Is It Better to Air-Dry or Diffuse Curly Hair?


Curly hair is having a moment in the spotlight! Tutorials for how to style curly locks are all over social media, and it seems like everyone wants to rock a curly look. Those of us with natural curls know that proper curl care is essential, especially during the drying phase.

With this new attention to curl care, people are debating whether it's better to air-dry or diffuse curly hair and whether we should diffuse our curls with hot or cold air for the best look.

We dug into the pros and cons of air-drying versus diffusing curly hair, along with the best temperature to use if you choose to diffuse. Keep reading to learn more about which option is best for your curls!


Whether You Air-Dry or Diffuse Your Curly Hair, Don't Forget the Prep!


First things first: Whether you prefer to diffuse your curls or swear by air-drying your curly hair without a diffuser, the preparation for healthy, defined curls starts in the shower! Be sure to use a sulfate-free shampoo and conditioner specifically formulated for curly hair because these will contain the extra moisture your curls require. (Despite their name, many shampoos designed for all hair types won't have enough moisture to keep your locks hydrated!) We love our ultra-moisturizing Bounce Back Super Moisturizing Shampoo for Curly Hair and Bounce Back Super Moisturizing Conditioner for Curly Hair for getting the job done for our curls!

Once you’re out of the shower, your leave-in products and how you use them become super important. Since curly hair is highly prone to frizz, especially right after being washed because the cuticle is open, it’s important to treat your tresses to conditioning products before you air-dry or diffuse your hair. This is the moment your hair needs moisture most! On the other hand, we caution against using too many products as this can weigh down your hair and lead to greasy roots, especially if you have fine, or thinning curls.


Benefits of Drying Curly Hair with a Diffuser


More Curl Definition and Styling Flexibility


The best thing about using a diffuser is the healthy, defined curls we get from it! Whether you scrunch your products into your hair or opt for the curly girl method, diffusing your curls helps them dry quickly in the curl pattern and overall style you chose. Plus, your scalp benefits from diffusing because it minimizes drying time, leaving less time for bacteria and yeast to thrive in a damp environment.


More Lift at the Roots


Diffusing your curly hair will give you a more natural lift at the roots than air-drying since you can strategically direct the air to “pump up” your curls. If you're looking for even more volume at your roots to match your bouncy, defined curls, try adding a volumizing product like Lift Me Up Hair Thickener spray to your roots. Lift Me Up wraps around the hair shaft and provides allover lift without drying out your hair!

Pro tip: Tilt your head to the side as you diffuse your curls. This helps prevent your roots from drying flat against your head and giving you the notorious "triangle hair." Also, allowing your hair to air-dry slightly before diffusing often encourages more volume and bounce while giving the product more time to soak into your curls and work its magic. Once you’ve fully dried your hair with your diffuser, set your curls with a cool burst of air.


Drawbacks of Drying Curly Hair with a Diffuser


There's Potential for Heat Damage


Any heat styler can damage our hair, including diffusers. To protect your hair while reaping the benefits of diffusing your curls, diffuse your curly hair with warm air instead of hot or cold air. Plus, using your blow-dryer on a low heat and pressure setting safeguards against frizzies. And before applying heat to your hair, you should always use a heat protectant. We love our No Remorse Heat Protection & Taming Spray because it does double duty protecting our hair from temperatures up to 450 degrees Fahrenheit while smoothing frizz and flyaways!


It Takes Time


If you're rushing to get out the door, diffusing your curls isn't a convenient drying option. Properly cleansing, hydrating and diffusing your hair takes time. You might opt for air-drying if you're in a hurry and save the diffusing for a day when you've got extra time to dedicate to your curls. You can also try switching to a nighttime hair-care routine to give yourself enough time to diffuse, but if you have curls that are fine and thin, sleeping on just-diffused hair may flatten all the volume you worked so hard to create!


Benefits of Air-Drying Curly Hair


Hair Plopping Helps with Hydration


If you've got curls, you've probably heard of hair plopping. It's a heatless air-drying technique that helps with curl definition. Hair plopping keeps our curls up and protected by a T-shirt or microfiber towel, preventing us from touching our hair while it dries. The more we touch and play with our strands, the more prone they are to frizz.


Using the hair plopping technique to dry your curls also helps with hydration by allowing your post-shower products like oils and leave-in conditioners to absorb fully into your hair versus having the moisture they provide get sucked up by your towel or your blow-dryer. Sealing moisture into the hair strand is crucial for healthy curls because curly hair tends to be drier than straight or wavy hair. The corkscrew-shaped hair strands prevent scalp oils from being easily distributed down the hair shaft of curly locks.


No Heat Damage


If you're air-drying indoors, you'll avoid any heat damage to your curls! If you air-dry in the sun, be sure to spritz curls with No Remorse (and pack it in your bag so you can reapply as needed) so you can air-dry safely without worrying about damaging UV rays. Check out our article with 8 common air-drying mistakes so you can optimize your air-drying and get healthy, bouncy curls every time!


Drawbacks of Air-Drying Curly Hair


Not Ideal for the Scalp


Air-drying curly hair can leave the scalp damp longer than drying curly hair with a blow-dryer (with or without a diffuser). We naturally have bacteria and yeast on our scalp, and when kept in check, they don’t present a problem. But it’s important to remember that they thrive in warm, damp environments, so the slow process of air-drying your curls can leave your scalp susceptible to dandruff, seborrheic dermatitis and itching.

Pro tip: To speed up drying time for your scalp and boost volume at the root, try using hair clips to clip the roots of hair up slightly. This provides better airflow to the scalp while helping prevent matted, flat roots. You can use small claw clips or standard silver hair clips to pinch roots gently up and off the scalp.


Harder to Avoid Touching Curls


No matter how hard we try to leave our tresses alone, we're all guilty of subconsciously touching our hair throughout the day. (And just-conditioned strands are irresistibly soft to the touch—we know!) Thin, fine curls might dry quickly, but tighter curls and thicker strands might take hours to completely dry. Avoid touching your curls as much as possible until they're completely dry to keep them bouncy and defined. To help your curls keep their shape, try spritzing on our License to Curl: Curl Revival Boost Spray for up to 24 hours of curl definition and frizz control!

Pro tip: Mindlessly playing with your curls isn't the only way to mess them up! Even a small amount of friction can cause your curls to lose definition. Little things we do every day, like pulling a sweater over our head or sitting in a chair and leaning back onto our hair, can cause frizz and interrupt the curl pattern. For the best curls—no matter if you're air drying or diffusing your curly hair—avoid letting anything touch them until they're completely dry!


Tell us: Do you prefer to air-dry or diffuse your curly hair? Share your tips and comments below!

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Better Not Younger has all the curly hair products you need to help your mature curls look their best. From our Bounce Back line formulated with extra moisture for curly hair to our frizz-taming and curl-defining License to Curl spray, we've got everything you need to get bouncy, vibrant curls that last!