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Curly Hair Q: Should You Air-Dry or Diffuse?

Feb 8, 2023

After completing a special washing and styling method (see “Embrace Wash Day”) with a shampoo and conditioner formulated without silicones, those with curly and coily hair face a fork in their haircare routine: Let their hair air-dry or use a diffuser? The choice between air-drying and diffusing ultimately comes down to how much time you have and the kind of look you want from your curls. The best way to make your decision is by being well informed, so we’re breaking down our pros and cons of each as well as how to incorporate our new Textures & Curls vegan formula* hair products.

The How-To’s of Air-Drying

Air-drying is exactly what it sounds like: skipping the blow-dryer and letting your hair dry on its own at room temperature. But there is some technique behind it, since wet hair of all types is extremely fragile. After using the Textures & Curls Begin Again™ Curl Cleanser and Conditioner, you’ll want to gently comb out any tangles with your fingers or a wide-tooth comb while your hair is still wet. Naturally curly hair can be prone to frizz relatively quickly, so work in a product like My Way Curl Defining Gel™ right away; to use, emulsify in your palms and apply to hair in sections so it’s evenly distributed. Then you have the option to scrunch and/or wrap your hair with a microfiber towel, old T-shirt, or other super-soft and absorbent fabric so as not to rough up the curl. Interested in fighting frizz while lengthening curls? Smooth Textures & Curls Loosen Up ™ Curl Elongator onto curls in a downward motion. And then you can let the air-dry magic begin—just try not to touch or otherwise fuss with your hair as it dries.

The Pros and Cons of Air Drying

Not having to use any hot tools (or needing an electrical outlet) is a major perk of the air-drying method for all curl types. When you’re traveling or getting ready at someone else’s house—or it’s really, really hot outside—this will come in handy. And, of course, the natural-looking curls this method achieves will make you fall in love with your hair all over again.

Air-drying likely won’t net you crazy amounts of volume, since it’ll be drying pretty much how it naturally rests on your head. (Hey, maybe you’re not going for that look, anyway!) But the most important thing to remember is that the longer your hair is wet, the better the chances that something will scuff up the cuticle and cause breakage. Most curly hair is porous, so it’ll take longer to air-dry than those with straight hair.

**free from animal derived ingredients

The How-To’s of Diffusing

While you will be physically holding a blow-dryer in your hand, diffusing is not the same as blow-drying. Diffusing uses an attachment that kind of resembles a showerhead to evenly disperse the air coming out of the dryer. Diffusers have been known to help reduce frizz and preserve your natural wave pattern- but the trying time will be faster than air-drying.

Wash and condition with Textures & Curls Begin Again™ Curl Cleanser and Conditioner, then gently detangle wet hair and apply a curl defining product with flexible hold, like My Way Curl Defining Gel™ (it has humidity resistance for up to 72 hours!). When your hair is partially dry, flip your head upside down and cup your curls in the bowl of the diffuser. Then turn the dryer on the lowest setting and keep it hovered above your hair as you massage in slow, circular motions.

Be careful not to get your curls tangled in the diffuser’s prongs—the slower you massage, the less likely this will happen. If you have thicker hair, you can try using an attachment with longer prongs to help reach through your curls to dry your roots.

Our Pros and Cons of Diffusing

Because diffusers use low heat to encourage volume, texture, and your natural curl pattern—your hair can end up looking like an enhanced version of its natural curl pattern. Because you are cupping it upward and setting it with (low) heat, your hair can dry in a way that adds volume at the roots, especially if it’s on the finer side. Diffusing also grants you more control over the finished product, as you can see how your curls are forming in real time.

The drawbacks to diffusing include cost of the tool or attachment (high-quality options can run in the hundreds), the physical exertion of using it, and the obligatory use of heat. Still, diffusing doesn’t come close to the potential damage caused by blowouts, curling irons, and flatirons, but it still exposes your delicate strands to lower levels of heat.

The Bottom Line

In the air-drying versus diffusing face-off, both sides are winners for curly hair because they’re easy to learn, and can deliver incredible results—especially if you start with a shampoo and conditioner formulated without silicones. Our recommendation: Experiment with both of these curly hair rituals as well as Alterna® Texture & Curls products to see which combination your hair responds to best, and when in doubt – ask your hairdresser!

*free from animal derived ingredients


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