How To Master The At-Home Blow Dry

For many women, when it comes to feeling polished, nothing beats a glossy, bouncy blow dry. Work- and party-proof, the glamorous hairstyle has claimed this decade as its own, as evidenced by the masses of dedicated blow bars and the coiffures of Kate Middleton and Victoria’s Secret Angels everywhere.
A properly executed blow dry is as practical as it is chic, and ideal for the colder months, when social calendars are packed and lie-ins precious. “It depends on how your hair holds the style but generally, on thicker hair, a professional blow dry can easily last four days,” says Alice Smithson, senior stylist at popular London blow bar, Duck & Dry. “That’s down to good products, knowledge and technique.” But while a heavy-duty blow dry is worth the time spent in the salon, weekly appointments could threaten financial ruin by January.
At home it’s notoriously difficult to get right. “That’s not because you’re not a stylist,” says Smithson. “It’s the angle which is important. Stylists can stand above your head, working with small sections and perfectly blow drying each of them – you physically can’t do that to your own hair. However, give it the right products and enough time to perfect each section, and a great result is achievable.”
Challenge accepted. In a bid to avoid hair-tangled brushes and burnt-out frizz, we’ve spoken to the experts. Here’s how to master the DIY blow dry, right in time for party season.
Prep your hair
“Start preparing your hair while you’re in the shower by rinsing your hair with freezing cold water,” says Adam Reed, global GHD brand ambassador. “This promotes shine, seals the cuticle and gives a great natural base for a blow dry. Towel dry your hair thoroughly, then leave it to dry naturally.”
Pick your product
“Always use a heat protector spray,” says Syd Hayes, L’Oréal Paris UK hair ambassador. “A professional spray should include a heat resistant element which acts as a thermal barrier while using a hairdryer. Key ingredients you should look for are polymers – the basis of all heat protect sprays, as they coat the hair and reduce the contact between your hair and the hairdryer – and hydrogenated castor oils, which increase the strength of the hair fibre as well as retaining some moisture.”
Avoid heat damage
“The use of heat allows you to transform your hair into any form,” says Jo Robertson, global head of education at GHD. “Look out for a good quality hairdryer with an ioniser (that smooths the cuticle), variable heat temperatures, speed settings and a cool shot button to help lock your style into place. Before starting to style properly, blast your hair to about 90% dry. That removes the water from your hair; the styling only happens in the last 10%. The Glass Transition Phase is when the heat reaches your hair, rendering it mouldable and allowing you to manipulate it into different shapes. Cooling the hair down then sets the style. But use the wrong type of heat or temperature and it can have long-lasting damaging effects. If you heat the hair up too quickly or too much, the water molecules inside the hair swell, causing internal damage. Vertical cracks appear along the cuticle, leading to split ends and dried out hair. To avoid this, never put the nozzle of the hairdryer directly onto your brush; this causes a blockage meaning heat comes back out of the dryer twice as hot. ”
Master the technique
“First of all, pick up the right brush,” says Smithson. “Not all round brushes are equal, so it's important to know how and when to use which kind. A natural bristle round brush should be used to create a smooth, silky look with serious volume; a paddle brush for flat, straight styles; and a wide-toothed comb for curly hair. Section off and start from the back, drying from roots to ends, always moving the brush and the dryer together down the hair shafts, curving your wrist as you go. Be sure to keep the airflow angled down toward the ends, which will make the cuticles lie flat and, ultimately, make your hair smoother and shinier. Work your way around your head, using high heat to first manipulate the shape, then the cool setting to seal each section.”
From heat protector sprays to lightweight shampoos, click through to see our pick of the products to add to your hair arsenal to help you master the DIY blow dry this winter.