Hair Style Tips

Do Blow-Dryers *Really* Ruin Your Hair? Here’s What Stylists Want You To Know

Rachel Lapidos

Photo: Getty Images/Catherine Delahaye

After learning about the heat damage that often comes along with using hot tools, your straightener, curler, and blow-dryer can start to look like a collection of menacing threats to the health of your hair. To make hairstyling less scary and more fun, hair experts are setting the record straight and answering an age-old beauty question: do hair dryers damage your hair?

The short answer is, well, yes. Putting any type of heat on your hair will lead to little holes in the protective layer of your hair—or by it’s technical name cuticle damage. “If direct heat is put onto the hair, that targeted heat can be too much for the hair to handle,” says Ro Johnson Wilkerson, PhD, principal scientist and senior manager of scientific communications in beauty care at Procter & Gamble. “As a result, the outer surface of your hair can be destroyed.” Once the cuticles start to break off, it exposes the protein and lipids that make up your strand, and that’s when you start to see breakage.

To avoid making things worse during your DIY blowouts, you’ll want to use your dryer wisely. According to Marco Pelusi, celebrity hairstylist and founder of his eponymous hair-care line, you’ll want to protect the cuticle by filling the holes with some sort of protein—like collagen or amino acids—which you can get from your styling products. “It’s important to apply a leave-in conditioner and thoroughly comb it through your hair before using a blow-dryer,” he says. Dr. Wilkerson adds that any sort of heat protectant product will work, too. Try the Briogeo Farewell Frizz Rosarco Milk Leave-In Conditioner ($20) or NatureLab.Tokyo Perfect Shine Oil Mist ($16).

The hairdryer and settings that you’re using can affect how much heat is getting to your hair, too. Hairstylist Laura Polko says that some blow-dryers, like the T3 Cura Hair Dryer ($180), use negative ions to smooth the hair as you style it. Or you could turn to the Dyson Supersonic ($400), which has heat and air control to minimize damage. Regardless of the hairdryer you’re using, avoid using the highest heat setting. “When you’re using a blow-dryer and the heat is so hot, it hurts your scalp, think about what that’s doing to your hair,” says Pelusi, who recommends using medium heat and a medium airflow instead. And, if you’re styling day-two hair, Polko advises sticking with low heat. “Day two after shampooing, there’s less moisture in the hair to protect it from styling,” she says.

Another hack for making your hair-drying session safer for your strands is to wait until your hair is semi-dry before powering up the blow-dryer. “Try to get a lot of the moisture out of your hair before you begin to use a blow-dryer,” says Pelusi. “Gently use your hands to get around 80 to 85 percent of the moisture out so you’re getting less damage.” You could also blot your hair with a microfiber towel (like the Crown Affair The Hair Towel, $45) to help speed up the process.

And if your hair is feeling extra dry and frizzy? Allow your blow dryer to take a little break at the back of your beauty cabinet, and embrace the art of the air dry.

Dealing with more serious hair issues? Watch the video below for what you need to know about hair loss.

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