Margot Robbie’s hair stylist’s guide to the perfect air-dry

All hail Bryce Scarlett

Digital Beauty Editor / May 25 2022

Ah, the elusive air-dry; about as easy to pull off as a pair of leather pants, right? Well, not exactly – while we’ve all had lengthy love affairs with styling tools due to the fact that our air-dried hair never seems to hit the same, the last few years have seen us all learning to appreciate (and even prefer) a more natural aesthetic.

And yet while we see celebs/influencers/pals alike all over the ‘gram looking damn delightful with their naturally-dried texture, many of us still aren’t exactly sure how to master the art of an air-dry ourselves.

That’s where Bryce Scarlett (hair stylist to the stars and the man behind some of Margot Robbie and Brie Larson’s best beachy waves) can help. Here are his top tips for air-drying like a pro…

Why you should air-dry your hair

Besides the whole ‘less time/less effort’ factor, let’s not forget that the main point of air-drying is to not only give your poor hair a break from incessant heat application but also to give it time and space to do its natural thing. Even the stars are favouring a more undone finish these days…

“[Robbie and Larson] both have finer hair but they both air-dry really nicely – they get a nice amount of wave in their hair,” Scarlett explained via a recent Moroccanoil Zoom event. “[Larson] especially has grown out her hair over the last year or two and she is doing a lot of air-drying herself. She’s getting really good at it – her hair has a lot more wave and movement than it used to.”

Let Larson’s story serve as hope that yes, even if your texture has flattened out or faded away over the years, you can in fact work to revive it if you lay off the styling tools for a while. “If you’ve used heat for a really long time, your hair’s been kind of beaten down, so the longer you go without heat, the more you’re going to find your texture coming back to life,” Scarlett confirmed.


The best hair products for air-drying

Scarlett is a big supporter of prepping your hair with products that suit your hair type for a better air-dry. “For finer hair, you definitely want to try mousse or a curl gel, whereas with denser hair, [you’ll use] creams, oils and serums,” he noted, naming one standout favourite of his: “Moroccanoil Curl Mousse ($47.50 at Hairhouse) is a great lightweight curl product.”

Not sure exactly what will work for you? Trial (and yes, also some error) is the only way to figure it out. “Everyone’s hair texture is so different,” Scarlett explained. “It’s like your fingerprint, it’s so special to you. Everyone has different curl patterns and hair densities and curl shapes, and oftentimes you’ll even have a different hair texture at the back of your hair than you do in the front. You’ve got to be a bit patient with it.”

“Try a couple of things. Try a mousse; if you’re like 'with the mousse, my hair got really frizzy', then you probably have dense enough hair to use a more moisturising product like a curl cream, [or vice versa], if your hair is heavy and doesn’t have movement, try mousse.”

For the record, we happen to really rate Ouai's Hair Curl Crème ($49 at Sephora) for defining denser texture.

Scarlett advises using the same individualistic approach when it comes to touching vs. not touching your hair during the air-dry process. “You might find the more you scrunch your hair, the better it gets throughout the day, or the more you scrunch your hair, the more it’s falling flat and you’re better leaving it alone completely until it’s dry.”

“My biggest message is try something different; if something doesn’t work, there’s something else out there. Once you find what works for you, you’re rolling; you’ll get your routine down and it will become a lot more manageable.” Persistence is key, people!

MOROCCANOIL Curl Control Mousse

OUAI Hair Curl Crème

How to create volume when air-drying

Seeking volume in the roots but don’t think you can pull it off with an air-dry? Scarlett says you’ve actually got a better shot with that strategy than a heat-aided one.

“If you have really fine hair that is kind of limp, sometimes heat is bad. It actually warms the hair up in a way that it just falls even flatter. I would highly recommend trying a volumising mousse all over and scrunching hair as much as you can, and then just letting it dry undisturbed. [You’ll want to] scrunch a lot at the onset, at the beginning when your hair’s really wet – try getting in the roots and getting a lot of product in there. [That way], whatever shapes you’ve created with your hands, they can sit and dry in that form.”

How to extend an air-dry

So you’ve nailed your air-dry, but want to keep texture in tact without washing again the next day? Scarlett suggests letting it fly free during the night. “I would suggest sleeping with your hair not tied [up] because it’s looser and not pulling it in any way that’s going to flatten out your curls,” he shared. “I also recommend satin or silk pillowcases because cotton [tends to] pull moisture out of your hair.”

Don’t give up hope if you wake up unkempt, either. “No one’s going to bed with their perfect air-dry and waking up the next morning [thinking] “it looks exactly the same”. You often need a little bit of a reset – I’ll just use water a lot of the time. Get a spray bottle that has a really nice fine mist to it."

"If in the morning, [your hair is a bit] all over the place, you can just mist your hair and use the water to push down flyaways and encourage the curls to come back a little. You can also use hair products like leave-in conditioners that spritz. Once you add in moisture again, a couple drops of serum will also help you break down frizz and bring back movement.”

A few products we recommend? The Slip Queen Size Pillowcase ($95 at Sephora), Kevin Murphy Un Tangled Leave In Conditioner ($42.95 at Adore Beauty), and Sephora Collection Strengthening Hair Serum ($32 at Sephora).

SLIP Queen Size Pillowcase

KEVIN.MURPHY Un Tangled Leave In Conditioner

SEPHORA COLLECTION Strengthening Hair Serum

Scarlett also encourages you to not necessarily compare your own end result to the inspo pics you’re spying on Instagram: “I guarantee you every reference you’re finding and picture you love, they have hair extensions in. Like seven out of 10 times you see a celebrity, they’re wearing hair pieces.”

We’re here for this honesty; we’ll try to go easier on our air-dries from here on out – though, TBH, with these tips we feel pretty damn good about our chances of nailing the next one…

Main image credit: @brycescarlett

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