How to Air Dry Every Hair Texture in 2020

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Khadija Horton/Instagram/@rosiehw

If I’m being completely honest, it’s taken me literal years to learn how to air-dry my hair. It wasn’t until I accepted the fact that successful air drying requires a cocktail of products (lol, trust me when I say those “air-dry creams” won’t actually give you Selena Gomez–worthy waves on their own) plus a handful of techniques (there’s way more scrunching, gliding, twisting, and smoothing than you’d think), that I was finally able to air-dry my straight-ish, poofy-ish hair at home.

Why is why I can genuinely say that learning to air-dry your hair isn’t, in fact, an impossible task, as long as you (a) take your time—which, like, what else are you doing right now?—and (b) follow the right equation for your exact hair texture. And to help you, I rounded up the easiest ways to air-dry everything from straight, fine hair to coarse coils, along with the exact products you need on your team. So put down the hot tools, pour yourself a glass (or three) of wine, and prepare to come out of quarantine with your air-dry routine on lock.

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How to air-dry wavy hair

In theory, naturally wavy hair should be one of the easiest textures to air-dry, but thanks to the fact that not all waves are created equally (@ my super-puffy and undefined-as-hell waves—if you can even call them that), the process definitely calls for a little technique. Here’s what you’ll need:

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  • Step 1: The more moisture in your hair, the more defined your natural waves will look, so use a lightweight, hydrating shampoo and conditioner filled with ingredients like hyaluronic acid or aloe.
  • Step 2: Detangle your hair with a wide-tooth comb, wrap it in a towel for five minutes, then shake it out and let it air-dry for another 15. When it’s still damp, mist on a salt spray to build up some body and grit. (Mist is your key word here. Spritzing too much will just make your hair stiff and crunchy).
  • Step 3: Once your waves are fully dry, rub a quarter-size dollop of styling cream between your fingers, then begin twisting your waves in two-inch sections, working from your ears to the ends, for extra definition and shine.

    How to air-dry coily hair

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    The key to air-drying dehydrated, pulled-out coils? Adding back crazy levels of moisture and definition throughout the process. Here’s what your setup should look like:

    • Step 1: On damp hair (after washing or re-wetting with a spray bottle), rake a palm full of leave-in conditioner through your coils with your fingers. Hydration is your path to definition, so make sure to coat your hairline, ends, and the nape of your neck.
    • Step 2: Lock in alllll that moisture by smoothing and scrunching an oil throughout your curls (coconut, jojoba, or Jamaican black castor oil is your BFF). Again, make sure you cover every single strand.
    • Step 3: Working in quadrants, rake dollops of cream through your curls, then finger-coil each section to get a corkscrew shape. Keep going until you’ve done your entire head, then sit back, relax, and air-dry.

      How to air-dry fine, flat hair

      If you usually rely on a blow-dryer to give your fine, flat hair tons of lift and volume, you’ll love how easy this air-dry routine is. Prepare to get mega volume without all the heat damage:

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      • Step 1: After cleansing with a volumizing shampoo (look for lightweight, strengthening ingredients like keratin or biotin, nothing oil-based!), follow with a conditioner just on your ends. Read: Keep. That. Sh*t. Off. Your. Roots.
      • Step 2: Air-dry your hair for about 20 minutes or until your roots and ends are almost dry. Mist on a volumizing spray—less is always more, here—that’s spiked with polymers that help build volume and hold (aka the secret to getting hella volume without heat).
      • Step 3: Once your hair is 100 percent dry, prepare for a little magic: Lift up three-inch sections and sprinkle a super-fine styling powder (lighter than dry shampoo, stickier than hairspray) underneath along your roots for big-time texture and lift.

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        How to air-dry curly hair

        If your curls tend to look a little ~fluffy~ and undefined when you air-dry your hair, you need to make sure you’re using leave-in products that build bounce and shape (oh, and some extra shine doesn’t hurt either). Here’s what you gotta know:

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        • Step 1: After washing with a sulfate-free shampoo (drying sulfates = the enemy of curls) and moisturizing conditioner, flip your head over and gently scrunch out excess water with a microfiber towel. Yeah, this matters—the fabric cuts down on frizz and keeps your curls clumped.
        • Step 2: Flip your head back up and divide your hair into four sections. Next, rub a lightweight gel between your palms, then gently glide your hands down each section of hair (kinda like you’re praying) to coat both sides of your curls without breaking them apart. Dab a bit of gel over your hairline too.
        • Step 3: Once your curls are 100 percent dry, they’ll be looking a little ramen noodle-y. But trust the process. With a lightweight oil covering your hands, scrunch your hair to break up the “gel cast” (i.e., the crunchy coating) and define your curls.

          How to air-dry straight hair

          You know those soft, bendy waves you always see on your Instagram feed? Yeah, you don’t need a flatiron or hair dryer to re-create them—just follow these tricks and air-dry some movement into your straight hair:

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          • Step 1: K, this is going to sound weird, but you need to reverse your in-shower routine. Start with conditioner, then follow with a super-gentle shampoo—it’ll help remove any weight from your conditioner without losing the moisture.
          • Step 2: Give your hair a quick towel dry—don’t be afraid to muss it up—then scrunch in a puff of wave-enhancing mousse, tightly twisting one-inch sections of hair, from roots to ends, until your head is covered in twists. Leave ’em alone (no touching, pls) until they’re totally dry.
          • Step 3: Shake out your twists using your fingers, rub a dab of matte pomade over your hands, and gently twirl and rake through the bottom few inches of your hair for a piece-y lewk. Finish by tossing your hair back and forth a few times to help it settle naturally.

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