The best one between air drying and diffusing has been ongoing when caring for curly hair. Both methods have their loyal supporters, each swearing by the benefits of their preferred technique.
As a curly-haired individual, you might find yourself torn between the desire for low-maintenance air drying and the allure of voluminous, defined curls achieved through diffusing.
Discover the ultimate guide to Air Dry vs Diffuse Curly Hair! Unravel the secrets to achieving stunning curls without heat damage.
What is Air Drying?
Air drying is a natural hair-drying technique that lets your hair dry without using any heat or styling tools. It is a low-maintenance approach, making it a favorite among many curly-haired individuals.
What is Diffusing?
Diffusing is a hair-drying technique that uses a diffuser attachment on a blow dryer to dry the hair. The diffuser helps disperse the airflow, reducing the intensity of the air and heat, making it gentler on the curls.
Heat Damage from Diffusing
When drying your hair, you have two main options: air drying and diffusing—the most significant difference lies in the air temperature. Air drying involves letting your hair dry naturally with either room-temperature air or the air outside.
Many people prefer air drying to avoid potential heat damage from using a hairdryer.
However, if you use proper diffusing techniques, ensure heat protection, and adjust your hairdryer settings appropriately, you can still maintain healthy hair while using a hairdryer.
It’s all about finding the right balance and protecting your hair from excessive heat exposure.
Damage from Air Drying
Contrary to popular belief, air drying has been found to harm the hair’s inner structure, making it more damaging than using a hair dryer.
Recent research indicates that natural air drying can damage the hair’s cell membrane complex (CMC), particularly when the follicle remains wet for extended periods.
While excessive heat from hair dryers can cause surface damage, using a hair dryer at a safe distance of at least 15 cm with continuous motion is less damaging than air drying naturally.
The hair’s cell membrane complex (CMC) plays a crucial role in keeping the hair cells together.
When the hair gets wet, its shaft and CMC swell. Repeated cycles of wetting and air drying over prolonged periods can lead to significant damage.
Moreover, hair is at its weakest when wet, making it more susceptible to breakage if subjected to friction during air drying, such as sleeping with wet hair or tying it up in a tight hairstyle while it’s still wet.
Curly hair, in particular, takes longer to air dry due to the increased use of water-rich products, highly moisturizing styling techniques, and methods for clumping the curls.
Natural air drying can be incredibly time-consuming, sometimes lasting an hour or even an entire day for individuals with high-density hair.
Air Dry VS Diffuse: Comparing Appearance & Styling Results
The appearance of your curls can be dramatically different depending on whether you air dry or diffuse your hair. Consider the following factors when deciding which method aligns with your styling goals.
Diffusing your hair has resulted in significantly more curl shrinkage than air drying. Shrinkage refers to the tightening of your natural curl pattern, which causes your curls to bounce up more once they dry, making your hair appear shorter overall.
If you have loose to wavy hair and want to enhance your texture, diffusing might be a good option. On the other hand, if you prefer to maintain your natural curl pattern, air drying would be more suitable.
The heat from diffusing helps to set the hair in a scrunched position, leading to longer-lasting results than air drying. However, air drying may cause the curls to lose shape more quickly, especially for those with loose patterns.
If you aim to reduce shrinkage or retain length, air drying might be better because natural gravity helps elongate the curls.
Another option for lowering shrinkage is the stretch diffusing technique, often used by those with oily hair.
This technique involves gently pulling on the hair while using the dryer’s heat to set it in a more elongated position, resulting in a more dramatic elongation compared to natural air drying.
Both air drying and diffusing can result in curl definition, but the products you use play a significant role in this aspect.
Using a gel with hold while diffusing can enhance curl definition, while cream products might lead to frizz without a protective barrier.
When air drying, using products with hold can also provide definition. Ensure you scrunch out the excess water using a hair towel or T-shirt to avoid disrupting the curl pattern.
Diffusing is known for creating more volume compared to air drying. The diffuser attachment lifts the hair at the roots, giving your curls more fullness.
If you have low-density or thin hair and desire more volume, diffusing might be your go-to method.
On the other hand, air drying can elongate the hair and reduce volume, which might be preferable for those with high-density or thick hair.
Both air drying and diffusing can lead to frizz if not done correctly or if you use products that don’t suit your hair type.
Diffusing with a gel that provides hold can help set the curls and reduce frizz.
Air drying with a gel and avoiding touching your hair while it dries can also minimize frizz.
How to Air Dry or Diffuse to Create the Curls You Want
Now that we’ve explored the benefits and drawbacks of air drying and diffusing, let’s look at how you can use each method to achieve your desired curls.
Air Drying Techniques for Optimal Curls
- After washing and conditioning your hair, use a microfiber towel or a soft T-shirt to blot excess water gently. Avoid roughing up the hair, as this can lead to frizz.
- Apply your preferred styling products, such as leave-in conditioner and curl-enhancing cream or gel. Ensure you distribute the products evenly throughout your hair.
- Consider the “micro plop” technique, using your microfiber towel or T-shirt to gently scrunch out excess water from your curls. This can help reduce drying time.
- Allow your hair to air dry indoors in a controlled environment. Avoid going outside in windy or humid conditions to prevent frizz.
- Once your hair is 100% dry, scrunch out the gel cast to reveal beautifully defined curls.
Diffusing Techniques for Voluminous Curls
- Start with clean, wet hair and apply your preferred styling products, including a heat protectant.
- Use the “pixie diffusing” method to cup your curls into the diffuser bowl and turn the dryer on and off at a low or medium heat setting. This will help set the curls without excessive heat exposure.
- Hover the diffuser around your hair safely to avoid direct heat contact.
- Once your hair is partially dry, you can incorporate “pixie diffusing” to enhance your curl pattern and create additional volume.
- Ensure you diffuse your hair until it’s scorched to set the curls in place.
How Does a Diffuser Work on Curly Hair?
A diffuser is a unique attachment that fits onto the nozzle of a hair dryer. It consists of several prongs or “fingers” that help distribute the airflow more evenly.
When diffusing curly hair, the diffuser helps to cradle the curls and lift them at the roots, encouraging a more voluminous look.
The diffuser also spreads the heat, reducing the risk of direct heat damage to your curls.
Using a diffuser with a hair dryer that allows for adjustable heat and speed settings is essential to customize the experience to your hair’s needs.
Is Air-Drying Bad for Curly Hair?
Air drying, when done correctly, is not inherently bad for curly hair. It allows you to embrace your natural texture and avoid the potential damage caused by heat styling.
However, to air dry your curls safely, following the proper techniques and avoiding prolonged wetness is crucial. Scrunching out excess water and styling products with hold can help enhance your curl pattern and reduce frizz.
How to Dry Curly Hair Without a Diffuser
Adding a diffuser to your curly hair care routine can be a game-changer, but there are alternatives for drying curly hair without one. Air drying is the simplest option, or you can use a regular hair dryer without a diffuser by adjusting the method.
To protect your curls from excess heat, tie your hair up with a microfiber towel or a cotton T-Shirt while drying.
However, for optimal curl styling, investing in a diffuser is recommended. It doesn’t have to be expensive, as any blow dryer has well-designed, affordable diffuser attachments.
Learning to diffuse wavy or curly hair is crucial in embracing natural texture and enhancing curl definition.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is it better to air dry or diffuse curly hair when washing it?
It’s best to alternate between the two methods to give your hair a break from excessive heat or moisture exposure. This allows your curls to maintain their health and bounce.
Can I use a diffuser on high heat for faster drying?
Using the lowest heat setting possible is advisable to minimize damage and frizz. Opt for a medium heat setting or use a heat protectant spray to shield your curls from excessive heat.
Will air drying make my hair flat and lifeless?
Properly air-dried hair can have volume and movement. You can enhance your curls by using lightweight styling products or scrunching your hair gently while it dries.
How often should I wash my curly hair?
Curly hair tends to be drier, so washing it every 2-3 days or as needed can prevent excessive dryness. However, this may vary depending on your hair type and individual needs.
There is no definitive winner in the ongoing debate of air drying versus diffusing curly hair. Both methods offer unique benefits and can be tailored to suit your curl type and preferences. By understanding the pros and cons of each technique, you can make an informed decision about which one best complements your hair and lifestyle.
Remember, the key to healthy and beautiful curls lies in using the right products, understanding your hair’s needs, and finding the perfect balance between air drying and diffusing. Embrace your curls and experiment with both methods to discover what works best.