Ah, the humble blow-drying session. It’s just one of those things you do all the time, but know there’s a good chance you’re doing it wrong since you’re constantly battling with damaged hair and fly-aways.
At least you’ve recognised there may be a problem – that’s the first step!
As for what we are actually doing wrong? We talked to Rodney Sinclair, a hair science expert and Professor of Dermatology at the University of Melbourne, for his tips on how to avoid damaging your hair when blow-drying and the best hairdryer we all need in our kit.
Here’s what you’re doing wrong.
Mistake #1: Putting the hairdryer on the hottest setting
We get it, washing and blow-drying your hair in the morning is a TASK. Especially if you need to be out the door 10 minutes ago. This is about the time when you crank up the hairdyer to the highest setting and just go for gold. The good news? You’ll get out the door faster. The bad news? You’re frying your hair.
“There are two components to the hair: the cuticle (the outer layer) and the cortex (the inner core and structural integrity),” Sinclair explains. “So when you look at the different qualities of the hair, if you damage the cortex you’re going to get breakage and you’re going to get loss of elasticity – so loss of bounce – and the hair will actually be a little bit lifeless. If you damage the cuticle, which is the outer layer, you’ll effect [its] shine and you’ll also effect the electrostatic force, meaning you’ll get a lot of fly-away hairs.”
According to Sinclair, the temperature at which you damage these layers can differ. You can start to damage the cuticle at temperatures of about 100°C and once you get above 150°C, you’ll start to cause irreversible damage to the cortex. While the cuticle has some regenerative capacity, you can’t repair the cortex. “Once it’s damaged it’s just going to snap off and you get breakage,” says Sinclair.
“If the hairdryer is not regulated then you’re going to be overheating the hair. A lot of hairdryers will be getting up to 200°C -230°C, so they’re going to dry your hair quickly but you’re going to be causing irreversible damage,” explains Sinclair.
The solution? Sinclair recommends using the Dyson Supersonic Hair Dryer, which has a regulated temperature system. “The Dyson features a maximum heat function and is limited to 150°C. This means that you’re going to minimise the damage to your hair.”
“With washing, when you put it out on the line it’ll actually dry better on a warm windy day than it will on a hot, still day. You’ve got two tools that you can use to dry your washing or dry your hair - and that is wind and heat. With the Dyson, the airpower is so much greater than the conventional hairdryers - it can actually up the wind and lower the heat.” Read: a speedy blow-dry minus the damaging high heat.
We should note – this is NOT a sponsored ad for Dyson. Sinclair genuinely loves and recommended the Dyson hairdryer. And he’s not alone – these hair experts also sang its praise when we asked them to reveal the top hair products and tools they swear by.
Mistake #2: Holding the hairdryer too close to your scalp
Holding your hairdryer inches away from your hair? Unless you want to cause breakage and burn your scalp, just chill and back up that hairdryer, girl.
“A lot of people are actually putting the hairdryer very close to the hair to really accelerate the drying,” says Sinclair. “However, if the hairdryer is not regulated, then you’re going to be overheating the hair.”
Placing the dryer too close for too long can literally fry your hair and cause burning to your scalp, potentially resulting in permanent damage to the hair follicles. Sinclair uses this cooking analogy to explain: “The whole concept of cooking is that you’re de-naturing proteins, altering their structure and altering their properties. When you cook meat you can’t un-cook it - the same goes for your hair.”
As a general rule of thumb, hold the hairdryer at least 15cm away to avoid damaging your hair , and point the nozzle of your hairdryer down diagonally so the cuticles lies flat and smooth (this will prevent frizziness!).
As for protecting your scalp, “Every hairdryer should have a little cooling button on it so that when you get close to the scalp you can cool it so you don’t burn the skin,” says Sinclair.
Mistake #3: Brushing your hair while it’s still wet
Do you comb your hair while you’re blow-drying? If you do, you’re going to want to make sure that you’re not pulling your hair too much because when it’s wet, it’s at its most vulnerable. Sinclair says getting the timing right when combing your hair is actually a pretty big deal.
“Wet hair will actually stretch about 20 per cent quite comfortably when you comb it. Hair can spring back from a stretch of about 40 per cent. If you stretch past 60 per cent, it’s gone past its elastic limit and it’s going to snap,” he explains.
“If you grab a hair and stretch it, you can stretch it to certain point and it’ll recover. However, if you stretch it too much, it will just crinkle up like a spring. Everything has an elastic limit. If your hair is wet when you’re combing it, it stretches [more] and you can easily take it past its elastic limit, so it’s better to comb your hair when it’s dry.”
Struggling with some serious frizz? Check out the anti-frizz product Kim Kardashian swears by (bonus: it’s quick and easy to use!).
What are your go-to tricks for nailing an at-home blow-dry? Let us know in the comment section below.
Main image credit: Getty
Erin Docherty is a Beauty Writer for BEAUTYcrew. She has a keen interest in cosmeceutical skin care and is currently working on minimising her 9-step skin care routine – because ain’t nobody got time for that. When she’s not writing about the latest beauty news, or applying copious amounts of serum, you can find her spending all her money in Sephora.