How To Achieve A Salon-Quality Blowout At Home: Hairstylists Spill Their Secrets
Jamie Schneider is the Beauty & Wellness Editor at mindbodygreen, covering beauty and wellness. She has a B.A. in Organizational Studies and English from the University of Michigan, and her work has appeared in Coveteur, The Chill Times, and Wyld Skincare.
Heat harms your hair—it's a hard truth, unfortunately, no matter how you slice it. We'd be the first to applaud the almighty air-dry, but telling you to ditch the hot tools forever would just be unrealistic. Sometimes you may want to coax your strands into a certain style (be it straight to curly or curly to straight) and revel in the feeling of a fresh, glossy blowout. That's perfectly fine!
If you are going to blow-dry your hair, though, you might as well be as kind to the strands as you can. Below, hairstylists explain how to achieve a salon-quality blowout at home—one that won't interfere too much with your natural texture.
What you'll need.
You can't achieve a professional-level result without a proper lineup:
- Moisturizing shampoo and conditioner. Say it with us: Proper hair care starts in the shower. And as hairstylist and founder of Hair Rules Anthony Dickey notes, keeping your hair naturally moisturized can help it look shiny and healthy post-blow-dry. "[Moisturizing, sulfate-free shampoos] give textures their own natural heat protectant, which is nothing more than moisture." Howard McLaren, hairstylist and co-founder of R+Co, agrees: "Choosing the correct shampoo and conditioner for you is the first step to a great blow-dry," he says.
- Heat protectant. Even though healthy, moisturized hair does function as a natural "heat protectant," you'll still want to spritz on some sort of product to function as a buffer for the intense temperatures that come with hot tools. Worthy of note: Usually heat protectants will come with a temperature ceiling that it'll protect your hair up to, so do make sure your hot tools are set to that number or below.
- Stylers. Think mousse, volumizing sprays, blowout creams, shine sprays, and more. The choice is yours, depending on your styling goals.
- Brush. The exact brush or comb may differ depending on your texture (you'll see later on), but generally, the pros advise against metal brushes if you can avoid them. "Some metal brushes are just overheating the hair," says McLaren. Better to find a wooden or ceramic brush (like this round brush or this paddle brush), as the materials diffuse heat and oils evenly throughout the strands.
- Blow-dryer. Of course, the main event. Tools come in all shapes and sizes, but for the sake of this tutorial, any blow-dryer you have will do—you might want to snag a concentrator nozzle, a comb attachment, or a diffuser head for extra precision, though. Again, it depends on the end result you're looking for.
How to blow-dry straight strands or loose waves:
Towel-dry or air-dry the hair.
To achieve a voluminous, bouncy blow-dry, Dickey says those with a looser curl structure should remove excess water from the hair before styling. Whether you gently tousle the strands with a towel, let them air-dry for a few minutes, or rough-dry them with your hair dryer, you'll want to "take 90% of the water out of the hair to achieve as much volume as possible," he says. As a general rule, the wetter your hair, the flatter it'll be after your blow-dry (so if a sleek, straight style is your goal, by all means).
Prep the hair.
No matter which stylers you choose (mousse, volumizing spray, what have you) you'll want to spritz on some sort of heat protectant before picking up your blow dryer. Some type of buffer is necessary to coat your strands and shield it from high heat.
Section the hair.
"I like starting with three sections—one on each side at each temple and one in the front," says Dickey. As for the back of the hair, he likes to add a fourth section at the crown and then maybe one or two extra in the back if needed.
The specific number of sections differs depending on how much hair you have, but if volume is your goal: Taking relatively larger sections of hair will offer more bounce, while smaller, concentrated sections will lay flatter.
Use a round brush.
On each section, roll a round brush from root to tip, following it with the blow-dryer. You can flick your wrist at different angles to play around with the style (hairstylist Franck Izquierdo, co-founder of IGK, says to roll the hair around the brush horizontally an inch away from the roots, then twist it vertically as you brush down to encourage a soft wave pattern), but always hold the dryer at a downward, parallel angle to avoid blowing up the cuticles, "which can leave the hair looking frizzy," says Izquierdo.
After you blow-dry each section, you can even pin the hair up in rollers to really encourage the curl, or simply wait for the strands to completely cool before you unwind the round brush.
Pull up at the crown.
If you're looking for extra lift, perhaps pull the hair straight up as you blow-dry the crown for even more volume. It's not completely necessary—you can always smooth down the roots and focus on buoyant lengths—but a great tip if you're looking for that oomph.
How to blow-dry curls and coils:
Start when the hair is wet.
Unlike straighter textures, Dickey recommends beginning your blow-dry when the hair is pretty damp. The longer you let the hair air-dry, the more your natural hair texture will start to make its appearance, and the harder it will be to blow-dry the strands smooth if achieving a sleek style is your goal. (Note: This is a different method from if you're trying to use a diffuser, which we'll get into later.) "Once curly or kinkier textures start to dry up, it becomes more difficult to straighten them with heat," Dickey adds.
Prep the hair.
Since curly hair types tend to have lots of volume already, you might want to grab stylers that offer moisture and frizz control as opposed to lift. A good heat protectant is also crucial—curls are more delicate and prone to dryness, so you'll want to protect the strands as best you can.
On that note, you'll also want to properly detangle your hair before blow-drying. Again, your spirals are fragile and breakage-prone, so you don't want to put any unnecessary tension on the hair while you style—hacking through a knot while blasting it with heat is a recipe for broken strands.
Section the hair.
Again, the number of sections will differ depending on how much hair you have—you can start with one at each temple, one in the front, one at the crown, and perhaps two or three in the back, separating them into more sections if needed. "Take as much hair as you can handle at one time," Dickey notes.
Use a paddle brush or comb attachment.
"The safest and most effective way to straighten kinky or curlier textures is with a blow dryer with a comb attachment," Dickey says. "The constant motion of detangling and running the blow-dryer from roots to ends will gently and more consistently straighten the hair with an even amount of heat." Not to mention, it's less work for those of us who aren't too savvy with our nondominant hand.
If you don't have a tool with a comb attachment, though, don't fret: Dickey says using a paddle brush and a blow-dryer with a concentrator nozzle yields the same results.
A final note: If you find your sections of hair too dry as you move along, Aaron Grenia hairstylist and co-founder of IGK, mentions that you can always spritz them with product or water to re-moisten. "As the hair is drying, re-spray the sections of hair and blow-dry again," he says.
Or use a diffuser.
We, of course, cannot discuss blow-drying curls without a diffuser moment. This blow-dryer attachment is top-notch for gently drying textured hair without disrupting the curl pattern, as it slowly and steadily distributes the airflow—not to mention, it provides some killer volume. You might hold the nozzle differently depending on your hair length (see here for a step-by-step guide), but generally, experts recommend diffusing until the hair is about 80% dry.
More blow-dry tips.
While techniques may vary depending on your hair texture, there are a few universal tips to keep in mind as you take a blow-dryer to the strands:
- Hold the blow-dryer at least 1 inch from the hair: "I never put the dryer directly on the hair shaft," says celebrity hairstylist Kim Kimble, founder of her namesake line of hot tools and hair care products. "I always keep it at least an inch away." The farther away you hold the hair-dryer, the less heat will blast open the cuticles (and, thus, less heat damage). That said, you never want to hold the nozzle directly on the strands themselves.
- Take advantage of the cool setting: After you dry each section of hair, a shot of cool air can help seal down the cuticle—which means more hold, less frizz. As Izquierdo notes, "Using the cool setting helps to lock in your style, or you can simply hold the hair in the brush and wait for hair to feel cool to the touch before running your fingers through it."
- Finish with a bit of product: After you dry, feel free to warm up some lightweight hair serum or hair oil between your palms and massage it into the ends. You can use a shine spray at the roots to smooth down flyaways as well, "but not too much!" Kimble warns.
Blow-drying your own hair takes a little more skill than simply pointing the nozzle at your strands—plus, you'll want to do so in a way that minimizes heat damage and protects your hair's integrity. Follow these expert tips based on hair type, and you'll sport a next-level 'do that rivals the salon.
Jamie Schneider is the Beauty & Wellness Editor at mindbodygreen. She has a B.A. in Organizational Studies and English from the University of Michigan, and her work has appeared in Coveteur, The Chill Times, and Wyld Skincare. In her role at mbg, she reports on everything from the top beauty industry trends, to the gut-skin connection and the microbiome, to the latest expert makeup hacks. She currently lives in New York City.