If you’ve scrolled TikTok recently, then you’ve probably seen the debate about air drying hair versus blow drying hair taking over the platform. That’s because different creators are weighing in on the age-old question: Is blow drying hair bad? But you can’t really get into the nuances of hair and scalp health in a short TikTok video. That’s why we tapped hairstylists and a trichologist for the pros and cons of blow drying your hair, plus how to do it with minimal damage.
Is blow drying hair bad?
The answer to this question is complicated since most of the issues that arise are due to how you use a blow dryer versus the blow dryer itself. “Blow drying [itself] doesn’t hurt your hair,” says Laura Polko, celebrity stylist and Conair ambassador. “Rather, it’s the incorrect use of tools and products that causes damage. It’s key to know how to blow dry your hair properly so damage doesn’t arise.” Here are some pros and cons:
1. Pro: It speeds up getting ready time
An efficient blow drying routine can potentially cut time from your getting-ready process, especially if you have a lot of hair that takes a long time to air dry. And even more so if you learn how to keep hair straight overnight or how to make curls last longer post-blow drying.
2. Pro: It adds shine and volume to hair + tames frizz
“Blow drying gives that shiny, sealed-in bounce and life you’re looking for, and your style tends to last a lot longer,” says Polko. The process also fights frizz, can give you a little more control over your look and delivers extra body for a smoother, more youthful appearance. “Blow drying not only saves time when you’re in a pinch but can drastically improve the appearance of hair by adding style and volume as well as reducing frizz,” adds Polko.
3. Pro: It prevents the need to use a flat iron
According to Sophie Gutterman, a celebrity stylist who consults with EDRÉE hair styling tools and All About Curls, properly blow drying curly or wavy hair to achieve a straight look can also expose it to less heat than a flat iron. So sometimes blow drying can actually be the gentler option, depending on your hair type and texture.
4. Con: It can damage hair
“One of the disadvantages of blow drying your hair is heat damage, which can lead to breakage and dryness,” says Polko. “However, heat damage is only a result of incorrectly blow drying your hair or blow drying too frequently.” Gutterman agrees. ”If you’re using the blow dryer everyday with the wrong settings or products, this can completely damage the hair, especially if you have done a chemical service, have curly hair or are on medication that causes weakness to the hair.”
5. Con: It can burn the scalp
User error can also unintentionally cause scalp burns, says Polko, which is something you can avoid by not using a super-high heat setting and not focusing your dryer on a single spot for a prolonged period of time.
6. Con: It can take practice to perfect a drying technique
Though blow drying the hair can ultimately make it dry faster and potentially look more polished (depending on your desired style), it is an active styling process with more of a learning curve (and the potential to tire out your arms) versus air drying.
How to blow drying hair and minimize the damage
The key to minimizing heat damage caused by blow drying comes down to a few best practices and techniques. Read on for just that below!
1. Take stock of the hair dryer you’re using
First, you’ll want to consider your blow dryer and its heat settings. Of course, the hotter the air, the faster hair will dry, but as Gutterman points out, high heat is not the best thing for healthy locks.
“If you have coarse, textured hair, you can have the air a little hotter, but the majority of people should keep the setting at medium,” says Gutterman. “You most likely don’t need it any higher because chances are you’re not prone to frizz. And if you’re just wanting to dry your hair and don’t plan on round brushing, you can even get away with low heat.”
In the market for a new hair dryer? Polko recommends InfinitiPRO by Conair DigitalAIRE Hair Dryer (Buy from Amazon, $110.99), which is powerful but gentle. Its maximum temperature is 205°Fahrenheit, well under the 300° Fahrenheit threshold where extreme heat damage starts to occur.
2. Use the right type of brush for your hair
If you’re looking to dry and straighten your locks, use a brush that’s suited for your hair type to aid in the process. Round brushes are great for putting in some bend and bounce, says Gutterman, but coarser hair types might want a flat paddle design for best results. And those prone to frizz should look for ceramic brushes.
3. Analyze your hair’s current state
Heat damage can be cumulative over time, so Polko suggests blow drying hair no more than 2-3 times a week for optimal hair health.
The only exception to this rule? Hair that’s already severely damaged. “If your hair has really gone through it and needs a break, I would minimize blow drying or using any heat on your hair,” says Polko.
Gutterman adds to“be mindful of the current condition of your hair and pay attention to your heat settings to prevent damage.” And Bridgette Hill, a certified trichologist who consults for René Furterer agrees. “The quality and shine of the hair will determine when the hair needs a break,” says Hill. So if your hair is looking dull or broken, it’s time to ease up on the blow drying.
3 steps to a damage-free blowout
Step 1: Start with damp hair and use a heat protectant
You’ll want to make sure your hair is damp — not soaking — when you start blow drying. When hair is very wet, it expands, and blowing hot air on it in this state can cause it to rapidly contract, which creates damage. “You can remove excess water by using a microfiber towel,” says Polko. And blotting is better than rubbing to prevent breakage while towel drying. Also, consider air drying hair first for a little bit if desired as this will make sure your mane isn’t vulnerable.
Additionally, it’s imperative to use a heat protectant prior to blow drying hair. Polko likes John Frieda Frizz Ease Daily Nourishment Leave-In Conditioner (Buy from Amazon, $8.49) since “it has a heat protectant component, leaving hair soft and manageable straight out of the shower.” Another heat protectant to try is Rene Furterer Thermal Protecting Spray & Blowout Balm (Buy from Rene Furterer, $36), which fights frizz with its ultra-moisturizing jojoba extract and vitamin B5 blend.
Step 2: Divide hair into sections
To make the blow drying process as efficient as possible, Polko recommends parting your hair into sections and clipping each back so you can tackle one area at a time.
Step 3: Get to blow drying
Keep one section down and begin by holding the blow dryer about six inches away from hair and direct the airflow on a section to dry it. If you have curly or wavy hair, use a diffuser attachment so you don’t disrupt your natural hair pattern. Gutterman suggests starting at the root of the hair and blowing the moisture toward the ends as opposed to starting at the bottom. “This will make sure you don’t have to dry the section longer than you need to,” she says.
“Making sure you’re directing the air in the same direction hair is going to lay is so important because that will keep the cuticle smooth and shiny,” says Gutterman. And she adds that “making sure you’re moving the dryer in fluid movements to avoid too much heat in one area is also important.” Once one section is dry, take down another section and repeat these steps until all of hair is fully dry.
For an in-depth hair drying tutorial, watch the below video from hairstylist and YouTuber Brad Mondo.
Woman’s World aims to feature only the best products and services. We update when possible, but deals expire and prices can change. If you buy something via one of our links, we may earn a commission. Questions? Reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more hair-health secrets, click through these stories: