Despite countless hours and many, many failed attempts, I’ve never been able to successfully heat-style my hair at home. I’ve tried curling wands, flat-iron waves, and those blow-dry brushes that are supposed to simplify the process for newbies like me–but air drying my hair will always be the easiest (and healthiest) solution.
Besides saving me precious time while getting ready in the morning (a low maintenance gal’s dream), air drying spares my strands from the unnecessary heat damage. “Repetitive use of hot tools can damage and break the hair severely—especially chemically treated hair—and can also eliminate the hair sheen on all types of hair,” Frédéric Fekkai, celebrity hairstylist and Fekkai founder, previously told Well + Good. While using your tools in moderation will help mitigate damage along your hot-tool journey, going the air-drying route is going to be your best course of action for your hair’s health—just be sure to do it correctly, especially in the winter time.
“Most hair textures will be able to air dry with stylish results,” explains Teresa Romero, master hair and makeup artist, creative director for Sam Villa and artistic/education director for Jose Luis Salon. “It just takes a little prep.” Which is why having the right air-dry products is key. Romero says air-dry stylers vary in hold and visual results, so it’s important to choose one based on your hair texture and desired look. “As a general approach, straight to wavy hair will benefit from an oil, lotion or cream…However curls and coily textures may need this followed by a salt spray, gel or shaping mousse for extra control.”
If quitting hot tools is on your list of 2023 resolutions, or you just want to up your hair health this year, these stylist-approved, air-dry products are here to help.
The 8 best air-dry products for healthier hair
The hair-care geniuses at Olaplex know how to restore damaged hair back to health, and the brand’s Reparative Styling Creme is no exception. The bond-building formula touts 72-hour frizz control for all hair types and textures. Celeb stylist and extension artist Michelle Cleveland swears by it for air drying. “It helps strengthen, hydrate, moisturize as well as eliminate frizz and flyaways as your hair dries naturally,” she explains.
If you have fine hair, Bumble and bumble’s Don’t Blow It Styler will keep your hair hydrated as it air dries without weighing down your strands, according to Jennifer Korab, a New Jersey-based hair stylist and owner of Renaissance Salons. “I love how this product hydrates the hair, enhances texture and has a product free feel,” she tells us. The cream styler even contains UV filters to keep hair healthy and combat the drying effects of sun damage.
“I love using the Biolage All-In-One Multi Benefit Spray,” says celebrity hairstylist Sunnie Brook, who’s worked with major starlets like Jenna Ortega, Elisabeth Moss, and Ashley Park, among others. “It works on all hair types and textures and won’t weigh your hair down.” The multi-tasking spray claims to moisturize, detangle, de-frizz, and strengthen hair, while leaving it with a healthy shine—and Brook says delivers its promises. “It controls frizz, repairs split ends, adds shine, and leaves your hair feeling clean and perfectly air dried.”
Pro stylist Deaundra Metzger keeps this styling mousse in her kit for air dried looks on set. “I use it for all the hair of my curly textured looks, whether it be an actor’s natural hair or a wig,” she explains. “It defines and hydrates curls or coils and keeps hair hydrated and bouncy.” The styling mousse uses natural ingredients like ginger root oil, turnip, and carrot extracts (hence the “GTC” in the name), along with biotin and vitamin E to support stronger, healthier hair over time. Metzger says a little of the mousse goes a long way, and that it won’t leave hair feeling stiff or flaky.
Clayton Hawkins, the stylist behind Olivia Rodrigo, Elizabeth Banks, and Kiernan Shipka’s most gorgeous hair looks, loves this Sun Bum texturizing spray for an air dried style. “It gives hair body and texture for that beachy, windswept look,” Hawkins shares. “It’s made with Hawaiian black lava sea salt, sea kelp and seaweed to define and nourish your strands.” In addition to smelling like a tropical vacation, the lightweight formula blocks humidity and offers UV protection for a healthy, frizz-free look.
“One of my absolute favorite air dry products is the Ouai Wave Spray,” says Krysta Biancone, co-founder Amari Salon & Spa and stylist at Hair by Krysta. “I love using it to give my clients beachy waves, without any of the sticky or greasy residue that you can get with other products.” Made for all hair types, the user-friendly wave spray uses rice protein instead of salt, which means you’ll get all the volumizing benefits, without the crunchy feeling. Plus, it’s scented with the Ouai’s deliciously floral North Bondi fragrance, so it doubles as a hair perfume.
Queer Eye star and founder of hair-care brand, JVN, Jonathan Van Ness created a volumizing styling foam that creates a stunning air dry, and supports thicker, healthier looking hair along the way. “The Embody Volumizing Foam has a volumizing polymer that adds style memory to keep the volume, biotin to improve hair thickness, and marshmallow root extract that provides soft hold, body and hydration,” Van Ness tells us.
To bring touchable definition to hair while drying, Van Ness says 2-3 pumps is all you need. “This product packs a serious dose of volume and unlike other foams, it leaves your hair healthy and not crunchy.” Another air drying MVP is the brand’s Complete Air Dry Cream ($26), “it brings out your best, most defined and frizz free style no matter your natural hair texture,” Van Ness explains.
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