Choosing the right natural hair products to both prevent damaged hair and help your hair grow is only half the challenge.
How you handle your hair through every step of your care and styling routine can also help prevent breakage and heat damage—especially when drying natural hair. It may seem counterintuitive, but whether you prefer air-drying hair, like to towel dry, or are a proponent of blow-drying natural hair, curly strands require a special level of care and attention. Not only are textured strands naturally drier, but being too abrasive, using too much heat, or applying the wrong type of heat are all things that can contribute to split ends and frizzy hair. To get healthy and smooth coils, start from the beginning and learn how to dry natural hair.

How to Dry Natural Hair Without Damage
No matter what your hair type or curl pattern, there’s one thing they all have in common: Hair is most fragile when it’s wet. Not only does the weight of the water itself stretch curls, but warm and hot temperatures open the hair cuticle, making it more susceptible to outside factors that can lead to hair damage.

Before leaving the shower, do a cool rinse to close the cuticle. Aside from starting with a moisturizing sulfate-free shampoo and carefully detangling, this is your next line of defense against breakage. After conditioning with a hydrating formula like the Coco Creme Creamy Conditioner, you’ll want to get as much water out of your strands as possible, so do a good but gentle wring like you’re twisting out a wet T-shirt. It’ll help cut down on how much towel time (if any at all) you’ll need later on.

Another important factor to keep in mind is your hair’s porosity. If it’s more porous, it means that it holds water. While this is usually a good thing, in the long run, it may make it more difficult to get your hair dry after washing. Once you’ve gotten the majority of the water squeezed out, you can decide if you want to air or blow-dry.

Blow-Drying vs. Air-Drying Natural Hair
Whether you use a tool or nature to dry your hair is really a matter of personal preference and how you plan to style it. If you want to just go with the safest choice, heat-free is always going to be the healthiest way to dry natural hair and prevent damage—but blow-drying natural hair certainly has its benefits also.

With blow-drying, you’ll have full, bouncy curls faster, but you may also find that your style settles differently than when you air dry. Think about it this way: Blow-drying literally speeds up how fast water is removed from each strand. Whereas with air drying, although water is slowly evaporating, thirsty strands (typically curl types 3 to 4C) are going to cling to any moisture in the air. So, for this reason, not only can it take longer for hair to air dry, but you may find that your air-dried curls are fluffier or maybe even less defined than your blow-dried ones.

Just remember that if you do decide to diffuse, apply a heat protectant blow-dry cream beforehand and do it on a low heat setting to prevent heat damage. You can also do a combination of both air and heat. Lightly zap your curls with a diffuser to get the bulk of the water out and then air dry the rest for added volume.

Towel-Drying Natural Hair
Should you towel dry natural hair? The same reason that you sleep with a bonnet or satin pillowcase is related to choosing the right tool for hair drying. It’s easiest to just grab a towel and take it to your wet tresses, but the texture of terry cloth can be abrasive and damaging to any hair texture, especially curly hair. It’s already more fragile, drier, and prone to breakage.

No matter what you use, avoid rubbing. What this does is raise the cuticle on each hair strand, and the abrasion can not only cause friction that weakens hair, but a raised cuticle on a more macro level will leave hair looking frizzy, especially if not smoothed back down with a cream, oil, or other hair moisturizers. It’s best to use a microfiber towel or a T-shirt and literally just wrap and squeeze until the excess moisture is gone.

How to Dry Type 3 Hair vs. How to Dry Type 4 Hair
Your curls don’t need a whole different drying routine depending on their type. You can use any of the approved methods we’ve discussed, the only thing that will differ is which natural hair products you use while drying. Of course, there are also formulas that work for all hair types, like the Pracaxi Nectar Straight Blow-Dry Cream.

Should You Skip Drying and Sleep with Wet Hair?
It may seem somewhat logical to skip drying your hair altogether and wait for your strands to dry overnight—it is a heat-free method, after all. But now that you know how fragile wet hair can be, you can hopefully understand why sleeping with it isn’t the best idea. Even with a bonnet or the right pillowcase, hair is still exposed to some level of friction as you toss and turn during the night.

If you must, try putting your wet strands into a protective style, like a flexi-rod set or twists, before bed. This will help cut down on the rubbing, although it can also make it more difficult for hair to dry. Air isn’t going to flow as freely through styled strands as it will loose hair, so it may take longer to dry. However, when you weigh having damp hair in the morning versus breakage long term, protective styles seem to certainly win as the better choice. What you can do after twisting is wrap a T-shirt around your hair and squeeze out any excess moisture before going to sleep.

How to Repair Heat Damaged Hair
If you’ve been reaching for your blow-dryer way too much, you’re likely wondering what you can do to curb the effects of heat damage. And the answer is: It’s all about reaching for the best damage repair products. Show your hair TLC by introducing it to products that can restore and transform your tresses. Try whipping your coils back into shape with Marguerite’s Magic Restorative Cream, which deeply nourishes and restores strength. You’ll also want to take steps to stop future hair damage. For breakage, spritz strands with the Monoi Repairing Anti-Breakage Spray.

Next: Want to know why your hair takes so long to dry? Here’s Your Guide to Types of Hair Porosity and Taking a Porosity Test.

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