Blow-Dry Your Hair Like a Pro
Whether you are looking to volumize limp hair or just add some staying power to your look, heat styling is often the answer. Use this guide to properly blow-dry fine, curly, long, or short hairstyles.
The Goal: Volume and Body Around the Hairline and Smooth, Silky Strands From Roots to Ends
Step 1: To prep your hair for drying, rub a few drops of smoothing serum between your palms, then run your hands down the damp hair, suggests Julien Farel, owner of the Julien Farel Salon, in New York City. Use a comb to distribute the product evenly, and begin predrying hair on a medium-heat and high-speed setting. Massage hair at the roots to give it lift. Part your hair and secure the top layers with clips.
Step 2: Attach the nozzle to your dryer, and turn the heat setting up and the speed of the air down. (Heat allows you to manipulate the shape of your hair, but you don't want the uncontrollable force of a leaf blower.) Starting with the back section, direct small, manageable sections of hair forward with a large round brush as you dry to create a smoother, fuller appearance. Dry from roots to ends, moving the brush and the dryer together down the hair shafts. Always keep the airflow angled down toward the ends, which will make the cuticles lie flat and ultimately make your hair look smoother and shinier. Work your way around your head. Unclip the top layers and repeat.
Step 3: To style the hair around your face, roll the layers forward on the brush as you dry, says Farel. Be sure to keep a comfortable tension between your hair and the brush to achieve a sleek, flat-ironed effect. After your hair is dry to the touch, give it a blast of cool air to set the style in place. Finally, massage a pea-size amount of smoothing serum (or styling cream) into the ends to flatten flyaways, and pat the top of your head with your hands so that any residual serum will level shorter, broken hairs that tend to stand up around the crown.
RS picks: Phytolisse Finishing Serum ($30, sephora.com). A few drops eliminate frizz and add sleekness. Scunci Thick Hair Clips ($3 for two at drugstores and amazon.com). These will hold heavy, damp hair out of the way while you blow-dry.
The Goal: Soft Texture, Volume, and Hold
Step 1: Mix together a pea-size amount of styling cream and a dime-size amount of extra-hold gel. "Combining styling cream with hair gel helps give hair lots of soft, touchable texture that won't fall flat," says Paul Brown, owner of the Paul Brown Salons & Day Spas, in Hawaii. Use your fingertips to massage in the mixture from roots to ends. Then set the dryer to a medium speed and heat setting and pinch and twist one-inch sections while aiming airflow at the roots to help establish lift.
Step 2: Focus the warm air on the roots. "Drying roots first helps support the hair, giving it lots of lift and volume," says Brown. Work your way around your head and, when the roots are completely dry, style the sections around your face using a small round ceramic brush, which holds heat longer than a wooden or plastic one. Continue using the brush to dry the ends of the rest of your hair.
Step 3: Put a dime-size amount of pomade in one palm and rub your hands together to warm the product. "Pomades are often stiff," says Brown. "Warming one up in your hands will make it easier to use." Use your fingers to pinch pomade onto ends of small sections to define layers, create a sleeker look, and give your style hold.
RS picks: Aquage Fortifying Ultragel ($26, fragrancenet.com). An extra-hold gel and styling cream in one. Aveda Light Elements Defining Whip ($24, nordstrom.com). An airy whipped wax gives hair texture and hold after drying.
Feeling inspired? Find more short hairstyles like the pixie cut pictured here.
The Goal: Thicker, Fuller Hair With Volume That Lasts
Step 1: To give hair body, rub a golf ball-size amount of volumizing mousse between your hands, then work it through towel-dried hair from roots to ends with your fingers. Predry hair on a high-speed and medium-heat setting until it feels just slightly damp. Then roll the top layers of your hair back onto three Velcro rollers and spritz the roots with a root-lifting spray, suggests Matrix celebrity stylist Enzo Angileri.
Step 2: Attach the concentrator nozzle to the dryer to help you direct the airflow and style your hair, then switch the dryer to a higher heat setting and a lower speed for the lower layers. Using a round ceramic brush, which holds heat, lift a section at the roots, give it a blast of heat, then roll the brush to the ends while keeping the focus of the dryer on the brush. Continue working on these lower layers until they're completely dry. Then work on the top layers. Focus the hot air of the dryer on the Velcro rollers for several seconds at a time.
Step 3: When the hair on the rollers feels dry to the touch, unroll them carefully and then dry the ends of the hair on a lowspeed setting, using your fingers to lift and style the hair into place. Rather than brushing your hair, gently tousle it with your fingers. Finally, give your hair a burst of cool air to set the shape and spritz it with a light hair spray, if needed.
RS picks: Pantene Hair Spray Fine Hair Style Touchable Volume ($4, target.com). Swells fine strands for a thicker appearance and gives height and hold. Velcro Classic Stylers ($5.50, amazon.com). These stay securely in hair without clips. Matrix Amplify Root Lifter ($16, ulta.com). This spray gives hair lift when it tends to go limp.
The Goal: Touchable, Well-Formed Curls and Waves
Step 1: "The key to getting your curls to take shape is to give them some direction while wet, and not to touch them when they're dry," says Luke O'Connor, a hairstylist for the Lukaro Salon, in Los Angeles. Work a curl-enhancing product through your hair, and use a wide-tooth comb to distribute the product evenly from roots to ends. Begin twisting small sections of hair, starting at the scalp and finishing at the ends. This will create smooth, uniform curls.
Step 2: Attach a diffuser to the dryer, and dry hair by cupping and lifting sections at the ends with your hands. Don't scrunch or squeeze the hair, which will only break up the curls and create a frizzy appearance. "Use a medium- to high-heat setting with a low fan speed," suggests O'Connor, "A low speed will help dry the hair into its most natural, frizz-free curl or wave pattern."
Step 3: When it feels nearly dry to the touch, flip your hair upside down and massage the roots in a circular motion with your fingers as you continue to dry it. This will create lift at the crown while gently loosening twisted curls. Once it's dry, hit your hair with a blast of cool air to help set the curls, then tousle it back. Next, rub a dab of pomade between your palms, and sweep your hands through your hair, gently squeezing the pomade from roots to ends. This will give curls and waves a soft appearance and smooth down any flyaways.
RS picks: Ouidad Wide-Tooth Comb ($8, ouidad.com). Detangles and distributes styling products through curly hair. Helen of Troy Euro Style Diffuser ($14, amazon.com). An inexpensive attachment to spread air and preserve curls. Living proof Curl Enhancing Styling Mousse ($28, livingproof.com). Defines curls and waves without leaving hair feeling sticky, tacky, or crunchy.
The Importance of Predrying Your Hair
For the most effective styling, say the pros, predry your hair first. No matter what type of hair you have, always predry it a bit before you start the styling process, says Farel. Trying to style sopping-wet hair is a waste of time, and your arms will feel as if they've been doing military push-ups before too long. Instead, blot your hair with a towel. Then let it air-dry as long as possible, or wrap it in an absorbent towel, such as an Aquis Hair Towel ($18, amazon.com), to remove excess water while you apply makeup or get dressed. "Most of the styling occurs when hair is 90 percent dry," explains Farel. "The less time your hair is exposed to the heat of the dryer, which can be damaging, the better."