The world's top hairdressers reveal *exactly* how to dry your hair to maximise its styling potential

Good hair starts in the shower, but great hair is determined by how you dry it.

05 Jul 2019

What is it about great hair that makes everything look pulled together? You could be wearing your oldest, tattiest, Bridget Jones pyjamas, but matched with an absolutely cracking blow dry? Phwoaaar. I’d happily open the door to the postman. Sad, wilty hair, that ends up in a droopy bun, on the other hand? Mmmmm. Not so much.

If your mood inflates with every extra ounce of volume, it’s worth remembering that fantastic hair is very much dependent on how you dry it. It’s here that you lock in extra height, add silkiness and set your style to straight and sleek, soft and wavy or defined and curly.

Having learnt the hard way that leaving my hair to dry on its own overnight almost certainly leads to a damp, limp mess come morning, I took to the pros to ascertain what exactly we can do to ace our blow drys or air dry like an expert. Rule number one? “Don’t harshly scrub your hair with the towel as this may cause hair breakage. Instead, gently blot it until excess moisture has been removed,” says Paul Windle, top hair stylist and co-founder of Windle & Moodie. As for what to do next, well, that depends on what finish you desire. Here’s a rundown of how to create every finish from bouncy, to curly to sleek and straight.

How to dry your hair for a bouncy finish?

Sexy, timeless, classic – if you want extra oomf, the experts’ agree it’s a good idea to start with a thickening spray lightly misted across roots and mid-lengths. “There’s a reason we hairdressers use product before drying your hair in the salon – it is simply to help us create the amazing end look! You should do the same as product usage is vital to getting that look you really want,” says Daniel Lyons, Head Hair Stylist at Unilever. To get the most out of your thickening spray, opt for one that also contains heat protection such as Windle’s Fortifying Spray, £19 or Oribe Maximista Thickening Spray, £27.

“To achieve more volume when blow-drying your hair, make sure you are lifting your hair at the root as you dry each section as this will give you a great foundation,” says leading hair stylist and co-founder of Percy & Reed, Paul Percival. “Use a large round brush and wrap the ends around the brush for a few seconds whilst gently heating. Make sure you have the nozzle on the hairdryer to get the perfect air flow,” says Windle. “The nozzle will smooth down the hair and help seal the cuticle,” he says, ensuring your blow dry is as silky as it is bouncy. But, if you struggle with a round brush, Percival recommends giving the Babyliss Big Hair, £45 (https://www.babyliss.co.uk/big-hair-2885U.html) a whirl. “It’s a spinning round brush with the dryer built in and it’s a great way to get instant volume,” says Percival, without having to navigate coordinating both the brush and the dryer.

How to dry your hair for a sleek finish?

For a glossy, mirror-like shine, products are just as important as technique. “Prep damp, towel dried hair by mixing a smoothing cream or oil in your palms,” says Adam Reed, co-founder of Percy & Reed. Or you can mix a cream, oil and mist together depending on what your hair needs. Try Percy & Reed’s Perfecting Wonder Treatment Oil, £25 and TRESemme’s Keratin Smooth Heat Protect Shine Spray, £5.99. “Pull the product through hair from mid-lengths to ends,” says Reed. Windle advises rough drying 80% of the hair before taking sections and drying using a medium-to-large round brush. “Start at the back of your head and work your way forward. Aiming the nozzle into the back of the brush, roll each section as you blow dry to add shape,” says Reed. “A nozzle is really important here as we need to direct the airflow down the hair shaft to encourage the smoothing process. If however, you are short on time, then section the dry hair in 2-3 portions and smooth your straighteners over the hair,” adds Lyons. Use a light mist of hairspray to smooth away any baby hairs or flyaways for a sleek finish, says Reed.

How to dry your hair to make the most of your curls?

Making the most of big, beautiful curls is a matter of “defining rather than transforming and working with the hair’s natural curl,” says Lyon. Start by, towel drying hair, (patting rather than rubbing as before) and prep by massaging in a curl enhancer like Boucleme Curl Cream, £19. “Use your fingers to gently manipulate the shape of your hair whilst it is drying to encourage your curls. (You don’t need to scrunch/rub, just use your fingers to open up your hair),” says Reed. “Leave to dry naturally or use a diffuser on medium heat and air flow,” says Windle. “Too hot and too fast will ‘shock’ the hair and cause frizz,” he adds.

How to dry your hair for a relaxed wave?

An off duty look that still wouldn’t look out of place at the office, the relaxed wave is ultra versatile (and less complicated to achieve than it looks). “Whether you have straight hair or curly hair that you want to soften, the process is pretty much the same,” says Lyons. “For a matte finish use some VO5 Sea Salt Spray, £4 through damp hair (for a shine finish try TRESemmé Smooth and Shine Blowdry Mist, £5.49) then blast dry using a Paddle Brush to encourage a smooth finish. Once dry use a large barrelled tong or wand and wrap the mid lengths around it in large section for a loose wave. The more times the hair wraps around the barrel the more movement you will get,” says Lyons. So if you want a loose wave, wrap it round fewer times. “Without touching the curls, allow them to cool totally before loosening them out with a wide-tooth comb or fingers,” says Windle. This will give a more relaxed look. Want less heat? “If you prefer to air-dry, you could try braiding damp hair to create the perfect undone wave. Let your hair dry naturally, then undo the braids and tousle the hair,” says Reed.

Three top tips to getting the most out of your style

  1. “Blow dried and styled hair often looks better the day after,” says Windle. “To revive the hair the next morning, use a light texture spray, such as Windle’s Matte Texture Spray for a refreshed, lived in look and to see instant texture and body”. Frequent styling dries hair out, so it’s also important to use products that rehydrate and this contains spirulina to help seal in moisture.
  2. “If your hair is prone to frizz, opt for a cooler water temperature when washing and use styling tools that allow you to choose from a range of different heat options,” says Windle.
  3. “Sleeping at night can often cause friction on the hair which may lead to breakage,” Windle explains. “Sleeping with a silk scarf or pillow case can help. Or, tie hair in a loose bun (ideally using a scrunchie or similar so as not to tug or bend the hair).