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Learning how to dry curly hair properly can mean the difference between limp curls and flawless ringlets. Here are six hair-drying methods to consider.

How To Dry Curly Hair: 6 Techniques You Need To Know About

Learning how to dry curly hair properly can mean the difference between limp curls and flawless ringlets. Here are six hair-drying methods to consider.
How To Dry Curly Hair: 6 Techniques You Need To Know About

If twisting your curls into a towel on top of your head has been your go-to hair-drying method since middle school, it’s time to upgrade your haircare routine. Learning how to dry curly hair the right way can significantly impact how your ringlets look and feel. And, you may be surprised to learn that not every technique suits every curl: Figuring out the proper hair-drying technique will depend on your hair density, the tools at your disposal, and your desired look.

Ahead, we’re breaking down six of the most common hair-drying approaches for curly hair, along with their pros and cons. Keep scrolling for easy how-tos and the best professional haircare products to accompany them.

What's the Best Way To Dry Curly Hair?

The best way to dry curly hair ultimately depends on your hair type, thickness, and styling habits. If you have coarse hair that takes a long time to dry, consider using hot tools to speed up the process. Those with finer strands, by comparison, may prefer gentler approaches like air drying or plopping. The proper technique will make your curls look and feel their best, but finding the right hair-drying routine may take some trial and error.

Good hair day by @lexxy_hermosa

How To Air Dry Curly Hair

Air drying is one of the most popular hair-drying techniques, regardless of hair type: It’s easy to do, requires no tools, and eliminates the risk of heat damage. However, there can be setbacks. Air drying means walking around with wet hair for at least some of the drying process and can yield unpredictable results. You might find that some days, your air-dried curly hair looks fantastic, while others, you’re left with a frizzy and undefined mess. The good news, however, is that you can avoid this issue with a good air-drying routine.

Here’s how to air-dry curly hair in four simple steps for nearly perfect-looking curls every time.

Step 1: Apply styling products in the shower

Setting your shape in the shower is the key to achieving defined air-dried curls. We recommend applying your styling product (we love Biolage Professional Curl Defining Elixir) to wet hair, which helps dilute the product a bit so your hair doesn’t dry stiff or crunchy.

Step 2: Gently squeeze out excess water

Once you saturate your curls with styling product, gently squeeze out excess water with your hands. Do your best to maintain your curl pattern, or else your curls may appear less defined.

Step 3: Clip for volume

When you air-dry your curls, they tend to lay flat against your head, making it nearly impossible for your style to have any volume. If you want to ensure your final look has some height, use double-pronged clips to clip up sections of your hair at the root.

Step 4: Practice patience

Air-drying curly hair may seem easy, but it does require patience. Depending on the thickness and density of your hair, air drying can take anywhere from 30 minutes to several hours. If you’re wondering how to air-dry curly hair without frizz, the secret is to avoid touching your hair until it’s completely dry.

Good hair day by @stylistemilyann

How To Dry Curly Hair With a Diffuser

If you want to learn how to blow dry curly hair without destroying your curl pattern, add a diffuser attachment to your arsenal. Diffusers help evenly distribute heat onto your hair, which can help minimize heat damage. They also feature spiky nozzles that help separate your curls as they dry for a defined, frizz-free finish.

Keep in mind that while diffuser attachments help to disperse the air and, therefore, the intensity of the heat, they don’t completely eliminate the possibility of heat damage.

Our four-step diffuser routine will help your hair look and feel healthy and voluminous.

Step 1: Prep your hair with heat protectant

No matter what final look you hope to achieve, you should always use a heat protectant when you style your hair with hot tools. A leave-in conditioner that doubles as a heat protectant, like Mizani 25 Miracle Milk, is a great way to streamline your routine.

Step 2: Choose the right temperature

We recommend beginning with a low or medium-heat setting when learning how to dry curly hair. Be sure to stay within the level of temperature protection indicated in your heat protectant product.

Step 3: Start diffusing

Place the ends of your hair onto the diffuser attachment and scrunch it up towards your scalp as you dry to help add bounce to your curls. If you’re hoping for a finished style with lots of volume, flip your head and diffuse your hair upside down to help your roots lift off your scalp. When you flip your head back over, you'll be left with extra fullness and body.

Step 4: Cool shot for shine

Once your hair is dry, switch your blow dryer to the cool setting and give your mane a once-over with the chilled air for extra shine.

Good hair day by @beyoutifulccc

How To Plop Curly Hair

​​Plopping is an excellent method for people who want to avoid using heat on their curls but aren't exactly thrilled about walking around with soaking-wet hair. You only need a soft T-shirt and freshly washed hair for this trick. After applying your styling product of choice to damp hair (we love the combination of Matrix A Curl Can Dream Moisturizing Cream and Light Hold Gel), it’s time to plop.

Here’s how to dry curly hair with our quick and easy plopping routine.

Step 1: Lay the T-shirt on a flat surface

Place the T-shirt on the edge of a flat surface, like a bed, with the collar and sleeves facing you.

Step 2: Gather your curls

Flip your head upside down and place the end of your curls in the center of the shirt. Gently lower your head until all your hair is gathered in the center of the shirt.

Step 3: Secure the T-shirt

Fold the bottom of the T-shirt over your hair and ensure the fabric covers your entire mane. Then, fold the sleeves over and tie them near the nape of your neck to secure it.

Step 4: Allow hair to dry

This step is a bit of a choose-your-own-adventure. Some people plop until their curls are completely dry. In contrast, others only dry their hair part of the way and finish with another method, such as air drying or diffusing. Even though plopping overnight has gained popularity, we don’t recommend sleeping with wet hair.

How To Dry Curly Hair With a Bonnet Dryer

Diffusing is a great way to dry your curls, but sometimes, holding your arms up for that long can get seriously exhausting. Invest in a bonnet dryer if you want to learn how to dry curly hair without a diffuser.

Hard bonnet dryers, like those found in the salon, can be purchased in standing and tabletop versions for personal use. These powerful tools have a rigid, plastic hood that fits over your head like a helmet. They are a hands-free way to help dry your curly hair but can take up quite a bit of space.

Soft bonnet dryers, on the other hand, are like portable versions of hard bonnets. They’re made of flexible, waterproof material and feature a “hose” that attaches to the mouth of your blow dryer to direct airflow in. These compact bonnets give you the salon experience in the comfort of your own home.

Here’s how to dry curly hair with a soft bonnet dryer in four simple steps.

Step 1: Prep your hair with heat protectant

Like any heat styling method, you’ll want to shield your hair against potential damage. We love lightweight styling products that also give us heat protection, like L’Oréal Professionnel Curl Expressions 10-in-1 Mousse-in-Cream. The formula provides weightless, long-lasting hydration and guards against temperatures of up to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.

Step 2: Secure your bonnet

Place the bonnet over your head, taking care to ensure that every strand gets tucked inside. Secure the bonnet in place with the adjustable tie or elastic band to keep it from blowing off your head.

Step 3: Attach your blow dryer

Fit the nozzle of your blow dryer into the soft bonnet’s hose attachment and turn on your dryer. You should feel heat gently circulating around your hair and scalp. We suggest starting at the lowest setting and working your way up until you find the most comfortable temperature.

Step 4: Set a timer

The length of time it takes to dry your hair will depend on many things, including your hair density and chosen temperature setting. Finding the setting and timing that works for you may take a few tries. But once you know, you can set your timer and escape into your favorite TV show until your hair is completely dry.

Good hair day by @kensthetic_

How To Stretch-Dry Curly Hair

Every curly girl knows the blessing and the curse that is hair shrinkage. In the short time it takes your hair to dry, your curls can shrivel from the middle of your back up to the nape of your neck.

While shrinkage makes every curly girl somewhat of a mane magician, sometimes it’s nice to style your hair at its actual length. You may have mastered how to dry curly hair, but you can give your already-dried locks some extra length by adding this stretching technique to your haircare repertoire.

There are several ways to accomplish this, but the most common way to stretch your curls while maintaining some of your curl pattern is by creating two-strand twists.

Step 1: Part hair in sections

Part your hair into several manageable sections. The smaller your sections, the tighter your twists will be, and you’ll achieve even more stretch.

Step 2: Prep and twist

Working with one section at a time, prep hair with Mizani True Textures Twist and Coil Jelly. Split the section in half, and twist each half around each other until you reach the end of the section. Secure each twist with a small hair elastic.

Step 3: Dry and unravel

Once your twists are completely dry, apply hair oil to your hands like Kérastase L'Huile Original Hair Oil for added shine and manageability as you unravel your hair. Then, gently separate each twist as you fluff them out with your fingers.

Good hair day by @texturecurlbar

How To Dry Curly Hair With a Microfiber Towel

If you love the convenience of twisting your hair in a towel but want to avoid the havoc bath towels can wreak on your hair, consider a microfiber towel. Bath towels are heavy when soaking wet, and the weight of the towel can put unnecessary stress on your strands. Plus, traditional towels are typically coarser and can create friction that leads to hair damage or breakage.

Microfiber towels are much lighter in comparison, so you don’t have to worry about them weighing down your locks. They’re also softer and less likely to disturb your curl pattern and cause frizz.

There are two straightforward ways to incorporate a microfiber towel into any of the above hair-drying routines.

Option 1: Gently remove excess water

Before or after applying your favorite curly hair styling product (Kérastase Gelée Curl Contour Gel-Cream never disappoints), use a microfiber towel to squeeze water out of your strands gently.

Option 2: Towel twist

You don’t have to ditch your towel twist method totally. Upgrade your bath towel to a luxurious microfiber twist turban like the DevaTwist.

How To Dry Curly Hair: The Bottom Line

Much like the products you use and the haircuts and styles you love, the proper curly hair-drying technique for your mane will be specific to you. Your hair may love air drying in the summer but thrives when you use a diffuser in the winter. That’s the beauty of haircare—it’s constantly evolving.

No matter what techniques you settle on, keep your hair in tip-top shape with regular appointments to the salon. Use our salon locator to book an appointment with a pro in your area.

Next Up: What Is 3A Hair and How Do You Care For It? We Asked the Pros

Header photo credits: @devacurl and @mo__beautii

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