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When the mercury’s rising, the last thing you want to do is blast your head with a bunch of hot air. Lucky for you, low-maintenance hair has never been (literally) cooler, with style-setters like Alexa Chung and Elizabeth Olsen rocking undone, carefree looks. Even luckier, we’ve got seven tips for air-drying success, so you’ll never end up with a bad hair day.
#1 Start With the Right Cut
If you’re going to air-dry your hair all summer, you’ve got to begin with a low-maintenance hairstyle. Trying to air-dry a fussy cut that usually requires a lot of styling is like hanging a silk, dry clean only dress out to dry on the line. You just can’t expect the same results that you normally get from your round brush and blowdryer or curling iron, so stick with a style that works naturally for your hair. And the next time you go in for a trim, be sure to ask your stylist for a wash-and-wear cut.
#2 Don’t Skip the Conditioner
The secret to perfectly air-dried hair starts in the shower: work in a healthy blob of conditioner to smooth the hair, and let it absorb for a few minutes. If you have fine hair and are concerned about limp locks, only apply the conditioner to the ends. On the contrary, if you have thick, coarse or curly hair, don’t be afraid to be heavy-handed with the conditioner near the roots to decrease fluffiness. While you’re still in the shower, detangle from roots to ends with a wide-toothed comb.
#3 Toweling Off is an Art Form
Resist the urge to vigorously rub your head with a towel to get all the water out, since this roughs up the cuticle, tangles hair and causes major frizz. Instead squeeze and blot hair with an ultra-absorbent microfiber towel (or even a soft, old T-shirt). Don’t twist your hair up in the towel turban-style for the same reason, especially if you want to maintain a natural wave or curl. Practice what curly girls call “plopping” by laying a towel on the ground, flipping your head upside down and plopping your hair on top of it, then roll up the ends of the towel and secure them at the nape of the neck. (There are tons of online videos that can show you how to do this.)
#4 Pick Your Product
Choose a product based on the air-drying results you want. If you have naturally straight hair and want to keep it smooth and silky, apply an anti-humidity serum for frizz control. If you want to emphasize curls, seal them with a lightweight curl cream or leave-in conditioner. If you want your hair to be beachy and textured, spritz in a texturizing spray. Avoid products that will give you that crunchy “wet” look and weigh hair down, like heavy gels and mousses.
Blowdryer, round brush, curling iron, flat iron…you can count all the heat-styling tools that air-drying will replace on one hand, because all you need for styling an air-dried look is your fingers. To prevent hair from lying flat, lift it away from the roots with your fingers in a zigzag motion to circulate air and help it dry faster. To define curls, use your fingers to twist hair into coils. For loose waves, twist damp hair away from the face into two Princess Leia-style buns and secure with bobby pins while you finish getting dressed and putting on your makeup. Unwrap them just before you leave the house and let them air-dry the rest of the way. For more texture, experiment with letting your hair air-dry in one, two or three braids — depending on the thickness of your hair. (You can also wash your hair at night and sleep in braids or buns to encourage even more texture.)
#6 Blowdry…Just a Little Bit
You don’t have to totally swear off your blowdryer. If you can stand the heat, blowdry just the roots for volume and faster drying, especially if you have very fine hair. If you have thick, curly hair that takes a long time to dry, give it a head start by blasting it with a blowdryer (with the diffuser attachment on, of course). If you have blunt bangs, blowdrying or flat ironing just the bangs will also help to make your air-dried look appear a little more polished.
#7 Go Outside
If you’re tired of waiting around for your hair to dry, harness the power of the sun to help speed things up. Time your washes with outdoor activities or give yourself an excuse to walk to the nearest coffee shop for an iced latte.