brushing and detangling our hair at all costs — the more knots, the better. I guess we figured the added ratty texture would look like waves or curls if you squinted your eyes just right? I don’t know, it was insane. But the point is you shouldn’t do that, you should detangle your hair before you let it air-dry.
Next, I put in SMOOTH.AGAIN, which further sleeked out and detangled my hair. This product has a little hold, too, so if you’re one of those psychos who can put her hair in a bun then shake it out for perfect Farrah Fawcett waves, you should buy this. You should also know I hate you.
Next comes a beach spray like HAIR.RESORT, which adds the texture I was flailing toward when I’d try to achieve air-dried waves by avoiding a hairbrush. This also adds volume, which is crucial if your hair’s straight-ish. I used these three products and actually left my house with wet hair earlier this week. I didn’t suddenly have magical princess waves, but my hair looked a lot better than it would have if I hadn’t done anything. They definitely helped.
2. Switch up your part.
I normally wear my hair, which is long, parted down the middle. This look does not translate well to air-drying. Because you know who else wears their hair long, parted down the middle, and air-dried? Professor Trelawney and Willie Nelson. Not the lewk I’m going for.
So I flopped some of my hair over to the other side to achieve a side part, which instantly made me look more fashion and less granola. Even if you normally part your hair on the side, you should still switch it up when air-drying — changing up your part is an easy way to add more volume at the root. And nobody wants flatness at the roots, especially when you can’t guarantee that the rest of the hair shaft will be behaving itself later on as your hair gets drier.
3. Wear a bold lip.
Obviously this has a lot to do with personal preference and style. But I find that when I air-dry my hair, I run the risk of looking washed out and tired.
As I’ve already learned from my extensive experiments in not looking hungover, a bold lip can do wonders to wake your face up. It just makes you look instantly pulled together.
As a bonus, your undone hair means you can wear, like, a modified smokey eye and an entire lip kit without looking overdone. The messy-ish hair brings your look out of Studio 54 territory and back down to earth.
4. Keep your outfit sleeker than usual.
Another good way to make yourself look put together is to keep your wardrobe for the day looking chic. Your first day air-drying is not the day to experiment with a maximalist and out-there wardrobe if you’re at all worried about looking less than polished.
Err on the side of sleek Victoria Beckham minimalism. Let’s say you do head-to-toe black with a red lip. Your IDGAF air-dried hair will look even more deliberate, like a style choice (which it is) instead of a sign you’ve given up.
5. If you’re really committed to the air-dried lyfe, go a bit shorter with your hairstyle.
If you want to make air-drying a near-daily part of your repertoire, hacking off some of your hair will help you maintain volume without the use of a blow-drier. It’ll also give you more of a tousled-chic fashion girl vibe. If your texture’s not au naturel wavy California Girl, longer air-dried hair can get witchy real quick.
6. If all else fails, put it up in a hair tie or yoga clip.
The other weird thing about air-drying your hair is that while it takes a fraction of the time preparation-wise compared to heat styling, it actually takes way longer to dry. You don’t get to see the finished product until your hair’s already dry an hour or two after you leave the house. So sometimes, the only option is to toss your hair into a messy bun.
An elastic hair tie is the obvious solution to this issue, but I have to tell you about this thing my mom randomly bought me called the yoga clip. If your hair is nice and textured from the beach spray mentioned above, use a yoga clip to pull up your hair. It looks more like a purposeful hairstyle than a last-ditch effort to get your hair out of your face. Using a clip instead of a hair elastic somehow makes you look less like you’re about to clean a toilet. And crucially, a clip like this won’t put a crease in your hair, so you can extend your air-dried style a few days if the texture starts to cooperate more.
Okay, those are the tips I’ve stumbled on to cut down on air-dry anxiety. Good luck and now that you know them, WTF are you gonna do with all the extra time?! I suggest getting acquainted with some Galore TV vids, but I’m biased.