Picture of a hairdryer being held against a pink background

Mar 18, 2024

How blow drying can be bad for your hair (+ what to do instead)

Disclaimer—it’s not that bad, if you do it right


Nothing feels better than leaving the salon with soft, luscious hair draping down your shoulders. Yet, attempting to replicate that salon-fresh allure at home often leaves us with tangled knots, frizz, and a desperate desire to master the art of blow-drying. 


As we debunk this big question, we're looking into the intricacies of blow drying—unveiling truths, dispelling myths, and offering a roadmap to a healthier hair care routine for you. From common mistakes to tailoring your blow-dry to your unique hair texture, we’re here to transform your at-home blow-dry experience.


When it comes to hair, you're either blessed with silky locks that practically style themselves or stuck with a mane more high maintenance than Paris Hilton's social calendar. Whichever category you fall into, fear not—there's a perfect hair care routine waiting for you.


Picture of hair being blow dried with a round brush head


Myths or truths—is blow drying hair bad?


The trusty blow dryer, a love-it-or-hate-it relationship. If you fall into the latter category, fear not. It's not that you can't achieve that salon-quality blowout—perhaps, you just haven't nailed down the routine yet. In the quest for those soft, luscious locks, the blow-dry dilemma is a riddle many strive to solve.


Hair care myths are in abundance, especially when it comes to the impact of blow drying. Is it really as damaging as some claim? For one of life’s greatest questions (when it comes to hair, anyway) we’re separating fact from fiction, unraveling the truths and myths surrounding the potential harm blow drying may inflict on your hair—all to answer the the burning question (pun intended): Is blow drying really as damaging as the rumors suggest?


Some claim that any amount of heat, be it from a blow dryer, curling wand, spiralizer, or anything we can get our hands on is a one-way ticket to hair disaster. But it’s not the 90s and those tools from the bygone eras that were renowned for blasting your ends to the abyss are way in the past. 


Today, the narrative goes—daily heat exposure leads to the dreaded duo of split ends and dry, brittle strands that are just waiting to break off at the slightest breeze. Let’s take a look at the anatomy of your hair strands to truly comprehend the implications of this thermal dilemma.


Cuticle: Imagine the cuticle as the protective outer shield of the hair fiber. It resembles a delicate mosaic of scales, intricately designed and tightly aligned in straight hair types while adopting a more loosely arranged pattern when it comes to curly hair.


Cortex: Looking deeper, you’ll find the cortex—the heart of the hair fiber. Here, essential keratin proteins and structural lipids reside, forming the backbone of strength and flexibility that defines your locks.


Medulla: Look right into the center of the hair strand and there lies the medulla. Where cells are loosely packed in an organized yet disorganized way. This feature takes center stage, predominantly present in coarse hair types.


Cell Membrane Complex (CMC): Now, envision the CMC as the glue that holds everything together. This complex structure manifests in three distinct varieties—cuticle-cuticle, cuticle-cortex, and cortex-cortex. Each of them plays a crucial role in maintaining the integrity of your hair.


Now the science is out of the way, let’s break that down. Prolonged exposure to heat acts as a catalyst for the formation of tiny bubbles within the hair shaft, disrupting the harmonious alignment of the cuticle and breaking apart crucial protein bonds. This process weakens the strands, rendering them more susceptible to the pitfalls of dryness and brittleness. 


In simpler terms, the aftermath includes the notorious trio of frizz, tangles, and, of course, breakage—but that’s not to say blow drying is a faux pas either… 


Picture of a lady with a towel on her head after a shower whilst it is drying



Which is better—air drying or blow drying?


There are two types of people in this world. The sacred blow dryers and the ones that shove their hair in a messy bun and hope for the best. The truth is neither is better than the other (don’t shoot the messenger).


Chances are you’ve sat there wondering ‘Is air drying the gentler option’, or ‘Can blow drying be done right without causing harm?’ Let’s discover the benefits and drawbacks of each method and find the right balance that aligns with your lifestyle and hair care goals.

Air drying is often touted as the gentlest way to dry your hair, but is it always the best choice? The age-old debate between air drying and blow drying has left many hair enthusiasts puzzled. 


While air drying allows your hair to dry naturally, it comes with its own set of challenges. Prolonged exposure to environmental factors, such as humidity, can lead to swelling of the hair shaft, resulting in structural damage. Hair absorbs up to 30% of its weight in water, meaning that when you leave it to dry naturally, you’re asking for damage in brushing and styling. The argument may not be over when it comes to which is right, but natural drying takes time, so the longer your hair stays wet, the more likely the cortex will swell and crack—no thank you. 


On the other hand, proper blow-drying techniques, coupled with the use of heat protectants, can help minimize damage. Temperature control is crucial during the blow-drying process, emphasizing the importance of maintaining an optimal distance between the hair and the blow dryer. Low or medium heat levels are often sufficient for effective drying without excessive damage.


Common blow drying mistakes


Slept in that little too late and didn’t do that night-before hair wash, so you’re blasting it to the max this morning? We’ve all been there. Giving yourself a blow-dry is one of life's mundane tasks that just needs to get done. Yes, we’ve done it one million times, but we also do our laundry that much—and well, just as you can shrink your favorite top, you can also fry your hair. 


Here are our common blow-drying mistakes that you should probably have left in 2023:


  1. Overdrying or high heat: It may sound obvious, but you’d be shocked to see the number of people heading to the salon with frazzled ends and burnt bangs. Applying too much heat that your hair can cope with will leave it damaged and crying for a hair mask. High heat can lead to thermal stress, causing damage to the hair cuticle and resulting in frizz, breakage, and split ends. Trust us—pack on some heat protector spray before drying and keep a distance with that dryer!


  1. Towel drying incorrectly: Did you know that you aren’t supposed to rub your hair when it’s wet? That’s when it’s at its weakest. Many unknowingly misuse towels by vigorously rubbing them on wet hair, causing potential damage. A gentler method involves pressing the towel against the head, allowing it to absorb water, and opting for a microfiber towel for a smoother glide.


  1. Using the wrong products: From the brush to the spray to the dryer. Everything that goes onto your hair makes a huge difference. Invest in a good argan oil to lock in moisture and make sure to get a hair dryer that has heat settings. The cheaper ones seem to miss this out, and that’s where you’ll be missing out on hair for the sake of saving a buck on the dryer. Invest, invest, invest. 


Blow drying according to your hair texture


Hair texture plays a significant role in how it responds to styling, products, and overall care. Tailor your blow-drying approach to your unique hair texture. Whether you have fine, medium, or thick locks, explore customized tips and techniques to ensure your blow-drying routine caters to the specific needs of your strands.


Fine hair, with its smaller diameter, requires a delicate touch during blow drying. Lightweight products are recommended to avoid weighing it down, and the use of a repair mask can be a savior. Medium-textured hair falls between fine and thick, offering versatility and ease of styling. Thick hair, with its larger diameter, requires more substantial styling products and careful moisture management.


Blow drying starts in the shower—and by this, we mean the products you use. If you specialize your hair care routine as much as you do your skincare, then we’d all have a lot fewer problems.


Picture of hair being washed with shampoo.



So, does blow drying your hair damage it? 


There is no perfect routine, and that's something we always shout from the rooftop. Spend time and effort researching what works for you because your hair is something that deserves to be pampered.


We all love that blow dry feeling, but here's the kicker—blow drying isn't just reserved for the salon. The dream of having salon-perfect hair isn't exclusive—it's a reality you can embrace in the comfort of your own home. With the right knowledge, techniques, and a dash of self-care, you too can achieve that flawless, bouncy blow-dry (JLO called, she wants her blowout back). 


P.S., we’re all for a bouncy blow, but don’t be fooled—claw clips are our go-to when we’re rushing out the door late for work and there is nothing wrong with that.