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While there isn’t a scientific study to back up this claim, it’s fair to say that hairstylists have some sort of magic in their fingertips. One wave of a wand, er, brush and spritz of a product and clients leave the salon with smooth, bouncy styles. Most people can’t make trips to the hair salon or a blowout bar part of the everyday routine, so it’s worth it to get a grasp on some of the techniques these wizards, ahem, stylists, use in order to create our own luscious-looking locks. We spoke with Samantha Lombardi, a stylist at Salon Capri in Boston, to learn what makes for a fantastic blowout versus a blah one.
Know your hair texture
There are three factors that define your hair: the size of the individual strands, or the texture; the amount of hair you have, or the density; and the type, or how straight or curly your hair is. Defining your hair texture is the one that’s most essential to how you go about blow-drying your hair, Lombardi says.
Texture refers to the qualities of the individual strands of hair, not the curliness (or lack of) or how much of it you have. The three textures are fine, medium, and coarse. There isn’t a science to determining which kind you have, but there are a couple rules of thumb. If you place a single strand of hair on a table and can barely see it, you have fine hair. If you can see it well and feel the texture of it, like fishing line, it’s coarse. Anything in between is medium.
It’s possible to have fine hair, but have a lot of it—but all that density means in terms of blow-drying is that it might take a little longer. Also, the curliness of your hair can be a factor, if only because with curlier hair, you have to work on smaller sections at a time to get it all fully dry and less likely to frizz or curl back up.
If you’re unsure of your hair texture, try the techniques for medium hair (coming up) and modify from there, if need be.
Assemble your tools
While your hair texture dictates the styling products you select, everyone who wants to achieve a blowout at home needs a few good tools in their arsenal.
A best-tested hair dryer
We recommend the Bio Ionic GrapheneMX Professional Dryer, our Best Overall winner, which dries the hair quickly with its ultra-powerful airflow and leaves naturally curly hair ultra-smooth. For blowouts on a budget, the Revlon Infrared 1875W Hair Dryer, our Best Value winner, dries the hair well, too, but it takes longer.
A wet brush or comb for post-shower detangling
Hair is more delicate when wet, so you should use a specially designed brush or a wide tooth comb to detangle your locks while minimizing breakage. Lombardi says using a designated tool when the hair is wet is especially important for people with fine hair—it’s already more delicate. The Wet Brush Classic is a great choice for gently unsnarling all hair textures.
A round brush stylists swear by
When you begin to blow-dry, reach for a round brush. The Y.S Park G-Series Curl Shine Styler Round Brush is Lombardi’s must-have styling tool for every blowout. It’s made of a combination of boar bristles that distribute oils for sheen and heat-resistant polyamide pins that grip the hair to create enough hair-stretching tension for a straight, smooth result.
Clips for sectioning hair (optional)
If you have a lot of hair, curly hair, or hair of a coarser texture, you may benefit from clips that hold hair in sections so you can work with one area of your head at a time. The Xtava Styling Hair Clips hold the hair in place without leaving dents.
The most important rules for a great blowout
For all hair textures, Lombardi has one major tip: Pay special attention to the front of your hair. “I always tell my clients, ‘If you were to take your pointer fingers right to your temples and then go upward and almost make a triangle right up to the apex of your head, that section is the most important,’” Lombardi says. “If you can master that—with the right product for your hair and the hair dryer and brush—you can achieve an in-salon look at home.”
Also, you want to make sure your roots are completely dry before moving on to a new section of hair and before focusing on the ends. Any dampness near the scalp may cause hair to frizz, curl, or look oily.
Lastly, and this cannot be understated: You must use some sort of styling product that protects your hair from heat damage. Lombardi’s favorite for medium-textured hair is Kerastase L’incroyable Blow-Dry Reshapable Lotion, which tames frizz and provides thermal heat protection up to 450°F. But as long as you see the words “heat protection” on the label of your favorite product, your hair will be less vulnerable to blow-dryer damage.
The basic steps to blow-drying hair with salon results
This is Lombardi’s advice for medium textured hair, which you can do for any hair type, though you may not get the best results for fine or coarse hair (see advice for modifying your technique below).
Step 1: Blot out excess water with a towel, and detangle with the Wet Brush or a wide-tooth comb, which won’t tug or break strands.
Step 2: Apply a styling product that is appropriate for your hair texture, such as Kerastase L’incroyable Blow-Dry Reshapable Lotion.
Step 3: If you have a lot of hair, section it using clips for more accuracy. For medium hair, you may only need a few clips to section your hair into three wide layers, divided from top to bottom: The top section from your temples backward, a bottom section along your neck, and the middle section of what’s between. Coil long hair into loose mini-buns to get the ends out of the way while you work on the other sections.
Step 4: Begin drying the hair. Focus on getting the roots completely dry and smooth before moving through the ends of the hair. To do this, use your round brush to pull the roots taut and aim the dryer at the hair in the brush. If you’ve clipped your hair into sections, start with the back of the head and move forward, so the dry sections aren’t in the way as you move your way forward.
Step 5: Once your roots are dry and free of kinks or curls, work the round brush through the rest of the hair, pulling full strands taut and aiming the dryer at them. Repeat this all over the head until the hair is completely dry and styled to your liking.
Step 6: When the hair is completely dry, go in with any additional hot tools, like a flat iron to tame errant kinks or a curling iron to introduce volume or soft waves, or skip right to a finishing hair spray, like the one from Big Sexy Hair to lock in your look.
Blow-drying fine hair
The tricky part with fine hair is that it tends to fall flat, which means the technique you use to dry your hair—and the products—are vital to achieving lasting volume.
For a pre-blow-dry product, Lombardi suggests using something that gives the hair more body. “If you're someone with fine hair, you ultimately don't want your hair to ‘collapse,’ so you're looking for a lightweight product that's going to help build the hair up and not have it sink.”
The right heat-styling product for fine hair should be lightweight and volumizing, so choose a lotion or a mist over a cream or gel. Your product should contain natural oils or amino acids, which will smooth and protect hair from heat damage, but not silicones, which are heavy and can weigh it down.
Apply the product to wet hair by rubbing it on your hands or spraying it directly onto the hair and swiping your fingers through your strands from the roots down.
When you’re working with fine hair, use the brush to grip the roots of the hair and pull the brush in an upward motion so that you lift the roots toward the ceiling. Point and wave the hair dryer at the hair wrapped on the brush. This creates volume right from the scalp.
To prevent the hair from instantly falling flat as it dries, skip sectioning the hair. “If you confine it to one area within blow-drying, it’s just going to fall in that one area,” Lombardi says. Sweep the hair to one side with the hair dryer following behind and then sweep to the other side. Continue making these passes back and forth, keeping the hair in motion to add body and dry the whole head.
Shu Uemura Muroto Volume Hydrating Texture Mist, which volumizes the hair and enhances movement. Lombardi suggests using two to three spritzes of this and dispersing it throughout the hair using your hands.
Blow-drying coarse hair
As with fine hair, there are specific modifications folks with coarse hair should make for best results.
To achieve a straight, sleek blowout that nixes any frizz, it (again) begins with the right product. This time, Lombardi recommends applying a cream from mid-shaft to the ends of the hair. Look for ones that claim to have anti-frizz and heat-resistant ingredients.
After distributing the product, section the hair. “Smaller sections make for more accuracy,” Lombardi says. “You want to make sure those kinky, curly roots are getting smooth.” To do this, part the hair down the middle from forehead to neck, then clip each side of the head into three individual layered sections. Adjust based on how much hair you have; if you need even smaller amounts of hair, clip off more sections from there.
Lombardi recommends starting at the front of the head near the hairline and using your hands to pull any baby hairs and flyaways taut over your brush while aiming the hair dryer at them. The front of the hair is seen the most, so taming those front pieces is the most important part.
Once you’ve gone over the small front pieces, begin working on the individual sections. The roots are always important to focus on, but this is especially true for coarse hair. “For coarse hair, the roots really are the anchor to the whole blow-dry and if those aren't smooth and sleek, then the rest will not be,” Lombardi says. “It's a crazy challenge to go back in once the [rest of the] hair is dry and flat.”
To get the roots as straight as possible, Lombardi recommends continuing to use your hands and pulling the roots taut. Once they’re straight and completely dry, grab your brush and begin drying mid-shaft to end. Repeat this sequence for each section on the head.
Oribe Straight Away Smoothing Blowout Cream, which claims to “transform thick, curly hair into long-lasting, straight styles,” control frizz, and protect the hair from heat up to 450°F. Lombardi recommends applying this cream from mid-shaft to the ends of the hair.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.